Steve Hayward over at Power Line has an interesting quote from Franklin Roosevelt:
The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit… It is in violation of the traditions of America.
Roosevelt wanted Social Security to be a contributory system, where people pay in when they are young and take out when they are old. What he didn’t want was a “dole,” to use the term he knew and which we call welfare today. When the original Social Security proposal didn’t meet FDR’s specifications, he ordered it rewritten. Robert Samuelson details in the Washington Post how Roosevelt’s conception was slowly turned into the Ponzi scheme that Social Security is today. The process began with an override of an FDR veto in 1942 of the Revenue Act of that year, the act that transformed the personal income tax from a tax on the rich to a tax on all but the poor.
It is a measure of how much the Democratic Party has changed since the 1930s. With millions out of work, their savings gone with thousands of bank failures, immediate help was needed (and, indeed, the federal government began to deliver that help, in unprecedented amounts, during the Hoover administration). But the help was intended to be temporary. The idea of a permanent underclass living off government handouts or dependent on government for their livelihoods was repugnant to Roosevelt and most people in his “brain trust.”
Today, the Democratic Party is not a party devoted to helping the poor help themselves, but one devoted to the interests of an American “nomenklatura” whose rice bowl is an ever-larger number of people dependent on government for services and income. This nomenklatura is made up of bureaucrats, public-service union officials, non-governmental organizations such as environmental and civil rights groups, some corporations, such as big pharmaceutical companies, that are dependent on government regulators, colleges and universities, and others.
The Democratic Party, which once had a valid claim to being the party of the little guy–even while headed by the quintessential American aristocrat–is now the party of a vast coalition of interest groups devoted only to ever larger and more intrusive government, the “traditions of America” that FDR championed be damned.