Mary Ross during her oral history interview, 10/26/95. SSA History Archives.
In the Fall of 1995, shortly after the launch of SSA's Oral History Project, I contacted Mary Ross and asked her to be one of the first participants in our Project. Somewhat reluctantly, she agreed. Her reticence was due to a kind of modesty on her part--she was concerned that she might not be able to do intellectual justice to the subject in such a casual setting.
Mary was intellectually intense, with a career-long habit of painstakingly researching and documenting her ideas and conclusions. Her office at SSA, and her home as well, were filled with books, reports, research papers, and the like, which she would consult in detail whenever she faced any task of work.
As we started our first session in October 1995, our plan was to do a long overview of Mary's career, and then to focus in detail on several key areas in which Mary played significant roles. Our second session, which took place in February 1996, was to focus on the creation of the SSI program, and especially on the Family Assistance Plan (FAP), which was the precursor to SSI. I think Mary's plan all along was that she would assemble her papers and records and engage in an extended research effort prior to each topical interview--so that she could, in effect, document her oral history interview in much the same way she would document a research paper. This was, of course, far beyond what I expect from an oral history interview, and far beyond what most interviewees would even consider doing. As I always try to explain to interviewees, an oral history is not like a book or a research paper. It is by its nature less rigorous, more informal, more impressionistic--indeed, that is its charm and principal value. But people like Mary, with life-long habits of intellectual scholarship, sometimes have a hard time accepting this.
In the four months between our first and second sessions, Mary was planning to research the paper records of FAP and SSI and come to Baltimore prepared to footnote and document everything she told me. I thought all along this was an unrealistic demand to make on herself, and although she did do a surprising amount of preparatory research for our second interview, she clearly had concluded that she would be unable to devote so much time and effort to every major topic we intended to cover. So as we were doing her second interview, she was visibly agitated over what she saw as the inadequacies of her documentation. At the end the session, she abruptly announced that she was breaking-off her interview because she simply could not devote to it the level of scholarship she thought was required.
I was of course very disappointed at Mary's decision, but it was clear she had made up her mind, so our interview ended abruptly, with an incomplete product in hand. I had an initial draft transcript made of our two conversations, and put it aside, intending at some point to approach Mary with the idea of resuming the interview. Unfortunately, I let the matter ride too long, as other work intruded and time passed more quickly than it should, and the opportunity was finally lost when Mary died on March 11, 2001 at her home in Washington, D.C., after a bout with lung cancer.
The week before her death, in a phone conversation with Bob Ball, Mary expressed an interest in resuming our oral history interview and she asked him to convey this message to me. Ball called me on Wednesday, after talking with Mary, and suggested I call her and schedule some sessions. I put off doing so, thinking I would contact her the following Monday when I was planning to be in Alexandria, Virginia for an interview session with Mr. Ball. My intention was to call Mary from the Ball home and suggest to her that I might stop by on my way back to the office. When I arrived at Ball's home on Monday morning, he informed me that Mary had died over the weekend. Although we all understood that Mary's condition was grave, I think the suddenness of her passing took us by surprise.
In addition to the personal loss that many people feel on Mary's passing, I regret very much the lost opportunities I let slip away to more fully document Mary's career and the important Social Security history she helped to make. But in order that the work we did do together not be lost, we are publishing here the transcript of her incomplete oral history interview from 1995-96.
Due to these circumstances, it is important to take note of the fact that Mary did not have an opportunity to edit this transcript, as we would do in the usual course of things. Since Mary was so concerned about the precision of her account, this is especially important, since small errors inevitably arise in oral history memoirs. Generally these errors are corrected in the editorial process, which involves an initial editing pass in my office and then a second review by the interviewee. Mary, with her intense intellectual precision, would certainly have provided a rigorous editorial review, had she had the opportunity to do so. I have done my best to review and edit the document as carefully as I can, but if there are remaining errors, they are entirely my responsibility.
Despite these several limitations, Mary Ross' oral history interview is a valuable contribution to the literature on the history of Social Security. I learned many things from my conversations with Mary, and I think we are all lucky to have even this incomplete record of the career and contributions of Mary Ross.
(Note: This obituary was written by Mary's friend, Johnnie Albertson, and portions of it appeared in the Washington Post of March 16, 2001, pg. B7.)
Mary E. Ross
Retired Social Security Official
Mary E. Ross, 62, a career employee for 34 years of the Social Security Administration, died of lung cancer at her home in Washington on March 11. For most of her career with SSA, Ms Ross was a Senior Executive and Director of the Legislative Reference Office of the Social Security Administration.
Born in Philadelphia, Ms. Ross came to Washington as a child with her parents. Her mother was Elizabeth Ross, Deputy Director of the Children's Bureau. Among her mother's federal accomplishments was the securing of government recognition of professional social work. Her father, Michael Ross, born in England, was active in the labor movement in England and became Director of International Affairs for the CIO. Both are deceased.
A graduate of Madeira School and of Wellesley College, Ms. Ross began her government career as a student intern with the Social Security Administration in 1959. Following her graduation from Wellesley College in 1960, she was appointed to the position of Social Insurance Research Analyst in SSA's legislative planning department and, from 1968 to her retirement in 1994, played a key role in the planning of major changes and improvements in the Social Security program, particularly in the areas of retirement and survivors benefits. She was appointed to a Career Executive Assignment in October 1972 while serving as Director of the Division of Retirement and Survivors Benefits in the Office of Program Evaluation and Planning.
A recipient of top Agency awards throughout her career, Ms Ross was active in the many organizations and forums involved in the examination and improvement of the Social Security program. She was a founding member of the National Academy for Social Insurance and participated as an advisor and key staff member in the several official Advisory Councils from 1971 through 1996, including the famous Greenspan Commission of 1983.
Robert Ball, Commissioner of Social Security from 1962 to 1973 and an important figure in the development of Social Security over the last 60 years said today, "Mary Ross made many important contributions to Social Security, particularly in the areas of policy and legislation. She was a tremendous help to me personally during the 11 years I was Commissioner of Social Security and during the 25 years since. She was a great student of Social Security and a lovely person."
Ms. Ross leaves no survivors.
Q: Mary, let's start if we can, by having you tell us how you began your career with SSA and give us an outline of the jobs you had over the years and what positions you were in.
