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: LA Times Editorial

Head Note: On August 16, 1935, the Los Angeles Times published this editorial statement about the flaws in the Social Security Act.

"Social Security"

With the intents of the so-called Social Security Act, an omnibus or shotgun measure which the President signed Wednesday, there can be no quarrel. Everybody wants to see the aged and infirm properly cared for, everybody sympathizes with the man out of work through no fault of his own. The theory of aid to dependent children, child health, aid to the blind, vocational education, encounters little or no opposition.

That the social security bill as passed solves any of these problems satisfactorily, or even tolerably, is however, extremely unlikely. That it imposes new, large burdens on industry and the general taxpayer, at a time when to do so retards recovery, is certain.

The bill is so voluminous, so involved and complicated, and so all-containing, that discussion of it is difficult and conclusions reached must be tentative. Parts of it are of very dubious constitutionality....

What is to be done, precisely, with the funds collected, does not seem to have had sufficient study....

The whole subject should have been put over at least to another Congress, for further study. There should have been at least three, probably five or six, separate bills, instead of lumping the whole subject into one so complicated that the public could not possibly comprehend it. Done as it has been, this bill probably resembles a proper and wise measure about as a statue by the village stonecutter resembles one by Michelangelo.

Source: August 16, 1935, excerpt from a Los Angeles Times editorial, Los Angeles, California.

USE THE NOTEBOOK (instructions):


These definitions should help with reading comprehension.

  • omnibus: containing multiple items
  • shotgun: no clear design or done under pressure
  • infirm: weak or ill
  • retards: slows
  • voluminous: many pages, big
  • Michelangelo: a master Italian Renaissance artist

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