Oh, To Be Secure
( Originally Published 1952 )
'True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous men are not free men."'
(From Roosevelt's 'Bill of Economic Rights')
NO PEOPLE HAVE GREATER FEAR OF THE HAZARDS OF MODERN economic life than AmericanS. For none know better the cruel dangerS from unemployment, sickness, disability, old age and death in an economic order that leaveS human welfare more or less to free enterprise.
Americans want first of all 'a sense of security' and only then 'an opportunity to advance', Elmo Roper, the public opinion poll expert, wrote in the New York Herald Tribune of January 8, 1947, refuting the standard argument of business that 'this emphasis on "security first" is not warranted because most Americans are still a venturesome people willing to take long chanceS in return for high rewards'. They want, 'above all thingS, security and stability, protection against the cold winds of uncontrolled economic forces', Business Week warned on November 6,1948; and 'if management fails to adjust its operations to this kind of world ... which thinks of governmental action as the natural way to protect people against economic hazards, if it contents itself with bemoaning the wrong-headedness of the American people, it will not be doing its duty to itself or its stockholders'.
Yet, the United States spends no more on social security than on cigarettes, cinemas and taxi fares.
`U.S. social insurance lacks many featureS offered elsewhere', U.S. News & World Report wrote on February 18, 1949 in an account of the 'World Boom In Social Security' in which so many Americans wish to join; 'In Russia, the state taxes all workers and guarantees security for all. In Britain, one fourth of the national budget is devoted to social services in a cradle-to-grave plan of security. In Germany, defeated in war, social insurance goes on, restored as one of the first steps taken by the conquerors. Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, Australia, New Zealand and Canada are some of the countries with elaborate systems for providing individual security.'
Business in the United States continues to denounce social security measures as 'the end to incentive' and 'the road to Bolshevism', telling the people that "security" is not a manly word' and trying to impress them with a rather ineptly chosen quotation from Macbeth that Shakespeare 'already warned' : 'and you all know, security is mortal's chiefest enemy'.
The thesis of business is that Americans, through their own 'free enterprise', create for themselves all the protection and security they need.
`More than in any other country, men have come up from nowhere and built success and wealth on a prodigious scale', stated a widely circulated pamphlet of the Research Council for Economic Security, one of the spearheads of business propaganda in this field. 'Relying upon tremendous ambition, outstanding ability and untiring enterprise, they have attained security far beyond ordinary standards. The accomplishments of these poor boys of yesterday, who are the business leaders of today, have made it possible for a much more numerous second group to attain varying degrees of financial security ... the great majority of the American people, the executive and the worker, the farmer and the white collar class.' But then came 'another group, demanding a new type of security, one which would put its faith in the government rather than relying upon individual activities'. The state-provided social security those others demand 'would seriously interfere with the incentive which causes people to provide for their security and to create wealth in the process, the principles of opportunity, individual enterprise, and personal thrift, through which this vast reservoir has been built and developed.'
The Council put the total privately provided 'protection' at $305 billion—$175 billion savings, $60 billion real estate, $30 billion shareholdings, and $40 billion life insurance assets.
But whom, actually, does all this wealth protect? To whom does it belong?
There is no detailed information on the distribution of wealth in an otherwise statistically minded nation, which has data on almost any aspect of life, from the incidence of left-handedness to the distribution of pianos and accordions, from the age groups of males and females that rank high, medium or low among cinema-goers, wearers of hats and chewers of gum to the exact location of the 'pivotal' square yard of land somewhere in the Middle West which in any given year is the centre of the nation in terms of population density.
However, the U.S. Treasury's statistics on death duties on assets of over $6o,000 give some indirect clues. Assuming that property owned by the living must be proportionate to the property of those who died over a number of years, these data permit a rough calculation. of the upper part of the pyramid of private wealth in 1946-7.
One-and-a-quarter million persons, it appears from these data, owned over $300 billion, or nearly one-half of the entire national wealth.* They were four-fifths of one per cent of the American people.
