Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Eisenhower's Social Security Quote.

"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

-- President Dwight D. Eisenhower

The above quote by Dwight Eisenhower about social security is spreading like wildfire across the internet. The quote is basically correct (though it has an undisclosed ellipse omitting the reference to H.L. Hunt), but the date given is 1952.

Blanche Wiesen Cook, a "Distinguished Professor of History" at John Jay College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume One: 1884-1933, Crystal Eastman on Women and Revolution and The Declassified Eisenhower, and a former vice-president for research at the American Historical Association, wrote that the letter with the Eisenhower quote about social security was dated "2 May l956".

Actually, both the 1952 and the 1956 dates are incorrect. The correct date is November 8, 1954. The source of the quote is in the Eisenhower Papers on line. It is from a personal and confidential letter from Ike to his brother Edgar Newton Eisenhower. Since the letter was personal and confidential to Ike's very close brother (the one who slept by his bedside to prevent the doctors from amputating Ike's leg when he has blood poisoning) with whom he often debated his comments were not guarded as they were for public dissemination.

Here's the whole paragraph:

"Now it is true that I believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions. I oppose this--in some instances the fight is a rather desperate one. But to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything--even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon 'moderation' in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

From The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower, Volume XV - The Presidency: The Middle Way
Part VI: Crises Abroad, Party Problems at Home; September 1954 to December 1954
Chapter 13: "A new phase of political experience"
Document #1147; November 8, 1954
To Edgar Newton Eisenhower

Actually the whole letter is very interesting reading as it shows Ike's responses to Edgar who is shown to be an ultra conservative chiding Ike with the typical inaccuracies and "ignorance" (Ike's word) that such conservatives commonly use.

Ike did write a letter to his brother Edgar on May 2, 1956, and it contains this observation on the conservative Edgar's ability to perceive political events accurately.

"I am interested in your statement, 'I do think and have said so to you, that the Government is rapidly drifting into a socialistic state.' A statement such as this seems indication to me that you are not studying the march of events with as clear an eye as you should; you are talking from impressions and prejudices without giving the important factors serious examination."

Ike responded to the requests that he stop the US treend toward socialism by saying in part, "Neither I nor anyone else can bring about the abandonment of projects supported by the government that are generally believed to help the social or economic welfare of vast portions of our population."

And to Edgar's comments to the press about being a "real Republican" Ike said:

"I am a little amused about this word 'real' that in your clipping modifies the word 'Republican.' I assume that Lincoln was a real Republican--in fact, I think we should have to assume that every President, being the elected leader of the Party, is a real Republican. Therefore, the President's branch of the Party requires, for its description, no adjective whatsoever. I should think that the splinter groups, which oppose the leader, would be the ones requiring the descriptive adjectives. In any event, please look up sometime what Lincoln had to say about the proper functions of government."

Footnote #9 to the Lincoln reference says, "Lincoln had written that the object of government was to do for people what needed to be done, but which they could not, by individual effort, do at all or do so well. 'There are many such things--some of them exist independently of the injustice in the world. Making and maintaining roads, bridges, and the like; providing for the helpless young and afflicted; common schools; and disposing of deceased men's property, are instances' (Abraham Lincoln, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, 8 vols. [New Brunswick, N. J., 1953], vol. II, 1848-1858, p. 221)."

The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower, Volume XVII - The Presidency: The Middle Way
Part X: Cracks in the Alliance; May 1956 to September 1956
Chapter 20: Confronting "great risks"
Document #1861; May 2, 1956
To Edgar Newton Eisenhower


Bob Hurt said...


Thanks for the quote. I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make, but I’m guessing you are basically saying George W. Bush is stupid for pressing Congress to change the social security law so that its funding continues to be possible and practical in the future. Maybe you are even trying to say the social security law in its present and past implementations were consummately wise, and to change them at all would be stupid. If so, perhaps you should study the issues with a bit more craving for truth and less political prejudice. In any case, I have several comments to make.

