Bartlett Appears Exclusively in the Texas Observer On the Record Only the Beginning Let those flatter who fear, it is not an American art.Jefferson `You Boys Don’t Seem To Be Moving Very Fast Either’ Treat Them As Beggars? The Quality of Our Society: Some Remarks, Judgments \(Cong. Wright Patman, in his address to the Governor’s Conference on Aging Thursday, brought his broad political philosophy to bear upon one of Texas’ most pressing state problems. We excerpt his remarks I N 1928, WHEN I WAS first a candidate for Congress, I advocated old age pensions. I was called a socialist, and a bolshevik, and just about everything else, and the only reason I wasn’t called a communist was because there weren’t so many around at that time . . . The factfinding report now gives us the facts on the problem of the elder citizens, and the facts are not pretty. Half of the people over the age of 65 in the great State of Texas do not have an income sufficient to support a minimum standard of life. Many of these people are ill and do not have adequate medical care. And, as I read the medical report, many of these must suffer the indignity of accepting their care through charity, as though an assault by disease on the human body were not indignity enough. A great many of these people are physically well but are miserable in their hearts because their hands and minds yearn for work and our society will not permit them to work. The question now is what will we do about these things? It seems to me that we are caught in the grip of some attitudes which were formed perhaps by the conditions of mankind in previous ages, but which misconceive the economic and social order in which we live today. The first false notion which has stood in the way of a solution to the problem is an old instinctive notion that our condition today is still one of poverty. I remember when I was a young man, we thought we were very lucky if the family had a horse which we could ride, or hitch to a buggy, to do our courting, or to get to school, or to make the necessary trips into town. Now, of course, even the kids drive cars which have the power equivalent to 200 horses, or more, and we use all this power just for pleasure rides. Our capacity to produce an outpouring of wealth for the comforts and necessities of daily life has outpaced our ways of thinking and our social capacity to make intelligent distribution of this wealth. We are not poor ; we are rich. What kind of material wealth can we name that is not in surplus? Food? Fiber? Steel? Drugs? Oil, or any of the other sources of energy? The out-flow of wealth increases per unit of human effort year after year. The question is not merely whether we will allow our senior citizens to share in our increasing wealth. There is also a question whether we shall treat them as beggars in our house or as honored guests. Why in heaven’s name such terms as “public assistance,” “custodial homes,” and so on? Don’t we all live by the grace of public assistance? Is there anyone who draws his daily portion of the goods and comforts of life from his individual efforts alone? Published by Texas Observer Co., Lta. Entered as second-class matter, April 26, 1937, at the Post Office at Austin, Texas, under the Act of March 3, 1879. SEPTEMBER 9, 1960 Ronnie Dugger Editor and General Manager Willie Morris, Associate Editor Sarah Payne, Office Manager Let us get rid of this stumblingblock in our thinking that assistance to our elder citizens is charity and must be coated with the bitter pill of charity. ARE WE CITIZENS only of the community and not of the state, and not of the nation? It would be more polite of me and I know much more politicto cater to the idea that we may do whatever needs be done through the instrumentality of the locality, in which case, we will all remain selfreliant and upstanding individualists. But this is another of those public attitudes by which we are defeating our own purposes. In part, this is a yearning which all of us share, to some degree, to return to the “good old days” of things past ; and, in large part, it is a notion which is cultivated by groups who exercise great power over human affairs and do not like the rivalry of any other powercdrtainly not one controlled by popular will. The truth is, the federal government is not going away; it is here to stay. There are important contributions which we can make toward the happiness and welfare of the aging through the instrumentalities of all of our units of governmentlocal, state, and federal. If you feel that your local community can best attend the job of having a little more of the wealth produced today shared with the older citizens, then I suggest you look about your community and see how many of the firms there are locally owned. This is a third problem in our attitudes and ways of thinking that must be corrected. We can no longer plan intelligently on the premise that the nation’s economic affairs are locally owned and locally controlled, or that they are much influenced by the attitudes of any local community. I T USED TO BE thought, of course, that the man who was permitted to live in idleness was a lucky man. Now we know that work is an inner necessity and one which can be denied only at the price of human misery. We are beginning to hear a few