The politics of real social change

Practical Politics

David L. Horne, PH.D. | 11/27/2013, midnight

The new act created a social insurance program designed to pay retired workers age 65 or older a continuing income after retirement. It was not perfect, and required several later amendments, and there was staunch opposition in several newspapers, and even a filibuster which stopped any funding for the initial implementation of the program for more than six months and a succeeding congressional session. That attack was by both Democrats and Republicans. Some called the president a socialist and the Social Security Act the road to the destruction of America. It has taken more than 50 years for the Social Security program to have finally gained the popular status that it enjoys today, and most Americans cannot envision the country now without the program.

But in its initial roll-out, the Social Security Act did not quite live up to the promises of its advocates, and had not the U.S. Postal Service lent a giant helping hand, the program very likely would have collapsed at the very beginning, because there was no other known way of getting the information out to a majority of Americans and having them sign up. Even though comprehensive disability coverage and medical benefits had to await a later implementation, the act did promptly provide a wide range of economic security programs to meet the nation’s needs, including the retirement stipend as a social insurance program that we mainly think of as Social Security, plus unemployment insurance, old-age assistance, aid to dependent children and grants to the states to provide various forms of medical care.

But it was a battle royale getting it going and keeping it going, similar to Obamacare today. And it eventually worked out fine, as will Obamacare. In politics, the heat of the moment should never determine the bulk of the battle. There must be forward movement to achieve victory.

President Obama’s legacy will be fine. Just keep moving, ya’ll. Don’t waste time stopping to fight and fret in the ditch.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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