‘Taking the Raw Edges Off Capitalism’

Dan Mitchell, UCLA Luskin professor emeritus of public policy, wrote an essay for Zocalo Public Square about efforts in 1930s California to build a social safety net for older Americans, with lessons for today’s debates on aging and “entitlements.” The campaigns, which predated the launch of Social Security, included the Townsend Plan, which called for the federal government to give $200 a month to every American over 60, and the Ham and Eggs initiative, which called on the state of California to give $30 to adults over 50 every Thursday. While these efforts failed, their larger ideas would triumph. “Social Security was not inspired by the Townsend Plan, but it was part of the New Deal’s larger idea of taking the raw edges off capitalism through government intervention,” Mitchell wrote. Advocates for the aging population remained a force in California politics for years, fighting battles that foreshadowed today’s struggle over how to divide the economic pie between younger and older generations.


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