thumbnail of What must be done; Aid for the Needy
Hide -
This transcript was received from a third party and/or generated by a computer. Its accuracy has not been verified. If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+.
Hello my name is Percy Sutton. I'm the president of the bow of Manhattan in the city of New York. For the next 30 minutes I'll be moderating a different kind of panel program. It is run of a series called must be done. The title of these programs what must be done has two meanings. First it poses a demand for urgent solutions to America's greatest problem the crises of their urban ghetto and the black community. But it also refers to what can be done and what must be done by you the listener because nothing stimulates action as effectively as the demand of an Arabist population. This series of programs takes as a point of departure. The award winning issue of Newsweek magazine published last November the 20th on the Negro in America. Today's topic is aid for the needy. The members of our panel are major IRA only ends commission of the Community Development Agency. New York City Human Resources Administration Dr. George Riley executive
director National Welfare Rights Organization of Washington D.C. Mr. Elia Carter deputy director of the nation urban coalition ourselves Washington D.C. And Mr. Elliot the editor of Newsweek magazine. Now I should turn the microphone over to Mr. Elliott the editor of Newsweek magazine who will lead today's discussion left. Well Newsweek started its project on the Negro in America what must be done. Obviously one of the major areas of interest was the extent of poverty in the black community. The statistics are staggering. We discovered that more than 40 percent of the nation's 22 million negroes are officially classed as poor. And these nine point six million people only a third are receiving help of any kind and the help that is offered to settle. What this adds up to is a deep black depression all of it unseen in the
gaudy affluence of white America. There are a lot of long term programs that have been talked about on these programs and others having to do with jobs education housing and other things. But it seems to me that today's object of discussion has to do with the clear and present fact of this extraordinary and horrible poverty in black America. And of course one of the first and most pressing solutions to this is some manner of welfare. We know are saddled with a welfare system around this country which is highly inequitable. It ranges from almost nothing in some southern state to a pittance in other northern states and cities. And we're here to discuss today among other things what can be done to make to
reduce poverty immediately. And one. Our subject is how the current welfare system can be reformed or replaced. To do so now I'd like to ask Mr. Carter who until recently has been assistant secretary of the AGW Department in Washington in charge of welfare specifically to address himself to this this program. To this this problem and to kick it off and that Mr. Carter Well I want to thank you but I want to also say that I don't think I was in charge of welfare I'm not sure anybody's in charge of it but I certainly was very much concerned with the kinds of policies and programs that were being developed from a legislative point of view and the ministry the pages that exist in front of it.
I think that there is one thing that people of every spectrum of opinion an income level are agreed upon in the country but not think anything about it at all and that is that the welfare program. Is inadequate. Yeah but and is unsatisfaction. I think that there will be differences as to why they think is on satisfactory and I therefore can only sum up briefly the reason I think in some satisfactory as a beginning I'm sure George why I use here and of course things and I converse every day with a good deal. Add to that. But basically as you pointed out it doesn't provide an adequate level of support for the people who are being helped by it anywhere in the country north or south. And the variations in payments range from approximately the same the aid found in children program
$9 a per person in the family in Mississippi per month up to about 60 dollars per person in New York City. Why what is this terrific variation. Why does that happen. Because there is no provision in the law that requires the state to pay any particular level of public assistance. It does require that the state terminate. What the need for a family would be in our I mean level of need but then does not require that they pay that minimum level. There was a recommendation by the ministration that that provision be written into the law that recommendation was rejected by Congress when it acted on the welfare amendments in the last session of the Congress. And
we never were a very significant problem a welfare program is that only helps certain people even as poorly as it helps any it only hurt. Help some that is very broadly speaking it helps the aged the disabled the blind and for all to children in families where the male figure the principal breadwinner is absent from the family according to our figures. This comes to only about one in three of those officially classified as poor and Israel help the total is about 1 in 3. What's even worse about that is Dr. Levy whether you were asked about that is that there are probably at least as many of the as the 8 million that are helped by welfare at least as many people who are eligible. We find it at least as many people eligible who are getting no assistance at all because of the way the programs are administered. And because we feel the programs are designed not really to help as many people or as need help
but really to save as much money as possible and to deny help to as many people as possible so the whole premise of the program is not to help people and not to provide an income support but really to help as few people as you can possibly get away with. Commissioner Owens who handles all the way the war on poverty funds that come in the New York City uses the key man in the city of New York to deal with these federal funds and I ask you commissioner whether you agree with his premises. And if so why is that the case. I agree with the premise and I think that the whole approach to welfare in this country is has been the cheapest possible approach. They're not really concerned with how many people get help they're concerned with how can they pretend. How can they maintain the facade of being a humane society and yet spend as little money as possible and I think that the basic way to help people and I hesitate to