About the property of the remaining 99.2 per cent of the people statistics of the Federal Reserve Board give at least some partial answers.
The nation's private savings, at the same time, were about $130 billion. Yet twenty-seven of every hundred American families had no savings whatsoever; fifteen of every hundred owned between $1 and $199 each, or the equivalent of one hour's to four-and-a-half weeks' industrial wages. Another thirteen of every hundred families owned between $200 and $499. So that the majority of the people—fifty-five per cent altogether—either had only insignificant savings or none at all. Only one in every seven families had savings of $3,000 or more, as much as one year's modest family income. And a good part of those, naturally, were among the 1 1/4 million Americans in possession of half the nation's wealth.
Sixty per cent of all savings were held by one-tenth of all families during these prosperous early post-war years; yet 'millions of families in the middle and lower income groups have to dip into wartime savings to make ends meet', U.S. News & World Report wrote on July 23, 1948.
Home ownership is widespread in America. But sixty-five of every hundred families with annual incomes under $3,000 did n0t own their homes; while among families with incomes of $7,500 or more the percentage of home owners was over twice as high.
Stocks and bonds were owned by only five of every hundred families in the lower-income half of the American people. A later study of the Brookings Institution showed, according to the New York Times of July 1, 1952, that, altogether, only 'one out of every sixteen persons in the adult population owned shares' and that those '6,500,000 stockholders were members of 4,750,000 family units'. But only 1,800,000 of them, in 1,350,000 families, own more than three shares, i.e., on the basis of average market prices, securities worth more than $144, or so.
More than half of the families in the lowest income groups had no life insurance, although their need for it is greatest; and millions of those who did had a few hundred dollars' worth of group insurance, just about enough for burial expenses. The ownership of life insurance in America has always been as heavily concentrated in the upper income brackets as savings, bonds and stocks. Yet, even in the prosperous post-war years, many insurance policies have lapsed or were being reduced or mortgaged by borrowing because their owners had overbought themselves under the pressure of clever salesmanship. The average holder carries his policy for only seven years, even though life insurance is usually taken out at a comparatively young age.
How little the main occupational groups succeed in protecting themselves on their own against economic hazards appears even more clearly from the following data of the Federal Reserve Board.
Of the unskilled workers, fifty-three per cent had no 'liquid reserves' whatever. The savings of the rest were so trifling that the Federal Reserve Board's analysis for 1948 put a significant '0' in the position `median asset holdings' for this group. Among the holders of stocks and bonds, unskilled workers did not figure at all.
Of the skilled and semi-skilled workers, twenty-seven per cent had no savings, and thirty-four per cent owned only between $1 and $499. The average for the group was $250 per family, a little more than one month's wages. Only three per cent held some stocks or bonds.
Clerical and sales personnel, the large 'white collar' class, were only slightly better off. Seventeen per cent had no savings at all, and thirty-two per cent had $1 to $199. The average savings of the group were $500, and only nine per cent owned a few stocks or bonds.
Even among the 'managerial and self-employed', including small business as a whole, only twenty-four per cent owned savings of $5,000 and over and eighteen per cent had $2,000 to $4,999. The average savings in the entire group were a mere $1,500. Stocks and bonds worth $25,000 and more were held by four per cent, and $5,000 to $24,999 worth by another five per cent. Yet, 'the managerial and self-employed and the professional persons held somewhat more than two-fifths of total liquid assets', the Federal Reserve Board reported, `whereas they composed no more than one-fifth of the total population.'
Conditions among retired people reflect still better the almost general lack of 'economic security through property ownership'. Those without any savings whatsoever were thirty-eight per cent of the total, and those without stocks or bonds eighty-six per cent. Including the seventeen per cent with less than $200, a fifty-five per cent majority of the men and women whom age or sickness or employers' prejudice retired from active life, possessed no capital reserves at all. At the other end of the scale, sixteen per cent had average savings of $5,000; four per cent had $5,000 to $24,999; and three per cent of the retired people also possessed $25,000 worth, or more, of stocks and bonds.
There are some other deep shadows in the rose-coloured picture of private protection against economic hazards.
