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Susan Green

Dependents Get Handout

“Freedom from Want” – But Not for Soldier’s Wife and Child

(22 June 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 25, 22 June 1942, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The military pay allotment bill approved by the Senate and sent to the House is as good as passed. It makes at least one thing certain in this world of uncertainties:

While the men in arms will be fighting in foreign lands supposedly for the “four freedoms” – one of which is stated to be freedom from want – their families will be engaged in the centuries-old fight of the poor to keep the wolf away from the door, provided there is a door. For it is going to be as impossible for families to pay for rent, food and clothing out of the flagrantly low allowances for soldiers’ dependents as to get an elephant into a dog house.

A woman with two children will have to get along on $72 a month or $16 a week for all three. This drop in the bucket, even in peacetime before the cost of living rose to its present levels, meant a sub-subsistence standard of living. Today it means a sub-sub-subsistence level of existence. Tomorrow – when prices climb higher, as they are already doing in spite of the farcical ceilings – the only thing $16 a week will buy for three people is starvation.

To call this travesty “support of the dependents” of the men in arms is – to say the least – a misnomer. To call a spade a spade, Congress is passing a bill to force women into industry. For no mother will sit by and see her children “supported” in starvation. Small children certainly need a mother’s personal care and attention, but first they need bread, shoes and a roof. Women will have no alternative except to go to work. So the “preservation of the home” – which is supposed to be another war aim – will be put in dead storage by this very “generous” bill that Congress is passing.

The old and feeble will also suffer. A soldier’s mother and father without support will be allowed $47 a month, or about $10 a week for both. Figure that out in terms of shelter, food and clothing. And these will be the lucky parents whose sons are not married. Dependent parents whose sons are married will have bestowed on them the still more “bounteous” sum of $30 a month, or $7.00 a week, for both.

Other provisions of the bill are even more niggardly than the above – hard as this may be to believe. For instance, if an unmarried soldier has one parent and one sister dependent on him, they will be allowed $42 a month, or about $9.00 a week. If the soldier is married, then a dependent parent and sister will “wallow in the good things of life” at the rate of $25 a month, or about $6 a week for both. If, however, there is a second dependent sister of either the unmarried or the married soldier, the poor girl will be “smothered in luxuries” costing $1.00 a week – for that is all the additional allowance made for her.

These allowances, picayune as they are will not be paid by the government. The soldier’s contribution will, be out of all proportion to his pay. Every married and unmarried soldier with dependent will have to turn in $22 a month. If a married soldier also has parents or sisters or brothers dependent on him, he will have to plunk down $27 every month.

What then becomes of the increase in soldier’s pay voted by Congress recently? The rise from $21 to $50 is all but eaten up by deductions for dependents. It is a case of giving with the right hand and taking away with the left.

If you scrape the camouflage off this military pay allotment bill and see it as above analyzed, it becomes another illustration of the fact that the little people are paying for the big war.

Women, children and old folks will not have enough money for even their most elementary needs. Soldiers will be deprived of their very inadequate pay increases. But war profits will bulge the pockets of the industrial big-wigs for whom a war is a bonanza – and just when this bill soaking the poor is being passed in Congress the luscious quarterly dividend checks again come in to swell still further the bursting bank accounts of the parasites.

So again, Labor Action calls for the confiscation of all war profits to pay for the imperialist war. And if those are not enough, how about the ill-gotten fortunes of the “Sixty Families”! Let the rich pay for the war for which their class is responsible.

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Last updated: 8 September 2014