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When I'm 64

by Corrin Strong
Clarion Publisher

1/09/97 Clarion News Service.
The future of the Social Security system is much in the news these days. It seems that by the time most of us Baby Boomers reach the threshold of retirement in the early part of the next century, there won't be enough workers around to foot the bill.
Not to worry, say some. We'll just invest the money in the stock market and all live as kings! Or if that doesn't work, just raise the tax rate up to 70 or 80 per cent! I suppose it's too late to question the wisdom of the whole enterprise, but 62 years ago when the measure was being considered in Congress a few brave souls did. Consider the words of one Upstate congressman:

"One other thing looking toward the future, Mr. Chairman. I know the appeal this bill has to every human being, that it appeals to the humane instincts of men and women everywhere. We will not deny, however, that it constitutes an immense, immense departure from the traditional functions of the Federal Government...pensioning the individual citizens of the several States.
"It launches the Federal Government into an immense undertaking which in the aggregate will reach dimensions none of us can really visualize and which in the last analysis, you will admit, affects millions and millions of individuals. Remember, once we pay pensions and supervise annuities, we cannot withdraw from the undertaking no matter how demoralizing and subversive it may become.
"Pensions and annuities are never abandoned; nor are they ever reduced. The recipients ever clamor for more. To gain their ends they organize politically. They may not constitute a majority of the electorate, but their power will be immense. On more than one occasion we have witnessed the political achievements of organized minorities.
"This bill opens the door and invites the entrance into the political field of a power so vast, so powerful as to threaten the integrity of our institutions and to pull the pillars of the temple down upon the heads of our descendants.
"We are taking a step here today which may well be fateful. I ask you to consider it, to reexamine the fundamental philosophy of this bill, to estimate the future and ask yourselves the questions, 'In what sort of country shall our grandchildren live? Shall it be a free country or one in which the citizen is a subject taught to depend upon government?'"

Those grim predictions were made by Congressman (former U.S. Senator) James W. Wadsworth Jr. of Geneseo. Despite his advice, the House went on to pass the landmark legislation creating Social Security on April 19, 1935 by a vote of 327-33. I am grateful to writer Bill Kauffman of Elba, N.Y. for bringing these remarks to my attention.
One more thing. I am proud to say that the Congressman mentioned was my great-grandfather. I guess I come by my conservative instincts naturally. Sadly, we are all now the grandchildren he was right to worry about.

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