33rd Anniversary - 1968

cover of 1968 booklet

This 39 page booklet was published in 1969. It captures the major speeches at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on August 14, 1968, in celebration of the 33rd anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act.


ON AUGUST 14, 1968, the 33rd anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act was observed during a special program in the HEW Auditorium in Washington, D.C. On that occasion the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare's Award for Distinguished Public Service was presented to Arthur J. Altmeyer, member of the original Social Security Board and for many years its Chairman. The creation of a new Departmental award--the Arthur J. Altmeyer Award for Outstanding Contributions to Economic Security--was announced by Secretary Wilbur J. Cohen and presented to Robert M. Ball, Commissioner of Social Security. The Council of the International Social Security Association awarded its Medal of Merit "for distinguished services rendered to the International Association of Social Security" to Mr. Altmeyer and to William L. Mitchell, former Commissioner of Social Security and a former member of the Executive Committee of the International Association.

This pamphlet contains the remarks of the program's principal speakers.



Robert M. Ball
Commissioner of Social Security


W. Willard Wirtz
Secretary of Labor


Wilbur J. Cohen
Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare


Arthur J. Altmeyer

The Honorable Wilbur J. Cohen
Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Washington, D.C.

Dear Wilbur:

I wish I could be with you in celebrating the 33rd anniversary of the Social Security Act. When President Franklin Roosevelt recommended the first social security legislation, there were many who predicted that the system would corrupt our people and sap their initiative. There were some who charged that the program was a cruel hoax. There were others who said that social security would regiment our people and compel them to wear tags around their necks like dog licenses. The early administrators were imbued with great faith in the program and they were also sensitive to the values of the American people. Because of their efforts, these old dire prophecies have been forgotten today. There were no dog tags, only a simple card easily replaced if lost. There was no regimentation, but protection of individual privacy and strict protection of records. There was no cruel hoax, but rather a program that today does more to prevent poverty than any other measure yet enacted, and there was no sapping of of initiative, but rather a helping hand in the growth of the most productive economy the world has ever known.

Those early administrators--those pioneers--made the program work and work in a way that fitted into American life. Today we honor the one man who more than any other was responsible for launching the program and for its early success. His name is Arthur J. Altmeyer. It has been very gratifying to me as a Representative in Congress, as a Senator, and as President to have helped build our social security system. I look forward to even greater progress in the years ahead--progress made possible by the vision and dedication of all those who commemorate this day.

August 14, 1968

Robert M. Ball
Commissioner of Social Security

Secretary Cohen, Secretary Wirtz, Mr. Altmeyer, and other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: Welcome to a third of a century of social security!

Our purpose today is to celebrate the establishment of the national social security program just 33 years ago and to honor Arthur J. Altmeyer, the man who more than any other is responsible for setting up the Program and for guiding its development over the first 18 years. Mr. Altmeyer's career is the story of social security throughout its formative years. To almost all of us in this room he has been a lifelong inspiration and it's a great pleasure to celebrate a third of a century of social security with him.

The celebration today is going to be very much of a family affair. With the exception of our good friends in the audience representing various foreign governments and international organizations, just about everyone here has had a long and close association with the American social security system. As a matter of fact, our very good statisticians have computed that the audience represents 15,033 man-years of service to the cause of social security! . . .

Ladies and gentlemen, to get us now fully in the mood of 33 years ago, we are going to have a film clip of the actual signing of the Act in 1935. This will just take a couple of minutes. {A film of President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935, with his remarks to the guests in the Cabinet Room of the White House was shown.}

I wish I could give you each a copy of that.

That 30 million workers that President Roosevelt referred to has now just about tripled. If there are any people here who haven't been keeping up on these social security statistics, even month by month, they are really almost unbelievable, particularly if you have in your mind figures from back a few years ago. Literally 90 million people will contribute to the national social insurance part of the program this year; 1 out of every 8 Americans now draws a monthly benefit.

If you noticed the exhibit out in the hall just as you come in the door there, you see that the 24 million people on the monthly beneficiary roll increases by 1 every 33 seconds. You can stand there and watch it. And every hour the monthly benefit rate increases by $10,000. So this cornerstone, as the President earlier referred to it, has grown into a tremendous building that is still growing.

Ninety percent of all people 65 and over are eligible for the benefits; 95 out of 100 women and children in the whole country are protected in the event of the death of the breadwinner; 4 out of 5 people of working age are protected in the event of disability. The face value of the survivors' part of social insurance alone just the survivors' part--is $950 billion. It's our most important anti-poverty program. Today 10 million people are kept out of poverty solely by reason of social security benefits. But, of course, it's more than an anti-poverty program for just about all beneficiaries --not just the very poor. Social security is a very important part--indeed, the major part of their total continuing income. I think this is a very significant fact in the development of social security--that without social security only about 5 percent of the 24 million people who are getting the benefits would have continuing incomes that are above the amount that is needed to maintain what has been defined as a modest standard of living. In other words, for all but about 5 percent the benefits are essential to maintain anything like a decent standard of living.

