Read time: 1 minute

When Unemployment Insurance Was New - 1939

(Sen. James F. Byrnes - From Supreme Court to Secretary of State) As the unemployment numbers keep creeping up, it's interesting to take a look at


(Sen. James F. Byrnes - From Supreme Court to Secretary of State)

As the unemployment numbers keep creeping up, it's interesting to take a look at a similar situation 70 years ago, when Unemployment Compensation was a new thing (since 1935) and had it's detractors. There really were people who felt it wasn't the governments responsibility to take care of the unemployed - as there no doubt are now. Future Supreme Court Justice and later Secretary of State James F. Byrnes - on February 27, 1939 as Senator from South Carolina, addressed a radio audience to explain just what this unemployment compensation thing was all about.

Sen. Byrnes: “Unemployment assistance by government is not a new question. As early as 1894, ex-President Benjamin Harrison demanded that the federal government set up a work program to fight unemployment. In 1921 at the instance of Mister Hoover, then Secretary of Commerce, a conference on unemployment was held in Washington. Bills were introduced in the Congress but nothing was accomplished. Improved business conditions lessen the demand for Federal legislation. But from time to time during the years that followed, bills on the subject were introduced in the Congress. In 1929, our so-called ‘boom year’, the national income was eighty billion dollars. And yet, we had three million unemployed. With that national income today the number of unemployed would be greater than in 1929 because of the technicalogical changes. And the levying of a payroll tax tends to encourage these changes because the tax levied is upon workers and not upon machines.”

Seventy years later, it's still going. And they're still trying to cut the benefits.

Can you help us out?

For 17 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.

More C&L Coverage


New Commenting System

Our comments are now powered by Insticator. In order to comment you will need to create an Insticator account. The process is quick and simple. Please note that the ability to comment with a C&L site account is no longer available.

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.

Please Do Not Use the Login Link at the Top of the Site.

In order to comment you must use an Insticator account. To register an account, enter your comment and click the post button. A dialog will then appear allowing you create your account.

We will be retiring our Crooks and Liars user account system in January, 2021.

Thank you.
C&L Team