One is the large debt of individuals which offsets a considerable part of their savings and other possessions. During the first three years since VJ-Day, 'the American public has gone into debt more rapidly than during any other period in our history', stated the Federal Reserve Board in August 1948. By 1950 an unprecedented residential mortgage debt of $61 billion was weighing heavily on American homes, according to the Survey of Current Business of the U.S. Department of Commerce. It was more than twice as high as five years before. Much of it 'was entered into at 90 to 1oo per cent of the cost of the dwelling', wrote U.S. News & World Report; so that, 'in a period of falling prices, debt against large numbers of residences may actually be greater than the amount that could be realized from sale of the property'. Once the rainy day comes, this makes their 'own roof' an added danger for many, rather than a safeguard.
The total 'private debt' of individual Americans on their homes, instalment purchases, personal loans and loans on their farms and little retail shops, tools and professional offices, rose from $51 billion in 1944 to $94 billion at the end of 1949, and has been rising ever since. Already in 1948, 'most families paid out more than they took in', reported Business Week on December 24, 1949 on the basis of a sample analysis of consumer spending in three typical American cities by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only families with annual incomes of $10,000 had something left over at the end of the year. Only families with incomes of over $6,000 could make ends meet. The Secretary of Commerce stated on August 16, 1952, that the 'average city family', in 1950, had 'outspent' its income by $400, or about 10 per cent.
Even more detrimental to the value of 'privately acquired protecti0n' has been the rise of prices.
During the decade from 1939 to 1948 the cost of living rose 72 per cent, and it never ceased to rise for more than a few months. In 1951, the dollar bought no more of the necessities of life than 54 cents did before the war. Measured in terms of food prices it was worth only 44 pre-war cents. Its purchasing power thus reached the lowest point since 1782, soon after the Revoluti0n.
Inflation makes a mockery of security through thrift. F0r, when the owners of cash savings, government and corporation b0nds, life inSurance policies and pensions want t0 make use of them after a period of rising prices, their investments represent less in terms of f0od, clothing, shelter and so on than they were worth initially. And the historical l0ng-term trend in the United States is for higher and higher price levels, as Professor Sumner H. Slichter of Harvard University stated, according to the New York Times of November 22, 1947: 'at 65, a man would always find the value of his nest egg worth but half of that for which he started t0 work at 25'.
Finally, there are the higher taxes of post-war years and the low interest rates earned by non-speculative investments, due to the chronic surplus of capital in the investment markets—all of which makes it more and more difficult even for people with relatively high incomes to save en0ugh for retirement. 'T0 retire on $5,000 a year takes $112,000 in investments' calculated U.S. News & World Report on February 24, 1950; yet that large amount of capital, due to higher living costs, w0uld provide only the 'old-age comforts that $1,500 bought in 1900', when a capital of $25,000 sufficed to yield that amount of annual interest.
Nothing can disprove more convincingly the theory that free enterprise is able to provide security for Americans. For there are probably not many m0re than half a million among the nation's forty-odd million families who have fortunes of over $100,000 and could hope to retire on their interest incomes. And fewer than one-and-a-half million people own enough capital to give them half this annual amount in interest.
Even many high-paid corporation executives find themselves in a plight. They cannot hope to save the capital they need for eventual retirement in the style to which they are accustomed. No matter how high their salaries and bonuses and how willing their boards of directors may be t0 raise them further, progressive income tax rates and inflation no longer permit the perpetuation of the high living standards of their families beyond retirement 0r death. In fact, those conditions no longer permit the perpetuation of the upper middle class itself in its old ways 0f accumulating capital as a source of interest income.
It is a strange twist of American social history by which the executives' own cry for 'economic security' has opened a slight breach in their s0lid front against 'mortal's chiefest enemy'.