So the program now affects in an important way just about every American family. For all except those who are quite wealthy the protection that they have under social security is very likely to be the most valuable possession that they will ever acquire. But, although greatly expanded and although now nearly universal in application, the programs of social security continue to be based upon the same basic principles as the original program. They continue to depend upon the same fundamental analysis of the problems of economic insecurity. Social security today in the broad sense is still best defined in Lord Beveridge's words as a job when you can work and a benefit when you can't.

Our first speaker this morning, Secretary Wirtz, is going to emphasize particularly the part of social security that deals with a job when you can work. Although he has of course the responsibility as well for the benefit program of unemployment insurance. As everyone in this room knows, the relationship between the Labor Department and social security has been extremely close from the beginning of the program. As a matter of fact, administratively the Social Security Board and a large part of its personnel really grew out of the Labor Department. Later on the Labor Department took over unemployment insurance after it had been in the Social Security Board. And Social Security took over the Children's Bureau after it had been in the Department. I don't think anyone is quite sure when this kind of exchange back and forth is definitely going to end. The Secretary of Labor also serves as one of three statutory members of the Board of Trustees of the trust funds of the national social insurance program and maintains a close interest in the total program in that way. As a matter of fact, Secretaries of Labor seem to be particularly long-lived members of the Board of Trustees. Secretary Mitchell in the Eisenhower Administration has the longest record, and of all the other trustees only Secretary Snyder of the Treasury has exceeded the length of service of Secretary Wirtz. We hope that he will outdo that record before he leaves. So let me present to you at this time Secretary Willard Wirtz who will talk to you on his responsibilities in the social security area. Secretary Wirtz-----

W. Willard Wirtz
Secretary of Labor

Secretary Cohen, ladies and gentlemen: Despite what Bob has said, you well know that of all the people in the room today I have the least entitlement to participate in this program. If your statisticians have, as Bob has suggested, determiner that the number of man-years of contribution to social security represented in this audience today is 15,033, I am the zero in "033."

For most of you, August 14, ]935, was a day of importance. I haven't the slightest idea what I was doing on August 14, ]935. My closest contact with the basic elements in the Social Security Act was involved in my failure to get a significant amendment of this statute through the 89th Congress in 1966, and you can't be much more awkward than that. It is true, as Bob says, that once each year I do meet as a member --he shortened it, I want you to know it all--of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Hospital Trust Fund, Board of Trustees of the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund, and the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund. And it's an impressive occasion.

The three trustees gather in that room and I always have the realization that I am in control of more billions and billions of dollars in that brief I hour than in all the rest of the year in everything else I do combined. I'm frank to admit that the imp of the perverse rises in me sometimes, and I realize what a single no, or at least if you can get another no, might do. I've even played with some heresy of one sort or another. After 3 or 4 years I mustered up the courage to inquire as to why it is that all those funds were put into governments instead of invested on an equity basis in the development of housing for the people who need it in this country. I'll never forget the deathly silence that fell on the room. I still don't know the answer to the question. But I admit that having advanced upon that room a good many times feeling like Walter Mitty, I always leave it feeling like Charlie Brown. And I've given up as far as the discharge of that function is concerned.

Another way of putting it all by contrast is that, according to our figures, 138 million Americans have received $44.5 billion since 1935, or 1936 really, when a man named Neils Ruud, who had been laid off by the Block Engraving Company of Madison, Wisconsin, received the first unemployment insurance check, which was for $15. And I'd have to realize that neither figure would be affected by one person, or by one penny, by virtue of anything that I have done. So I appear today in really only a representative capacity and speaking for that little lady whose picture you saw a moment ago standing beside, or behind, President Roosevelt as he signed that bill in 1935.

Frances Perkins was the fourth Secretary of Labor, holding that office from 1932 to 1946. She was Chairman of the Committee on Economic Security which was appointed by President Roosevelt in June 1934 to study the whole problem of unemployment. She and Ed Witte and Arthur Altmeyer were more responsible, I suppose, than almost any others for the work of that committee. There was a fellow on the staff, Wilbur J. Cohen, father of the present Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and a better man.

They all worked together on these things. Frances Perkins was a great woman, but she wasn't a very good bureaucrat. Bob has already touched tenderly and gingerly on that subject. When he said the shifts of responsibility are still not over, I shuddered. Only once when we traded the Children's Bureau for the employment service did we come out of that with anything like a whole skin. She didn't do very well. She was in charge of that whole business. Arthur was an Assistant Secretary of Labor. The bill, as I find it, went into the Senate as S. 1130 entitled: "a bill to alleviate the hazards old age, unemployment, illness and dependency, to establish a social insurance board in the Department of Labor."

What with all that, I don't know what happened to result in that being set up as an independent agency, nor am I satisified with Frances Perkins for a brief explanation of it all in her book in which she says "The House Committees, the other Members of Congress began to hear from their constituents in favor of the Social Security Act" and so forth. Then she goes on to talk about the fact that it had been anticipated the Social Security Board and its operations would be in the Department of Labor. That, indeed, would have been logical, and surely it would have been. But as the matter got into Congress it became obvious that it was the same old story. Neither the Congress nor State legislators wanted money to go to the Labor Department. The more things Change, the more they stay the same. There is always the feeling that the Department of Labor will be soft on workers, that it will be too much influenced by working people in their point of view. And so in his tender way, the President persuaded Frances Perkins to let the whole matter drop.

