Taken from The New Statesman 17 March 1934
York, Pennsylvania, is a manufacturing town of 75,000 inhabitants, not untypical of the industrial east of the United States. Having recently a day to spend in it, I devoted my time to visiting the institution which caters for the unemployed of the city.
York has had some 10 to 20 per cent of its total number of families wholly unemployed during the past twelve months. It is claimed that the figure is now nearer the lower than the higher limit. These citizens, some seven thousand to fourteen thousand in number, are kept alive in the following manner. An institution known as a "commissary" (no one could explain the name to me) has been established. I was shown over this institution by its manager, a Mr Schmidt. He is not a government official as he would be in England, but a retired business man, working either gratuitously or for his expenses.
The commissary is supported by Federal, State and County funds, raised by taxation. Up till a few months ago it also received money subscribed by private charities. But private charity in York has now run dry. The commissary relieves the unemployed by issuing to each family a weekly food package. These packages are made up according to the number of adults and the number of children in the family. It has been calculated that so many calories of food are necessary to sustain life in an adult, so many in a child, and precisely this amount of food, per person relieved, is provided.
The commissary employees are not permanent State or local officials, but are either amateur, unpaid, social workers, or paid an extremely low weekly wage, on a purely temporary, week to week, basis. A large staff of investigators inquire into the circumstances of every applicant's relief, in a manner very similar to the Means Test investigations in England.
I witnessed a long queue of applicants for relief coming in to get their food package. They were not actually starving, but they appeared to be on a strictly subsistence level. I was informed by a newspaper correspondent, who had been in close touch with the unemployed, that they reported that the rations were just sufficient to maintain health while they were not working. But if and when any of them obtained work on one of the road schemes, etc, in the neighbourhood, they were unable to do any serious work until they had received their first wages, and were able to buy larger quantities of food.
This commissary system appears to be typical of the whole State of Pennsylvania, but endless variations of it appear to be in existence in other parts of the United States. In many places the main source of income to the relief institutions is still private charity, and in these places the amount of food given to each applicant does not depend on the applicant's need, but on the amount of money which the relief institution has available. Thus, if there is a sudden increase in unemployment, the amount of food distributed to each family has to be at once reduced.
I inquired of the administrators of the York commissary whether the present system was intended to be a permanent one. They were not able to answer this question. While not denying that unemployment would now be a permanent feature of their community, they were unwilling to consider the question of establishing a permanent relief system. The present system has all the marks of its temporary and emergency origin. I inquired whether there were not now in the fourth winter of the depression many families who were entirely without money of any sort. I was told that practically all the families which were being regularly relieved were in this condition. I at once inquired as to what happened to the rent. I was informed that it was impossible to evict some 20 per cent of the total population of the city, and that consequently the landlords of most of the working-class property were themselves bankrupt. As a result, the remarkable phenomenon has arisen that an agitation for relieving the unemployed by money payments, for a "dole" system, had arisen from the landlords!
At the moment the unemployed themselves appear to be passive. Last February, however, when the present system of relief by food packages was instituted, there was serious rioting in the town, and the distribution of food at the commissary had to be undertaken under the guard of State troopers. Up till that time, relief had been given by means of vouchers which could be cashed at the local grocery stores, so that the unemployed were at any rate enabled to choose their own food.
After visiting the commissary, I happened to meet a young Democratic assembly man who had just been elected, from this normally Republican town, to the State legislature. Hoping to obtain the views of a representative of liberal opinion as to the system of relief, I asked him whether he had favoured the introduction of the commissary system. He replied he had been against it. I asked him why? "It brings the unemployed together too much," he said. "They live in different quarters of the city, and if you leave them where they live they can't ever get together. But if you bring them all out to one centre to feed them, they begin to talk amongst themselves, and that's dangerous." During the Great Depression of the 1930s, mass unemployment affected the industrial state of Pennsylvania more than many others.
John Strachey, a leading Marxist intellectual at the time and later a Labour government minister, visited the small town of York to see how those without wages survived. His restrained article showed how debilitating the lack of a proper support system for the unemployed was early in President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.
New Statesman Contents, April 23, 2008, 5:00pmby John Strachey, obtained via:
The following should appear at the end of every post:
According to the IRS, "Know the law: Avoid political campaign intervention":
Tax-exempt section 501(c)(3) organizations like churches, universities, and hospitals must follow the law regarding political campaigns. Unfortunately, some don't know the law.
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from participating in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. The prohibition applies to campaigns at the federal, state and local level.
Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes. Section 501(c)(3) private foundations are subject to additional restrictions.
Political Campaign Intervention
Political campaign intervention includes any activities that favor or oppose one or more candidates for public office. The prohibition extends beyond candidate endorsements.
Contributions to political campaign funds, public statements of support or opposition (verbal or written) made by or on behalf of an organization, and the distribution of materials prepared by others that support or oppose any candidate for public office all violate the prohibition on political campaign intervention.
Factors in determining whether a communication results in political campaign intervention include the following:
- Whether the statement identifies one or more candidates for a given public office
- Whether the statement expresses approval or disapproval of one or more candidates' positions and/or actions
- Whether the statement is delivered close in time to the election
- Whether the statement makes reference to voting or an election
- Whether the issue addressed distinguishes candidates for a given office
Many religious organizations believe, as we do, that the above constitutes a violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That said, we make the following absolutely clear here:
- The Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project not only do not endorse any candidate for any secular office, we say that Christianity forbids voting in such elections.
- Furthermore, when we discuss any public-office holder's position, policy, action or inaction, we definitely are not encouraging anyone to vote for that office holder's position.
- We are not trying to influence secular elections but rather want people to come out from that entire fallen system.
- When we analyze or discuss what is termed "public policy," we do it entirely from a theological standpoint with an eye to educating professing Christians and those to whom we are openly always proselytizing to convert to authentic Christianity.
- It is impossible for us to fully evangelize and proselytize without directly discussing the pros and cons of public policy and the positions of secular-office holders, hence the unconstitutionality of the IRS code on the matter.
- We are not rich and wouldn't be looking for a fight regardless. What we cannot do is compromise our faith (which seeks to harm nobody, quite the contrary).
- We render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. We render unto God what is God's.
- When Caesar says to us that unless we shut up about the unrighteousness of Caesar's policies and practices, we will lose the ability of people who donate to us to declare their donations as deductions on their federal and state income-tax returns, we say to Caesar that we cannot shut up while exercising our religion in a very reasonable way.
- We consider the IRS code on this matter as deliberate economic duress (a form of coercion) and a direct attempt by the federal government to censor dissenting, free political and religious speech.
- It's not freedom of religion if they tax it.
And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. (Matthew 17:24-26)