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originally, that no profession grows up without growing
pains. Well we've got 'em all right and a dash of adolescent
emotion to boot. I suspect we really are a little self-conscious
over the long pants the depression put on us. If we were
talking about anyone but ourselves we'd probably call it
over-compensation.

"My mother used to say that while naturally she loved
her children during their adolescence it was a great relief
when they grew up and it didn't take so much understand-
ing to make it possible to live with them. At least this call-
ing of ours is growing, and whether we turn out to be a
learned profession or a labor union or something in between,
the direction in which we are growing is up. Maybe when
we begin to get our growth and don't need so much under-
standing people will like us better."



172



SURVEY MIDMONTHLY



The Public Holds Its Nose



By SIDNEY HOLLANDER



THE public is thoroughly fed up with public welfare.
It is gagging because it doesn't like the taste nor the
smell of what it has had to swallow. We're lucky if
he dose is kept down until it's dieted. To make the patient
. akc more now, we'd have to tie him and force his jaws.

It's a curious phenomenon, a mass obsession that should
ntcrcst students of public psychology'. Here is our indus-
:rial structure jarred loose, humiliation and suffering all
irnund, yet the community faces the victims of depression
lot with sympathy, but with hostility and resentment,
something must be radically wrong with the social welfare
jrogram, or the method, or both.

It isn't that the American people are hard-hearted. They
support community chests, hospitals and sectarian institu-
tions. Confronted by sudden disaster fire, famine, flood
hey respond willingly even when the victims are unknown
>r in distant parts; yet in the face of an upheaval more
widespread and far more devastating, with its sufferers in
ull view, we close our eyes, our ears, our minds and our
warts.

Nor is it primarily the cost. The public is used to ex-
rravagance. Look at the billions it blows in for education,
.vithout even asking why the dear children never learn to
ipell at least not the way Webster prefers. Look at the
:heerful way it empties its jeans for a big army and navy.
(t is not greatly concerned that Washington has run up
he cost of the show five or ten times since it turned its
:heck book over. No, that isn't why it's sour on "relief."
Hut sour it is.

Ask the man in the street what he thinks of it. It won't
natter whether he is a member of the merchants' associa-
tion or a professional man, a farmer or a stevedore, you'll
sjet pretty much the same answers: "a racket of the social
workers" . . . "soft pickings for the politicians" . . . "easy
?raft for a lot of bums too lazy to work" ... "a lot of
tripe."

Business big and little is solidly against it, from the
corporation president in his paneled office to the corner
grocer. "It's run up taxes." . . . "It's increased labor un-
rest." . . . "We took better care of them with our private
:harities" . . . "They don't want to work anyhow. I offered
a job to ten of them and not one showed up." That one
rejected job never verified or questioned! And the client
with the unsuspected bank account! There's no use point-
ing to the crowded employment offices; no use mentioning
the horde that descended after a three-line advertisement for
a furnace man ; not even any use to quote from the chal-
enging article in Fortune, glorifier of business, showing all
over again that men on relief do want to work. Least use
of all to recount the stories of social workers on their daily
rounds. "Oh, those! They have to make things bad to keep
their jobs."

Does the farmer think better of it? "Don't you believe
those yarns about men wanting jobs." ... "I can't get
enough down here to help harvest the crops." . . . "Never

v it like this! Must be the relief." . . . "Who wants to
work when he can get paid for loafing?" Don't ask what
lie pays, or how long his work will last, or what happens
to the men when they're through. You might ask those on

MAY 1938



WPA or relief, though, what happened when they left to
take a temporary job, and how their families kept from
starving before they got back on the rolls.

Even labor is doubtful, less critical than employers, but
far from convinced. "Those fellows on relief have got it
easy. I work hard eight hours a day to make both ends meet,
and they get paid for sitting home reading the baseball
scores. And those fellows on road-work. I heard one of them
ask the foreman for a longer shovel ; said he couldn't lean
comfortably on the one he had." He knows better, of course ;
knows plenty of men in his own neighborhood, good work-
men eating their hearts out with nothing to do. Probably
his own wife has carried a bit of broth to some of the sick
when "subsistence budgets" had to yield to the more press-
ing appetite of the rent collector.