And think how different the pattern of Washington is today as a result of what happened in whatever that magic moment was when that was all decided. I wish there were time to read you more of the history of that particular period. I went over it last night and this morning with an increasing realization that things just don't change at all. They passed the Act in 1935 and then when it came to the Appropriations Committee they didn't appropriate any money for it.

One other interesting little thing, especially now that some question is raised of the relationship between the branches of the Government. Frances Perkins explained how it Noms decided that they could go ahead with this thing on a constitutional basis, and especially under the welfare clause. She tells the story of how one evening she was out to dinner and talked with Chief Justice Stone. "I had said to him in the course of a social occasion," she recalled, "that I had great hope of developing a social insurance system for the country, but that I was deeply uncertain of the method since, as I said laughingly, 'your Court tells us what the Constitution permits.' And then Stone whispered to me, 'The taxing power of the Federal Government, my dear, the taxing power is sufficient for everything you want and need.' "

Why are they so touchy today about a few little matters? There wasn't any money for it and so they borrowed people from one agency and from another and put together the staff that was to set up this whole thing and then finally it all got underway. Since that time, 138 million people, $44.5 billion: the comparison is perhaps unfair in the way that any comparison which selects the base period is concerned.

But there were 11 million unemployed people in this country in 1935 when this bill was passed, and that was out of a work force of around 40 million, which means that the unemployment rate then, which wasn't kept carefully, was someplace between 25 and 30 percent. At that time, those who worked, and it was only a small part of them, had average hourly earnings of 56 cents, taking the manufacturing industry workers as illustrative; weekly earnings averaging $20.75--if you had any earnings at all. And you know that the hourly figure today is about $3 and the weekly earnings figure, instead of being $20.75, is now $122.10. And the cost of living has gone up perhaps someplace between 1 and 1 1/2 times. So that most of this--most of that difference between $20.75 and $122.10 a week--is real gain. And who is to say how much of the strengthening of the economy over this period has resulted from that decision which put $44 1/2 billion into the economy at those times when it needed it most? And who is to say how much has resulted in the diminution of human misery as a result of the decision which was made at that point?

Now, of course, we look ahead instead of back. Whatever I have to say about it has already been said. What does this concept we call social security hold in store for the American people? When will it be attained? How? The answer is that there is no fixed goal to attain and no measured distance to travel. Each age, each period, each generation creates its own problems, and the social achievements we hail today become only the foundation for tomorrow's progress. Perhaps in this very fact that there is no attainment lies our greatest urge to go forward--to use with wisdom the tools we now have for erecting a structure of social security and at the same time to forge new tools for tomorrow. Those were Arthur Altmeyer's words in 1937. There is no attainment. All we ever do is lay foundations for tomorrow's progress.

There seem to me to be two horizons today as far as this area is concerned--two horizons of attainment which will never be met or reached but are to be approached. There is the near horizon which involves a completion of the social security concept--a perfection of that concept, a horizon on which we see already and clearly more adequate benefits and Medicaid beyond Medicare, disability insurance.

And then I see, too, a whole bringing together of these things which are still separate the problems of the welfare program and in that same package, the idea of whatever it is that a negative income tax would be, the idea of employment, and of earning, and then of bringing learning into it too. I wish somebody would come up with a better phrase than "income maintenance." We won't get what we are after until somebody develops a phrase with which other than the economists identify. And so that whole development of that package seems to me to be awaiting the appropriate terminology.

The phraseology, which is now so important, is on the near horizon. Earlier retirement is not, as far as I'm concerned. It seems to me the silliest kind of business that the doctors are working~so successfully on the extension of people's useable life and we are talking about reducing the retirement age. It doesn't make sense at all.

Then, beyond this near horizon of the further development, the perfection, if you will, of the social security concept, I see another horizon which I would call social opportunity. In an age of affluence when you are talking at the same time about equality we make a great mistake in settling for the concept of security. And so I am not just talking about social security and neither am I talking about economic opportunity.

It seems to me you take a new combination of words from the Acts of 1935 and 1964 and 1965--Economic Opportunity Act--and we look now toward the horizon of social opportunity. I don't know all it means, but what I am talking about is at least related to what Senator Barkley talked about one day in the Senate Finance Committee hearings on January 17, 1935. Senator Barkley was talking with Frances Perkins, who was appearing as a witness, Pat Harrison was in the chair; Ed Witte had testified earlier. And after talking the whole thing over, Senator Barkley made this statement: "We don't know that this is going to be permanent" and he was talking about social security. He said "There might be sometime a wave of prosperity that would wipe the whole thing off the books." Well, there won't be a larger wave of prosperity than the one we have right now. And, although we won't wipe that off the books, I think there will be very quickly now at least ma starting of the thinking about the new horizon of social opportunity, which doesn't settle for security and which is interested in more than economics and which starts from the recognition of the fact that life is not just being--it is not just being secure.

