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Brad Reid: Why Social Security Benefits May Be Abolished

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Brad Reid: Why Social Security Benefits May Be Abolished

Political history surrounds the power of Congress to create Social Security. Briefly, in 1923, the U.S. Supreme Court held 5:3 that a federal minimum wage law for women unconstitutionally restricted freedom of contract (Adkins v. Children’s Hospital). In the 1930s the Supreme Court initially overturned much New Deal legislation. On Feb. 5, 1937, President Roosevelt proposed legislation that would grant the President the power to appoint additional judges to federal courts, including the Supreme Court, whenever sitting judges age 70 or older refused to retire. Suddenly, a Supreme Court majority began upholding the constitutionality of New Deal legislation, including minimum wage laws. On May 24, 1937, a Supreme Court majority in two decisions upheld the power of Congress to create Social Security as a Constitutional power to tax and spend for the “general welfare” (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1) [Helvering v. Davis, 5:2], and furthermore that the unemployment compensation provisions in the legislation were permissible, also under the power to tax [Steward Machine Co. v. Davis, 5:4].