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Townsend Plan

TOWNSEND PLAN

TOWNSEND PLAN, a plan for an Old-Age Revolving Pension, prompted one of the most astonishing social movements of the New Deal period. Combining the American traditions of pressure politics, reform by monetary manipulation, and evangelical utopianism, the Townsend Plan was one of the most popular of several such movements produced by the social distress and insecurity following the panic of 1929. Dr. Francis E. Townsend, the plan's originator, announced it on 1 January 1934, and speedily enrolled millions of supporters. As embodied in a bill endorsed by Townsend, the plan entitled all people sixty years of age or over who had been U.S. citizens for at least five years, to an annuity of up to


$200 a month, provided they did not earn any money, and spent all of each month's annuity, within the United States, by the fifth day of the following month. To finance the plan, advocates sought to raise $20 billion annually through a general sales tax of two percent. The plan's authors regarded it as no mere old-age pension but rather, a solution to virtually all U.S. economic ills, including budget deficits. Appealing largely to the lower middle class during a period of great social unrest, the leaders defended the profit system as central to progress and denounced tendencies toward collectivism. Its disciplined voters were instrumental in electing to Congress several outspoken opponents of the New Deal. However, Congress repeatedly rejected bills putting forth the Townsend Plan, mainly because critics, including economists, charged that such a high sales tax would cause wholesale inflation. The Townsend Plan movement died out during the beginnings of economic recovery in the late 1930s.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bennett, David H. "The Year of the Old Folks' Revolt." American Heritage 16, no. 1 (1964).

Dorman, Morgan J. Age before Booty; an Explanation of the Townsend Plan. New York: Putnam, 1936.

Mitchell, Daniel J. B. "Townsend and Roosevelt: Lessons from the Struggle for Elderly Income Support." Labor History 42, no. 3 (2001).

C. VannWoodward/m. b.

See alsoNew Deal ; Old Age ; Pension Plans ; Share-the-Wealth Movements ; Social Security .

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Townsend plan

Townsend plan: see under Townsend, Francis Everett.

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