Ross: Well, it was all kind of a bumbling, inadvertent stumbling into something. I was between my junior and senior year in college. I didn't know what I was going to do that summer. I wound up going to a cocktail party that was given by some people who knew the Balls, who knew the McKennas, and various other people associated with Social Security, many of whom were at this party. I was kind of an awkward, little, shy person who, when they said: "What are you doing this summer, Mary," I would kind of look uncomfortable and say: "I don't know." Leona MacKinnon, who then worked in the Office of the Bureau Director--this was the summer of 1959, so what's now SSA was then the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors Insurance-- said: "Oh, we can use student assistants in the summertime. Why don't you come and work for Social Security in Baltimore."
One thing led to another, and I found a car I could borrow. I did work for Social Security that summer. They hadn't yet moved into the Altmeyer Building, which wasn't built until 1960, so that was when SSA was downtown.
I worked in the predecessor to what became most recently OLCA, the Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs. It was then called the Division of Program Analysis (DPA) and reported directly to the Bureau Director, who was then a person named Victor Christgau. Bob Ball was the Deputy Director, and really the one with whom we had the most communication. He had previously worked in DPA himself and he was, in large part, running SSA. Even though he was Deputy Director, he was really running the Bureau as it was then.
I came to work for Alvin David who was the director of the outfit. We were located in the Equitable Building on Calvert Street, near Baltimore Street, downtown. We parked in public parking up Calvert. I worked in the front office.
Up until fairly recently, Congress wanted printed hearings, and they had printed an index to the hearings and they had stopped doing that. My assignment that summer (I can't believe I did this) was the Index of 1958 Hearings. It was totally tedious and did not result in a usable product, though I learned a certain amount about who were the figures in Congress. I sat in the middle of an office where a lot of traffic was going on. It was kind of a control point for assignments and for correspondence, and it was physically located so it was just outside the Director's office; anybody who was going or coming went by. I got to know some of the people and I enjoyed working with them. I never thought I'd work for the government as a career. Wilbur Cohen's son, Chris Cohen, was also a student assistant in that office that same summer. His assignment was to update DPA's Claims Manual.
That summer passed and I went back to school and graduated with no notion of what I wanted to do. My parents had the notion that either I continue in school or I become self-supporting, and I certainly was through going to school. At the end of the summer I had taken the appropriate Civil Service tests that we had to take then. I came back to see if I could get a permanent job in the same place I had worked. A bargain was struck and I and another person (who put the outfit over its staffing ceiling, we later learned) began working here. By this time it was out here at Woodlawn (September 26, 1960).
I had been a grade 3 as a student assistant. I was permanently hired as a grade 5. I had been a history major. I had absolutely no credentials of any sort. I was in an outfit that had pretty clear career ladders. If you progressed reasonably and didn't screw up, you could more or less expect to be promoted every year or two. In my case it was more or less every year.
In the Division of Program Analysis there were five branches, two of which did the kind of work that people now think of OLCA doing -- preparations for Congressional appearances, hearings and the like, defending and explaining the program, staff work for the Commissioner's Office that involved program planning and program rationale. One of the two divisions was then headed by Irv Wolkstein. It was called Coverage and Disability, but its main activity already was beginning preparation for health insurance. The other division was just called Program Planning and it was the predecessor of what is now the Division of Retirement and Survivors-at least until recently. Are they still divided into divisions?
Q: No, they are combined now.
Ross: We have come full circle.
Within that division they had kind of a neat arrangement. They were divided into groups. There were five groups, and each had a group leader who was probably a grade 12, and maybe three analysts and a secretary. For training purposes, which is what I was involved in for the first year, you worked in one of these groups for a reasonable length of time and then you rotated. They were divided by subject matter so you could get familiar with some aspect of the program without having to be overwhelmed by the whole thing. I don't know how many people catch on to what it's all about now.
Even then DPA preferred to not hire people fresh out of college and right off the street like I was. They preferred to hire people with field experience. For those of us who didn't have field experience, we would be sent to a local office for a brief time. After about a year I was sent to a downtown district office in Philadelphia, for about a week. I don't know if you would call it suburban, (I guess it's suburban now) but anyway a less urban center, which was Westchester, Pennsylvania. I also spent a week in the Philadelphia Payment Center, as it was then called.
I came to work at the end of the Eisenhower Administration when just about everything we did (as near as I can recall) was shrouded with a wonderful paragraph that explained that no matter how good somebody's idea was, it was bound to have some cost and therefore, couldn't really be entertained at this time. In a way, they were beleaguered then as the program has been at times since. The OASI Trust Fund had been operating in the red. It had been taking in towards the end of the 1950's slightly less each year than it was paying out. A very vocal critic by the name of Roy Peterson was writing articles about the coming "den of inequity that would be discovered when this basically bankrupt program fell apart." We were busy debating it, making public replies to public newspaper statements. What was somewhat worrying was that we were enabling him to make better and better arguments by our erudite responses.
Then Kennedy came in the following year. The theme was pushing Kennedy's Social Security promises that had been in the Democratic platform. Medicare was clearly in the wind, but it was not the immediate priority. Part of Kennedy's initial campaign had to do with the widespread unemployment and so-called structural unemployment of older people who were out of work and didn't stand a prayer. They had been out of work for extended periods. Hence, he had recommended legalizing the definition of disability, which did not go through that year; lowering the age of eligibility for men on an actuarially reduced basis; increasing benefits for widows; and several other things that were enacted in the 1961 Amendments.
Following that, my career consisted of first working in the little group that worked on age of eligibility, and then working in a little group that worked on the retirement test and Regulation 1, and disclosure issues. (Editor's Note; Regulation 1 is the SSA regulation regarding disclosure of Social Security records.) Then I worked in a little group that (oh, what a nightmare!) did definition of wages. I then worked with a group that did benefit amounts, which was a breath of fresh air. I finally moved into the group that worked on financing dependents' benefits and stuff that didn't fit into one of the other groups and that serviced the Advisory Council.
A lot of what we were doing was sort of being ready. Medicare had the spotlight, and there were a bunch of cash benefit amendments that were ready to go once Medicare was set, but the strategy was not to allow any more cash benefit increases, and certainly not to allow any that would involve increasing the payroll tax, until Medicare was launched.