The man-in-the-street and the woman-in-the-home join
the chorus. "Taxes! Taxes! ! Taxes ! ! ! Taxes !!!!...
Everything we buy. . . . Everything we eat. . . . Every
place we go. ... Theaters, autos, cigarettes, dividends!
Where does it all go? I thought when we contributed
to the community chest it was to take care of those people.
Who's getting the money anyway? Is there no end to this
thing?"

That last is a poser. Is there an end?

But all this comes from one side, the side that pays the
taxes. Perhaps the disapproval of those outside the program
can be offset by a word of praise from those it has served.
They are the poor devils who have taken it on the chin for
ten years. Perhaps it's better not to ask them ; better not to
mention "Security" or "Welfare" or "Protection" to them.
Paupers' oaths! Evictions! ! Purges! ! ! They know what
the jest is worth.

Well, are there more to be heard from? Yes the social
workers, straight from the firing line. Daily, hourly, they
look on the faces of those they so often are helpless to
comfort. More tragic than material needs, the sight of
hopes fading, manhood corroding, life at the breaking
point. The skilled services of their training become a mock-
ery; their reward, a wage resented and the sneers of the
community. This, the high calling of social work ; this, the
service of man to man. Christianity in liquidation !

SO here we stand today. Long on public participation,
short on public acceptance. Next to poison ivy, public-
welfare is probably the most unpopular thing in the country
today. Possibly it ranks first; some sections don't have
poison ivy.

What's wrong? How did public welfare get in the dog
house this way?

One cause is that this country was not ready for what
hit us. We were building sun decks instead of cyclone
cellars. Wealth continued to mount ; industry to expand ;
profits and wages to increase never so rapidly as during the
years before the depression. Only the doubting Thomases
(including Norman) noted that along with this unbridled
prosperity came disquieting rumors of men out of jobs ; the
rest of us were blinded by the sunlight of prosperity. So
when the storm broke it was natural that we looked on it
merely as a temporary squall, and made only emergency

173



plans for meeting it. We were caught with neither experi-
ence nor philosophy for the tough going ahead.

We are a nation of individualists. Community thinking
and community planning are not our forte. Our views are
a mixture of laissez-faire economics with a touch of theologi-
cal seasoning, sullied neither by Marx nor Veblen. Social
work with us is an effluent from our religious background,
concerned primarily with the biblical maxims of care for
the sick, the aged and the helpless. As to employment, the
scriptures are plain. Man must eat his bread in the sweat of
his brow. Very well, no sweat, no bread! True, the Bible
isn't quite explicit as to unemployment probably just an
oversight; nothing to affect principles. So the program of
social protection developed with little attention to under-
lying industrial changes, and scant consideration of plans
for utilizing the labor of the unemployed. (John R. Com-
mons and John B. Andrews dissenting.)

Even had we known what to do when the depression
hit us, the havoc was so great that we were hard put even
to feed and shelter the victims.

IN a way, the universality of the disaster simplified the
problem. No group was spared. Under the impending
pall of common distress, rich and poor drew close together.
With banks going down like ten pins, privation became quite
respectable. Almost it looked as if the Messianic day had
arrived when men would become brothers. Outpouring of
public funds met with general approval at the start ; no
dissent even from chambers of commerce or real estate
boards which were having troubles of their own. With eyes
turned to the East, these worthies intoned their daily
prayers for salvation. But this moment of respite did not
long endure. The lion and the lamb may lie down together,
but they're not likely to be permanent bedfellows.

Conditions slowly improved, and as personal insecurity
diminished, taxes increased. Gradually, mounting indigna-
tion at the restrictions placed upon business and finance so
embittered the "upper brackets" that everything out of
Washington became an abomination, social security with
the rest. The newspapers, ever more responsive to the alarm
notes of the kingbirds than to the hungry chirpings of
sparrows, began to "view with alarm," and before long a
steady campaign of ridicule against all forms of assistance
began. Had these attacks not fallen in with the temper of
the time they would have been futile, but I think they did
so fall in. Earlier feelings of sympathy had been dulled ;
repetition of suffering had made it less dramatic. It was
necessary to relieve one's conscience by finding some justifi-
cation for jettisoning the whole mess.