use the phrase help people because I think the basic tenant reaction program and that's what I'm saying what is most fundamental is to get people to the point where they are able to help themselves in this complex society of ours. And by help themselves I mean they're able to build institutions and organizations and pressure for what is due to their mess as individuals and as citizens of a very rich country and with the Community Action Program attempts to do this by developing leaders and by the doping organizations and institutions among the poor which can fight a battle for the poor and get them to have their piece of the pie or in this society of ours which is quite rich and which could provide a decent life for everybody well when you give us a specific example of a community Community Action Program. We're an institution that has been built for the S.A.T. approach while terms of institutions being built. The Community Action Program had not been in existence long enough to really
accomplish very much of that but it's on the way to doing that for instance and in certain communities here in New York City we have community corporations which are organizations funded with only your funds. But they are private corporations they really are free to receive funds from any sources. They have their own board of directors which are composed of two thirds poor people in most cases they can receive funds from any sources they can raise their own funds in some cases they have large our own belly a focal point for starting cooperatives for starting credit unions. There are two credit unions in the city going out which will start it with all your funds for starting their own community chess forums. There are a couple of private enterprises that have started not with all your funds but with a collection of people that were brought together by the Community Action Program. These kinds of things where you develop leadership that leadership lodges out to develop the kinds of institutions and pressure organizations which will be able to lead the poor. And what is really the crucial battle is about to get the government to
provide for all of its citizens. I'm a great supporter of Community Action Program. We believe that is the contribution of citizen participation the notion that citizens all have a say in matters that affect them it is pervaded far beyond the poverty program now really fundamental contribution to American society. But I can't subscribe to the view that community action can be a substitute for a basic money support. Under the under the social structure of the society. Well what we're talking about is this extraordinary situation where the richest country in the world somehow manages to live with the worst poverty in the industrial world. Can I can I add. And it seems to me it seems unbelievable to me that that this nation of ours which is
the richest in the world simply has not been able to solve its poverty program the way the rest of the industrial world. You know I think you doctor where you have writing up one of the best examples of a community action institution is the National Welfare Rights Organization and the locals the 200 or more local organizations that make it up and. War on Poverty in the community action programs around the country have contributed staff and resources and assistance to local to the development of local welfare rights organizations and the fact that you have something like 75 or 80 strong welfare rights organizations in New York that have been pressuring and demanding that welfare in New York City be become responsible to the needs of the citizens in the York. You had this all over the country but in a sense it's been much more well developed than New York much more sophisticated much more organized than organized pressure of poor
people which in part has been assisted by the community action programs OIO poverty workers in the neighborhoods has given rise to. Partly to the beginning recognition by the society that they have to deal with these problems you have for example in New York City. If you just in the last few weeks the talk about going over to a flat grant system in the state something beginning to reach out toward a guaranteed annual income it's not really a guaranteed annual income but it's a move in that direction to provide a higher floor. And that's because the clients have been demanding that all of the things that they are entitled to under this law under state welfare law which is very awkward and converse some but which provides for certain basic necessities that it spells out criers have been demanding that they be given those things and under that pressure there is pressure for reform that comes about a pressure for reform of the system. So I think just because our
society is rich it is it has shown no capacity to accommodate to any of the needs of the new groups of people who have needed assistance of this of the government who have needed who have needed help who needed programs of subsidy of support. It is only responded when those groups have put pressure on the government when they have organized when they have demanded it. And it is that kind of organization that the National Welfare Rights Organization and the welfare rights movement represents a lot for the first time for poor people back for a minute to the welfare structure in this country. Mr. Carter mentioned a few minutes ago that the. Basis of payments to Dependent Children in Crisis to be was $9 a month. And in New York City dollars a month. And this tremendous discrepancy obviously must generate a name and migration
from the cell to the urban areas where it is discovered that the welfare payments. Are not sufficient even though there are a lot greater. And I don't talk about the structure of this welfare system from that and the the fact that in most states I believe that when somebody on welfare begins to get paid for a job being done his welfare is reduced by the amount of money that he makes in his job. This is been called a hundred percent income tax on earned income. Would you gentlemen address yourself for that. Right on from the first point I want to read I start off by saying nobody's in charge of your welfare is precisely because you do have 50 different welfare programs. In the country each state has its own welfare program and that's the way the program was set up.