Throughout the first 5 years I climbed up the ladder. I finally got to be a GS-9. I forget what we made then; it was probably about $9,000 or $10,000. At this point I felt I could begin to breathe a little bit. I hadn't taken any leave and I had mountains of leave.
Finally Medicare got passed, and the 1965 Amendments got passed. I worked on the 1965 Advisory Council Report at the beginning of 1965. By then maybe I was a GS-11, or a13 -- some place in there. At the end of 1965 I took leave for 6 months and traveled and went around the world. I came back to a new world in the spring of 1966 where I guess by now I was a senior analyst. We had gone now from five groups down to four sections. And I think the top structure had moved up. The branch chief was now a 14, not a 13. The whole air had lightened a little. Johnson was now President, and I worked in the financing area during the 1967 and 1968 Amendments.
Johnson had tremendous ambitions and not a whole lot of available money in the Title II program to do things with. We had a lot of false starts and developed a lot of wonderful schemes with large benefit increases and wound up paring them back. This was unusual to me. In cash benefits, we wound up doing a lot of staff work on the Hill during that period. The AFL-CIO was pushing a Kennedy bill (Editor's note: Senator Edward Kennedy), and Johnson wanted not to have the AFL-CIO to be able to pull off something more generous than he could pull off.
We were doing staff work with eyes in the back of our heads for both the Administration and the liberals in Congress at the same time. The group leader was Frank Crowley. A lot of people who worked for OLCA at that time wound up on the Hill. Some of the guys who worked in Medicare wound up on the Hill after a brief stint implementing Medicare. At that point the group leader I was working for, Frank Crowley, left and went to the Congressional Research Service, and I became Acting Group Leader. I guess we had now become the Office of Program Evaluation and Planning, and what had been branches had now become divisions. I became Acting Branch Chief in the Program Evaluation and Planning branch. I did that for a very brief period. Health insurance was still administered by SSA, and by then we had the Division of Health Insurance in OLCA, and the Branch Chief job in the Health Insurance Benefits Branch became effective. I worked for about a year as Branch Chief in the Health Insurance Benefits Branch. At that time we had the Advisory Council on Medicare for the Disabled. I guess their report was submitted at the end of 1968. It seems to me I left there shortly thereafter, and became Deputy Division Director back in Retirement and Survivors Insurance. I was Deputy to Betty Sanders who had been Director of that Division since before I came, probably since 1957 or 1958.
By now we are in the fall of 1969. My mother died, which meant I inherited this house that I still live in, in Washington. Betty Sanders had been saying for years that she was going to retire when she turned 65, and I was kind of an heir-apparent to the Division Director here in Baltimore. I had no idea of what I wanted to do. I didn't know if I wanted to live in the house and work in Washington. I didn't know if I could live in the house in Washington and work in Baltimore. Although I always had my eye on that job in one sense, by this time I didn't really know if I wanted to be responsible and grown-up and all that good stuff that it was going to take to do it.
I got assigned to Alvin David's front office, in which they set up a GS-14, or was it GS-15, job for me. It was a Social Insurance Research Analyst job. It was a lot easier to do things back then; and they detailed me to Washington, which let me live in the house and gave me some time to figure out what I wanted to do.
This now was when the Nixon Administration Family Assistance Plan was beginning to move. So I was lurking around the Department working as kind of a Social Security liaison or freelance analyst type person. Sometimes I was working for Tom Joe on various projects. I'd go in to try to figure out what was the ideal way to organize the Family Assistance Plan, and what should be the appropriate relationships between HHS and Labor, which caused me to learn a great deal of discouraging news about the WIN Program, which was the Work Incentive Program then, and AFDC.
There was a split jurisdiction between HHS and Labor. I was detailed to a guy named John C. Montgomery who was hired by the Secretary's Office to kind of oversee the whole Departmental effort to provide the logistics to further the Hill activities and begin planning for how they would implement the Family Assistance Program, once you got it through Congress. I guess it was as Tom Joe's person that I attended a bunch of the planning meetings with Bob Patracelli, the Assistant Secretary for Program Evaluation and Planning, or whatever was that predecessor outfit. That was an exciting period.
Then, of course, it became clear that Family Assistance was not going through and SSI was. In the meanwhile, the Nixon Administration was also simultaneously pushing automatic adjustments of Social Security benefits, which was a big deal.
Some place in the course of all this, I came back and did take the Division Director's job in DRSB. I sort of handed-off SSI when that got serious. I worked for a while in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Legislation. I guess the deputy for Welfare Legislation was then Jim Edwards. John Trout and I both worked there. I came back to OLCA and pretty soon John Trout came over to OLCA. We were back into clearly cash benefits, and a separate staff was set up to worry about SSI. The automatics were then added to a debt -ceiling bill. It was a very chaotic legislative period, but I guess that's saved for another session.
By now I decided I could live in the house in Washington and work in Baltimore, and stay over in Baltimore a couple of nights a week. I would try to arrange to get myself sent to Washington every so often. I'm trying to think when the super grade came through. I was by then a grade 15. They tried to get a grade 16 for Irv Wolkstein, who had been head of the Health Insurance Division. It was in the early Nixon years. They had been trying to get a super grade for one of the Division Directors in OLCA for a long time. They first targeted Irv Wolkstein's job because he had done such a superb job in the Medicare fight. He had remained on as Division Director until 1968, and that had fallen through. Then they had tried to set up a super grade Division Director to run SSI because SSI legislation indicated that there would be room for additional high grades to administer the program, and because it was thought that somebody with both Social Security and welfare could do it. There were oodles of rationale. I remember writing that up six ways to Sunday. That did not come to pass. I was by then very cynical about the whole operation. I was sure it was going to come to nothing. They wrote it up for DRSB, which was the Division of Retirement and Survivors Benefits, that I was in charge of, and it went through.
Q: So were you the first super grade then in the organization at that time?
Ross: Well, no. The Division Director, Mr. David, was a super-grade and his Deputy, Jim Marquis, was a super-grade. Alvin was a 17. I don't think there was an 18. It seems to me McKenna was a 18, and some of the big operating staffs. Obviously, Joe Fay was, but I'm not sure whether Alvin was a 18 or just a 17.