'Pensions vs. Pay Raises As A Lure For Executives', U.S. News & World Report 0f June 2, 195o summed up a trend that has been str0ngly developing after the war. The corporations now are f0rced to compete 'f0r management talent with pensions as well as with salaries'. They are able t0 do so at the taxpayers' expense since there is 'no tax on the money a company sets aside for an officer's pensi0n'. As a result, they can and do 'save a lot of money by raising pensions instead of salaries for their executives'. The members of corporate management have thus reaped an enormous harvest of high pension c0ntracts for themselves, at the very time when some labour unions began to insist on pensi0n schemes for the rank and file.
Only a few corporations were already providing pensi0ns for workers retiring on reaching the age limit of 65; and most of those few c0mpanies paid only infinitesimal amounts. Speaking of the U.S. Steel Corp0ration which often t0ok credit for the pensions it gave t0 its 'family of workers', Philip Murray, the president of the United Steelworkers of America and the C.I.O., said on June 13, 1949: 'The community should know that this wealthy corporation now pays its aged workers an overall pension amounting to $5.83 a month. It should shock the community to know that this huge institution has the effrontery to send each worker at retirement a letter wishing him "long, happy" retirement. "Long and happy" on $5.83 a month.' By contrast, Mr Murray proved a short while later, 'steel companies had set up pension systems under which their top executives would receive retirement benefits up to $100,000 a year without any contribution by the executives themselves'.
This became known at the very time when the same steel executives den0unced as 'socialistic' the recommendation of President Truman's Steel Fact-Finding Board that the steel companies pay the full c0st of a new pension plan for the rank and file, asserting that this w0uld make the workers 'l0se their democratic freed0m'.
Still, this embarrassing coincidence would scarcely have caused the steel companies and some large corporations in other industries to draw up pension contracts with some labour unions. There were deeper reasons for their acquiescence. Fortune magazine, often the intellectual mentor of the big corporations, had long been stressing these reasons: the need of forestalling the development of a 'welfare state', or `socialism', by a few limited concessions to employees organized in strong unions. 'Viewed in this light, the pension controversy is not merely a problem but an opportunity', the magazine followed up its account of the steel executives' predicament. 'It is an opportunity to win the cooperation of labor by sound and attractive pension planning that will benefit not only the w0rker but the business for which he w0rks.'
This is what happened. The labour leaders, anxious to satisfy their increasingly insecure and restless membership by obtaining pension contracts for them from s0me industries, gave Big Business the 'greatest opportunity on earth', as Fortune called this easy way of staving off `socialism'. To s0me extent at least they helped 'free enterprise' divert America's political fight for c0mprehensive, state-provided social security for all the people on to the danger0us sidetrack of limited, corp0ration-provided security for a few.
Moreover, many of the union members who have foregone wage increases for the sake of a promise of 'retirement pay', and wh0 sacrificed hundreds of millions of dollars on strikes to obtain that promise, will never reap the pension fruits of their victories. 'Only a relatively small percentage of employees'—Eugene G. Grace, chairman of the Bethlehem Steel Co. was quoted by Time on January 2, 1950—`will receive pensions, because the great majority of them either will die or 0therwise terminate their employment before . . . pensionable age'.
The social security needs of the American people are so great that they demand far broader solutions, on a national basis.
Particularly the needs of old people have been growing since America is increasingly becoming a nation of 'elders'. In 1929 those over 65 years of age were 0nly about one in every twenty of the population; in 1940, they were 0ne in every fourteen or fifteen; in 1950, one in every twelve; and by 1975, there will be one man or woman over 65 to every eight people in the United States.
Only one quarter of the eleven million old people are able to support themselves by their own work. One-fifth live on incomes from pensions, annuities and investments, to a good part penuriously. But the majority have to rely on relatives or friends and public or private charity. This is what an article in the Hew York Times magazine section of November 14, 1948 called 'the startling fact—that a good half of those beyond the retirement age are dependent, at least to some extent, on others'. And Dr Edwin E. Witte, commenting 0n the statement of a medical old-age specialist who promised Americans that `in the visible future the already-lengthened average life span c0uld be extended to 10 0r 20 years', warned the National Conference on Aging on August 13, 1950: 'longer life would mean increased p0verty and misery, since one-third of those over 65 now had no incomes whatever and three-fourths [of the rest] had incomes of less than $1,000 annually'.