I think one of the things that we ought to recognize is that in the period of 30 odd years since the welfare program started receiving federal support the whole picture has changed quite radically in the country. And this contributes to the problem that we're facing in the 30s when the welfare program was first adopted for the children who were involved or had died really of the originally the idea was to get women out of the labor market because of the very considerable. On unemployment which you know prevailed in the 30s at that time women working had not been a general style in this country. But of course with the with the growth of the depression this became more and more mandatory and quite often women could find
jobs when men couldn't find jobs. So that the pressure was to get women out Lake market to find jobs for men now the whole picture has changed. The constituency the welfare population has changed and the lifestyle in the country has changed so that women are now very heavily in the labor market you know relatively high income levels. Meanwhile the welfare program have not changed in to meet these new facts in order to beat the factors or to point out the needs of poverty population today. Now I'm convinced that strongly contributing the reason that not just the twin. Problems of racism in the country and our continued belief our self image of individual ism. We have we don't have the kind of sense of community in which you crime prevailing in
most European country where they don't vary widely broadly with social problems where you always have a feeling in this country rightly or wrongly the so-called Puritan or Protestant ethic that work for a day that way. But that's one of the roots of individualism Yeah right. Well earnings as happened you mention people got coming from the south to the north you have a whole that the as Carter points out the these welfare programs are set up by the states. It wouldn't be that way because our country is large enough there's so much mobility now that there ought to be a federal system. But this these are set up by the states in the federal government has not assume the responsibility of setting minimum standards setting what the criteria for the programs ought to be for income support ought to be. They want to do that they have not they refused to. The states then go along the southern states just have a stranglehold on the black people there. They have
denied them education they have starved them out of the state they have denied them jobs they have and they have welfare programs that are totally inadequate for people to live. It has been an extension and it has been used as a way of maintaining a cheap supply of labor by keeping the grant levels low and small wonder it is that people migrate to the north they don't migrate enough in search of better welfare. Because let me say nobody knows about. There is so little known about welfare there is so little information out about how you get it and what the standards are. The people don't know that welfare is better in New York. They come to New York where they come than Detroit or Chicago in search of jobs in search of a better opportunity. But when those jobs don't exist when they are herded into ghettos under substandard conditions they find many times that turning to welfare is the only way they have to support themselves. I say that one of the basic things we have to do for poor people when the basic things we have to do about the race problem this country is provide a guaranteed minimum income and a high
enough level and universally applied to everybody. This should be a over $4000 a year for a family of four with a sliding scale. It should be. Want a Mac simply administered by an affidavit system rather than by lengthy investigations. There should be a work incentive built in so that if people begin to turn a little money build on their work incentive is really simple I say that the first thousand dollars of income. Say that anybody makes a year over an is is free and clear that is deductible as not that is tax free and you cannot tax your payments or whatever you don't get the reduced That's right and then after the first thousand I say the second thousand that I want to be taxed at say a 50 percent rate that of course we are doing harm is so so so simple you know you don't have to have a Ph.D. like George to figure out the thing I want to stress is that the real At the root of the failure of the American society to deal with the problem of the poor is racism in other
countries the poor are the same color as the people who run the government and who run the institutions the country the power structure the same colors of poor the failure to deal with it is rooted in our racism here not caring about those people who are poor partially because they're also black. Which goes back all he Visible Man can see. It's more at a time when we have had three summers a racial turmoil and rebellion in our cities. We have had the Congress the United States just passed a series of extremely regressive welfare measures. The Commission on Civil disorders was just in the process of formulating a report pointing to welfare as one of the basic problems because it is one of the largest government aid programs in the ghetto and the Congress has just put great restrictions on the welfare program freezing the federal assistance to children in the aid to defend Families with Dependent Children program where parents are absent trying to force mothers to leave their children and go to
work and putting a lot of harassment and penalties on if a mother refuses to accept worker training or anybody for that matter any adult but particularly aimed at mothers and putting more restrictions on the unemployed parent program and adding in numerable other detailed regulations which make which are going to make the investigations more lengthy and the whole process more onerous. This is been done at a time when everybody is talking about reform is talking about guaranteed annual income. The Congress of the United States Wilbur Mills who is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee Russell Long was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. The Congress United States simply is living in another century. We have the most racist the most reactionary people who are control the most powerful instruments of our government. How do you know the main people have to understand they're accepting for the moment your promise. How do you think that can be changed. You have to begin in the white community as was pointed out in the Raj Commission Report where you're going to be done it has to be done by white middle class community