And the 1970's perked along. Two things were immediately clear:
1. There would have to be legislation to repair the methodology
in the automatics.
You no sooner had the automatics enacted in 1972 ,with the first increase to take effect in 1975, then inflation went through the roof. The Congress came back in 1973 and enacted a two-stage benefit increase of 7 percent right away and a catch-up that would bring it to an overall 11 percent later. There was constant legislative pressure in 1972 and 1973. Some of it was short-term and some of it really caused the actuaries and everybody else to rethink the long-range projections to the program. With the short-range experience and the revised long-range estimates, it was clear that the method of doing COLAs that was built into the 1972 legislation had to be revised. A lot of 1973 and 1974 went into stalling around on that subject because none of us knew how to do it in terms of was the right way, what would work, and what didn't. There was increasing pressure from one or two hot -shots in the Department and in OMB, and still it was mostly technicians. Politicians didn't have a whole lot of yen to reopen the fight for automatic increases in Social Security, though they sure knew they had to do something about the enormous deficit.
At the end of 1974 and 1975 there was a very intensive effort to design so-called decoupling schemes -- methods of separating the treatment of future beneficiaries from the treatment of current beneficiaries. It was more like what we have now and what the Civil Service system had all along. A detailed comprehensive plan was developed and advanced by the Ford folk. Hearings were held. Ironically, the aspect of it that attracted the most attention was not that it would bring future benefits back into line with what the Congress intended, but that the transition period would involve a little cost. That was the last part of the Ford Administration (the last year). The whole thing was spruced up and presented in the Carter years and went through in the first part of 1977.
1978 in my memory was unremarkable. I think we had some reorganizations. That was Stan Ross' era. At some point in here OLCA no longer reported to the Commissioner, and health insurance went to HCFA. That was Califano's year. At some point in here I also took a substantial amount of time off.
During the mid 1970's the other thing we had going was the Advisory Council on Social Security, which really was some help both because there were sharp people working on it and because it was an action-forcing event for us in developing a decoupling system. In that context it worked out well.
Leaping ahead, by now we were into the 1978-1979 Advisory Council which started off with Stan Ross as Chairman of the Council, appointed by his friend Joe Califano, and Larry Thompson as Executive Director. At some point in there we began doing increasing amounts of staff work for that Council. Ultimately, I wound up working quite closely with Larry and spending most of my time in his Washington offices. Somewhere in the course of all this, Stan ceased to be Chairman of the Council and became Commissioner of Social Security. Larry continued to wear two hats. He continued to lead the Advisory Council effort, and he was in charge of the Office of Policy, which was the intervening office to which OLCA now reported, which in turn reported back to the Commissioner. Their headquarters, which had initially been in the Humphrey Building, finally got a wing in the Schweitzer Building located in the HEW South Building. It seems to me I was there for most of 1979 and probably a good part of 1980.
At some point John Trout became head of OLCA and wanted me to come back as Legislative Reference Officer, which I did. It seems to me that must have been the beginning of 1981.
Then we charge to the Reagan years. I really enjoyed that time. It was less intense. There were great people. I had great supervisors and some star employees all the way along. There was a kind of camaraderie. It's hard to believe running through all this in less than an hour where you go from a world where things couldn't have been more formal. All the bosses were Mr. and Miss and Mrs. whatever. I would have been Miss somebody, except I was so young and dim-witted-looking. Well, a couple of people called me Miss Ross, but I managed to get through mostly on total informality.
The guy--I don't think the structure called him Deputy-- who was second in command was Grayson Snurr. He really knew the nitty-gritty and did just about all the day-to-day operating, supervising, and keeping track of who was doing what. Throughout much of that period while John Trout was Director, I was quite free to work on whatever it was he wanted me to do, and wherever he felt I would be most helpful to him. Later, one of the assignments that came to occupy a lot of my time, because it was convenient for me to do so, was liaison with the Department on legislative programs. As the 1980's wore on, the Department became more involved in SSA legislation. OLCA always had some direct lines to the Hill and continues to do so to this day, I'm sure. You also always had an obligation to not get too crossways to the Department's legislative activities and let them know (at least to some extent) what you were doing on the Hill and be aware of what they were doing. Toward the end of 1980's, I guess I was spending a third of the time in Washington. I worked very well with Gil Fisher and John. Then we began to have some very rapid turnover in directors in OLCA, and a lot more hit and miss activity.
Q: Also, you began to get political appointees in that job. Was that something new, that hadn't been a case historically?
Ross: Yes. There had been rumblings from time to time that OLCA should be politically headed, but it did not come about until the latter part of Dorcas Hardy's stint as Commissioner. The existing head of OLCA when Dorcas came in was John Trout. They did not hit it off. Gil Fisher was the Deputy of OLCA, and quite often he was Acting.
When Dorcas came in, she brought with her from the Department a guy named Mike Astrue, who had been the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislation for Welfare, and the guy who had worked with him on a lot of Social Security matters was a fellow named Doug Badger, who had come from the Hill and done lobbying groups. They were both clearly political folk. They had worked ably on Social Security stuff and knew Social Security by the time she brought them over. As I said, John Trout had been Director when she came in and he was followed by Elliott Kirschbaum, but she wanted to put Doug Badger in the job and set it up as a political job, I gather, for Doug. I don't know if he ever encumbered it officially. He acted in the job briefly. I remember working with him in particular.
At that time the Congressional Relations Staff was not part of OLCA, and I remember working with him in particular on a paper which was a pros and cons discussion on whether the Congressional Relations Staff should be part of OLCA and what more OLCA should be doing in that area and that kind of stuff. He very quickly became involved in working with Dave Rust, who was head of the Disability program on the Disability Advisory Council which was going at that time. That became his full-time job.
Who came in and ran OLCA was a girl named M'Liss Solove, whose married name I think was Houston. She had worked previously for Senator Graham in Texas, and had very little background in Social Security. (It was Senator Domenici's daughter who worked with us in Washington.) She was bright. She didn't have a whole lot of patience for learning nitty-gritty. That may have been an okay use of the term because it wasn't entirely clear that the Commissioner had a whole lot of patience for nitty-gritty.