suggestions these days that our society really ought to pay more attention to the quality of its civilization rather than merely to the quantity of its production. There is no question in my mind but what we could achieve more happiness for all of our people by allowing more of the older people to work, even if this means that the output per man at the machine, or at the desk, is not as great as if all desks and all machines are reserved for the young and middle-aged. I believe we can be sure that whatever assistance may be offered from the federal government, as an average for all of the states, will not be enough for the great State of Texas. MANY HISTORIANS have concluded, from biblical times on down, that one of the best ways you can judge the quality of a society is by the esteem and care it gives its old people and its children. A society which cares little for where it has been is indifferent to where it is go 7 Published oncea week from Austin, Texas. Delivered postage prepaid $5 per annum. Advertising rates available on request. Extra copies 15c each. Quantity prices available on order. EDITORIAL and BUSINESS OFFICE: 504 West 24th St., Austin, Texas. Phone GReenwood 7-0746. HOUSTON OFFICE: Mrs. R. D. Randolph, 419 1/2. Lovett Blvd., Houston 16, Texas. AUSTIN It is satisfying to get so many important people on the record. This has been one of the major accomplishments of the Conference on Aging in Austin this week. Gov. Price Daniel gave an admirable welcoming address. He said a state appropriation to match federal funds for medical care for the needy aged will be pushed hard in the next legislature. Something has got to be done, he declared, about the 2,600 senile patients who don’t belong in state mental hospitals but can’t be sent elsewhere because the doctors, the nurses, and the facilities have never been available. -State Sen. David Ratliff, describing an aroused public as “the greatest of all lobbies,” says the interim legislative committee is going to look into t h e conference recommendations. With the weight of public opinion behind them, he added, legislators will find it difficult to sidestep the issues next session. John Winters, state welfare commissioner since 1943, tells us the living conditions in some “nursing homes” in this state are “revolting.” The licensing people have had to turn their heads ever so often. Wright Patman, whose fine speech is excerpted on this page, touched on the crux of the matter. Why have these problems existed for so long? Why are we just now getting around to them? We are a rich nation, the ingand it is really going nowhere but to the dogs. I do not believe that we are going to the dogs. I believe only that we are suffering some mental anguish made necessary by our groping to find new ways. We are groping to find ways of reconciling the new material values which have recently been discovered to come from economic organization on the grand scale, with the ancient human values which have been nourished by social organization on the family and community scale. And I firmly believe that we will find the wayswe must. WRIGHT PATMAN richest nation in the history of the world. If our old people can’t live out their lives decently, what’s the matter with us all? By far the most straight-shooting set of recommendations to emerge from the whole study came from the committee on housing. The proposed bond issue to finance nursing homes, the urgent request for money to expand the licensing bureau, the frank statement that “housing be made available for the elderly at all income levels” through joint federal-statecounty-municipal programs, dealt with the prevailing shortcomings courageously and with a minimum of jargon. It was slightly ironic, but not very surprising, that in the original version of the conference recommendations the moderate vendor medical plan had to be endorsed by the committee on housing. The committee on health had a 16-11 majority of doctors and nurses. That could well explain why the report on health is somewhat insipid. That could also explain, perhaps, the stern and doctrinaire refusal in the health report even to consider the possibility of federal help in pressing areas like construction of rehabilitation centers in local hospitals. One proposal from the health committee would require state licenses for nursing homes not now being inspected. This is an attempt to deal with the problem of flophouses and substandard homes, which will never be eliminated in this state unless pensions are raised for the genuine needy. That is why the recommendation to increase the welfare ceiling in the constitution by $10 million is one of the crucial decisions of the conference. An increase is long overdue in a state rapidly becoming one of the most urbanized and industrialized regions in the nation. The proposal that the legislature provide funds for more field workers in the public welfare department, where there is now only one worker for every 360 welfare cases \(blind, must also be underscored. Texas ranks 49th in the number of cases per trained worker. As one committee chairman said, that is a shameful place to be. All in all, the whole conference was an admirable project. But it is only the beginning. W.M. THE TEXAS OBSERVER
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