which really controls the institutions decide who goes to the House of Representatives and who goes to the Senate. People have to mobilize and do something about what's going on in the society because in the final analysis as George has just pointed out the Congress decides whether or not we're going to deal with a listicle with these problems or not and they have highlighted that they would rather beef up and finance better police departments than to come to grips with the root causes of riots as mentioned in the riot Commission report. Each person who is listening or to come to grips with the problem by deciding that he's going to spend some of his time writing to his congressman or leading delegations or going on delegations are forming organizations which on a regular basis deal with problems which don't affect them necessarily on the block which will affect their children which don't affect their immediate lives but are basic in terms of affecting our total society. There's a Martin Luther King coalition in Brooklyn for instance which is primarily an organization led and founded by white people and I think it
like it that way because they are directing the energies of white people toward problems of poverty and that how those problems are formulated sometimes they write to congressmen to get the job. The bill that was up before Congress went for more jobs. We had a poverty program for housing. Not only is there something the White citizens can do because they really have the power. What would you say the problem is complicated by the current urge towards separatism among a large for the black community. I agree with you that the Congress is the instrument of change here. But is it not true that we are in a we're we are certainly in a political year now where the prospects are for a more conservative Congress being elected next November than otherwise and that now exist there and is this whole process being complicated by the the urge to
separatism of the more I would speak to that in part I think that some of the most powerful force for change is going to come out of the black community and out of the poverty community I think is going to come in one of a variety of ways not the welfare rights movement has been trying to create a pressure through construct it through. I should say the processes of government I want to say say constructive. Say through protests through demonstrations through the political process. We have been we have been pressing for change. We have been organizing a pressure group and I think the initial pressure for change has to come out of those communities. One of our tactics is simply to show the inadequacies of the system and to show the creek innocent creepiness of this welfare system by demanding everything that we that welfare recipients are entitled to under it by pressing for fair hearings by pressing their rights for redress of grievances and by forcing it forcing the system to the wall in a sense
administratively and economically. And we think that that the other people in the community for example in New York thats going to feel a tremendous strain from the money that with the local money tax money that the welfare system is going to cost them. The other people are going to see it in their interest to begin to press for a federalized welfare system. The other thing thats going to happen though and I think this is going to come out of black nationalists and black separatists is that the black people in the ghettos are going to more and more. See that. Their interest as we've seen in the past are going to more and more. Tend to dissociate themselves from the society because the society has not served them well and I think you have more people throwing bricks and bombs and burning Idid are going to be more selective in your target I mean there's going to be more. He was agitated all this at the same time the commission Owens's saying that the real the real route to black power is in green power and white power
through the Congress of the United States lives on the white power is going to move until the black power forces there like all the poor power force. I think it's very easy to spend a lot of our substance argue this issue of separatism. And so forth I think with these two things are going to go on. We're going to have increasing insistence on the part of the black community that they have a brief share power and great pressure for that at the same time. The white community is either going to begin to deal seriously with the social issues or is going to move toward some form of repression and that the choices are there. And it seems to me the society has got to make nice choices without getting hung up on arguments about Black Sabbath and we've added black separatism here for all these many years of him enforced by segregation and racism and the like it seems to me that a major
on is exactly on target that we've got to get the white middle class suburban community has got to realize what's at stake here. And at the same time George is absolutely right too in the sense that there is going to be greater insistence and push for political power and I know Major that we are one of the hopefuls or pollsters. This country is getting better educated every year. Education tends to bring greater affluence to curiously and a greater acceptance of change and I think there are at least some of the hope for some of these problems. Thank you very much gentlemen. Ladies and gentlemen this concludes today's edition of WHAT MUST BE DONE. Our panelists were Major Owens the commission of the Community Development Agency of the New York City Human Resources Administration Dr. George Riley
executive director of the National Welfare Rights Organization of Washington D.C. And Mr. Lyall caught our deputy director of the National Urban coalition are rushing to D.C. The discussion today was led by Mr. Osbon Elliot the editor of Newsweek. Please listen for the next program in this series. When we look about another aspect of America's urban crisis and what must be done to stop it what must be done was created and produced by Sam chase ally B Radio in New York with the cooperation of Newsweek magazine. I'm Percy Sutton saying thank you for our panel this program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
What must be done
Aid for the Needy
Producing Organization
WLIB (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-b853kd3z).
Series Description
For series info, see Item 3635. This prog.: Aid for the Needy. Osborn Elliott; Major Owens, New York City Human Resources; Dr. George Wylie, director, Poverty Rights Action Center
Social Issues
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: WLIB (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-37-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:01
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “What must be done; Aid for the Needy,” 1968-11-23, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 21, 2024,
MLA: “What must be done; Aid for the Needy.” 1968-11-23. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 21, 2024. <>.
APA: What must be done; Aid for the Needy. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from