My dear Mr. President
I beg to express my deep appreciation of your letter to the clergy in regard to social legislation. Whether we as individuals may be able to offer any helpful suggestions or not, we are in touch with the poor, the sick and the aged and know their needs.
It is always a deep satisfaction to the members of any profession to be recognized and especially so when it is done so graciously as in your letter. But it is a far deeper gratification to be given an opportunity to speak for those whose very need makes them oftimes unable to speak for themselves. May I offer, then, the following comments and suggestions?
I. OLD AGE PENSIONS
The Old Age Pensions have been a wonderful thing for us here in the State of New York. Old people who were a burden to their relations suddenly became a boon to them. Doors were thrown open to these old people, homes were offered. Overnight the position of these old people was changed from that of a liability to an asset. And for the old people themselves no words can express the peace and sense of joy that comes from the removal of that awful dread and want which faces old age.
It would be a great service to the community if the age could be lowered to 65 years. In the business and industrial world men and especially women are considered "too old" at 50 years- even at 45 years. The gap between this and 70 years is too great.
A SUGGESTION. Give employers an incentive to employ older people by a certain reduction in taxation if they employed a given percentage of men and women over 50 or 55 years of age, just as we are allowed to write off up to 15% of our income taxes when we contribute to recognized charities. Make it worthwhile to employ 10 or 15% of people over the present "too old" age. This would give an incentive to employ many older people and we can not blame them. There must be some inducement offered. The details would have to be worked out but in principle it would be economy in the long run to both the government and the community at large-- that is the amount of loss in revenues by this would be much less than the cost of relief for these aged or older people out of work.
THE UNEMPLOYED INSURANCE is a complicated question. As clergymen we see it from the angle of the needs of the working people and from that point of view it is fast becoming a necessity. If we think only of the children, something of the sort is vital to the future of our citizenship.
THE WORKS PROGRAM has saved us from revolution! No man capable of working and willing to work is going to meekly stand by and see his wife and little children slowly starving to death in a land of plenty! Not if he is a man! But the millions out of work here in this land did not have to face this and we can thank the general relief program, local, state and Federal. It has saved us from a revolution, the cost of which is money alone, would have been so tremendous that in comparison, what we have spent in relief is insignificant. Cost what it may it is nothing compared with the cost and terrors of a great social upheaval.
The C.C.C. camps especially are doing a fine work both in the way of prevention of the dangers attending young men with nothing to do and in the positive side- the training and up building if the young manhood of the nation.
While much of the Works Program is to meet the temporary emergency, many people feel that it should be a permanent part of the governmental machinery. It should be ready with needed projects to be put into operation at once in "hard times"- to rake up the slack in unemployment and then in years of prosperity reduce this work to the lowest terms.
UNEMPLOYMENT has been on the increase ever since the introduction of the modern labor saving machines (as long as there were new lands to settle and natural resources to discover and develop we did not feel it) and this unemployment will go on increasing as time goes on. Already, under our present system there is not work enough for anything like all our people to do.
SUGGESTION We should reduce the hours of work for all who are engaged in gainful business or production, with the possible exception of seamen, stewards, farm hands etc. But in all the usual employment, where the laborer lives in his own home this should apply. Personally I see no reason for exempting the "Manager" class. If ocean liners can have two captains where there is more absolute and concentrated authority than in any other civilian position- why not managers?
It is far better and more wholesome for a family with four brothers to have all four working at $25. a week, than it is for three to be working at $33.33 a week although the family income is the same. The three brothers who are working and earning their money will soon come to feel that their brother is a burden to them and it is demoralizing to the brother out of work.
The nation is a family. It is not only better but distinctly safer for all the employable people to be working and receiving salaries than for three fourths to be working and having to support the other fourth through some form of relief. The three fourths today are (many of them) complaining about this awful burden of taxation for relief and it is all too easy for the one fourth to get into the way of living without working.
VI. THE PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT
The Declaration of Independence without which and a revolutionary war to make it good, there would have been no Constitution states that the purpose of government is to secure "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness" to all men- it says "to secure these rights governments are instituted among men." And it goes on to say "that when any form of government becomes destructive of these ends it is the right of the people to altar or to abolish it." Pretty strong language we must admit. But six of those patriots who signed that Declaration were later among the framers of the Constitution and three more of then became Presidents of the United States.
I quote this because I firmly believe that your Administration, Sir, has gone further in its efforts to bring life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to ALL the people than any in the history of our Land.
Most sincerely yours,
Charles Breck Ackley, Rector