By 1932, 17 states had adopted an old age pension plan and they claimed it was cheaper in the long run than the poorhouse plan. Now, Missouri voters elected to pass a proposed amendment to the state constitution to permit the legislature to pass a law to provide a pension for the aged. It was also looked on favorably because it would make these seniors feel more worthy than going to the poorhouse.
At this time, there were 10 million unemployed men and it was believed four million of this number had reached the age they wouldn’t be taken back into industry. These men had to have a way to provide for their families. Many elderly people were still married and this new measure would allow them to stay together and keep their self respect. A great lapse of time would pass before the plan would become law.
In 1933, our government came up with a plan to help the elderly by means of old age assistance. One of the bills declared the state and the county would share equally the cost of the pensions. Another bill stated the pensions would be paid from luxury taxes, cigarette taxes, cosmetics, etc.
Most people favored the plan because it provided senior citizens 70 years or older who had an income less than $25 per month with a pension, provided they didn’t own property valued at more than $3,000. Not more than $25 would be allowed in any one case. However, the government claimed they had a shortage of money and it was possible the money might be put off until July 1935. It was suggested our governor appoint a commission of five to study methods of financing the pensions.
In March 1933, the house sent a bill to the Senate concerning the pension and it passed with a vote of 103 to five.
People 70 years or older were to be paid $10 a month. Two of it’s stipulations were:
1. An applicant must have resided continuously in the state for15 years, or a total of 25 years, at least 10 of which must have been continuous immediately receiving the application.
2. Assistance would not be granted to persons if the value of their property exceeded $1,000, if married and not separated from husband and wife, or if the value of the property owned by a husband and wife exceed $1,500.
In 1934, the old age pension was still being discussed. Two positive things that would originate from it was the fact it would give an income to the elderly who where not as productive as they once were, and would remove many workers from the work force and give their jobs to the younger and jobless workers. Mrs. R.B. Harper of Sheridan township suggested a plan that would restore the county to a prosperous financial condition, and had hopes to organize a club in Daviess County. Her husband, a retired physician, Dr. F.E. Townsend, had been responsible for writing the bill. Four of it’s provisions were:
1. They could not engage in any further labor, business, or professional gain.
2. They would take an oath to, and actually spend, within the confines of the United States, the entire amount of their pensions within 30 days of receiving it.
3. They must have the National Government create a revolving fund by levying a general sales tax. The rates were to be just high enough to produce the amount necessary to keep the Old Age Revolving Fund adequate to pay the monthly expenses.
4. Have the act so drawn that such sales tax could only be used for the Old Age Revolving Pension Plan.
— researched by Wilbur Bush, Gallatin