Life is activity; it is doing; it is growing; it is learning for learning's sake itself; it is something a great deal more than just existing. And so I look early to the proposal--perhaps to the introduction--of the social opportunity act of let's say 1969--the Social Opportunity Act of 1969. I don't have it all worked out. Title I starts off, just to give the flavor of the Act, with a provision for 2 years of public education forwomen at the time the last child goes off to college. For everybody at age 60--2 years of free education. As a bargaining matter, I propose to make it compulsory and then we'll work on down from there. A provision in Title I that recognizes that there is another whole job to be done, except that "job" is an archaic term; there is a life to be lived which has its importance in the years starting at age 60 and for which education is required.

Now, Title II is devoted to a listing of those types of things which older people can do better than anybody else and which are meaningful things. It will be necessary to strip the statute of all the phrases and the terms which today hold thought and ideas enthralled-- words like "work" or "earning" or "income" in financial terms or "remuneration." A lot of ideas, a lot of words that are today as archaic as they can be. And the Act would go on to provide, in one way or another, for the development of a concept of service which recognizes that this is as meaningful in any sensible system of things as the work which we now feel is such a unique virtue.

I'm going to tell once more, I suppose for the last time things being what they are, in personal, not party terms, a story which will make the point the way I made it to some of you before. We've done real well. But the truth of the matter is that, despite the third of a century of social security, life would still make more sense for a majority of the people in this country if it were lived just exactly the other way around so that they were born into it at age 75 or 80 and got out of the way the first 15 or 20 years which now have to be endured with security as the maximal measure of success of the society; and if they could then work for the next 40 years and if they could then have for 12 to 15 years the marvelous opportunity to learn-- make education important for itself alone. If they could then have just those 6 years of complete and utter irresponsibility, and if then at the end of it a doctor would pick them up by the heels and pat them on the back "goodby" instead of "hello." We've so very much more to do I can only pray that the responsible regiment among today's college rebels will hold on to enough of its rebelliousness so that before it is through, it will do for old age what it is now doing for youth. That would be a grand thing.

In conclusion, I think sometimes, always very late at night, of Washington in the year l 968 A.D. compared with Athens in about, oh say 68 B.C. I think of what goes on in the laboratories at NIH and at NASA, the other laboratories in this city today. What is happening is totally different from anything that was ever even imagined by the scientists in Athens 20 centuries ago. Then I think, on the other hand, of how what we are doing in HEW and in Labor is really different only in minor degree from what was going on in the forums of Athens 20 or 25 centuries ado. And I think of how Pericles might tread, with the help of a medium-quality ghost writer, to deliver the presidential inaugural address next January. And it . would take very little change in his phrases to make everything he said pertinent and relevant. I know that there is as much undiscovered truth regarding, the human relationship as all the truth that has been discovered in 20 centuries by the scientists regarding the relationship of man to nature and regarding natural forces. And I know that truth is not the monopoly of the scientists. And I know that there is a concept of truth as real, with respect to those matters with which we deal in the forum, as there is with respect to those matters that they deal with in the laboratory. And I know that we just haven't gotten around yet to discovering the harder truths of human relations. And I know that we can invent our future in this area as we do in the field of the sciences, and I know that social security --the Social Security Act of 1935--is only today, as Arthur put it in 1937, the foundation for tomorrow's progress.

MR BALL: Thank you very much, Bill. That was really a lot better than the subject that I had in mind when I introduced you.

The next speaker is Wilbur J. Cohen, the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and I don't have the slightest intention of introducing him to you. Practically everyone in the room has known him for most of the 33 years that we are celebrating, today. His claim to fame today is that he was Arthur J. Altmeyer's closest collaborator in the development of the social security program through all of its formative years. Let me, therefore, call on a former member of the staff of the Committee on Economic Security and the technical adviser to the Social Security Board to make the presentation of awards.

Wilbur J. Cohen
Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare

Secretary Wirtz, Mr. Altmeyer, Mr. Bigge, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Ball, and all of my many friends, I'm very sorry that my father couldn't be here today. I know that he would have enjoyed it. He is one of those who I hope, as Secretary Wirtz indicated, is enjoying his social security today.

The infant social security program that was born 33 years ago was aptly compared by Secretary Frances Perkins to a dependent child. It literally had to be carried initially by the Department of Labor. The newly created Social Security Board had been given the monumental job of setting up insurance protection for 30 million individuals. But while Congress thrust this enormous responsibility upon the new agency the same Congress in its wisdom appropriated not a penny in 1935 to put the new Board in business. It is well to remind ourselves on an occasion such as this that the programs under the Social Security Act, which over the past third of a century have paid out several billions of dollars in benefits, began their own life as a kind of aid to dependent children. As Miss Perkins told the story, the situation was so grave that she even gave John dominant, the first Chairman of the Social Security Board, the large, handsome, red upholstered high-back chair from her own office in the Department of Labor. True, Miss Perkins confessed, she always fourth the chair somewhat uncomfortable, which may have influenced her sacrifice. But the benefits did not stop with office space and assorted furniture. The Department of Labor gave social security, again quoting Miss Perkins, "the best of everything including Arthur Altmeyer who was then the Assistant Secretary of Labor and," as she said, "my real right hand and without whom I felt very lost."

