My Day [Excerpt]

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My Day [Excerpt]

24 November 1945

Hyde Park, Friday—I have signed today an endorsement of President Truman's health message.2 There is only one point that seems to me not quite to coincide with our practice in other things. For instance, you do not pay school taxes only up to a certain percentage of your income. You pay taxes according to the size of your income. Furthermore, no matter what your income may be, you can send your children to public school, and it seems to me that the same should apply in the case of these new health services. The proposed tax is to be four per cent on incomes up to $3600 a year. No matter how much income we have, only that amount, apparently, is taxed for this plan; and only people with that income, or less, are expected to make use of it.

Unless the health needs of the people as a whole can be met by this tax on a portion of the national income, it would seem to me entirely fair to expect to be taxed in proportion to our income, just as we are taxed for education. In some places the school tax may be based on real estate instead of income, but at least everyone pays the same ratio to his possessions. It seems to me that those of us who have more income or more land, whichever the basis of the tax, should pay regardless of whether we use the health plan or not—on the theory that all citizens are entitled to take advantage of any plan which is for the good of the citizens in general. If they do not take advantage of it, that is their choice.

This does not seem to me to have anything whatever to do with socialized medicine;3 and I am particularly glad that the proposed plan recognizes the need for giving help to our medical schools, since research and education are essential to keeping up the standards of medical care. This may make it possible for young doctors to work in rural communities, where medical care has been very inadequate in the past.

Medical practice is so varied in a rural community that it probably would give invaluable experience to any young man who was willing to put in up to five years in doing this kind of work. It is probably the most exacting kind of work that can be done, and yet it might reach for the first time sections of our country which, from the health point of view, have been almost totally neglected in the past.4


1. "Text of the President's Health Message Calling for Compulsory Medical Insurance," NYT, 20 November 1945, 13; Edward T. Follard, "Truman Plan for Health Insurance Starts a Row," NYT, 30 November 1945, 1; see Document 42.

Following this message Senator Wagner (D-NY) and Representative Dingell (D-MI) introduced bills outlining the president's message. See also the Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill in n5 Document 42 (Felix Belair, Jr., "Truman Asks Law to Force Insuring of Nation's Health," NYT, 20 November 1945, 1).

2. The petition declared that "President Truman's Health Plan would increase productivity, reduce disease, save lives. We have read his message to Congress. We endorse it … We urge Congress to prompt action." It then discussed the need for "a national health plan," why it should "be administered locally," why federal aid should go "through" the states, and why the plan was "not 'socialized' medicine." More than 100 individuals signed (and financed the publication of) the petition. Those joining ER in supporting the petition included the presidents of Sears and Roebuck, RCA, Mount Holyoke College, the National Farmers Union, and the American Civil Liberties Union; Mayor La Guardia and Mayor-elect O'Dwyer; noted academics from Harvard, Columbia, Fisk, and University of Chicago; as well as philanthropists, actors, doctors, and writers. For the full text of the petition and its supporters, see page 17 of the December 10, 1945, New York Times.

3. Although Truman's health insurance plan enjoyed much support, it was consistently met with the outcry that such legislation was in essence socialized medicine. Most notably, the American Medical Association interpreted compulsory health insurance as such, warning that it was a step toward totalitarianism ("191 Leaders Back Health Program," NYT, 1 December 1945, 24; Hamby, Man, 497).

4. The final paragraph of this column discussed the Salvation Army's 80th anniversary celebration in Kansas City. ER concluded her brief discussion of its activities by saying, "I think the thing I like about them above all else is that there is no one whom they look upon as unredeemble!"

As the following front-page article by Lester Allen illustrates, the comments ER made during question and answer sessions often received more attention than the speech she delivered.