Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

“...OUR PLAIN DUTY...”

This simple but poignant quote was made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a message to Congress in which he lobbied for the passage of the Social Security Act. He regarded this achievement as the cornerstone of his administration and the domestic issue in which he took the most pride. This topic was the focus of a special exhibit housed at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum located in Hyde Park, New York in honor of its’ 75th anniversary.

Betsy and I both remarked that we were not familiar with the history of establishing the act. We just know that we get money for retirement, we pay into it during our working years, and it will be gone by the time I retire.

Prior to the act, almost half of America’s senior citizens could not support themselves and poverty was in the millions. Elderly worked until they physically couldn’t or were fired. They relied on charity from paltry state run programs, family, or charities. But in the midst of the Great Depression, charity was hard to come by as one in four workers were unemployed.

Early momentum for such a plan began with Louisiana Senator Huey P. Long and Francis Townsend, an unemployed doctor. Long proposed the “Share Our Wealth” program in which he believed taxing the rich would provide a funding source for pensions and guaranteed income for everyone. Townsend devised the “Old Age Revolving Pension Plan” in which he proposed the federal government would provide a $200 monthly pension to every person age 60 and older. Townsend’s plan spread quickly and gained strong momentum.

Roosevelt supported government-sponsored old age, unemployment, and health insurance. The hope was that this movement would stimulate economic spending, and alleviate the immediate hunger and joblessness crises. But while he delayed acting on the idea, he was pushed by his Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins (the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet) and a bill went to Congress in 1935. Significant changes were made to the bill and it was scaled to exclude many large labor categories including farm and domestic workers. While the bill did not include everything the president wanted, it was signed into law on August 14, 1935, and marked a major achievement of his presidency. Since the initial signing the law has changed to offer more benefits.

Seventy-five years after its creation, Social Security is welcomed, controversial, and debated. Social Security is the largest social program in the United States providing benefits to over 52 million Americans. This represents over 20 percent of all government spending - the largest single item in the federal budget. The long-term financial viability has been questioned and without action the Social Security Trust Funds will vanish in 2037. According to the Social Security Administration, Social Security will continue after 2037 but will be mostly supported through payroll taxes and not the Trust Fund. What remains to happen with Social Security is unclear and it remains to be seen if it is still “our plain duty.”

Since we did not feel our readers would want to see pictures of our social security cards, we decided to include pictures taken at the Presidential Library and Museum instead.

Roosevelt grew up in Hyde Park, NY and loved the area so much he frequented the
area often throughout his life.

Although not a great athlete, Roosevelt took up the game of golf at boarding school.
 He excelled and later taught his sons to play.

This scale model is of a early 19th century Dutch man-of-war.
Queen Juliana once told Roosevelt, before she was Queen, that when the Nazi were driven out of
the Netherlands, she would send him the finest model ship she could find.  Unfortunately, Roosevelt
never saw the ship because he died in 1945, but, as a fulfillment of her promise the Queen
presented the ship to the Presidential Library and Museum.  Sailing was one of Roosevelt's loves, so
much so that he used to ice sail during the winter. 
 In Roosevelt's study is a portrait of his mother (far left) and one of his custom built
wheelchairs complete with an ashtray (in the forefront).  Roosevelt's mother was not keen on the idea of
him marrying Eleanor.  Not because she did not like her, but because she wanted him to herself.  He was an only child.
An exhibit in the museum showing Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act.  Labor Secretary
Frances Perkins is over his left shoulder.
Grave sites of F.D.R and Eleanor surrounded by roses.
This is the Nation's first Presidential Library and the only one actually used by a President while in office.

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