I think many, if not all, in this audience know the contributions Arthur Altmeyer was to make to the evolution of social security in America contributions which would earn him the affectionate title "Mr. Social Security." Amid all the pressures and demands for action during those tumultuous early days, Arthur Altmeyer foresaw that the structure he and his colleagues were building had to stand the test of time. Over and over I remember hearing his voice say that we must have orderly procedures, trained personnel protected by a merit system, and pragmatic workable answers to complex issues. "Regardless of how efficient the social legislation may be administered," Arthur Altmeyer said in 1937, "the very fact that it affects so many people directly and continuously gives rise to administrative irritation. Orderly procedures are likely to be castigated as red-tape and trained personnel are likely to be attacked as bureaucracy."

To those who declared that if men were no longer afraid to lose their jobs America would become a nation of loafers, Arthur Altmeyer replied that there was a motivating force in the lives of men that was even stronger than fear--that force, he said, was hope. A democratic society, he said, must rely on hope and incentive rather than fear and compulsion to influence the conduct and aspirations of its citizens. And I think that is a worthy note for us to remember in the issues that face us today. Social security, he taught us, replaces fear with hope. As he put it, liberty means more than freedom to starve. It means a real opportunity to make the fullest use of one's capacity. Far from destroying individual initiative and thrift, social security, by providing a degree of protection to families against the major vicissitudes that beset them in this modern and complicated and hazardous world, releases energies because it substitutes hope for fear as the mainspring of human endeavor.

In short, Arthur Altmeyer preached and practiced the idea that liberty and security are interrelated and that we cannot have one without the other. With this kind of faith that he demonstrated in man's perfectability, with this kind of vision of democratic government, and with this kind of confidence in the administration of social security, it will not surprise historians in the future when they note that before any benefits actually became payable under the 1935 Act, Arthur Altmeyer was already leading what was to be the successful effort in 1939 to add family benefits and survivor benefits on to the program.

And 17 years before benefits for the disabled were included under social insurance, Arthur Altmeyer was urging the Congress to take this step. And 26 years before Medicare he was calling for a national health insurance program under social security. As early as 1943 he was urging that public assistance be strengthened through grants to the States for categories other than the aged, blind and dependent children. And in February 1945 while World War II was still raging, and before the phrase "war on poverty" came into common usage, Arthur Altmeyer was issuing his annual reports documenting evidence of America's need for what he then called "a war against poverty." By the time Arthur Altmeyer stepped down from his personal leadership of the social security program, it had become a living reality--a firmly established part of the American way of life.

And on that firm foundation the program has continued to grow and today more than 90 percent of all employed and self-employed persons are covered and 24 million persons are receiving benefits every month. And it has been pointed out that the face value of the survivors insurance alone is equal to all the life insurance of all the private companies in the United States. As Arthur Altmeyer foresaw, the social security system has become our most effective weapon in the war on poverty. And, as Mr. Ball pointed out, 10 million Americans today are kept out of poverty because they are getting social security benefits. We have yet to meet the needs of our people everywhere in this country for a life of dignity and independence. But we have made real strides in developing the social and community services which Arthur Altmeyer was among the first to sense as essential security in its broadest point of view.

So, as we come to this 33rd anniversary of social security in America, we pause to honor Arthur Altmeyer, and all the men and women that he trained and he gave leadership to, and all the other devoted men and women who made the program what it is today. As we look to the great unfinished business that we know lies ahead, as we labor to insure that social security continues to grow and change with the times, we can draw strength from some words by Justice Holmes, which I have heard Arthur quote many times as a source of not only his own inspiration but as an indication of what we have to do. He quoted Justice Holmes who said: "Impersonal forces must operate through persons. The mode in which the inevitable comes to pass is through effort."

We make that effort in part through organizations-- both in the United States and throughout the world. And Arthur Altmeyer, among his many other achievements, was a leading exponent of international cooperation in social security. He helped found and served as the first President of the Permanent InterAmerican Committee on Social Security, and his efforts while he was Commissioner and afterwards contributed materially to the decision by the Social Security Administration in 1957 to join the International Social Security Association. This organization which had its beginning more than 40 years ago today has a membership of some 300 social security institutions in 94 countries with programs covering 500 million people throughout the world. And many of you in this audience will recall the XVth-General Assembly of the International Social Security Association which was held here in Washington in 1964. On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the International Association, the Council created an award to be given to persons who had been active in social security but are now retired, in honor of their outstanding contributions to the objectives for which the International Social Security Association stands. The Council of the International Social Security Association has designated as the first American recipients of its award Arthur J. Altmeyer, and former Social Security Commissioner, William L. Mitchell, who served as chairman of the several U.S. delegations to the conferences, and who was a member of the Executive Committee of the International Association when he was Commissioner, and who chaired the organizing committee for the XVth General Assembly. I'd like now to award to Mr. Altmeyer (would you step forward, Mr. Altmeyer )--I would like to translate from the French for Mr. Altmeyer and I cantell him I can do it from Spanish, too--"This award for distinguished services rendered to the International Association of Social Security, the Medal for Merit, has been awarded to Arthur J. Altmeyer."

