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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.

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