One didn't have to look very hard. First, there was the
encroachment on local autonomy. "Who is this Harry Hop-
kins to tell us how to run our relief?" Federal leadership
maintained some measure of control over standards and
personnel. Feeble as it was, it prevented utter chaos, but
there's no denying it was responsible for much of the an-
tagonism that still exists.

Then there were the unpredictable vacillations and un-
certainties of the FERA program. Admit that experimen-
tation was necessary. Admit that "only reactionaries believe
that nothing should ever be done for the first time." Still,
planning must be purposeful and direction certain ; and
they were far from that.

Nor can we deny the inefficiency of performance. In num-
bers our personnel was deficient; in training, inadequate;



in leadership, scattered and uneven. The result waste,
carelessness, ineffectiveness. True, time was of the essence,
and to avert starvation it was often necessary to accept
cases without complete investigation. But explanation and
interpretation were too long delayed. Every error of judg-
ment and there were many, every case unwisely accepted
and there were plenty, was passed along as proof that the
program was rotten with inefficiency and graft, and those
on relief a bunch of chiselers. (How did we ever get along
before that word was coined?)

FINALLY, the program reeked of politics. Despite pious
protestations from the President that misery was no
field for partisan politics, ingrained habits could not so
easily be eradicated ; pickings were too rich. Surrenders for
strategic reasons were made here and there. In some com-
munities, staffs and clients were merely pawns in a political
game. The decent popular impulses, that might have con-
doned mistakes honestly made, were revolted by the rotten
spots in a program dedicated to high human purpose. In
many areas of American life, social work and social work-
ers were thus discredited and the public came to believe
that social welfare was "just another racket."

Past history? Perhaps. But it explains why, with the
present business slump, the public has so little stomach for
fresh offerings. And what is the situation today, with needs
no less urgent and nearly as great as at the peak? After
almost ten years of activity part of it forward and part in



1912 SIX SIGNIFICANT BOOKS 1937

Vocational Guidance
Listed by MARY H. S. HAYES

National Youth Administration

PSYCHOLOGY OF VOCATIONAL ADJUSTMENT, by Harry D. Kit-
son. Lippincott. 1925.

Because of the high quality of its general presentation of
the field and philosophy of vocational guidance.

PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT : PRINCIPLES, PRACTICES AND POINT OF

VIEW, by W. D. Scott and R. C. Clothier. McGraw-Hill.
Second edition, 1931.

Because of its excellent treatment of the procedures of in-
dustrial personnel administration and guidance.

VOCATIONAL GUIDANCE, a volume of the report of the White
House Conference on Child Health and Protection.
Century. 1932.

Because it represents the most comprehensive expert survey
we have of the field of guidance.
INDUSTRIAL PSYCHOLOGY, by Morris S. Viteles. Norton. 1932.

Because of its comprehensive and reliable treatment of the
use of scientific measurements in vocational guidance.

THE ADJUSTMENT SERVICE: A REPORT OF AN EXPERIMENT IN

ADULT EDUCATION, by Jerome H. Bentley and Associates.
Ten Volumes. American Association for Adult Educa-
tion. 1935.

Because of its outstanding description and appraisal of the
various phases of a guidance service, including a cost-
accounting.

1937 BOOK

UNEMPLOYMENT IN THE LEARNED PROFESSIONS, by Walter M.

Kotschnig. Oxford University Press. 1937.

Because it represents a type of study very important for
vocational guidance purposes.



174



SURVEY MIDMONTHLY



evci>e we find ourselves with an uncertain program which

lias little acceptance and less support. What are the an-

wers? Give more of the same? Nobody wants it. Let them

tarve? They won't cooperate! Throw the whole thing

Jiver ? Too much danger in that ; not for them, but for us.

Consider what has happened in other lands when million?

acked bread, and hope. We can't risk that here, especially

vith that mounting number of youn^ people emerging into

world that has no place for them five hundred thousand

.nd more each year. Here is the very fodder on which die-

ators grow great. Our little fuehrers are already in prac-

ice. Democracy has no great appeal for discouraged rebel-

ioiiN youth ; for workless and hungry men.