ARTHUR J. ALTMEYER: Merci beaucoup--muchas gracias.

SECRETARY WILBUR J. COHEN: Now, Mr. Mitchell, will you step forward. "For distinguished services rendered to the International Association of Social Security, this Medal for Merit has been awarded to William L. Mitchell."

Now, it is also my honor this morning to present our own highest award, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare's Award for Distinguished Public Service, to Arthur J. Altmeyer, and this citation, which is in your program, reads "In recognition of his singularly creative and courageous contributions in shaping the programs of the Social Security Act during the formative years."

Finally, it is my great pleasure today to announce an additional award. It is presented in recognition of those whom Arthur Altmeyer trained and gave leadership to, to those who have been able to bring this program to new heights, to those who have helped to carry on the great traditions Arthur Altmeyer established. As Secretary I have created a new Departmental award in Arthur J. Altmeyer's name the Arthur J. Altmeyer Award for Outstanding Contributions to Economic Security. The first recipient of this award is Robert M. Ball, our distinguished Commissioner of Social Security.

Bob is one of the outstanding executives of this Nation in Government service or in the private sector. His citation reads "His leadership, dedication and administrative ability have brought hope and dignity to millions of Americans." I take great pride and personal pleasure in presenting this award to Bob Ball on behalf of all of us in the Department. I am singularly proud to have been able to keep it a secret from him all during this period of time.

Ladies and gentlemen, today we have paused to reflect very briefly on a third of a century of very great progress. It's a time for remembering and predicting; it's a time for counting our accomplishments, but also remembering that we seek further improvements. We are reminded of the contributions social security has made to the well-being of millions of persons. But when Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, he and Miss Perkins and Ed Witte and Arthur Altmeyer knew that the Nation was laying but the cornerstone of an inspired, dynamic institution that could grow and change and develop.

When the law was enacted, many people feared, as the President has said, that private initiative would be stifled. Now we know that these fears were groundless. But I know, knowing many of the people in this room, that you, like myself, are not content with self-congratulations. Now is a time for looking ahead, for measuring the distance yet to go in our great country. We know that the job is not yet done. We know that there are grave weaknesses that must be corrected. We know that social security and the programs that are related to it must continue to grow and to change with changing times.

I believe that in this coming decade social security institutions can and must play a more important role in the elimination of poverty. We must increase the minimum benefits under social security to at least $70 for an individual and $105 for a couple and perhaps even more in the immediate future. We must increase social security benefits entirely across the board. Health insurance must be broadened and expanded through a combination of public and private efforts. And our unemployment insurance program needs strengthening as do the other programs for maternal and child health, crippled children services and the other programs that were a part of the original Social Security Act. Our welfare programs in the ensuing future must be radically reshaped to meet new needs. And, if we are going to make progress, we need much more comprehensive community social services. Coupled with these efforts we will need more jobs by Government, by the private sector, much more training, universal education for every one of our people.

But in the spirit of those who created the basic law, and in the light of social security's proven ability to grow and develop with the times, I believe that despite the doubts and the frustrations that we see, we can face the complex challenges with confidence. The gaps and nadequac es we now see will be remedied as our productive capacity continues to expand. We must seek and maintain a social security status commensurate with our great and growing national income and our potential--a social security status worthy of this Nation's expectations for all of its people. We must continue to move forward toward a life of dignity and independence and greater meaning for all Americans.

Social security is one key--one key to a better life in our dynamic and democratic society. To those of you here today and to the young people of our country I can say that during the next 33 years there will be even greater opportunities than ever before to expand and Improve and enlarge our social security programs and our other programs that mean so much to the health, to the happiness, to the dignity and to the independenceof every person in this great country--rich or poor, black or white. I believe that is a goal worthy of our best efforts, worthy of the fine heritage and the great idealism Arthur J. Altmeyer gave, not only to this program, but his friends--and to the men and women he trained to carry on what he so carefully built. Thank you.

MR. BALL: Arthur, there is nothing left to say as an introduction after all the remarks that have been made all day except that in addition to all of your great contributions to the program has been your personal contribution to our individual lives. We wait now to hear from you.

Arthur J. Altmeyer

I want you to know that I have been brought here under false pretenses. I didn't know that this was going to be such a wonderful celebration in my honor. And all I can say is that I am tickled to death that Bob Ball got his just desserts for his part in this deception because he is just as surprised as I am at the award he received.

As I listened to these remarks, which had a high degree of hyperbole, I realized that whatever truth was in them lay in the fact that the Social Security Board had the good sense to try to get out of as much work as possible for ourselves by picking just a half dozen good, trained, dedicated, concerned people of integrity--integrity above all. We gave them a free hand--I think we did--to pick the people down the line so that all the way through the organization we might have an endless chain of integrity.

We started with a dedicated group of persons who were concerned, who had the common touch. I see them through the audience and on the platform here, and I am certainly proud of you all. I merely personify what you have done with your lives in promoting social security.