The Commissioner developed some notion that OLCA was not thinking along the same wave lengths that she was, and she had a lot of OLCA-type work in the DRSB, like development of retirement proposals to greatly liberalize or eliminate the retirement test, alternative ways of pricing out the retirement test proposals to take account of the additional revenue that might or might not come in because of additional people who worked. There was a whole stir of activity around that subject. Mike Astrue would come over from the Department, and Doug to a lesser extent, and one of the actuaries, Bruce Schoble, would become intensely involved then and OLCA was lucky if it got a last minute chance to review and comment on some key papers. It wasn't really until towards the end of Dorcas period as Commissioner that there developed good working relations with OLCA.
It seems somewhere along in here M'Liss became pregnant and then left, and it was a difficult pregnancy. Even though she encumbered the job, she was certainly not in Baltimore and not really available. I think she was housebound and then bed-bound for a substantial period. Gil was running the shop on the scene and she was on the telephone. Between Gil and Michael Carozza, the Deputy Commissioner to whom OLCA reported, OLCA's relationship with the Commissioner's Office was repaired.
Also towards the end of that period I was spending a good deal of time in Washington. I had an office there when Doug Badger was on the scene and most of the time when M'Liss was on the scene. I began doing some retirement test work for the Commissioner. She began to develop a little staff over there. Although they also had other jobs, they were doing OLCA-type staff work for her. Dalmer Hoskins was not only doing some international Social Security stuff, he was also doing a lot of work for her on the role of private pensions and the ability of the private sector to supplement Social Security, and the need to broaden the extent to which ordinary people thought about supplementing their Social Security. One of Dorcas' concerns was that people relied exclusively on Social Security as though in every case it was going to be enough for them to live comfortably in retirement. They didn't realize that to really get along in retirement, they probably would need something supplementary to Social Security.
I guess I was increasingly working on the fringes of that activity and one or two other things that she had going in her Washington office. Something I suspect few people saw about her was the number of nights after she would have been in Washington all day, she would show up in the Washington office around 5:30 and sit down and start working, and there wouldn't be anybody around. (I tended to come in a little late and stay late.) She would just be alone sitting in there pouring over whatever had accumulated during the day.
Gwen King became Commissioner. Gil Fisher had been for years the Deputy in charge of OLCA, and with the turnover in OLCA directors, he had been serving as Acting Director for substantial periods when there was no Director. He had also been the continuity and the daily grind making the shop work consistently day-in and day-out for many years. He left OLCA to become Deputy to Andy Young in the Office of Policy. Ann Erfle became Deputy in OLCA.
For several months before Gil left, Gwen brought in a new Director named Gayle Cozens, who had substantial exposure to Hill work representing the Governor of Illinois in the state of Illinois' Washington Office. She'd also had organizational technique experience with the Beatrice Company. I personally hit it off very well with her. I liked her a lot. I wish I could think what my excuse for spending so much time in Washington was in the Dorcas Hardy period; it absolutely escapes me. In some ways I got to know Gayle, especially in the very beginning of her heading up OLCA and spent a lot of time in Washington. Ann and I did not work well together on a number of things, particularly on relating to the Department on legislative program matters. They needed somebody that would work well with the OLCA front office. That's when Dick Griffith came back to the front office to work on that. I was more or less permanently in Washington. I got up to Baltimore maybe once a week. In contrast to the earlier period when I was in Baltimore, unless there was some excuse to be in Washington, I was now in Washington unless there was some particular reason to be in Baltimore. I moved out of the LRO Office, although I remained LRO on paper.
I talked earlier about getting a super grade (Grade 16) back in 1973, which meant that when SES came along in the later 1970's, I converted into SES, which meant to a considerable degree that my grade followed me around when I left. That's the way SES worked. When I left the Division of Retirement and Survivors Benefits, that was no longer a super grade position. It was diverted to a 15. Similarly, as I traveled through the Legislative Reference Office, although I never changed jobs again on paper. That would have been in the year following the Bush election which would have been late 1989 and early 1990 that I really started spending all the time in Washington and not effectively running the Legislative Reference Office any more. I continued to hold that position on paper, but I was effectively working out of Washington doing whatever anybody thought up for me to do, or whatever I thought I could do myself.
It involved strange and fascinating assignments. I did a lot of work with Rhoda Davis and Dr. Fleming on wild fantasies on how we would finance a greatly revised and expanded SSI program. We were sort of tangential to the SSI Panel of Experts that were coordinated under Fleming. I seemed to get into disability stuff a good deal. I subsequently worked with Lou Enoff on a paper which fortunately was never published. We used to say we'd never published on problems and solutions in the disability area. Whatever would have been published would have been so quickly outdated, and new and fresh perceptions of the causes of our disasters were moving so fast. I did a long piece for Rhoda on the role of state agencies. This was in connection with re-engineering the role of state agencies in administering disability--not really their role administratively, but the Congressional interest in having the state agencies in the picture and the political issues inherent in changing their role in the administrative setup. I spent a couple of months doing a chronology of health and welfare legislation for Debbie Steelman, who was Chairman of the 1991 Advisory Council on Social Security that appears as Appendix A in the main volume of that Council's report. In short, I was kind of generally available for short-term emergencies because I was sitting there in Washington and available. "Can you rush over to so and so's office and get such and such done?" I was also engaged in various longer-term projects such as what I just described. I can't believe, was I really there for 4 years? It didn't seem that long. I retired last year, right?
Q: You tell me.
Ross: It was 1994. I can't believe I was there that long; well, I guess I was.
I stayed into the Shirley Chater Commissionership, long enough to just sort of see it. There were going to be traumatic and wonderful developments that I couldn't bear to miss, but it didn't seem that such were about to occur so I thought I could miss the rest of this. At that point, after 34 years, I didn't feel I was going to be learning a whole lot new and fresh and wonderful or contributing a whole lot new and fresh and wonderful; I packed it in.
Q: All right, if we can, now let's go back to the beginning of your career again and tell us a little bit about what it was like working at SSA during that time, you alluded to some of it as we went along, about the formality and so on. Describe a little bit about the people you worked with, like Vic Christgau, and the climate, and how you did work back in that period.