There's only one way out. We'll have to go back and
tart over again, and it's not going to be as easy as it was
t first. More resistances and resentments to overcome ;
icople more hardhoilt-d. Pretty phrases won't do; only facts,
.nd reasons that carry conviction. But it can be done. \\V
ran have a sound program lu-re with decent standards and
pod administration. We can get people to support it, but
irst we'll have to prove that it's worth what it costs.

We Americans can and do protect ourselves against risks
f communicable disease. We maintain police and fire de-
artments because we fear lawlessness and conflagration.
Ve pay through the nose for education (a little hazy as
what we want or get) because we know the danger to
lemocracy of ignorance. We have all these safeguards be-
ause in each community there were some who believed they
vere worth fighting for. Now the word must go forth and
jo forth again, that we cannot and must not close our eyes
o the threat of millions who lack security, who lack hope ;
hat we must accept the challenge and be prepared to pay
fohe costs, heavy though they may seem. We are paying them
iow. though we do not always identify the account on
!-vhich the checks are drawn. We can postpone the program
Ivut that only means we'll be paying for it anyway without
; -citing values in return. One way we build assets, the other
iabilities.

THIS time we must offer the public an honest program,
well planned and charted. It must be a program that
laces realities, that recognizes the fact that people must
at, whether you list them as employables or unemploy-
hli-> : that they need clothes, whether they are married or
ingle; that they must have a place of shelter, regardless
if their color; that they suffer sickness and death even
hough they may be ineligible for relief. For ten years the
'fnighty minds in both public and private welfare have been
loo concerned with great problems to face such simple
acts. For ten years they have been ostriching, not remem-
jj)ering that an ostrich's tail makes a much better target
Ijhan its head.

Any new program must be based on a clear delineation
if function and acceptance of responsibility between public
IJind private agencies on the one hand, and federal, -state and
IJocal divisions on the other. Perhaps federal assistance and
lome measure of federal control may be necessary through-
put the program. The unhappy plight of those from whom
II he mantle of Washington was withdrawn as compared to
hose it still covers shows that "neighborliness" wilts be-
neath the onslaught of resentful taxpayers. Who believes
I hat unemployment compensation, old age assistance or aid
o dependent children could have reached present propor-
U ions without federal support? With all their inadequacies,



these services shine resplendent compared to local relief.
The tragedy of unemployables unable to get relief, and
of employables rejected by WPA shows that "local auton-
omy" is but an empty phrase when used, not to accept local
responsibility, but to evade it.

The minimum requirement of any public program
should be to provide basic material needs. Even this mini-
mum is not now being met. In many places standards are
keyed to a level of chronic malnutrition ; in others, wholt
categories are denied any assistance at all. Why delude
ourselves with visions of programs of "opportunity for a
complete life" when we are not yet dealing adequately with
the problem of hunger?

I know that federal participation begets problems of its
own; but if our purpose is to afford real security and pro-
tection to the helpless these difficulties are less to be feared
than indifference and neglect.

PERHAPS a good starting point would be to scrap some
of our present absurd categories. If we have learned
anything these last few years it is the futility of hard and
fast lines. We have seen that nature refuses to accept our
dictum that senility starts on the stroke of sixty-five. We
have learned that only jobs not intake secretaries can
determine who is employable, and how. We need waste-
baskets for eligibility rules whose main service is to establish
ineligibility, and for policies that glorify the virtues of
"half a loaf" in a country where there is bread enough for
all.

The bedrock of the program must be that society can-
not avoid responsibility for those whom it maims or rejects
nor for those it leaves jobless. All of them ; not just part of
them, as now. We have reached the point where we admit
that mothers can do a better job than institutions. We re-
ject almshouses as an unworthy end for the aged. We sup-
port the blind and the crippled, but we gag at responsibility
for those whose muscles are still strong and whose powers
are still vigorous. If men are stricken physically, we hos-
pitalize them ; if they are stricken mentally, we institution-
alize them; but if they are stricken "employably" we kick
them around from pillar to post in a vain attempt to pass
the buck.