Now the clock ticks on and the people on the platform here, if not you, are getting fidgety. I guarantee you that my remarks are going to enable you to leave here before 12 o'clock. But you know they say that old bureaucrats like old soldiers never die; they simply fade away. Well I've thought that they probably ought to add a caveat that old bureaucrats, like children, should be seen but not heard, for the protection of you defenseless people in this audience and elsewhere, because old bureaucrats do love to dwell on the past.

I was born and raised in the North and I was told that all the battles that were won were won by the northerners and that the Rebs just ran at the first volley. But when I got down here in Washington, D.C., I was promptly informed by Frank Bane, our Executive Director, that it was exactly the opposite that had occurred. So, don't believe all that old soldiers or old bureaucrats tell you about the past. To tell the truth, their memory is quite faulty in describing the truth as they saw it.

Today marks another anniversary besides the signing of the Social Security Act. It's also the anniversary of the signing of what was known as the Atlantic Charter containing the four freedoms. The Atlantic Charter had specific reference to social security. And it came about in this way.

John Winant, the first chairman of the Social Security Board, was then Ambassador to Great Britain and he was on the ship that carried the President to that famous meeting with Churchill off Newfoundland. Harry Hopkins was on board that ship too. Harry was a member of the Cabinet Committee that developed the recommendations that became the Social Security Act. So we had two friends at court. They were able to induce the President and Churchill to incorporate this specific reference to social security. Another thing that helped a great deal was that Churchill, back in the days of Lloyd George in 1908, was a member of Lloyd George's cabinet. After one of Lloyd George's cabinet refused to take over the promotion of what we now call social security, Churchill took it on his own shoulders and almost single-handed put through the Employment Exchange Act, the Unemployment Insurance Act and the Sickness Insurance Act in Great Britain.

Another thing you may not recall was that this same Churchill had not lost his real concern for social security when he became the war leader of Great Britain and, of course, the leader of the Conservative Party. In 1941, when no one except Churchill knew whether Britain was going to win the war, he appointed a commission--a Royal Commission, as they're called. Churchill had Lord Beveridge, who was then Sir William Beveridge, put in charge of making the necessary investigations and analyses and making a report. This same William Beveridge was not even a "Sir" back in 1908 when Churchill first put through social security. But he remembered Beveridge and his contribution at that time. When the Beveridge report came out, Churchill announced that he supported it wholeheartedly. He said he wanted to be counted on the side of social security and opposed to the almshouse which had been tried for several hundred years and had failed. I think that is when I first heard the phrase, which I have used many times, that what motivates people and leads them to high endeavor is not fear but hope.

I won't bore you with all the birth pains of social security involved in its legislative history or in putting it into operation. But I want to remind you that the most unpopular feature of the Social Security Act, the feature we were told by Democratic members of the House Ways and Means Committee would kill the whole Act, was old-age insurance, then called old-age benefits. The Democratic members went to President Roosevelt and pleaded with him to drop that section of the bill if he wanted to get any legislation. But being a stubborn Dutchman, as well as very much concerned and aware of what social insurance was, he refused. He said that old-age benefits was the main feature of this Act. He insisted that it stay in and be put through. Incidentally, I want to pay tribute to these southerners that we sometimes think aren't as socially minded as some northerners. Actually, the person chiefly responsible for putting through the Social Security Act in the Senate and, therefore, in the Congress, was Senator Pat Harrison of Mississippi. I've always thought, don't ever classify human beings according to where they are born any more than by their race, color or creed. Classify them as human beings.

We put these first half-dozen people who were hired --I see some of them right here in the audience--to work. The miracle of a half-dozen people being permitted to develop an organization all the way down the line is something that is a rare treat to anybody. We were a small organization and what helped us was that we knew each other. We didn't have to have an expert like John J. Corson draw up an elaborate organization chart with procedures all spelled out so that nobody would step on anybody else's toes. What we did was get on the phone or walk into someone else's office, discuss the common problem, agree upon a solution, and go ahead. Of course, I realize that now this is a large outfit. I am appalled when I go over to Baltimore and see how large you are. But I do believe you haven't lost the human touch. I know that I am right in saying that because when I walk into one of your local offices to make an inquiry, I know anyone I talk to, whether the little girl at the information desk or somebody to whom I am referred, all show the same concern and desire to tell me what I want to know. It makes all the difference in the world if you have people like that than if you have the reverse. That's why when we talk about the negative income tax, I'm wondering whether the tax collectors will be any more kindhearted and concerned and understanding than social workers who are damned today from all sides. I doubt it very much.

I was thinking of saying to Mr. Cohen, I know that this will shock Mr. Ball no end, that if you are going to have something like a guaranteed annual income, why not put the Social Security Administration in charge of administering it. After all they have prestige, if you're concerned about the image of the poor welfare departments throughout the States, and may I say the poor image of that beautiful word "welfare" is a tragedy, because of the way it has been distorted. There is your answer. Just put the Social Security Administration in charge and it would make anything work, even the negative income tax. And I agree with the Secretary of Labor that what we're looking for now really is a terminology to describe what we want to do, in terms people will accept and want as a part of the American way of life.

