Capitalists against Markets: The Making of Labor Markets and Welfare States in the United States and Sweden

By Peter A. Swenson | Go to book overview

9
THE NEW DEAL FOR
MARKET SECURITY

In 1939, only about four years after passage of the Social Security Act (SSA), Walter Fuller of the National Association of Manufacturers testified strongly in its defense. Speaking as chairman of the NAM's Economic Security Committee, he informed a Senate hearing that, while of course the organization would welcome a reduction in its unemployment insurance taxes, “we do not feel that a reduction should be made in such a way as to endanger the ultimate success of the program. ” The year before he had supported extension of old age insurance benefits to domestic and agricultural labor, along with widows and orphans of the insured. He also called for the earlier start of payments to help reduce the Social Security Act's anticipated enormous reserve fund. 1

Fuller was not out of touch with the American business community. A survey conducted by Fortune magazine the same year he testified reported that “the impressive fact remains that whatever changes business might demand in such laws as the Wagner Act, Social Security, and the Wages and Hours Law, business seems to embrace the principles of this legislation—collective bargaining under federal supervision, federal provision for old age, and a federal floor to the wage and ceiling to the hours of the country's working week”. Because sampling methods were still crude at the time, and in light of Fortune's outspoken editorial mission to reconcile businessmen to government activism, the results need to be taken with a grain of salt. In any event, they were not far from what was now coming out of the NAM. Of those surveyed, 76. 8 percent favored keeping or adjusting wage and hour regulation; 72. 2 percent thought the same about social insurance. A surprising 51. 7 percent even accepted the new labor law protecting unions (the vast majority of those favoring modifications). An amazing 80 percent actually regarded union efforts to raise standards and regulate or stabilize the labor market as a good thing. The closed shop, violence, and racketeering probably made unions most unappealing, not their wage objectives. In conclusion, Fortune concluded, the results

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