1. Eisenhower was not the great and wonderfully wise man the article implies he was, certainly not to the extent that we should hang on his every word and suggestion as though they came from God.

a. Forty years ago the John Birch Society published a number of books and articles about the reality that Eisenhower was a politician who, because of his unwise (and perhaps ill-intended) efforts to drop all of Eastern Europe into the hands of Communist tyrants at the end of World War II. In my opinion, looking back at the 45 years of political pogroms, murders, plunder, economic destruction, and despotism that enslaved and ravaged Eastern Europe, and destroyed the work ethic of its people, Eisenhower was wrong.

b. Ike was also wrong in asserting that the president, being the elected head of the Republican party, is the definition of what a “real” Republican is. The principles of Republicanism are not limited and condition by the nature of the president, but rather by these principles of good and wise government – that the government should not pander to people wanting handouts, that it should encourage strong business development because thereby jobs are had and the nation is enriched, and that the Central government should be limited, with more power going to the states and the people, respectively. Regardless of who is president, those principles stand firm. All presidents do is demonstrate the extent to which they support or violate those principles.

2. The Social Security Act was ill-conceived from its inception, and its meaning has been warped as time has passed. Most Americans think there is a social security fund and their social security “insurance” premiums are what populate that fund. They are dead wrong, of course.

a. There is no social security fund. There is merely an allocation of money from the general treasury to populate a bank account on which social security checks are written. The social security insurance premiums are nothing more or less than another abusive income tax.

b. Social Security premiums (taxes) are not invested in any kind of interest-bearing or inflation-protected account or enterprise. They merely go into the treasury like all other government revenue does. And then the money belongs to Congress and Congress may allocate it to any desired purpose, or spend it on anything they like.

c. On its face, Social Security taxes are a violation of the Constitution, just as are normal income taxes. They are in fact a direct tax (and are treated as such) on individuals, and income is the means of measuring how much tax is stolen from those individuals. The Constitution specifically states that the only way Congress may tax people directly is by taxing the states, using the rule of apportionment by population. So if Congress wants to raise 10 billion dollars, and California contains 10% of the population, California owes 1 billion, and the rest of the states owe according to percentages of the population that reside within them. Only the state governments have the constitutional right to go directly to individual persons and demand a Federal tax payment for Federal revenue purposes.

d. Although income tax is not the issue at hand, it should be addressed here. You might wonder why, if it is treated like a direct tax, Congress allows the IRS to harass people to death in order to collect income taxes. That is because the 16th amendment defined income taxes as “indirect” taxes.
i. It is important to note that an indirect tax cannot, by definition, be a tax on one’s person, labor, or property, for numerous courts have held that such taxes are in fact, and by definition, direct. What is left to be taxed indirectly, if not one’s person, labor or property? Well, indirect taxes may be levied on activities, events, happenings, or occurrences. And normally such taxes are levied because the event or activity is intrinsically evil, dangerous, or harmful. For example, it is right that income taxes be levied on the activity of manufacturing or importing guns, cigarettes, and whiskey. Look at the damage those have done to people. And, in fact, 26USC (the Income Tax law) does in fact establish taxes on those activities.

ii. However, you should rightly ask “In what activity, event, happening, or occurrence am I involved that makes me subject to or liable for an income tax for revenue purposes?” If you look long and hard, you will find that you are doing NO such activity. Therefore, you are not under the purview of Title 26. It’s front page says “This code applies only to taxpayers.” You are not doing any taxable activity, so you are not, by definition, a “taxpayer,” and therefore Title 26 simply does not apply to you.

