Student's Guide to Landmark Congressional Laws on Social Security and Welfare

By Steven G. Livingston | Go to book overview

14

Employment Security
Amendments of 1970

In a typical month, five to six million American workers are unemployed. Ten percent of these workers have been off the job for more than half a year. These individuals and their families rely on unemployment compensation, the program established as Title III of the Social Security Act of 1935, for their income while they seek work. Many of these workers are today able to draw these benefits only because of the Employment Security Amendments of 1970.

By 1970, the Social Security Act had been heavily amended and altered. The Title II Old-Age Benefits program was extensively revised. Eligibility and benefits levels were substantially expanded, beneficiaries' survivors were included, and a disability insurance program had been added. But Title III, the Unemployment Compensation program, had barely been touched. One can speculate why. Politically, senior citizens form a large and influential constituency for Title II programs. In contrast, the unemployed are smaller in number and far more marginalized. Most unemployed workers soon obtain another job, which prevents the formation of a permanent political interest. In addition, the unemployment program is run by the states, making it harder to reform nationally. Finally, the relatively strong economy that started at the end of the World War II dampened the concern with unemployment. In a time of high employment, plenty of other problems seemed more urgent than taking care of those who had temporarily lost their jobs.

In the 1960s, both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations believed the time had finally come to update the program. They

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