Social Security Essay

3672 words - 15 pages

The Social Security Act of 1935: "From the Cradle to the Grave"
The Signing of the Social Security Act
The Wikimedia Foundation
Ethan Ross Block 3 Mr. Swidler March 28th, 2014

There have been many economic crises in the history of the modern world, but none
have ever been as severe or devastating as the Great Depression. Triggered by the stock
market crash of 1929, the Great Depression forever altered the course of American history. The
Great Depression was detrimental to the lives of nearly all Americans, and by the early 1930's
many were driven into desperate poverty. People lost their jobs and their homes, along with any
hope that things would get better. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who took office on March 4th,
1933, had his work cut out for him. Roosevelt acted quickly, and within one hundred days of
assuming office introduced fifteen major legislative bills to Congress, all of which were passed
("The 1930s: Government and Politics: Overview" 219). The series of economic measures by
Roosevelt to counteract the Depression was known as the "New Deal," designed to bring relief
to struggling Americans and prosperity back to the United States. The keystone of Roosevelt's
New Deal was the Social Security Act of 1935.
Due to the economic difficulties that many Americans faced during the Great Depression,
it was not just appropriate, but also necessary for the United States government to intervene in
economic affairs in order to aid its citizens. The United States was brutally unprepared for the
Great Depression and suffered mightily because of this. Therefore, the Social Security Act
established the first social insurance program in American history to provide economic security
for Americans. The Act included old­age benefits to retirees, unemployment compensation, aid
to dependent children, and additional aid to public healthcare services. To date, it is the largest
and costliest domestic program in history of the United States (Benson, Brannen Jr., and
Valentine 1442). Many argue it is also the most effective. Said President Roosevelt, "I see no
reason why every child from the day he is born, shouldn't be a member of the social security
system. When he begins to grow up, he should know he will have old­age benefits direct from
the insurance system to which he will belong all his life. If he is out of work, he gets a benefit. If
he is sick, or crippled, he gets a benefit.… Cradle to the grave-from the cradle to the grave they
ought to be in a social insurance system," (Roosevelt).
On October 29th, 1929, a day infamously known as Black Tuesday, the stock market

plummeted, resulting in the worst economic downturn in the history of Western civilization. By
1933, America's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had fallen more than 25%, completely erasing
all of the economic growth the United States had experienced in the past several decades. In
this same time period, unemployment rose rapidly. It peaked higher than 25% in 1933....

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