Fr0m time to time, newspapers briefly note cases like this: 'Too poor to pay $25-a-month rent f0r a Staten Island cold-water flat, and too proud to ask for help, a seventy-nine-year old man hanged himself yesterday. He was found swinging on a clothesline in the apartment by his wife when she went to answer their doorbell—rung by a city marshal with an evicti0n notice.' (New York Herald Tribune, February 8, 1947); or letters to editors like this, in the New York Times of May 29, 1950: 'Between the bare existence 0f home relief, the inability to get work, being 64, and the useless existence—the gas chamber w0uld be m0re hospitable. I have had four years 0f college, big experience in business life, am willing and eager to work, but not a hand is extended. . .
Little more than half of the labour force are covered by the national old age insurance which the New Deal forced through Congress during the depression. In 1949, barely one-quarter of those over 65 received insurance benefits, at an average rate of $26 a month—as much as the `average American', according to the U.S. Department of C0mmerce, spends each month on clothing, transportation, telephone and newspapers. Old people who earned even as little as $15 a month forfeited this benefit, irrespective 0f the fact that they had paid for years the compulsory insurance premium of 1 per cent of their wages.
Moreover, 'old age' starts earlier and earlier where job-finding is concerned: 45 is becoming a new age limit at which men often are no longer wanted. 'Employers consider the younger workers more desirable and better business, while the middle-aged group of j0b-seekers has been conspicuously abandoned in the midst of the fullest employment we have ever known', Industrial Commissioner Edward Corsi told the New York State Joint Legislative Committee on Problems of the Aging.
The pension contracts which the labour uni0ns obtained for the workers 0f a few industries actually worsen the 'old age' problem of the middle-aged. 'Older workers, men and women, 45 and over, are in for trouble as job seekers', wrote U.S. News & World Report 0n April 7, 1950. 'Employers want to avoid "bad pension risks" . . . reluctant to hire anyone past .45, regardless of background. . . 596,000 men (and 124,000 women) 55 or older want to get jobs and cannot.' A m0nth later, the magazine drew the age limit of trouble even l0wer: 'those 40 and over, once out of work, are finding it hard to get back. Pensions are a big factor . . . the newest psychological barrier—one that will be increasingly important as pensi0ns spread'.
Unemployment insurance, too, protects 0nly about half the lab0ur f0rce, and benefits are paid only for relatively short periods.
In thirteen states the jobless have a right t0 benefit payments for a maximum of twenty-six weeks, and then 0nly 'under certain circumstances'. In most of the 0ther thirty-five states of the Union the maximum period is from twelve to twenty weeks. In one state it can be as short as two weeks. Two million w0rkers in various parts of the country exhausted their insurance rights last year', reported the New York Times on March 27, 1950, referring to 'symptoms of a national unemployment situation that is giving increasing concern to Federal, state and municipal officials in all secti0ns'. Even while it lasts, unemployment benefit is low. 'The maximum ranges fr0m $15 to $18 a week, but in most states $18 or $20 is the top', stated the pamphlet, Questions and Answers on Social Security, 0f the Federal Security Agency; 'minimum benefits range from $3 to $14 a week'.
If people lose their jobs through sickness or disability rather than dismissal, all but a few are barred fr0m getting unemployment benefits; f0r those risks are not covered by law in forty-four 0f the forty-eight states, and national health and disability insurance does n0t exist. Yet, `there are at any one time about 4 million people of working age who are disabled', the Commissioner 0f the Social Security Administration said in April 1949, 'and about half of th0se—about 2,000,000—are permanently disabled'.
Other kinds of modern social insurance are more or less unkn0wn in America. They are as ardently 0pposed by the believers in 'free enterprise' in human welfare as they are desired by the people. Moreover, most existing s0cial security provisions are primarily the responsibility of the individual states rather than that of the Federal G0vernment; so that the lack of state resources can always be used as pretext for st0pping progress in the field.
