Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area

By Harry M. Caudill | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
The Rise of the Welfare State

THE SHARP RISE in unemployment and the flight from the plateau of its hardier people were accompanied by the growth of "welfarism" on a scale unequaled elsewhere in North America and scarcely surpassed anywhere in the world. The "Welfare state," as it has developed in the highlands, is two-pronged. On the one hand are the public Welfare programs which were born in the Depression as part of the New Deal's efforts to shore up the nation's economy and stave off revolution. Mingled with these is the giant program of the United Mine Workers of America.

The public sector of the Welfare program consists of "State Aid" and Social Security. The former, often referred to by mountaineers simply as "the Welfare," draws most of its funds from the Federal Government but is administered by the state. It provides monthly checks to indigent citizens who are (a) blind, (b) dependent children, (c) more than sixty-five years old, or (d) totally disabled. The Social Security system is, of course, administered solely by the Federal Government; it provides checks for its beneficiaries who have reached retirement age or have become disabled so they cannot work, and to the widows and other dependents of deceased workmen.

The State Aid began with the Old Age Pension system. In the grimmest years of the Depression the "superannuated" were favored with tiny pensions. Initially these modest sums rarely exceeded six dollars a month and no old couple were able to live very "high on

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