Monday, January 17, 2005

we didn't have a nickel: social security

we didn't have a nickel: social security
by kid oakland
Daily Kos
Sun Jan 16th, 2005 at 18:19:00 PST
My Grandmother, at 92, is one of a dwindling number of living Americans who can remember, as an adult, what it was like to live through the Great Depression.  I can recall one bucolic summer Sunday afternoon in the mid-1980's sitting with her and my Grandfather talking about what life was like on a family farm in those troubled times.
For folks in the Upper Midwest, they said, things got really bad....but not as bad as used a barter system based on raising hogs and chickens and milking dairy cows to stem the tide when they lacked money to pay for essentials.  The bad weather and soil erosion of the Dust Bowl nearly pushed many folks over the response, my grandparents said, women and men worked side by side in the fields trying to save whatever harvest they could.  Whole families mobilized to stave off poverty, hunger and the loss of their land.
Hearing all this, and seeing in their eyes that I could not really understand what they went through....ages 17-28 mind you...I tried to break the ice by quipping..."Gosh, it sounds like you didn't have a dime."
My Grandmother smiled...and looked me directly in the eyes...
"We didn't have a nickel."
The folks who want to privatize Social Security are banking on a fact that most of us don't even begin to realize.  We are so removed in this nation from widespread poverty and the consequences of a prolonged economic downturn that we've forgotten the roots of why our government instituted the New Deal and the Great Society in the first place.
In 1960, when Michael Harrington wrote the Other America (click on the link for an excellent article by Harold Meyerson from which this data is culled): "the Census Bureau had concluded that almost 60 percent of seniors had annual incomes under $1,000 a year, at a time when the government estimated an adequate yearly budget for a retired couple to be roughly $3,000."  In other words...most of our nation's senior citizens lived in, or close to, poverty....