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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 368

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This is the grave of Allen Treadway.

For the most part, Allen Treadway is not particularly interesting. He was a long-time congressman from Massachusetts. He was born in 1867 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. In 1913, he was elected to the House and he stayed there for a very long time. He did not leave office until 1945. But like many members of Congress, he was a backbencher. In fact, I cover very few members of Congress in this series because there’s very little to say about most of them. However, Treadway had one major passion: he hated the New Deal. He especially hated the Social Security Act. To Treadway, this was destroying the independence that made up America. We forget that for much of the nation’s history, New England, and especially rural New England, was probably the most conservative region of the country on economic issues. Remember that in 1936, the only states FDR lost were Vermont and Maine. Massachusetts had enough immigrants to counter that Yankee conservatism on a state level, but in some districts, that old right-wing reactionary politics played well.

Treadway based his objections to Social Security on the ability to pay for it. He thought it was outrageous to ask current workers to pay for security for the elderly, believing it was too complicated and morally wrong. During hearings for the Social Security Act, he stated, “Aren’t we borrowing trouble for future generations perhaps when we, by actuarial tables, look ahead for 16 years and use 1955? That is 16 years away . . . why not tend to the problem of today rather than 16 years hence? We have got a big enough job here looking after the present system, it seems to me.” He believed the taxes involved would lead to more unemployment, which, uh, was not an issue. So in a last-ditch effort to kill the old age insurance provision of the SSA, which is really what mattered in the law, he offered an amendment to send it back to the committee to kill it. He was joined by 94 other Republicans in this effort, but the bill failed and the nation was now faced with the scourge of old people not dying on the street. Seriously, watch Make Way for Tomorrow if you want a glimpse of what life was like for the elderly before the SSA. It is perhaps the single saddest movie I have ever seen.

Anyway, other than this, Treadway was a standard anti-New Deal reactionary, not really worth remembering. He died in 1947, presumably bitter about old people living dignified lives as he thought his last thoughts.

Allen Treadway is buried in Stockbridge Cemetery, Stockbridge, Massachusetts. If you would like this series to visit other bitter Republicans of the New Deal era, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Alf Landon is buried in Topeka, Kansas. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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