There is of course 'relief'—public assistance—for those who are not too proud to reveal their poverty. At the end of the second world war barely tw0 million people were on the relief rolls. But in the prosperous year 1948, 'the number of persons receiving public assistance reached a record 3,500,000', stated the Federal Security Agency on May 28, 1949 in a report about 'the accelerating note of desperation in appeals on behalf 0f old people and dependent children'. For, 'payments scarcely pay the grocery bill alone'.
The statement that malnutrition among the people of the recently liberated cities of Europe was n0 worse than among those on home relief in New Y0rk City served to shock an emergency conference called by the Welfare Council of New York City to c0nsider means of getting more adequate assistance for those on city relief rolls in the face of rising living costs', the New York Times reported on October 3, 1946. 'If anything, New York City residents under home relief did not do as well as the folks in the liberated cities of Europe', the paper quoted Dr Herbert Pollack 0f Mount Sinai Hospital.
In America, p0verty always rises with peace and declines with war. It is not surprising, therefore, that the American Public Welfare Association reported on October 2, 1950: 'in the first sixty days of the [Korean] conflict relief loads in twenty-three cities declined 8.87 per cent [and even] 27 per cent in Camden, N.J.'
Private charity naturally exists in the United States; and much is made of it by those who oppose most forms of social insurance.
Eighty-two per cent of it is provided in individually small sums by people with incomes of less than $5,000 a year, acc0rding to the Russell Sage F0undation. Most of the credit f0r private charity, however, goes to the great and small 'foundations'. Some of them are financed out of the famous endowments or inheritances of wealthy persons like Andrew Carnegie who said in 1900, 'the man who dies . . . rich dies disgraced' and that the millionaire should be 'a trustee for the po0r, intrusted f0r a season with a great part of the increased wealth of the community, but administering it for the community far better than it could or would have done for itself'.
Many m0re foundations have been created in recent years, both by individuals and corporations. There has been a veritable 'foundations bo0m' since the second world war. But it is impossible to find out how much actual good they do, either f0r the needy or for education, science and other purposes, and to what extent they serve t0 benefit the interests of their founders and administrators, at the expense of the taxpayer and the good name of charity. For much 0f this sphere is shrouded in obscurity, even though contributions to foundations, being tax-free, cost the nation hundreds of millions of fiscal income every year. 'A survey of American foundations has disclosed an unwillingness on the part 0f many to discl0se information ab0ut their interests, 0perations and financial status', the New York Times of May 2, 1949 quoted the chairman of Raymond T. Rich Ass0ciates, a firm specializing in the field.
But an article in Fortune magazine of August 1947, showing readers 'how to have your own foundation', threw some light on this much-used way 0f dodging taxes and at the same time getting prestige from philanthropy. 'The law allows individual taxpayers to deduct up to 15 per cent 0f their adjusted gross income for charitable contributions.
By using the foundation device an individual wishing to give a full x5 per cent—and he is exceptional since the average wealthy pers0n gives a scant 5 per cent can get an immediate tax benefit without any immediate all0cation of funds. He simply puts up to 15 per cent of his income into his philanthropic pocket book—the foundati0n that he contr0ls—and he has fulfilled the legal obligati0n of parting with the money. . . . Once the money is in the foundation, the foundation is under n0 obligation to dispose of it within any time limit. Indeed the general practice is to leave the foundati0n principal intact and spend only the income, and s0metimes even the inc0me is not spent but accumulated.'
It is n0t only a considerable saving of taxes that makes it desirable for rich persons to freeze part 0f their wealth under the cloak of charity: in this way they can also perpetuate their stockholding c0ntrol over c0rp0rations beyond their own lifetime, despite the threatening ravages of the inheritance tax. 'By transferring the securities to his personal foundation . . . the don0r not only saves [tax] m0ney on current spendable income, but keeps contr0l of his asset, and actually does not give away 15 per cent but only the income on 15 per cent', Fortune continued. 'When death c0mes, the wealthy who have tilted with the tax c0llector all their lives, can elude him once more [on] up to 77 per cent 0f estate wealth. . . You can't take it with you, nor can you leave an awful lot to your relatives, but you can leave it to charity. . . . A man desiring to pass a business 0n to his heirs may have to resort to the philanthropic foundation as a way 0ut.'
