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How Much Did the First-Ever Social Security Check Pay Out?

May 14, 2019 in History

By Christopher Klein

Over her lifetime, the first Social Security recipient received nearly 1,000 times what she paid into the system…but the first check was modest.

Little did Ida May Fuller know she would find a piece of history inside her mailbox when she opened it on a February day in 1940. When the 65-year-old retiree and lifelong Republican lifted the lid of the mailbox outside the front door of her Ludlow, Vermont, house, she found a check for $22.54 from the U.S. government.

That check dated January 31, 1940, was the first payout from the Social Security program that had been enacted five years earlier by the federal government during the Great Depression.

A 1935 government poster introducing social security checks.

The Social Security program is one of the most enduring legacies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. The measure provided for compensation to the unemployed and payments to retirees over the age of 65 who contributed payroll tax deductions during their working years. “The civilization of the past hundred years, with its startling industrial changes, has tended more and more to make life insecure. Young people have come to wonder what would be their lot when they came to old age,” Roosevelt said when he signed the Social Security Act into law on August 14, 1935.

A descendant of Mayflower passengers, Fuller was born in 1874 on a farm outside Ludlow. After working as a school teacher for a dozen years, she attended business school and then worked as a legal secretary at a Ludlow law firm for 24 years before her retirement in November 1939.

Shortly after retiring, Ludlow dropped in at a Social Security office in nearby Rutland, Vermont, while doing errands and completed an application. “It wasn’t that I expected anything, mind you,” she recalled, “but I knew I’d been paying for something called Social Security and I wanted to ask the people in Rutland about it.”

When the first Social Security check—numbered 00-000-01—arrived at her house a little more than two months later, Fuller didn’t even notice the unique check number. “When I got my first check, I didn’t even stop to look at the number on it,” she told a reporter. “I just cashed it. I wanted the money.” Not until five years later did she learn that she received the first benefits payment under the Social Security …read more


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Statue of Liberty: The Making of an Icon

May 14, 2019 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

It took grassroots efforts to raise the funds and ultimately build the colossal monument in New York Harbor that has come to symbolize freedom around the world.

The Emma Lazarus wrote a poem, “The New Colossus,” which was read at a fundraising art exhibition in 1883. (Two decades later, it was inscribed on a bronze plaque on the inner wall of the pedestal.) Lazurus’ stirring plea to “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” helped to make the statue more than just a celebration of American democracy, by linking it with the waves of immigrants arriving in America in the late 1800s, and their aspirations for a better life.

Men in a workshop hammering sheets of copper for the construction of the Statue of Liberty, circa 1883.

“Laboulaye uses America as a symbol of good things. He sees Bartoli as the tool by which he can achieve his aim of giving a gift,” Barry Moreno, historian and curator for the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, says in the “Raising the Torch” podcast.

When even those heroic fundraising efforts weren’t enough, Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the tabloid New York World, came to the project’s rescue. Pulitzer ran a March 1885 article in his newspaper, which prodded readers into contributing more money for the base by pointing out that the statue itself had been paid for by “the masses of the French people—by the working men, the tradesmen, the shop girls, the artisans—by all, irrespective of class or condition.” Americans had to do their part as well, Pulitzer exhorted, and it worked. The newspaper was able to raise $100,000 to complete the project, most of it in donations of $1 or less.

But while the campaign to finish the pedestal—in some ways, an early version of today’s GoFundMe campaigns—required hustle, it ultimately helped Americans to feel a sense of ownership and connection to the statue, even though it had been created on the other side of the Atlantic.

As Magnuson-Cannady, supervising ranger for the National Park Service tells the “Raising the Torch” podcast, “The Statue of Liberty was really of the people in that the people of the United States and the people of France…not the super wealthy, not the super powerful—it was everyday folks contributing to the fundraising efforts and paying for the Statue of Liberty and the pedestal.”

The …read more


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The Central Park Five

May 14, 2019 in History

By Editors

In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem were convicted of raping a white woman while she was jogging in New York City’s Central Park. The Central Park Five served between six and 13 years before their convictions were vacated in 2002.

When Trisha Meili’s body was discovered in New York City’s Central Park early in the morning on April 20, 1989, she had been so badly beaten and repeatedly raped that she remained in a coma for nearly two weeks and retained no memory of the attack.

The , of the attack. “Her skull has been fractured, and her eye will later have to be put back in its place. … There is extreme swelling of the brain caused by the blows to the head. The probable result is intellectual, physical, and emotional incapacity, if not death. Permanent brain damage seems inevitable.”

With the attack occurring during a particularly violent era in New York City—1,896 homicides, a record at the time, took place a year earlier in 1988—police officers were quick to find somewhere to point the blame.

An April 21, 1989 story in the New York Daily News reported that on the night of the crime, a 30-person gang, or so-called “wolf pack” of teens launched a series of attacks nearby, including assaults on a man carrying groceries, a couple on a tandem bike, another male jogger and a taxi driver. Then, the News reported “at least a dozen youths grabbed the woman and dragged her off the path through heavy underbrush and trees, down a ravine toward a small body of water known as The Loch. It was there, 200 feet north of the transverse, that she was beaten and assaulted, police said. ‘They dragged her down like she was an animal,’ one police official said.”

