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Let us rehabilitate the aged and industry alike. Let us give them new vision, hope, and vigor.
The race between the United States and Russia is not going to be decided by debates in Moscow or Washington. The true test will be the ability of our contending cultures, while supporting the necessary military establishment, also to satisfy human needs, both material and spiritual. We cannot afford as a Nation to disregard the shocking conditions that overwhelm so many of our older citizens. Your committee, by exerting leadership in this field, cannot only aid millions of worthy Americans but can strengthen the United States and the democratic world.
Senator McNAMARA. Thanks very much.
Your statement, the viewpoint you express as well as the recommendations I am sure will be given every consideration not only by the subcommittee but by the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare as well.
Mrs. Ellickson, how much would you recommend social security benefits be raised? Do you have any idea how much you would recommend ? Have you made any study of that?
Mrs. ELLICKSON. We have not specified the amount of general increase we would like at this time. Last year we recommended support of the proposal for a 10-percent increase in the average benefits. The Congress voted a 7-percent increase. However, that was merely a minimum recommendation. We think it is very important to raise the wage-base ceiling at least to $6,000 from the present $4,800 level, which would automatically make it more possible for workers with higher earning levels to have benefits replace a reasonable proportion of those earnings. We have a number of other specific proposals which are contained in our convention resolution and in Mr. Čruikshank's statement.
Senator McNAMARA. Does the proposal make any reference to the $1,200 allowable income outside of social security benefits?
Mrs. ELLICKSON. Yes. Our position on that is that we believe that it is important to use whatever funds are available from the trust fund and from the contributions that are made, to raise the level of benefits for all the aged and other beneficiaries rather than to make more generous provision for paying benefits to people who can still work. Only a small proportion of the aged are able to continue work. A large proportion of them who retire, retire because of illness. Therefore, if you make it possible for people who are still working a large part of their time to draw benefits, you are draining the fund to help them rather than helping the others who are worse off.
Senator McNAMARA. Does that mean that your organization would be opposed to raising the $1,200 allowable earned income without affecting the social security payments or not?
Mrs. ELLICKSON. We would perhaps go along with some liberalization; however, our position is very similar to that which was stated in some detail last year by Chairman Wilbur Mills, of the House Ways and Means Committee, during the House debate. It is not desirable at this time to liberalize that retirement test for the reasons already explained. We think there are many other improvements more urgently needed, including, for example, lowering the age at which disabled persons can get benefits. We think they should get it before age 50 and we would rather see that done right away.
Senator McNAMARA. Thank you, Mrs. Ellickson.
STATEMENT OF CHLOE GIFFORD, PRESIDENT, GENERAL
FEDERATION OF WOMEN'S CLUBS
Senator McNAMARA. The General Federation of Women's Clubs, Miss Chloe Gifford, president.
We would be happy to hear from you. I see you have a comparatively short statement. Do you desire to read it all?
Miss GIFFORD. I may read it, Mr. Chairman, and then make some comments.
Senator McNAMARA. All right. Go right ahead.
Miss GIFFORD. I am Chloe Gifford, president of the General Federation of Women's Clubs.
The General Federation of Women's Clubs, an organization of approximately 5 million women in the United States, is a cross section of the women in this country. For the most part they are wives and mothers in rural, urban, and large city areas, banded together to work for the welfare of their families.
The General Federation of Women's Clubs was chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1901, and has consistently worked for legislation which the club members believe is in line with the purposes of the organization, as stated in its constitution, and are certainly tremendously interested in the welfare of our citizens, especially our women.
The members of the General Federation of Women's Club believe that an adequate program for the security and happiness of the millions of aged and aging Americans today is necessary for the mutual benefit and the public welfare of our Nation.
We started back in 1950 to actively participate in behalf of the aged and the aging, even before we hardly knew the meaning of the term “gerontology." We started on the community level feeling very definitely that it was a community problem, and that certainly voluntary groups working with the public agencies could perhaps handle the job.
Now we realize that it is very definitely a national problem and that a nationwide study must be made. We are heartened, Mr. Chairman, that the Senate of the United States has seen fit to face, we hope very realistically this problem and to try to find solutions.
