American Experience The Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt PBS
Democrats are fighting mad over an FDR quote which Brit Hume made on FoxNews. I retrieved the transcripts of Brit's statement and it seemed to me that Brit quoted and analyzed that FDR quote correctly, but my liberal Democrat friend set in trying to discredit Hume's statement by using information which came out later about Social Security.
The FDR quote which struck me and which I felt made clear the intentions of FDR was this:
"It is overwhelmingly important to avoid any danger of permanently discrediting the sound
and necessary policy of Federal legislation for economic security by attempting to apply it
on too ambitious a scale before actual experience has provided guidance for the
permanently safe direction of such efforts. The place of such a fundamental in our future
civilization is too precious to be jeopardized now by extravagant action. It is a sound idea
-a sound ideal. Most of the other advanced countries of the world have already adopted it
and their experience affords the knowledge that social insurance can be made a sound and
This quote along with the quote that Brit Hume drew from:
"In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three
principles: First, noncontributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build
up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps 30 years to come funds
will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions.
Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting
system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory
annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old
age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-
age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."
FDR ends with this statement:
"I strongly recommend action to attain the objectives sought in this report."
So, one may reasonably conclude that it was the intention of FDR NOT to implement Social Security "on too ambitious a scale before actual experience has provided guidance" and that he viewed doing so as "dangerous." He further stated, as a part of what he foresaw in the future, that the government would, for the time being, pay one-half of these costs until such a time that those funds should be "SUPPLANTED by self-supporting annuity plans." I take this to mean that he intended Social Security to be flexible as we learned how it would act in practice.
I believe that FDR meant what he said when he submitted that memo to Congress. Whatever, statements FDR made after he laid out these guidelines for the implementation of the Social Security plan did not negate the statements he made prior to the specifics of the plan being implemented. We were meant to keep in mind the warning of FDR, that it was "dangerous" to implement the plan on too ambitious a scale until we saw how it would act in practice.
FDR never intended the Social Security Plan to be a rigid, unmanageable policy in the first place. Now, adjustments need to be made, adjustments which FDR originally had in mind and it seems that the Democrats would prefer to ignore these guidelines of FDR. If they do not ignore them they will be guilty of not "toeing the party line," now that would be a horrid development, indeed, especially considering that obstructionism seems to be the party line of acceptance among Democrats in today's climate.