The Unsettling Question
IN ITS DETERMINED, often frenzied, efforts to approve plans and advise states on legislation and administration, the Social Security Board became a prime mover in the second stage of the nation's historic shift in social welfare. With the creation of the WPA in May 1935, the federal government made good on its pledge to stop all direct relief to the unemployed. The following month Hopkins ordered the transfer of up to 3.5 million employable persons then on direct or work relief to WPA projects, where they would earn a "security wage." Liquidation of the FERA was completed in December. The federal government had assumed administrative responsibility for future unemployed workers through unemployment compensation (Title III) and had agreed under Titles I, IV, and X of the Social Security Act to share with the states the support of the needy aged, dependent children, and the blind. Back to state and local governments went responsibility for the so-called residuals--those needy who failed to fit into a category prescribed for federal aid.
The shift resulting from the decisions of 1935 brought criticism, even denunciation, from many quarters, right, left, and center--too much, too little, unfair. But seldom was the criticism comprehensive, applied across the board to the entire scheme. Instead, different groups selected different