We are extremely heartened that you are going to try to alert the citizenry of this country to the needs and how these needs can be handled.
We are extremely perturbed over the fact of the retirement plans.
It seems to us—and some of us are professional women and have worked for many years—I certainly am-it seems to me that when we talk of asking an individual 40 years of age to start thinking about retirement, it is well for him to think about it, but after all, for many to feel that his years of usefulness, when those of us who are over 40 think that we are just coming into the prime of life, I think that that needs careful scrutiny.
Education takes longer than it did 15 or 20 years ago. The fact that so many of our boys are called into service and are delayed in their educational pursuits for several years means that many of our young men are not getting jobs until the middle twenties, and that means, when you start to think, say, for instance, of a boy 40 years of age, a woman now around 35 or 37, being told when he applies for a job or she applies for a job that industry is not accepting for training a man over 40 or a women over 35 or 37—I think it is a bit alarming.
I think that there are many things that we can do in the foreseeable future to eradicate that type of thinking certainly with industry and with the public in general.
If medical science has made such rapid strides, certainly in the last few years, it seems that we live far longer than we one time lived. I come from an institution of higher learning, and I know that many of our men who are retired optionally, let me say at 65, have much, much to contribute; regrettably we have not prepared for those later years as we should have. We think it could happen to John or Mary but it will not happen to us as individuals.
So, at 65, say, forced retirement means that we are losing much of the able thinking that men and women have received through academic training, through practical experience, and so it seems to me it is conceivable that, say, 10 or 20 years from now we may face a strange and devastating new kind of rebellion, the rebellion of youth against oldsters. Youth may be forced to rise up in self-defense because of the massive debts and burdens that they will be forced to shoulder, particularly it may come to resent the burden of supporting an alarming increase in the number of oldsters and certainly statistics show us that in 1975 we may have 20 million oldsters in this country.
All right. It is high time, it seems to me, in 1959 and 1960 that we were preparing for that. If this should occur it will be the result of our failure to make some commonsense policy changes now before the situation gets completely out of hand.
It seems to me that we should oppose arbitrary retirement policies wherever they exist. People should be forced to retire completely only when they are truly unable to do useful work or when their continued work is dangerous to others.
Naturally, I would not want to fly in an airplane, which I do most of the time, with a man 70 years old in control of that plane. So, those are professions where I think older age should be taken into consideration.
By this, of course, I do not mean, as I was trying to say, that people should not be forced, as indicated, to relinquish certain physically dangerous or highly sensitive executive jobs in favor of less dangerous or less sensitive ones.
It seems to me that we must look with a critical eye at our present social security policy so it does not penalize those over 65, or 62, I think it is for women. We are discriminated against, we who want to or need to work. Social security payments should be placed on a straight perhaps annuity basis, payable at the stated age regardless of whether the individual works or not.
This would lead to an increase in our total production which cannot fail to benefit our economy even if social security costs do increase somewhat.
It will also enable older people to gradually reduce their work without too greatly reducing their income, and what is of importance to us is the fact that we lose their abilities.
Some of us may be willing to admit that we remember the depression days. I certainly am one willing to admit it.
You remember the Townsend plan that came up and that lost-it may be because there were not enough older people at that moment. years of
But as these oldsters are increasing, could not a similar plan cost us a great deal of anxiety and difficulty, if it came up, say, in 1975 when there are 20 million oldsters to vote on the question?
Senator McNAMARA. I might say to you that we have a Mr. Townsend who is going to be one of our witnesses today. You may be interested in his presentation.
Miss GIFFORD. Oh, good; fine. Now, I think we have to change our attitudes about people over 40 age. That is
my main concern right now. I think our attitudes must be brought into harmony with the realities of society as we find it today.
Unless industry is willing and able to support millions of people over 40 with unemployment benefits, raised by taxing industry, then industry must find jobs for these people and that is what I would like to see happen.
Actually, of course, studies have been shown that in general age is not a handicap, often even an asset, in most job situations. Such facts must catch up with and overcome some of these prejudices.
