SEPTEMBER 17, 1956
NEW YORK—The problem that faces people who live on an income of under $3,000 a year has been brought to my attention.
The people who have written me about it live in Florida, which gives them one advantage—they can raise their own vegetables and, because of the warm climate, they do not have the expense of heating homes or of buying winter clothes.
This is what the letter says:
"My husband is in the class of the handicapped. Yes, he is working, and has been with the same place for over 15 years. However, being handicapped, even though he has been told that he is one of their best workers and had the favor handed to him of breaking in new men, he still is working far below a necessary living salary.
"His boss makes it a habit of hiring handicapped men, hence he can keep them working for small salaries. They, on the other hand, hesitate to try for new jobs. Being handicapped makes them feel the field is not open to them. It truly isn't.
"The fact I wish to make is that I believe people on such small salaries should be allowed to have a deductible amount, such as the blind have.
"We have in our acquaintance a blind man who works for the Lighthouse. He has free medical, legal, transportation, and even his family has a good number of benefits.
"I do not believe that he should not have these, but on the other hand he is earning just five dollars less than my husband. We have to eke out all we can and have the income deductions, too. This brings our take-home amount to a few cents over $48 a week.
"Of course, luxury is not what we wish for but a real chance to get the essentials for living.
"Just why doesn't the Congress put through a bill letting the handicaps have the income deductions the blind have? Too, while the blind folks have the possibility of buying lots of things at cost, we have to pay the regular price and state tax to add to our burden....
"We are not looking to shirk our duty but to have a chance to be independent and not a dependent in the years to come. Too, it would be nice to have a few cents a week to have an ice-cream soda or a movie. Things such as these are just out of reach of our income."
It is all wrong that in a country like ours that has great wealth and natural abundance we should allow real poverty to take the joy out of life, not only for the handicapped but for any of our people.
There are ways of attacking poverty which we have not yet really studied. It is not always what you make that is the most important. It is what you can have for what you make.
And there can be gifts made by thoughtful governments that are repayable by the citizen in many ways if the economy is studied and the needs of people can be kept in the forefront of men's minds.