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Eisenhower Quote on Abolishing Social Security

Netlore Archive: In which we investigate a quote attributed to President Dwight D. Eisenhower stating that any political party attempting to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, labor laws and farm programs would never be heard of again.

Description: Viral message / Forwarded email
Circulating since: Feb. 2005 (in this form)
Status: Authentic (see details below)

Example:
Email text contributed by an AOL user, May 8, 2005:


Photo credit: Moore/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, l952


Analysis: Circulating virally online since 2005, this is one of several abridged versions of an actual statement by President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961). The original passage, from a letter Eisenhower wrote to his brother Edgar on Nov. 8, 1954, went as follows:

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

If Eisenhower, a committed if comparatively moderate Republican by current standards, were alive today, he might well object to the way his words have been appropriated for political gain. Those who quoted the passage in 2005 clearly meant to imply that it was applicable to contemporary Republican luminaries like President George W. Bush, whose proposals for Social Security reform included reducing future benefits for senior citizens. Bush was also, as it happens, one of those "Texas oil millionaires" alluded to in the quote.

However, Bush never proposed abolishing Social Security, nor did he propose eliminating unemployment insurance, labor laws, or farm programs. Hence, the tacit suggestion that Bush and fellow-traveling Republicans ought to be counted among those described as "stupid" by Eisenhower is a transparent, if deft, example of partisan hyperbole.

All's fair in love, war and — apparently — politics.

For the record, judging by Dwight D. Eisenhower's own statements his opinion on the irreversibility of Social Security wasn't based solely on political considerations. He thought it was sound policy. This is from a message he wrote to Congress in 1953:

Retirement systems, by which individuals contribute to their own security according to their own respective abilities, have become an essential part of our economic and social life. These systems are but a reflection of the American heritage of sturdy self-reliance which has made our country strong and kept it free; the self-reliance without which we would have had no Pilgrim Fathers, no hardship-defying pioneers, and no eagerness today to push to ever widening horizons in every aspect of our national life.

The Social Security program furnishes, on a national scale, the opportunity for our citizens, through that same self-reliance, to build the foundation for their security. We are resolved to extend that opportunity to millions of our citizens who heretofore have been unable to avail themselves of it.

Readers Respond
"Your political bias has never been more blatant than in your comments regarding the Eisenhower quote on Social Security." More...

Sources and further reading:

Letter from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Edgar N. Eisenhower, 8 Nov. 1954
The Presidential Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower's Statements on Social Security
Social Security Administration

Bush Social Security Plan Would Cut Future Benefits
Washington Post, 29 April 2005

Last updated: 06/28/15

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