Townsend, Francis Everett

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Townsend, Francis Everett

Francis Everett Townsend (toun´zənd), 1867–1960, American reformer, leader of an old-age pension movement, b. Fairbury, Ill., grad. Univ. of Nebraska medical school, 1903. He practiced medicine in several Western states before he settled (1919) at Long Beach, Calif. In 1933, at the height of the economic depression, he produced the Townsend plan, which called for a pension of $200 per month for citizens of 60 years of age or older, on condition that the $200 be spent in the United States within a month after receipt. The funds were to be raised principally by a 2% federal sales tax. The simplicity of the proposal, the apostolic zeal of Townsend, and the organization of the Townsendites into a formidable pressure group brought increasing support for the plan despite its condemnation by competent economists. Bills to establish the Townsend plan were continually defeated in Congress after 1935, and the strength of the movement declined after the economy began to recover and the effects of social security were felt in the United States. Townsend modified a few of the provisions of his plan in the 1940s.

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