The name of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the city of Warm Springs, Georgia are forever linked in history. He spent so much time there between 1924 and 1945 that it became known as the “Little White House.”
Today, FDR’s crowning glory, Social Security, is being threatened by Herschel Walker and his mentor, Florida Senator Rick Scott. We, the descendants of Roosevelt, his Vice President Henry Wallace, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, and Secretary of Commerce Harry Hopkins, feel an obligation to defend him and call on Georgia voters to use their tremendous power to do the same in the crucial upcoming Senate runoff.
In 1921, at the age of 39, FDR contracted polio—a virus that can infect a person’s spinal cord and cause paralysis and even death. Warm Springs was where he came to for treatment and inspiration.
FDR appointed a Cabinet-level Economic Security Committee, chaired by Perkins, which included Wallace (then Secretary of Agriculture) and Hopkins as federal relief administrator, and tasked them with designing a comprehensive and enduring Social Security program for American workers, their families, and the disabled.
FDR considered the Social Security Act of 1935 the “cornerstone” of his entire administration. Today it serves almost two million Georgians. A quarter of a million are disabled and receive Social Security Insurance (SSDI), which may also go to a spouse or child living with a disability.
From the outset, conservatives have referred to Social Security as “socialism.” FDR’s 1936 opponent, Alf Landon, called it a “hoax” and a “fraud.” He lost in a landslide.
FDR had insisted it is an insurance benefit, which workers earn by paying them through the “FICA” payroll tax deducted from each paycheck – 6.2 percent of earnings, supplemented by 6.2 percent from their employer .
He saw the payroll tax as central and gave workers “a legal, moral and political right to collect their pensions and unemployment benefits. With these taxes in, no damn politician can ever scrap my Social Security program.”
Republican President Dwight Eisenhower saw it the same way. There may be “a tiny splinter group” of politicians who want to mess with Social Security, he wrote, but “their numbers are negligible and they are stupid.”
Well, dumbass is in the upcoming Georgia runoff. Leading Republicans have proposed radical plans to end the Social Security and Medicare guarantee. Florida Senator Rick Scott, who is leading the Republican drive to win Walker’s election, has proposed scrapping both programs after five years in a sweeping plan that rails against “socialism” and praises privatization.
Under Scott’s plan, Social Security, Medicare and the payroll tax would only continue if Congress could agree on how to renew them. Congress would have full discretion to cut them, privatize them, turn them into undeserved welfare, or “bankrupt” them.
The chair of the Republican National Committee has officially backed Senator Scott’s plan, praising it for being “full of actual solutions.” Senator Scott has asked Georgians to vote for Walker.
FDR, Wallace, Perkins and Hopkins would be the real conservatives in the room – they would fight for it save up Those earned benefits that are the rightful property of people who have poured their entire working lives into them – the most popular federal programs of all time. For them, the challenge would not be to dismantle Social Security and Medicare, but to maintain and strengthen them.
A simple solution stems from the little-known fact that the richer you are, the less payroll tax you pay. Earned income over $147,000 per year is simply not taxed. Get rid of that ridiculous billionaire cap. Make the CEO pay the same 6.2 percent as the janitor. Use the additional income to improve performance and services and strengthen long-term solvency.
But don’t hold your breath and wait for Herschel Walker to back the rich people’s tax hike. According to Forbes, he makes $7 million a year, lives in a $12 million mansion and owns three luxury yachts. It’s not much of a mystery as to why he has Donald Trump’s “complete and unreserved support,” given the ex-president is famous for his tax cuts for the wealthy and his plan to abolish the payroll tax.
We recently celebrated the 87th birthday of FDR, who signed Social Security into law. It touches the life of every working Georgian from Warm Springs to Savannah and has saved millions from the “poor house.” For generations it has been proof that government can and must be a force for good in the lives of ordinary people.
A Walker win would put the Senate — and the future of Social Security — on a 50-50 knife edge. Keeping principled and caring Senator Raphael Warnock would send a message that the people of Georgia will not condone stupid schemes to interfere with their rights.
James Roosevelt, Jr. is an attorney and former deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Henry Scott Wallace is a lawyer and a foundation director. Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall is the founder of the Frances Perkins Center. June Hopkins is Professor Emeritus of History at Georgia Southern University, Armstrong Campus.
Note: This is an opinion article in terms of category placement on this site. It is not a report. The opinions expressed are the author’s and do not represent those of The Georgia Sun.