Before I get off of the early days I want to say another thing--an important thing many people forget. Important as the Social Security Act was, it was only part of the New Deal. We recognized it as largely an income maintenance program. But we had all kinds of work and education programs going. For example, the National Youth Administration. It financed not only vocational schools, but made grants to the colleges, secondary schools, and primary schools. People have forgotten that that was a part of the picture. We had the work programs--PWA, WPA and CCC.

Today I run across people who went to those CCC camps. They are proud of what they did in those days. They go and visit--when they have their vacations-- the places where they planted trees, or what not, to show their children, their grandchildren, what they did for their country.

The tragedy is that the first war on poverty that I think that FDR had in mind--Harry Hopkins had in mind--Josephine Roche had in mind--and others who were in the Administration at that time--died at birth largely because of the oncoming war taking the attention of the President and the American people. You remember he announced that "Doctor New Deal" was fired and "Doctor Win the War" was taking his place. Even before he had made that announcement you could not get his attention on domestic matters as you could a year or two previously. Then, in the war and postwar period everybody wanted to get back to normal. They had no more started getting back to normalcy than we had another war, in Korea. And then we had a change in administration which always makes a difference. I'm not undertaking to pass judgment, you understand, between the two administrations. But change of administration does slow down things a bit. It was not until 1960 that we really picked up where we left off more than 25 years ago--a quarter of a century lost so far as moving toward the goal of the social security program.

I want to tell you why I think old-age, survivors, and disability insurance is so popular and public assistance so unpopular. You are really wonderful people. But also, you from the Social Security Administration I think are very fortunate in having the kind of Act with the sort of principles written into it that enable you to become the fair-haired boys and girls. Because, after all, people recognize there are differentials in wages. So when you pass a law that says you will receive your benefits when you start losing your wages in accordance with what you have been earning before that is part of our American way of life. Also, it is self-financing. You don't have to go back to Congress and argue with Congress every year. In contrast, we have public assistance based on need but with no Federal standard as to what is meant by need. We tried to get a standard in the original law, "reasonable subsistence compatible with decency and health." A senator whom I shall not name kept poor Mr. Witte on the grill for several days. Finally, they threw out all reference to any standard, however general. And we haven't a standard today. So we have a variation in the amount of assistance provided a child in one State from $.30 a day to assistance provided in another State to a child with the same amount of need of $2.00 a day. For a family of four, $50 in one State, $250 in another State with the same need.

First, the people who apply for assistance are required to demonstrate their needs. Secondly, if they can demonstrate need, they're given a pittance in many States. Two-thirds of the States do not provide assistance sufficient to cover the need as determined by the States themselves. Of course, the taxpayers are angry about the rising costs. And the stereotype has been developed of three-generation families on relief. Actually families stay on welfare rolls about 2 , years on the average. I happen to know about one member of a former welfare family who is now a United States Senator. And there may be others too. But there is the stereotype. Illegitimate children--we can't stand for that. Actually only one-eighth of the illegitimate children born in this country are receiving public assistance. The rate of illegitimacy for nonwhite women is going down while the rate for white women is going up.

Well, I won't spend time telling you how I think social insurance, social security including unemployment insurance, if you don't mind my saying so, should be improved. I think they both need improvement, unemployment insurance more so than old-age, survivors, and disability insurance. But you know the answers better than I do. For public assistance, of course, the answer really is simple. Have Federal standards. Have a simple declaration of income. Have the Federal Government finance the aggregate cost above a certain percentage of the total personal incomes in a particular State. That would put the whole thing on a different basis. And include work incentives, that is, permit people to work and receive at least 50 percent credit for their earnings, not take out dollar for dollar.

In conclusion let me say that I think we mustn't forget that in trying to develop a more perfect income maintenance system, we should not forget we have to tackle the root causes of poverty in the sense of dependency. If we merely introduce another income maintenance system, we are just replacing one type of dependency for another type. The most important cause of dependency is a lack of jobs at adequate wages. So we must work toward full employment. We must have a permanent, long-range, nationwide public works program. We must abolish discrimination on account of race or creed, in our hearts as well as in the law. And we must provide adequate education and training to hold a job.

I am sure that this Nation of ours will win this war on poverty because we are fortunate that we do have the economic resources. All we need, really, is the will and the determination to perfect our social organization to take full advantage of these resources. I know that you who are charged with the duty of administering the Social Security Act will never forget that you are members of a social agency charged with the responsibility of realizing the great social purpose embodied in that Act. So I bid you adieu again and wish you well.

Thank you.

MR. BALL: Thank you, Arthur. I feel badly that the rest of us forced Mr. Altmeyer into a relatively brief time but it does give me a chance to say that if there is anybody in this room who hasn't read his book, The Formative Years of Social Security--it's for sale. And he'd be very glad to have you buy it and I recommend it very very strongly.

This concludes the 33 rd anniversary. I hope to see you all at a later anniversary as we start on a second third of a century.

Thank you very much.