Like Ourselves: Forecast for Survey Graphic
by Paul Kellogg
Security, Relief, and Social
Lloyd George has fought a war and relapsed
into an uneasy elder statesman since the years when he drove through
that group of social insurance measures which successive liberal,
labor, conservative and national governments in England have extended
and fortified, and which today far outclass our social security
act of 1935. It seems altogether likely that this history will
repeat itself here; never again will we so completely let people
down into the old insecurity. Coming at the problem decades later,
spurred by a depression which found us defenseless by comparison,
the Roosevelt administration has in three years set up measures
of protection against unemployment and old age such as had been
shelved throughout the years since the turn of the century. This
is not to say they are finished work. Not only is cooperative
action state by state called for, and sanction by the Supreme
Court, but the provisionsmany of them inadequateneed
reinforcement through comparative experience and vigorous espousal.
The security act offers no immediate security.
Emergency measures with that aim are again at loose ends in the
midst of the present drive to shift unemployed wage earners from
relief lists to works progress payrolls. On the one hand, the
mass of projects jamming the hopper at Washington are challenged
as unrelated to the real vocational make-up of the unemployed;
on the other hand, the whole attempt to set up short-term jobs
is discounted by those who hold to stimulating general employment
through large scale investment in public works. Even such cross
purposes are less damaging than the confusions between jobs and
relief in which the recipients find themselves.
There is sanity in separating the two functions of supplying work
and supplying relief, but unreality in the presumption at Washington
that in this time of transition federal responsibility can leave
off where that line is drawn, or in the wishful thinking among
burdened taxpayers that private or local agencies are prepared
to take over the relief load.
0ut of the welter, the work assurance program may be shaken down
in the months ahead into something distinct, non-political, manageable;
federal administration of relief may revert to federal grants
in aid to the states based on standards and the matching principle;
and, in the process, impetus may be given to the spread of city,
county and state welfare departments through which our old Elizabethan
poor laws will go out on the ebb tide of an excruciating experience.
That would free voluntary social agencies for their tasks, poignant
and pressing not only because of the human disintegration of these
last years but because of the opportunity which the years ahead
will afford for contributing creatively to the slow process of
the underlying issue in mass relief may present itself in simpler
terms. How much dependency will the tax-paying public carry indefinitely?
Or in reverse: How long will the unemployed and under privileged
wait for the rest of us to set the house in order so that livelihood
is reasonably secure?