In 1937 President Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) introduced the new deal reforms, which have been described as the biggest political blunder of his career
. Yet it was
fortuitous, even pivotal, importance for the fate of Social Security (Zelizer, 2000).
Notwithstanding the socio-political ramifications of the New Deal proposals in redefining American Governmental policy towards distributive social welfare, the resulting court packing proposals were constitutionally significant for highlighting the political constraints within which the executive operated. The implementation of the Social Security Act in 1935 was particularly symbolic of the constitutional conflict between government and the judiciary (Alter, 2006). Whilst the Social Security Act had been passed by Congress, the Supreme Court had yet to rule on its validity.
[...] However, whilst section 25 of the Judiciary Act 1801 expressly provided that the Supreme Court was able to reverse or affirm decisions made by the State courts if the decisions had been against claims made on the basis of the Federal Constitution; uncertainty has remained with regard to the role of the Supreme Court in American Government (Leuchtenburg, 1995). One of the most significant cases in the development of the power and role of the Supreme Court within the political framework was the decision in Marbury v Madison (1803). [...]
[...] Despite the intense controversy the court packing plan provoked, and the divided loyalties it created among the President's supporters, the legislation appeared headed for passage, when the Court itself made a seismic shift, undermining the President's momentum (Schlesinger, 1988). In March 1937, Justice Roberts changed his allegiance from the conservatives to the liberals, shifting the balance on court from 5-4 against to 5-4 in favor of the new deal legislation. In the March case, Justice Roberts voted to uphold a minimum wage law in Washington State similar to the piece of legislation he had earlier determined to be unconstitutional in New York under the New Deal proposals. [...]
[...] Roosevelt insisted it should be funded by payroll taxes rather than the general fund claiming that put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors, a legal, moral and political right to collect their pensions and unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program” (quoted in Schlesinger pp.308-309). Eventually, following moves by lower courts overturning the major parts of the New Deal program, with arguably the most serious threat coming from rulings invalidating the Agricultural Adjustment Act which used the same broad power to levy taxes for general welfare as a basis for its program of agricultural price supports and controls (Dubofsky, 1992). [...]
[...] Moreover, whilst the Supreme Court acts as a fundamental check on abuses of executive power in law making, the court packing reforms clearly redefined the political outlook of the Supreme Court, which created a seismic shift in the development of American Government in public policy. BIBLIOGRAPHY Alter, Jonathan., The Defining Moment: FDR'S Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope. (2006). Bernstein, Barton J. The New Deal: The Conservative Achievements of Liberal Reform. In Barton J. Bernstein, ed., Towards a New Past: Dissenting Essays in American History, pp. [...]
[...] American Historical Review (1973) pp.907-44 Leuchtenburg, William, E., The Supreme Court Reborn: The Constitutional Revolution in the Age of Roosevelt. Oxford University Press Lopez, Eduard, A., Constitutional Background to the Social Security Act of 1935. Social Security Bulletin, January 1987 Volume 50, No.1 pp 5-11. Manza, Jeff. Political Sociological Models of the US New Deal. Annual Review of Sociology: 2000, 26: 297-322. McCloskey, Robert. The American Supreme Court. 3rd Edition The University of Chicago Press Malamud, Deborah. Who They Are- or were: Middle class Welfare in the Early New Deal. [...]
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