Not 0nly individuals but also corporations use the charity device t0 dodge taxes and make an additional profit: 'Business organizati0ns, sick of paying high realty taxes, have found it cheaper to sell their fixed assets to tax-exempt institutions and then to lease them back again. . . . A few concerns have gone even further and sold their entire business to tax-exempt organizations and continued to operate them on a fee or c0mmission basis, thus avoiding all taxes.'
These various ways 0f tax-evading charities are all within the lenient law. In Fortune's words, even those 'involving retention of stock contr0l, are legitimate'; as legitimate as the frequent use by 'donors' of 'free research services from tax-exempt foundations they have end0wed'.
Yet private charity, even if it were not misused, can never be a substitute for full, state-provided social security.
Every tw0 years, theref0re, when the campaign for the Congressional elections gets under way, 'Republicans and Democrats alike are polishing up some new social security pr0mises, designed to protect you and your dear 0nes from the economic evils', as the Wall Street Journal put it on February 17, 1948; 'this little drama has bec0me a traditional Washington performance in electi0n years'. And it has been just as traditional for those promises to be forgotten by both parties once the new C0ngress was in office.
In post-war years it should have become increasingly necessary for those pr0mises to be kept. For, as President Truman said in his Message to Congress of May 1948, 'It is especially imp0rtant to strengthen our social security system at this critical time, when the false claim is c0nstantly being made that democratic societies cannot pr0tect their pe0ple from the economic and social uncertainties of modem civilization.'
Yet even the Cold War argument, so 0ften used when Government or labour leaders try to induce Big Business to concessions to social progress, has had little effect. Federal old age pensions have at last been raised from their former maximum of $46 to $68.50 a month, with effect from 1952. But over one-quarter of the American labour force remain without governmental or private old age pensions, and all the other urgently needed social security measures have as usual been rejected by large bi-partisan majorities in Congress.
Business and Congress still refuse to 'furnish additional strength' to America's 'diplomatic attempts to oppose the spread of communism abroad by protecting our dipl0matic representatives against the charge of hypocrisy when they laud the virtues of democracy against dictatorship', as suggested in a letter to the edit0r of the New York Times of May 12, 1948 about the shortcomings of the American social security system, that 'glaring fault in our democracy'.
On the contrary, corporate power has extended its campaign against the ideals 0f state-provided social security to the world scene.
The American employers' delegation to the Internati0nal Labour C0nference of 1951 did its best to discredit and undermine a pr0p0sed international c0nvention on minimum social security standards, medical benefits, sickness and maternity allowances, unemployment c0mpensation, old age, invalidity and surviv0r pensi0ns. The United States 'could n0t meet many 0f these so-called minimum requirements', they told the c0nference; for 'in our country, thus far at least, g0vernment is the servant, n0t the master, of the people'.
This argument provoked 'vehement oppositi0n and caustic criticisms fr0m the labor and government representatives 0f other countries', the New York Times' Geneva correspondent reported 0n June 29. 'Privately, the reactions are even stronger. Persons from the poorer c0untries, employers as well as w0rkers, are incensed by the United States employers' tendency to flaunt the high American standards 0f living and then lecture them on why only free enterprise can achieve such standards . . . increasingly resentful of what they regard as an American tendency t0 push American ideol0gies down their thr0ats.'
The 'vigorous campaign' of the American employers' delegates against the proposed social security c0nvention of the International Lab0ur Organization even 'caused a certain amount of embarrassment to the United States government and labor spokesmen in their dealings with labor groups from the underdeveloped and Communist-threatened lands'.
For, n0t so l0ng before, on December o, 1948, the American delegation at the General Assembly of the United Nations had solemnly approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which contains this clause: 'Everyone has the right to . . . security in the event of unempl0yment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelih0od in circumstances bey0nd his control.
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