Agitation for Pension and Scrip Schemes

October 1, 1938

Report Outline
Prosperity Through Old-Age Pensions
Pension Panaceas on State-Wide Basis
Proposals for Large Federal Pensions
Share-The-Wealth, Epic, and Social Credit

Prosperity Through Old-Age Pensions

Roosevelt's Warning Against Shortcuts to Utopia

During recent weeks the country has been subjected to a mounting volume of agitation in behalf of various plans for magically producing permanent prosperity through payment of old-age pensions. The “Thirty-Dollars-Every-Thursday” scheme, which was influential in defeating Senator McAdoo for renomination in the Democratic primaries in California, is the most celebrated of these plans, but there has been an abundant outcropping of other proposals of like order, especially since California's convincing demonstration of the vote-getting power of the pension issue. At the same time, the Townsend plan is still figuring prominently in political campaigns in many states, and there are indications that Congress at its next session will be subjected to considerable pressure for enactment of a bill embodying a modification of that scheme.

By mid-August the current wave of pension agitation had attained sufficiently serious proportions to induce President Roosevelt to utter a word of warning. Speaking on the third anniversary of the Social Security Act, he said: “In our efforts to provide security for all of the American people, let us not allow ourselves to be misled by those who advocate shortcuts to Utopia or fantastic financial schemes.” At a press conference later in the month, the President recalled these words in commenting upon the California pension proposal. The Thirty-Dollars-Every-Thursday plan was condemned by Arthur J. Altmeyer, chairman of the Social Security Board, in a letter to Senator McAdoo during the latter's campaign, and Secretary of the Treasury Morgen-thau took occasion to announce, September 15, that the Treasury was initiating an analysis of the scheme for use in case any movement developed for its application by the federal government.

With relief workers uniting to fight for continued and larger benefits, farmers clamoring for huge subsidies, and other groups intent upon extracting their share of government disbursements, the growth of movements advocating support of old persons from the public treasury merely follows a prevailing trend. It nevertheless embodies definite hazards. Economists are agreed that adoption of any of the plans of the type generally proposed would entail dire economic consequences. Their political appeal, however, makes the task of combating them the more difficult, while at the same time the pressure for such schemes diverts attention from the need of broadening and improving the present Social Security Act.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Sep. 24, 2004  Social Security Reform
Oct. 02, 1998  Saving Social Security
May 12, 1995  Overhauling Social Security
Apr. 05, 1991  Social Security: The Search for Fairness
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Jun. 29, 1979  Social Security Reassessment
Dec. 27, 1974  Retirement Security
Sep. 20, 1972  Social Security Financing
Dec. 14, 1966  Social Security Improvements
Mar. 28, 1956  Social Security for the Disabled
Mar. 26, 1953  Social Security Expansion
Aug. 17, 1951  Relief Rolls in Prosperity
Dec. 24, 1949  Pensions for All
Aug. 12, 1948  Security for the Aged
Apr. 11, 1946  Social Insurance
Mar. 02, 1944  Social Security
Dec. 02, 1939  Liberalization of the Social Security System
Oct. 01, 1938  Agitation for Pension and Scrip Schemes
Jul. 26, 1938  Revision of the Social Security Act
Oct. 02, 1936  The Social Security Controversy
Nov. 12, 1934  Federal Assistance to the Aged
Aug. 23, 1930  Public Old-Age Pensions
Retirement, Pensions, and Social Security