July 13, 1933
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
I write to ask your assistance in securing an old age pension for my mother Mrs. Martha Gilbert. She is helpless, suffering from Sugar Diabetes, which has affected her mind. She has to be cared for in the same manner as an infant. She is out of funds completely. [Her husband died in 1920] Her son whom she used to keep house for is in a hospital in Waco, Texas -- no compensation for either himself or her. I am a widow; have spent all my savings in caring for her. I have kept boarders and roomers in a private home to keep my four children for I have always been a lady; this is why I appeal to you to place your dear mother in my dear mother's place -- With no money and no place to go unless it be to the poor house. I cannot rent my rooms now for she demands constant care and attention. Please do something about this request as soon as possible. She will be 82 years old on August 9.
Yours truly, Mrs. M. A. Zoller Sr.
Stories like this one are behind our nation’s long-standing commitment to help those who cannot help themselves. This social safety net now faces the most threatening assault ever launched on programs designed to protect the most vulnerable in our society. Have we forgotten why the programs exist?
The social safety net is a set of federal, state and local programs that provide to those in our society who need help—anyone facing extended illness, old age, infirmity, the unexpected misfortune of unemployment, disability, or the death of a wage earner.
Most of us rely on one or more of these programs during our lives—not always aware of their origins. Our nation created each program after recognizing a desperate need. Individual passion and mass protest are key parts of this long history. FDR’s New Deal legislation created the social safety net we trust today, though precedents go back much further.
ALL are currently under attack.