Ross: Well, at the time things didn't seem archaic. I can't even remember for sure if all the secretarial staff had electric typewriters; I think they did. I know it was a big deal when we got ones where the carriage didn't move and the ball jumped around. I can remember when we got our first Xerox machines, which I think was about 1961. Before that, you used carbon tissues and typed the whole thing from scratch. If you needed more copies than you could get clear tissues in one run, or you used sort of a mimeograph, a so-called ditto machine where when you typed your original file and whatever other copies you typed, you also typed a stencil. Then you ran that off on a machine and got your fingers all purple. There were no hand-held calculators. There was one enormous adding machine, and it was an archaic machine even by those standards. It had a personality, so that only a few people were allowed to get near it and it lived in the Benefits Branch. The notion of just punching numbers into a little hand-held calculator and getting the results is nice. It seems to me you had to have beautiful originals more frequently than we do now. When they did a mailing to an Advisory Council, you didn't type a Dear Member letter, or you couldn't tell a word processor to change the address and type the same letter. You typed 12 originals to different people. When you wrote in the original the material on such and such a topic is found behind the salmon tab in the book and then you discovered in the book there were no salmon tabs, you had a crisis. Or since it was late at night, you had to write on the blue tabs "This tab is salmon."
There was a formality, and I don't know how much of that was me or because I was so much younger than the other people around there. They had known each other for years and years. An awful lot of people were in OLCA when I came to work there who had come to the Federal Government out of high school in the Depression or during the War. They had been with SSA for years and years. At least during office hours they were Mr. David, Mr. Marquis, Miss Sanders, Mr. Fowler, Mr. Moore, Mr. Solomon. I can't remember when everybody really got on first names with each other. All of a sudden when Joe Califano became Secretary of HEW then, suddenly you would hear: "Joe wants it this way," or "Joe needs a memo on so and so." It took me several double takes to realize that we are calling the Secretary, Joe. There was only one Joe in the world and everybody hopped if Joe wanted something.
One thing that is still fairly formal is a memo to the Secretary. You go through umpteen miles of clearances, and you look up umpteen references to make sure you have the format right and the cover sheet right, and this and that. We had this person named Sarah Brown who, among other things, was a real marshal of troops to background books for legislative hearings. She got famous because she would send "See below" memos to the Secretary. She would have a "See Below," and then below would be Mr. David, Mr. Marquis, and all the people who were involved in hearings -- the Secretary, the Under Secretary. She would send out these "See Belows" saying: "Please insert the following pages behind Tab so and so," or "Here's the update for the material at tab so and so in your background book." Everybody was just dumbfounded or astonished or awestruck when they realized that Sarah was sending "See belows" to the Secretary.
There was just a delicacy of what would or would not be said in front of a 22 year-old kid who was fresh out of school. Suddenly everybody was self-conscious of their language. I think more so than is the case now. I think young ears we thought to be more delicate than is thought now and than they are now. We weren't in that television culture yet in 1959.
There was a very clumsy machine called the monster. As far as I know, it's still up there unless somebody has gone to the trouble of removing it. It was in a closet in the Commissioner's office. They have a new one; there's no longer the clumsy machine. It took 2 and a half minutes a page to FAX materials from Baltimore to the Commissioner's office in Washington. It made a lot of noise and it lived in a closet, and it was called "the monster". We "monstered" things to Washington. You got copies on the other end that were hard to read and certainly could not be used as an original. Whereas, today with the Faxes we have now, you can almost call them originals.
There was so much more transportation between here and Baltimore. It seems to me we were forever having to get originals over there. It was partly to move people around, go to hearings, and go to meetings. An awful lot of that shuttle schedule was to get documents to Washington. Speaking of which, when I first came here, the whole road system wasn't here. The Beltway didn't extend beyond Route 40. Social Security Boulevard did not extend beyond Rolling Road. Rolling Road going by here and all north was just a country lane. There was no I-95 between here and Washington. There were almost no eating establishments. There was Hersch, Franklintown Inn, Mill Race. There was almost no place that served crabs. It seems to me the first one right around here that was built was a restaurant on the hilltop where the Red Lobster is now. Is the Red Lobster still there, or is that something else?
Ross: Ingleside was two lanes and real windy and steep at the bottom. That was the route to get back to Baltimore.
Q: Can we talk about some of the people who were there that you worked with. Alvin David was the head?
Ross: He had been head of it since it was still called (I think) the Analysis Division. When I was here, it was DPA, the Division of Program Analysis, and he was head of it. Jim Marquis was his deputy. The Division at that time included not only the two planning type branches that conducted the kind of work that OLCA now conducts, but it also included the short-term actuary, who was Larry Alpern. He was a very exacting, awesome and expert actuary. Harry Ballantyne worked for him. There was an Economic Studies Branch. It was headed by a guy named George Trafton. There was a branch called Coding and Classification which was headed by somebody named Bill Cummins. Subsequently, that branch was spun off to the Central Office of Operations or whatever it was then.
The shop was substantially reorganized after Bob Ball became Commissioner of Social Security in 1962 under the Kennedy Administration. He set about dividing the Social Security Administration on the one hand as we know it now, which was the old Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and a separate Welfare Administration. The Commissioner before Bob Ball was Bill Mitchell, and he was Commissioner when I came to work. The Social Security Administration included in addition to the Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, which was us, the Children's Bureau, the Bureau of Public Assistance, Housing Administration, Bureau of Federal Credit Unions and various other folk. After Bob became Commissioner, he made this split which also entailed a split of the staff of the immediate Office of the Commissioner. That staff included Ida Miriam in the Office of Research and Statistics, and Bob Myers in the Office of the Actuary. Both of them came with SSA, and whatever other research and statistics functions there were in SSA including this Economic Studies Branch in DPA were transferred to Ida's shop. The short-term Actuary, Larry Alpern's shop, was transferred to Bob Myers. Another piece of the super structure of the Commissioner's office had been a legislative staff under Charlie Hawkins, and that went with the Welfare Administration. In compensating for that component going with the Welfare Administration and also with the loss of the Economic Studies Branch and the Actuary Branch, DPA, Alvin's shop, set up a Legislative Reference Office which was initially headed by Sarah Brown, the person I mentioned earlier. She had been in the Disability Branch, but had always been a whiz at putting together these many copies of these monstrous three-inch black binders that were background materials for hearings.
