Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Charles Cooley: My Grandmother and Her Politics

I never heard Grandma Small (above, right)  utter the words “President Roosevelt.” If she wished to make it clear that she was talking about the president from 1933 to 1944 she would say “that man in the White House.”  Grandma had two sisters who would come to visit her occasionally. One of them was as loyal to the Democrats’ philosophy as Grandma was to the Republicans’. The other sister might have been a Socialist for all I can remember but when the three of them got going about current events and politics the atmosphere of the neighborhood would be assaulted by sounds approaching warfare. I can’t recall anything Grandma ever said about President Hoover. However, during his administration, she would have become homeless when Grampa lost his job due to the Great Depression if my parents hadn't provided a place for them to live. My opinion of Herbert Hoover and his administration is that he was a good person who was president during an unfortunate time. When he was inaugurated in March of 1929 the economy was ready to go into a recession no matter who was president. He did, however, sign the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which made matters worse and tried to restrict government spending to add to the misery. I imagine FDR learned a lot by watching and waiting. He was certainly different. In 1935 the Federal Insurance Compensation Act was signed into law and the first checks for benefits went to people who had never “contributed” to the so-called “trust fund.” Since welfare as it existed in the first years of the Depression was powerless to make much impact to relieve suffering I see Social Security as a welfare measure at that time. I think calling it an “entitlement” encourages people to look upon it more as an insurance annuity where the more you pay the more you get. A few concessions to the needs of the beneficiary have been made but they are very few and show no sign of doing anything to shore up the viability of the program. Whatever Grandma may have thought about Social Security, I am sure the benefits her household received were a godsend at the time. I never heard her say anything about that, though.

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