According to New York magazine, police told reporters the teens used the word “wilding” in describing their acts and “that while in a holding cell the suspects had laughed and sung the rap hit ‘Wild Thing.’”

A ‘Media Tsunami’

The crime was splashed across front pages for months, with the teens depicted as symbols of violence and called “bloodthirsty,” “animals,” “savages” and “human mutations,” the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism and research organization, reports.

Newspaper columnists joined in. The New York Post’s Pete Hamill wrote that the teens hailed “from a world of crack, welfare, guns, knives, indifference and ignorance…a …read more


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Protecting Faith in a World Filled with Religious Persecution and Repression

May 14, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The Easter bombings in Sri Lanka offered a reminder both
dramatic and tragic that religious minorities suffer brutally
around the world. What made that instance unusual is that members
of a minority faith, Muslims, targeted members of another minority
faith, Christians. The more usual persecutors in Sri Lanka are
Buddhist nationalists, who routinely target both Christians and

But Sri Lanka is not considered to be one of the world’s
worst examples of religious repression. In many nations government
restriction combines with social hostility to make life
extraordinarily difficult for those who believe differently. The
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has just
released its latest report on religious liberty around the

The Commission highlighted 33 countries or other entities for
their uniquely harsh treatment of people of faith. Talking about
“religious liberty” has an ivory tower quality to it.
But whether members of minority faiths are free typically has a
huge impact on their daily lives: discrimination, harassment, and
persecution, often violent, are a constant for many people.

The Easter bombings in
Sri Lanka offered a reminder both dramatic and tragic that
religious minorities suffer brutally around the world.

USCIRF cited 16 nations as “countries of particular
concern.” That means systematic, ongoing, egregious
violations” of religious freedom. Five non-state actors were
rated as “entities of particular concern.” Following
slightly behind were 12 countries placed on the Commission’s
Tier 2 list, meaning they met one or two of the three tests for CPC

The 16 worst nations are Burma/Myanmar, Central African
Republic, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan,
Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan,
Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. The five terrible entities are
Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (Syria), Houthis (Yemen), Islamic State
(Syria and Iraq), al-Shabab (Somali), and Taliban (Afghanistan).
The slightly less bad persecutors are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan,
Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos,
Malaysia, and Turkey.

There are two broad categories of persecutors. The most
important are Islamic, mostly in Muslim majority states. The
genesis of violence in 10 of 16 and five of five resulted from
Islam. Seven of the 16 are communist or former communist (the three
Central Asian states are both Muslim and communist, though in this
case the latter factor likely predominates). Burma is
Buddhist/authoritarian. Eritrea is generic totalitarian, if such a
thing can exist. Nine of the 12 Tier 2 are Muslim. Four are
communist or former communist (the two Central Asian nations are
both but lean communist on persecution). India is majority

In only two of the 33 named are Christians also persecutors.
Central African Republic is majority Christian and politics is
entwined with the religious violence; there has been Christian
retaliation against Muslim …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Mayor Pete's Sister Souljah Moment

May 14, 2019 in Economics

By Walter Olson

Walter Olson

Even before reading what Pete Buttigieg said against identity politics, I was already
impressed that he went to the Human Rights Campaign to say it. HRC,
“the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and
queer civil rights organization,” is after all the House That
Identity Politics Built.

On one level, his comments critical of identity politics turned
out to be pretty mild. Barack Obama has said most of the same
things in slightly different words. It’s not as if Andrew
Sullivan, Christina Hoff Sommers, or Claire Lehmann were
ghostwriting his lines.

And what Buttigieg did say was interspersed with themes and
language gratifying to social justice enthusiasts. He endorsed the
sweeping Equality Act, which would federalize Main Street
public-accommodations disputes while whittling down religious
exemptions. He mentioned Stonewall and Harvey Milk. He even
acknowledged his own “privilege.” (Though he left
ambiguous the extent to which this referred to his white male-ness
as distinct from, say, the fortunate path traced by his education
and career.)

It will be interesting to
see whether Buttigieg has opened up space to move toward the center
which makes it possible for others to follow.

And yet the South Bend mayor immediately began taking flak for
his HRC remarks from some social justice advocates, not a few of
whom had already been caustic critics of his candidacy. They could
detect from his choice of words that he is not 100 percent on board
with their prescribed line—maybe not even 80
percent—and worse still, he is not afraid to say so.

One of his lines drawing fire is on the “my truth, your
truth” notion (“standpoint epistemology,” in the
jargon). Or as it might be put more aggressively: “we
[members of a marginalized identity] are the only authorities on
our experience.”

His response? That’s “true as far as it goes but it
doesn’t get us very far.” To you or me, that might read
like a platitude. To many on the identitarian left, it comes off as
dire wrongthink: after some point that is not “very
far” down the road, he intends to steer us all onto some
other discourse in which identity is not a trump card. This
doesn’t deny our subjective truth as marginalized
individuals, exactly, but it does tend to dethrone it as The Truth
of all truths.

Another example: Buttigieg’s comments were critical of
what he forthrightly calls “white identity politics.”
Again, a truism from one perspective, and forcefully stated too.
But to some on his left, this will be seen as an attempt at false
equivalence. Raising the idea that white and minority identity
politics can resemble each other is deeply problematic …read more

Source: OP-EDS