Committee on Economic Security (CES)
"Social Security In America"
Published by the Social Security Board -- 1937
The Social Security Act of 1935 was, arguably, the most important piece of domestic policy legislation of the 20th century. The intellectual case for the Social Security Act was developed by the President's Committee on Economic Security (CES). The CES was formed in June 1934 and was given the task of devising "recommendations concerning proposals which in its judgment will promote greater economic security." In a message to Congress two weeks earlier President Roosevelt spelled-out what he expected the CES to achieve. ". . . I am looking for a sound means which I can recommend to provide at once security against several of the great disturbing factors in life--especially those which relate to unemployment and old age."
The Committee's work was extraordinary in its scope and remarkable for its brevity. In barely six months the CES designed the first comprehensive federal social insurance program in the nation's history. Not everything contemplated by the CES at the outset made it into their final proposal and not everything in the CES proposal made it into the final law. But the Report of the CES was the basic blueprint for what would come to be the Social Security Act.
The full work of the CES was contained in 10 large volumes of reports and studies, which were never published. In 1937, two years after passage of the Social Security Act, the new Social Security Board published a summary of the Committee's work. This summary was in the form of a book entitled, "Social Security In America." This book, therefore, represents the only published work documenting the study and analysis that underlay the creation of the Social Security program. The book has been out of print since 1937, and is being republished here in its entirety.
It is important to appreciate that this book is not a full record of the CES' studies. The still unpublished 10 volumes of studies contain many reports and some key recommendations that are absent from the 1937 book. As the Preface to the book put it:
"The present report is a summary of some of the most important information in the staff studies. Completely omitted from consideration in this summary were numerous studies which concerned problems not dealt with in the Social Security Act or which have been published privately. In many instances the specific recommendations included in the voluminous staff reports have been omitted, as these are now largely only of historical interest. In this summary informational data in the staff reports have also been greatly reduced in volume, but it is believed that the most essential facts have been included."
Despite its shortcomings, this book is a foundational document in the development of the Social Security Act in 1934-35. Until the unpublished 10 volulmes become available, this electronic reprint of "Social Security in America" is the most complete documentation of the work of the CES and is perforce the most complete explication of the case for social insurance made by the CES.