The one compelling argument is that in the United States today over 9 out of 10 jobs are in private industry or in business. Either jobs must be made available for those who want to work or industry and business will be required to pay enough social security taxes to support these people on unemployment rolls.
The wisdom of choosing the first seems to be plain to us.
The decisions we make are going to be painful, more than likely, for they will require us to discard some of our cherished beliefs. Most of us have grown up believing that full-time retirement would be great fun. We believe or have come to believe that America is so rich, so bountiful, and so productive that there is no limit to what we might do if we only wanted to.
Suddenly, we have discovered that there are limits in both areas. We face a clear-cut choice. We must either abandon some of our archaic attitudes about our work and wealth and retirement or face the real possibility that our children and grandchildren will be forced to abandon us in old age in order to care for their own.
We realize, Mr. Chairman, that we have not contributed any new thinking today on this problem. However, we want to go on record commending the Senate of the United States for facing these problems of the aged and the aging, and for your efforts in seeking solutions to said problems. We thank you for permitting us to state our position here this morning. Let us remember that every citizen has an inherent right for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—they must be fought for in every age of man. Old age should not be a penaltyit should be considered an achievement.
I assure you, Mr. Chairman, of one thing: That these 5 million women, and that is a heap of women, certainly great numbers of voters, will be actively supporting any worthwhile program that comes out of these resolutions that have been brought up in regard to this problem.
Senator McNAMARA. Thank you, Miss Gifford.
You make a statement that you do not think that you could be of much help in the field or something like that. I think quite the reverse. I think your organization, the General Federation of Women's Clubs, has a fine standing in the Nation. You take the position as you
do here today, that you are opposed to discrimination in employment because of age. I think it hits much harder than perhaps labor organizations or others who are constantly in conflict with management because of operating in this field, negotiating for all sorts of conditions for workers. Yours is an organization apart, one that is not directly concerned, and I think great weight is added to your statement because of this situation.
You have had a real role to play in this thing and I hope you say often and much more loudly than you do here that there should be no discrimination in employment because of age.
Miss GIFFORD. We intend to do that very thing. I will say that I agree with you on that one thing, and that is that we do not have the selfish interest that perhaps some other groups have.
Senator MoNAMARA. Certainly. Your organization are really consumers, and the voice of the consumer is listened to by management also. I think that is a good point, and I hope you stress it.
You mention that social security has not been on an annuity basis and you recommend that it should be. Of course, this would necessitate increasing the taxation, as you pointed out.
Do you consider that we should perhaps change the basis of social security payment and have it not a burden on the industry or the employees of the industry but on society in general ?
Miss GIFFORD. After a careful study has been made as to the needs, then it seems to me solutions must be found by close cooperation of all interests, labor, industry, government, and lay groups.
Senator McNAMARA. Yes.
Miss GIFFORD. I also wonder if we should say that an individual can only earn $100 a month. I believe that is true, is it not? I wonder about that.
Senator McNAMARA. Thanks very much. Your statement has been very interesting and very helpful.
Miss GIFFORD. Do you want me to leave these statements here?
PREPARED STATEMENT OF Miss CHLOE GIFFORD, PRESIDENT, GENERAL FEDERATION
OF WOMEN'S CLUBS The General Federation of Women's Clubs, an organization of approximately 5 million women in the United States, is a cross section of the women in this country. For the most part they are wives and mothers in rural, urban, and large city areas, banded together to work for the welfare of their families.
The General Federation of Women's Clubs was chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1901, and has consistently worked for legislation which the club members believe is in line with the purpose of the organization, as stated by its constitution as follows: "To unite women's clubs and like organizations throughout the world for the purpose of mutual benefit, and for the promotion of their common interests in education, philanthropy, public welfare, moral values, civic, and fine arts."
The members of the General Federation of Women's Clubs believe that an adequate program for the security and happiness of the millions of aged and aging Americans is necessary for the mutual benefit and the public welfare of our Nation.
The General Federation of Women's Clubs began its active program on gerontology in 1950 when it added gerontology and community service as one of its new committees. This committee was set up under the welfare department. At that time a program was developed to stress the importance of preparation for later life. September 9_15, 1951, the board of the General Federation of