Excerpts of Remarks by Senator John F. Kennedy, Clothing Workers' Rally, Garment Section, Los Angeles, CA - (Advance Release Text)
* * * Two days ago Mr. Nixon reversed the consistent policies of 25 years of Republican leadership and issued a position paper advocating improvements in the social security system.
"During the past 25 years," Mr. Nixon said, "we have made amazing progress in making available to our citizens a sound program of social security."
We have made progress in the past 25 years - but it has not been because of Mr. Nixon and the Republican Party. For every step of that progress from the first Social Security Act to the present - every increase in benefits - every successful effort to ease the hardship of old age - has been achieved by the Democratic Party over the fierce and consistent opposition of Mr. Nixon and the Republicans.
Mr. Nixon has taken every program which he and his party have voted and fought against - and placed them in position papers - and adopted them for his own. His election week conversion to Democratic programs and away from his own record is the greatest escape act since Houdini.
But election week promises and November nostrums will not meet the urgent problems of our older citizens. They need leadership from the White House and votes in the Congress between elections - and that is just what Mr. Nixon and the Republicans have refused to give.
(1) Mr. Nixon now says that the Federal Government should end its job discrimination against those over 65 and points out that an Executive order can do the job. But for 8 years the Republicans have failed to issue any such order, and discrimination against our older citizens has continued.
(2) Mr. Nixon now says that "we must increase our investment in programs for the rehabilitation of the physically and mentally handicapped."
But in 1954, a Democratic bill to expand our rehabilitation program was defeated by Republican opposition. And during the past 6 years the Democrats have added three-quarters of a million dollars to the Federal-State rehabilitation program over Republican opposition.
(3) Mr. Nixon now says that "we must continue to improve our old-age survivors and disability programs." He calls for increasing social security coverage, studying the adequacy of benefits, and making disability payments more easily available to those over 60.
But in 1948, the Republican 80th Congress overrode President Truman's veto in order to remove three quarters of a million people from the coverage of the social security.
In 1949 Mr. Nixon himself voted to eliminate completely all disability benefits for those under 65 - and he was joined by 79 percent of his Republican colleagues. But this Republican effort was defeated because 202 out of 203 Democrats voted against it.
And in 1958 Mr. Nixon himself failed to break a tie vote on a bill to increase assistance payments to the old, the retired, and the disabled and, as a results the bill was defeated.
(4) Mr. Nixon now says that "constructive steps should be taken to provide more of our senior citizens with housing adapted to their needs."
But the direct-loan program for housing for the elderly, first proposed by the Democrats in 1958, and passed by a Democratic Congress in 1959, was opposed by the Republicans, who also opposed all authorizations for the program, and refused to request appropriations when the Democrats gave them an authorization anyway. This year the Democratic Congress appropriated $20 million for this program despite Republican opposition, but the only way to make sure that the money is used is to have a Democratic President in the White House.
(5) Finally, and most amazing of all, Mr. Nixon now says that "we must make it possible for our senior citizens to receive adequate medical services."
But this is the same Mr. Nixon who, only last spring, led the fight to defeat Democratic efforts to pass a sound program of medical aid financed through the social security system. As a result of Mr. Nixon's effort, effective medical care for the aged was defeated because only a single Republican in the Senate defied his leadership and voted for the bill.
"In all these ways," Mr. Nixon concluded, "we can surely mount a successful attack on the problems of aging and the aged."
I disagree with Mr. Nixon. For the problems of our older citizens will not be solved through position papers, through promises which the record shows are unmatched by the desire to act.
For only specific proposals backed by action will meet the problems, and the long history of the Democratic Party, as well as the voting records of the two presidential candidates, is a clear demonstration that only under the leadership of the Democratic Party can we hope to make a real progress in creating a better life for our older citizens.
I have pledged myself and my party to the immediate enactment of a program of medical care for the aged through social security - a soundly financed program without a degrading pauper's oath and with adequate benefits. And if I am elected President next Tuesday, that pledge will not be filed away with old and unmeant campaign promises; it will be at the very top of my agenda for action. For I intend to submit such a program to Congress within 30 days after I take office.
And after we move ahead in meeting the urgent medical needs of our older citizens, we will begin to deal with their needs for increased benefits, adequate housing, employment opportunities, and all the rest.
I do not have to spell out these programs in a position paper. For I have already discussed them in detail. And they are written in the record of my party - in our 25-year effort to insure dignity and a decent life to our older citizens and in the Democratic bills that were defeated, the programs that were destroyed, the promises which were frustrated by the programs that were destroyed, the promises which were frustrated by the opposition of Mr. Nixon and the Republicans and by lack of leadership from the White House.
John F. Kennedy, Excerpts of Remarks by Senator John F. Kennedy, Clothing Workers' Rally, Garment Section, Los Angeles, CA - (Advance Release Text) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/274057