It's hard to talk about some of these people -- you mention Christgau in particular. I never knew him that well. He was a cherubic older gentleman by the time I got here. He had come sometime in the 1950's, during the Eisenhower Administration. He was formerly a Congressman from Minnesota, but I don't think he had come in right square in 1953 with Eisenhower; I think he came in later. He was just a charming, charming guy. I personally worked on a lot of speeches for him. This was shortly after the Disability Program had got up and running, and SSA was still growing. When I first came to work, in 1960, there had been about 60,000 employees. We grew to over 85,000, I guess.
Q: Now we're back to 60,000.
Ross: Now we're back to 60,000. In the meantime, we gained health insurance, and gained public assistance and lost them both again. One of the activities that he was into was running around the countryside making a presence and opening new district offices. I guess there was some rivalry and enthusiasm with members of Congress to have district offices opened in their districts. It's probably not fair to him, but I tend to think of him as a ceremonial person, and Bob Ball was the guy who was really running the show. It was a pretty youthful, long ago and far away perception.
Q: How about Alvin David? What was his managing style like or what was his personality like?
Ross: Gosh, it's hard to begin to describe him. Well, he was a slight man, exacting. I have no idea really why, but one did not wish to displease him. The notion that Alvin wouldn't like something or another was a very strong reason not to do it. He was quite a perfectionist as far as both the content and the appearance of the product were concerned. If the content were absolutely stellar, untouchable, wonderful, but the margins were crooked, or the O's were smudgy, or the attachment wasn't legible, you were in the doghouse for a long, long time. He came down hard on secretaries. Anybody who had read a thing and had his initials on the file box was equally responsible in Alvin's mind for the total product when he saw it.
One of the things about him and to a greater extent even some of the others, they would ask you to do what now seems somewhat outrageous -- things that would take you all night or things that would involve looking through volumes and volumes of something in order to be able to say: "It wasn't there," which was a deadly task. Almost anything that anybody there would ask you to do in those days, they would have done themselves, and could have done themselves, and could have done better than you. No matter how unreasonable it seemed to you, you knew that they could do it and would do it and had done it. Increasingly, that was less and less so and also increasing as the pace of things changed. I suspect by the time he left in 1976 or so, Alvin could no more compute a benefit. Earlier he could and would.
He had enormously high standards for himself. He was a perfectionist towards his own products, and he was conspicuously so. I guess the whole staff admired him beneath it all, but they used to make a little fun of him in the sense of asking him some piece of trivia just to see if they could trip him up. Occasionally we would wind up pursuing some trivia item that had not been a serious question as it turned out. He also did a lot of speaking and work with outside organizations and outside individuals. Unfortunately, from my telling of it, a great deal of it was in the coverage area which is not something I ever had much expertise and understanding of. In the area of convincing State or local groups or nonprofit groups that had an option to come into the program, why they should come in and why they should come in under these circumstances, and why Social Security would be a good deal for them, he did a lot of talking around the country.
Q: I want to talk in more detail about the Nixon Administration and the Family Assistance Plan (FAP). The first thing I've always been curious about was even though this was a Nixon Administration proposal, how much of it, how much of the motivation, if any, came from within SSA? Was SSA as interested in this issue or did this sort of come from the Department and come from the Administration and we reacted to them or did we initiate any of this?
Ross: This was entirely initiated by SSA; it came out of the political process. One of the moving forces was the riots throughout the country, in Chicago in particular, in 1968 following Martin Luther King's death. And there was the so-called Kerner Commission report which came out in 1968, while Johnson was still President, which recommended, among other things, that the adult assistance categories be federalized. I can remember the Department was preparing (Wilbur Cohen was then Secretary) a formal response to the Kerner Commission recommendations. I can remember a meeting I attended in Commissioner Ball's office with Alvin David, who was Director of what was then the Office of Program Evaluation and Planning (OPEP), and my immediate boss, Betty Sanders, who was director of the Division of Retirement and Survivors Insurance. Bob was asking, "How should we respond to the notion of federalized adult assistance categories," the implication clearly being it would be administered by SSA. And we went around the table and we all said, in one form or another, that despite this or that disadvantage, we thought it was the right thing to do. And Bob was opposed, and the major reason why he was opposed was that the aged, blind and disabled were the "good guys" in the welfare pot, and that by creaming them away from the AFDC crowd, he feared that nothing would ever be done to get AFDC right, and that separating the adult categories would have a really bad long-range effect on the programs for families with children.
I don't know what the Department's ultimate response was, but, as far as I know, that was what Bob told Wilbur
(Editor's Note: Mary and I got our wires crossed on this question. I was asking about FAP and she was answering more about SSI. FAP emerged from within the Administration and SSI from within SSA.)
Q: Sometimes I've gotten the impression that within the agency, there was sort of a resistance to SSA being involved in these adult categories because we didn't want to associate welfare with the title II program. That wasn't the nature of the resistance-- it was the opposite of that; it was concern about the welfare side?
Ross: That was what was driving to Bob.
Incidentally, when three of us said we were for, and Bob said he was recommending against, Betty Sanders said, "Gee, there's nothing democratic about this process," and something that's impressed me ever since, Ball said, "I should hope not. Let me know if you ever find anything democratic about the way I run this place. A well-run institution is not democratic."
This was when it was clear that we were going to administer adult assistance and when it was being discussed much later (in the SSI context) there was a lot of concern that the public should understand that the programs were separate, and that what they contributed to title II was not being spent on title XVI folks. I never heard, though it would have been a hard thing to have talked about, the SSI clientele being objectionable to the title II clientele or in close proximity. I gather we've had facilities problems where some people don't necessarily want a Social Security office in the building if it's going to mean a lot of SSI traffic. And I don't remember any anticipation of that kind of thing.
Q:. How about--I don't know how to describe it except philosophical antipathy toward welfare as a program as opposed to social insurance as a program? Was there any of that?
Ross: I don't remember any of that at an official level.
Q: So how did we get then from the Kerner Commission . . .
Ross: Well, you didn't, you had an election intervening, and you got Nixon elected by a very narrow margin.
