APRIL 9, 1960
NEW YORK—I wish I could be happier about the possible enforcement of the voting rights as they are set forth in the civil rights bill that is about to be passed by the Senate and the House as this column is being written. We will know before the year is out how much real gain this bill will bring about, and if it is not satisfactory I hope very much that there will be a move immediately to improve it.
Intimidation can be practiced in so many ways. For instance, the Rev. Mr. Fred Shuttlesworth of Birmingham, Ala., is being attacked in every possible way because he has been active in working for the rights of the colored people. Threats to his life, to the property of his church, and against his family are frequent, and when threats have not been successful the law has been invoked and he has been accused of such foolish crimes as vagrancy.
This is a gentle, charming man, and I only hope that the indignation of people against such methods will grow in this country. In South Africa the sensible people seem to be having an effect on the extremists and I hope we can say the same in our country.
At the hearings this week on changes that would benefit the aged in our Social Security system, a real argument developed that was aired on the front pages of our newspapers. James B. Carey, president of the International Union of Electrical Workers, backing a Democratic bill to add health insurance features to the Social Security system, had it out with Senator Everett M. Dirksen, who quite naturally came to the defense of the Administration. The union leader insisted that the Administration had surrendered to "the American Medical Association and the insurance companies."
Now, anyone who has any volume of mail must know by this time that one of the real grievances of the older people in this country, who number about 16 million, is that Social Security does not give any health insurance. Sooner or later all of them need medical care, hospitalization, expensive medicines and special provision made because of certain kinds of physical handicaps.
And I was very much surprised the other day when the President said he did not think that insurance was at present necessary. When he was asked questions at his press conference he suggested that a rise of one-half of one percent in the tax might be a way to meet the needs. I see, however, that Arthur S. Flemming, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, says that the Administration "with a real sense of urgency" is trying to devise an acceptable system under which this insurance would be available.
This seems, then, to be largely a financial question, and it ought not to be difficult to find out how something as necessary as this could be done.
There is no question in my mind that Social Security benefits are inadequate and cannot be considered to be meeting all the needs of an older person. If all the Administration does is to make a long-drawn-out study, then it is going to be accused of woefully neglecting the real interests of the older people. And these needs are urgent because the help must be given now and not after the people are dead.
Jim Carey spoke out of real feeling for some of the difficulties which, I am sure, he has seen in his contacts with older, retired individuals.