John F. Kennedy on Social Security



1962: Increased minimum wage and Social Security benefits

By 1962, the record of Kennedy's relations with Congress was fairly unimpressive. Some administration proposals had been welcomed , including the Peace Corps, the Alliance for Progress, the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, a speedup in the space program, a minimum-wage increase, and increases in Social Security benefits.

On the whole, however, the 87th Congress, despite its Democratic control, was unresponsive to the president. Kennedy got just 44% of his legislative requests in 1962.

Source: A Question of Character, by Thomas Reeves, p.328 , Dec 10, 1997

1961: liberalize social security to help end recession

Kennedy's speech in Feb. 1961 concentrated on the extension of unemployment insurance, the increase of the minimum wage, housing and community development, and the like. More novel was a proposal for special tax incentives to investment. The message promised balance "over the years of the economic cycle." Later messages through the spring called for other institutional measures. And Congress proved responsive to the structural approach. Within 6 months it passed an area redevelopment bill, a housing bill, a farm bill, a rise in the minimum wage, the liberalization of social security, temporary unemployment benefits, benefits for dependent children of unemployed parents & a program to combat water pollution--a record of action on the domestic front unmatched in any single sitting since 1935.

Still, this was a program of welfare, perhaps a program to end the recession, but not a program of economic expansion. Kennedy himself restlessly continued to seek the answer to the 5% growth rate.

Source: 1000 Days, by Arthur Schlesinger, p.525 , Jan 1, 1965

Quality of life is unfinished business of FDR's New Deal

Kennedy once said the US faced "new problems, entirely different from those that have faced the Eisenhower administration, or that of Harry Truman, or Franklin Roosevelt: new problems, requiring new people, new solutions, new ideas."

Neither the problems nor answers were all that new--the improvement of the educational system, the strengthening of social security and medical care, attention to the decaying cities, a more rational farm program, recognition of the Negro revolution. This was the unfinished business of FDR's New Deal. Yet Kennedy's spirited presentation imbued it with his own intense contemporaneity. The program offered a systematic identification of the fundamental problems of modern America in terms of a deeply critical assessment of the moral, intellectual and institutional failures of American society: a preoccupation was less with the economic machine and its quantitative results that with the quality of life in a society which, in the main, had achieved abundance.

Source: 1000 Days, by Arthur Schlesinger, p.548 , Jan 1, 1965

Put medical care for the aged under Social Security

NIXON: As we consider this problem of unemployment, we have to realize where it is. In analyzing the figures we will find that our unemployment exists among the older citizens; it exists also among those who are inadequately trained; that is, those who do not have an adequate opportunity for education. It also exists among minority groups. If we're going to combat unemployment, then, we have to do a better job in these areas. That's why I have a program for education, a program in the case of equal job opportunities, and one that would also deal with our older citizens.

KENNEDY: Mr. Nixon mentioned the problem of our older citizens. I cannot still understand why this Administration and Mr. Nixon oppose putting medical care for the aged under Social Security to give them some security.

Source: The Second Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Debate , Oct 7, 1960

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Other past presidents on Social Security: John F. Kennedy on other issues:
Former Presidents:
Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

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V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole

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Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022