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Statement by the President Upon Signing the Social Security Amendments and Upon Appointing a Commission To Study the Nation's Welfare Programs.

January 02, 1968


This coming year will mark one-third of a century since social security became the law of the land.

Because of social security, tens of millions of Americans have been able to stand straighter and taller--unafraid of their future.

Social security has become so important to our lives, it is hard to remember that when it was first proposed it was bitterly attacked--much as Medicare was attacked and condemned before it came into being 2 1/2 years ago.

Today, for the second time in 30 months, I am signing into law a measure that will further strengthen and broaden the social security system. Measured in dollars of insurance benefits, the bill enacted into law today is the greatest stride forward since social security was launched in 1935.

In March, 24 million Americans will receive increased benefits of at least 13 percent. In the years to come, as the 78 million American earners now covered by social security become eligible, they will gain even greater benefits.

--For a retired couple, maximum benefits will rise from $207 to $234 and ultimately to $323 per month.

--Minimum benefits for an individual will be increased from $44 to $55 a month.

--Outside earnings can total $140 a month with no reduction in benefits.

--65,000 disabled widows and 175,000 children will receive benefits for the first time.

--Medicare benefits are expanded to include additional days of hospitalization

Combined, the Social Security Amendments of 1965 and 1967 bring an average dollar increase of 23 percent. Medicare protection amounts on the average to an additional 12 percent. This makes total increases of 35 percent in the past 30 months.

When the benefit checks go out next March, 1 million more people will be lifted above the poverty line. This means that 9 million people will have risen above the poverty line since the beginning of 1964.

Social security benefits are not limited to the poor. They go to widows, orphans, and the disabled who without them would be reduced to poverty. They relieve an awful burden from the young who would otherwise have to divert income from the education of their children to take care of their parents.

Franklin Roosevelt's vision of social insurance has stood the test of the changing times. I wish I could say the same for our Nation's welfare system.

The welfare system today pleases no one. It is criticized by liberals and conservatives, by the poor and the wealthy, by social workers and politicians, by whites and by Negroes in every area of the Nation.

My recommendations to the Congress this year sought to make basic changes in the system.

Some of these recommendations were adopted. They include a work incentive program, incentives for earning, day care for children, child and maternal health services, and family planning services. I believe these changes will have a good effect.

Others of my recommendations were not adopted by the Congress. In their place, the Congress substituted certain severe restrictions.

I am directing Secretary Gardner to work with State governments so that compassionate safeguards are established to protect deserving mothers and needy children.

The welfare system in America is outmoded and in need of a major change.


I am announcing today the appointment of a Commission on Income Maintenance Programs to look into all aspects of existing welfare and related programs and to make just and equitable recommendations for constructive improvements, wherever needed and indicated. We must examine any and every plan, however unconventional, which could promise a constructive advance in meeting the income needs of all the American people.

That Commission of distinguished Americans will be chaired by Ben W. Heineman, chairman of the board, Chicago and Northwestern Railroads. Its membership will include Messrs. Thomas J. Watson, Jr., chairman of the board, IBM Corp.; Donald C. Burnham, president, Westinghouse Electric Corp.; James W. Aston, president, Republic National Bank, Dallas, Texas; Asa T. Spaulding, recently retired president, North Carolina Mutual Life Co., Durham, N.C.; Henry S. Rowen, president, Rand Corp., Santa Monica, Calif.; George E. Reedy, Jr., president, Struthers Research and Development Corp., Washington, D.C.; Anna Rosenberg Hoffman, public and industrial relations consultant, New York City; Julian Samora, professor of sociology, University of Notre Dame; Robert M. Solow, professor of economics, MIT; Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, partner, law firm Bell, Hunt, Hart and Brown; and David Sullivan, general president, Building Service Employees International Union, New York.

Over the last third of a century in America we have proved that people who earn their living can make their lives better and more secure if they divert part of their incomes to protect themselves from the twists of fortune that face all men. Our challenge for the coming years is to see if we can extend that same human insurance and human dignity to persons who are not able to buy their own protection. Our challenge is to save children.

Note: As enacted, the Social Security Amendments of 1967 (H.R. 12080) is Public Law 90-248 (81 Stat. 821).

Major advances in social security and Medicare achieved by the 1965, 1966, and 1967 Social Security Amendments are summarized in a January 3 memorandum to the President from John W. Gardner, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. The text of the memorandum is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol.
4, p. 32).
The statement was released at San Antonio, Texas.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing the Social Security Amendments and Upon Appointing a Commission To Study the Nation's Welfare Programs. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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