iii. How is it, then, that the IRS hoodwinks you into filing a W4 or 1040 form, or acceding to a 1099 form for contract work? Very simply, they do it by advertising, fraud, and deception. Once you sign any such form, you have provided the IRS and the justice department prima facie evidence that you are a “taxpayer,” and they will treat you as such. If you do not stand up for your 5th, 6th, and 14th amendment constitutional rights to due process and privacy aggressively and assertively whenever an employer, contractor, bank, IRS agent, or any other party attempts to deprive you of those rights, then you have effectively given the violator permission to violate those rights. Bottom line, it takes assiduous attention and rigorous expense of energy to safeguard your rights.

iv. You need to know the law, and you need to fight any bastard who tries to overstep authority in attempting to get you voluntarily to yield your rights. For example, if an employer demands that you sign any tax form, or attempts to report your earnings to the IRS or deduct taxes from your pay, you should inform him he is violating your rights, demand that he cease and desist, threaten him with a law suit, and then sue him. You need to do the same to any bank that honors an IRS notice of lien or levy against your account without a signed order by the judge of a court of competent jurisdiction. And you need to do the same to any IRS agent who attempts to coerce you to yield your personal information or records. And, finally, because no law requires you to have a Social Security number, it might be wise to write to the Social Security Administration and rescind you signature on any SS document that caused you to get such a number. The IRS has been known to use SSNs as evidence that a citizen is a taxpayer. As a matter of fact, the Treasury Department has modified banking regulations illegally to require Americans to show an SSN to open a bank account, even though the SSN was never intended to be used for identification purposes. The purpose of this is to make it easier for the IRS to harass people, of course, not to identify people who want to open an account. The Treasury Department claims the regulation was changed to support the Patriot Act, but the Patriot Act does not require a social security number for any purpose.

e. The main problem with the SSA is that it is an enormous tax burden on Americans, greater now than Income tax for most people. That is because the average lifespan was 62 when the SSA was signed into law, and now it is 78. Within the next 10 years when baby boomers retire, there will be only two or three people paying SS tax for every one person receiving benefits.

f. Another major problem include the fact that the money paid into the system is not accounted for or invested, so the money received does not actually grow at a rate greater than inflation. In fact, it is always behind the inflation curve. It is utterly stupid to allow Congress full use of that money without demanding they wisely invest it so it can produce a return for the investor.

g. A huge problem is that the SSI recipient almost never receives back as much as he paid in, and if he dies, his family never gets that money either. This is dead wrong. When people pay into a retirement account all their working lives, they should be able to expect that the accumulated money, with interest, belongs to them and their heirs. Because they cannot expect this, you can rightly conclude that the government is criminally defrauding them out of what should rightly be theirs.

h. There is sufficient money available to investors as a return on investment to pay a person’s maintenance and lifestyle needs for a full range of retirement years, and still to provide a surplus to help others who were for some reason unable to pay into the account.

i. The SS program was wrongly conceived from the beginning because it did not plan to give back fairly to people who invested in it, and it was handled as just another income tax program to bilk people out of their hard-earned money so as to fund frivolous government programs.

3. There are too many idle loafers in America who are receiving undeserved money from the government. For this reason, there should be a prime condition for anyone who receives money in excess of what he should rightly expect as return on investment, and that include people who get more SSI than they should, people who receive unfunded medical treatment, and people on any kind of welfare from cash to government food to food stamps to job training. That condition is: they should be required to put in a minimum of 4 hours per day in organized community service, at least half of which requires them to do personal work for others who cannot or will not do it themselves. Personal interaction between service givers and service recipients should be mandatory. Even people on welfare should be required to devote such time to helping others. Eventually, this program will get people off welfare, all except for the most wretchedly needy. For some reason our Federal and State Congresses seem oblivious to the benefit of such a program. Where is the wisdom for which we elected those greedy, spendthrift derelicts?

Bob Hurt
Clearwater, FL

Alan Gregory Wonderwheel said...

Bob has jumped to several false conclusions and read into what I posted several straw men of his own making to attack.