America needs a fresh slant on the whole program. Most
of all, it needs to wake up to the vast potentialities in its
unused manpower. Here is a veritable Genie, ready to
shower on the nation things everybody wants and needs,
more abundantly than would otherwise be possible. We
have been conditioned to the idea that labor is effectively
employed only when its products bring monetary gain.
Ridiculous! Labor is no less usefully employed when pro-
ducing goods or services that society needs even though
such products cannot be sold. Some dividends cannot be
cashed at the bank. Suppose the ten or twelve million un-
employed men and women could by some miracle suddenly
be placed on the payrolls of factories making paper chrysan-
themums or beaded lampshades which somebody could be
persuaded to buy, would there be any to deplore the squan-
dering of labor on the one side or the frittering of income
on the other? "Increased production means gain in national
wealth." Haven't we all heard it a thousand times? But
suggest that these same ten or twelve millions be put to
work building schools, roads, sewers, or low cost housing;
"The national income is being squandered." Use them for
teaching, for servicing libraries or playgrounds, for beauti-



MAY 1938



175



fying public buildings ; "We're headed for bankruptcy."
Let them provide recreation through theaters, or orchestras,
or dance-halls; "Pampering the inefficient." What a cock-
eyed world!

Let's start fresh. Let's view labor and the men behind
labor as a joint asset of the nation and industry, to be
drawn on according to needs. When industry is active, we
must yield to its more pressing demands. When it slackens,
that is the time to borrow some of its workers to make up
arrears in public structures and services. Men and their
labor are too precious to be wasted. Every unit can be used
to increase national wealth. Take roads as one of the
simplest examples. Every mile built benefits the whole
nation, not just those who traverse it. It cuts the cost of
distributing the products that roll over it. It increases the
usefulness of automobiles and enlarges the market for them.
It stimulates employment both in factories that make cars
and those industries that supply the materials. It makes
countless jobs for chauffeurs, gas-station attendants, oil re-
finers, workers in tire factories, hot-dog venders, scenic
desecrators, cooks and waiters in vacation resorts hundreds
of miles away. So does every useful public project add to
the welfare, the comfort or the protection of us all. We can
use many more great dams and bridges, and a limitless num-
ber of schools, hospitals, playgrounds, theaters, libraries and
training schools. Yes, and prisons, too, unfortunately.

One way or another we can and must provide work for
all who can labor, just as we must provide support for
those who cannot. Not easy to organize ; not cheap to main-
tain ; not a panacea ; but better than spending eleven bil-
lion dollars and getting only a national headache. The
country can be sold on such a program if there's leadership,
direction and unity behind it.

WE must try to prove to America that there's more
than a dollar return for every dollar the plan would
cost. Strip it of emotional appeal if you will ; admit frankly
that it's a subsidy, a subvention for national defense, like
battleships and tanks. Social security is the essence of na-
tional security. We're enlarging our program for an army
and navy to ward off a danger from without, perhaps less
menacing than the danger from within. The subsidy for
social welfare may have to be increased. We are paying sub-
sidies now for this and that and everything else. We started
our railroads that way. Industry is subsidized by tariffs ;
farmers by soil conservation payments. We subsidize our
merchant marine and our air lines. We subsidize veterans
who fought, and those who came no nearer a battle line
than Jersey City. We subsidize state universities, public
health, Indians. Our whole economic system rests on this
public participation. A subsidy for employment not un-
employment would provide increased purchasing power
for the products of industry and agriculture. Our foreign
markets have been lost and the domestic markets not ex-
panded to take up the slack; nor can they be, with mil-
lions out of work and millions more with bare subsistence
incomes. The average per capita income of the country last
year was just above $500 ; some areas were below $400, in
nine states less than $300, and remember that these averages
include the Rockefellers, the Morgans, the Mellons, and
the rest of the "60." Until increased incomes provide great-
er mass purchasing power, our factories will continue on
part time and workers must remain idle. Public works and
public services that would provide employment for all who



can labor may stimulate a demand that would restore in-
dustry to greater operation again. Many trace the present
depression to the slackening of federal expenditures last
year. America now is a twelve-cylinder car with four cut
out a drag on the rest. The whole country, except Wash-



Online LibrarySurvey AssociatesSurvey midmonthly : journal of social work (Volume 74) → online text (page 48 of 109)