Historians agree that Social Security is at the heart of New Deal reform. Given that, what does Social Security tell us about the set of policies and programs called the New Deal? (Read each source below, then answer the questions in the notebook. Ask your teacher for an inquiry organizer worksheet to help you think about the ways that the sources support and contradict each other.)


READ: Townsend Pamphlet

Head Note: Francis E. Townsend, an unemployed doctor, introduced this plan in 1933 in a California newspaper. He and others soon started an organization called Old Age Revolving Pensions, Inc. to publicize and build support for the plan. By 1935, the organization had more than five million members and presented a petition for the plan to President Roosevelt with 20 million signatures, more than 10% of the entire American population.

The Townsend Plan Brief

Have the National Government enact Legislation to the effect that all citizens of the United States—man or woman—over the age of 60 years may retire on a pension of $200 per month on the following conditions:

1. That they engage in no further labor, business or profession for gain.

2. That their past life is free from habitual criminality.

3. That they take oath to, and actually do spend, within the confines of the United States, the entire amount of their pension within thirty days after receiving same.

Have the National Government create the revolving fund by levying a general sales tax; have the rate just high enough to produce the amount necessary to keep the Old Age Revolving Pensions Fund adequate to pay the monthly Pensions. Have the act so drawn that such sales tax can only be used for the Old Age Revolving Pensions Fund.


148 American Avenue Long Beach, California


Source: Excerpt from a pamphlet published by Old Age Revolving Pensions, Inc., 1934, Long Beach, California.

USE THE NOTEBOOK (instructions):


These definitions should help with reading comprehension.

  • enact legislation: pass a law
  • confines: boundaries
  • levying: establishing a tax

Average wealth and costs

Listen to Historian Mike O'Malley discuss the cost of living and average wealth for Americans during the Depression.

Please log in to use the notebook

Create new account