False conclusion: I did not imply Eisenhower is a great and wonderfully wise man. But even dumb people say wise things, and in this quote several wise things are said and implied. Mostly, what we can appreciate about Eisenhower is his wisdom about moderation in politics. Anyone who reads his replies to his neo-fascist brother's complaints can't but observe Ike's pragmatic understanding of political realities which he summed up in his notion of "moderation."

What we see today is that the Edgar Eisenhower ultra conservative wing of the Republican Party is now in control and in the presidency and the moderately reasonable Republicans like Ike are as unlistened to by the Republican leadership as the humanitarian Democrats are unlistened to by their leadership.

While Ike was a Republican and believed in the general party line of his day, at least he was basically a humanist with a conscience who practiced as best he could his vision of "moderation" in politics for the sake and benefit of the people. This is what the quote is all about. The significance of the quote is the Republican party of the past is not the Republican Party of today as it is now controlled by the Christian Confederate ultra Conservative Republicans who were "stupid" in the eyes of Ike.

Another false conclusion is that I am saying the Social Security system "in its present" state is consummately wise. No, in its present state the Social Security system is consummately compromised.

And yes to abolish the Social Security laws as they stand today or to change them in the direction that George Bush suggests would be stupid. Today there are basically only three changes the Social Security laws need:

(1) Remove the income cap on contributions so that all income is used not just income under the cap.

(2) Make the benefits means tested so that people with the top percentage of income are not eligible.

(3) Make the Social Security fund untouchable from Congressional borrowing.

These three changes would make Social Security not only solvent but would make benefits able to be increased in a way that would provide better health care for all.

Bob is clearly wrong to assume that people should get back what they pay in. This mistakes Social Security as an investment or savings program. It is not. It is a social security safety net for the people who need it. There were bad compromises made to get the system in place, such as allowing for caps on contributions but no means testing for benefits, and once we realize that this is what is wrong with Social Security then the proposals by Bush and the ultra conservative Texas oil millionaires and others who Ike called "stupid" will be seen as the bait and switch game that it is.

"The people" working though the government made the promise of Social Security to future generations. When a promise is made performance is owed. We, the people, owe performance on our social security promise. This is the honesty of Eisenhower's letters. He says clearly that when the people want something for the greater good that political ideology is not a sufficient reason to try to take it away. Ike called this being a Lincoln Republican. And whether or not one is a Republican, it is an honest position. The Republicans who argue that Social Security should be scrapped because of political ideology are the dishonest ones because they make dishonest arguments to support their position.

The Bush administration wants something different than the current system, but they pull the wool over the eyes of the public by not admitting from the git-go that they are proposing something vastly different. They are proposing a personal retirement savings/investment plan facilitated by the government not a social security plan.

This informal fallacy of presuming a false premise denies the fact of the Social Security promise so that the Republican debaters don't have to deal with the original promise or why it was made. They posit a false Social Security system with their own presumed own purposes (i.e., an investment pension or retirement plan), not the purposes of the system (i.e., a social safety net). By assuming their own and therefore false purposes the Bush ultra conservative reach a false conclusion Among their many false arguments is the idea that "unwise citizens" get an unfair advantage. This is just a rehashed version of "the welfare mom cheats" which has no basis in reality. There is nothing more deceitful than the notion that people who are poor are just "unwise."

Another false conclusion by conservatives is that Social Security is a "program of forced savings." That is false. It is a program of forced collection of funds. It is not a savings account. The ability to receive benefits is measured by a formula which takes into account one’s contributions, but that is far different from calling it a "savings program." By falsely framing the issue as a "savings program" the public is misinformed with wrong facts leading to wrong conclusions.

Anonymous said...

The 1% NEVER accepted the very concept of promoting the general welfare or the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution. Never.

Whitney Landon said...

The link to the Eisenhower papers you cite has gone out of service. I couldn't find an easy way there to search for it again. For your reference. Appreciate your work on this. US Sen. Bernie Sanders put part of the quote on Facebook recently, also for your reference.