The parties weren't that far apart and one of the things about the Social Security Amendments which were running parallel from 1969 to 1972 as the FAP stuff was, was that both party platforms called for automatic increases--a Social Security benefit increase and automatic increases thereafter, and liberalization of retirement. I'm not sure what was in the Democratic Party platform on welfare, but there were ideas out there kicking around: there were various forms of guaranteed annual income, negative income tax; all those kinds of proposals from the left. There's always a notion of popularity for really reforming the welfare system from the right. The whole thing was, in my mind, there was sort of an added seriousness because of this feeling that if blacks and poor people didn't share more in the good stuff that was America, we would have riots in our cities all the time. And there was a real fear element that pervaded, for example, the Kerner Commission report.
I haven't actually checked the text, but I gather that when President Nixon announced in August of 1969 that he was about to propose the Family Assistance Plan--it was a nationwide television broadcast--and in it, there was a reference to it being administered by SSA. I've come across some memos that I had no idea at that time existed in which the Secretary's top people were touching base with Bob Ball as to whether that was something that could be done.
The official Ball response was that if it were to be administered by an existing agency, the only two with a network that could do anything were Internal Revenue and Social Security, and between the two, Social Security was clearly the better. The other point he makes very strongly in his memo--and I guess it's because Social Security had such a good record for efficient administration and low administrative costs relative to benefit payments and so forth--the other point he makes very strongly in that initial August memo was that we could not expect low administrative costs by the very nature of any assistance program. We have to continuously check that the people who, if you're paying benefits by household, were in that household are in that household and income and resources haven't changed, is inherently an expensive proposition to administer. We should plan on that from day one.
The notion that it would be administered by Social Security was not popular anywhere, and the Administration immediately shied away from it. As far as I know, it was never committed to how it would be administered. But there was an awful lot of talk as the thing progressed, and I think the Ways and Means Committee leaned this way of having an independent or a wholly new income-security administration, or whatever they would have called it, run the thing. Whether they would have contracted to use SSA offices in various locations, who knows. As the thing went through Congress, it was not a political plus to associate it with Social Security.
Q: After Nixon announced his proposal, (or before the proposal was announced), there was a working team at the Department level with White House involvement that drafted the plan itself. Did we have any involvement in helping them draft the plan that you know of or was it the case that the first time we got involved, they already had a plan on the table?
Ross: I never quite figured that out at the time.
There were two things that were talked about. One was a task force headed by Finch, and that's mentioned in hearings and when people are given a run-through of how all this came about. I don't know who was on that task force as an interagency thing, and it had to have been fairly large.
What was referred to internally as the real founders, the developers of the plan, were 4 people. And I'm certain that Dick Nathan and Pat Moynihan were two of them. And I think the other two were Jerry Rossow (who wound up at the Department of Labor,) and Bob Patracelli, who wound up as sort of honcho for the FAP at HEW. He had different titles--he was essentially the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. And Nathan, once the Administration got itself set up, was the high mucky-muck at OMB; he wasn't Director but he was the top dog. And towards the latter part of the FAP effort, he came over to HEW. He was Deputy Under-Secretary. I'm not sure when that transfer occurred, I know he was in HEW at the end of 1971, and had been at OMB when the effort was being mounted. Those are the people that really got the core thing going in terms of covering the working poor, having a strong manpower component and saying, "Yes, this Administration will support a huge increase in the assistance roles, coupled with a manpower, and childcare and whatnot effort to assure that people don't stay on the roles forever."
Q: Now where did people like Tom Joe and some of those folks come in? Did they come into this later in the process?
Ross: No, Tom Joe was one of the early people, as was Venneman and as was Finch; they're all from California. Tom Joe had been an assistant to Congressman Burton from San Francisco who was a raging liberal--you can say that because somebody has just written a biography of him called "Rage for Justice"--a raging liberal who had done a great deal to revamp the California welfare program in the late 1950's and early 1960's. And Tom Joe also had considerable background in Federal-State relations and in State finances.
This was the era before revenue-sharing with the States, which was one of the things that came in the early 1970's, and there was a lot of a sense of pinch in State governments; the tax base was eaten up by the Feds and they needed some form of revenue sharing when they needed this and they needed that. And there was also a movement where the States were going out of their way to shift costs and caseloads from State assistance or from purely State funded assistance like general assistance to a Federal-State program like FAP or AFDC or whatever.
Q: Now, who for SSA's part was involved in this in the early stages? Did we have anyone working on this as it began to make its way through the Congressional process? Did we have a team or what?
Ross: We very early detailed a number of people, myself included, to work on this project. Bob, I assume, attended the meetings and I don't know if anyone was working on that.
Q: So yourself and who else from SSA was working on the project?
Ross: Well, somewhat later on, but not a whole lot later, there was a really strong contingent headed by John Schwartz, who was considered an SSA comer and was in the personnel line. Through a lot of this period, Pete Wheeler was detailed to the Executive Secretariat and worked very closely with Jack Venneman, the Undersecretary on this reform stuff. And John Trout was, for a lot of this period, in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Legislation.
But the real FAP administrative planning staff was headed by John Montgomery, who had a California welfare background. And he was hired, not in the initial planning stages, but early the following year to set up administrative planning to check how the think was coming on. And that's were Schwartz and some of his people. . . I don't know if I mentioned some these folks, Bob Cahill and Barry Powell, who I think was over there. Somebody I thought was real sharp named Carolyn Betts who wound up in OHA somewhere. There was a bunch of them.
Carl Dahm, who had previously been detailed from the Atlanta region to OLCA years and years earlier, he was known around there to sort of head up a FAP legislative planning staff based in the HEW South Building.
Charlie Hawkins, and once he was appointed, Jack Costa, who was head of SRS. But those guys didn't have an initiating-type role, but they were consulted from time to time on those early stages. And so were we; I found where we commented to OGC, I guess, on an early draft of the adult-assistance call. And that was institutional; that wasn't because we had details over there. We had a couple of people and as time passed, there were more people back here, at least in OLCA and what was then OPEP and I don't know where else, that were spending more and more of their time on adult assistance.
I can't exactly remember exactly where this sort of stuff was coordinated from, but substantial background books were being prepared and revised and pages changed, throughout this period.
So the thing hangs over and we get into 1970.
Beginning around September 1969, I was sort of detailed without portfolio to Washington. I had just inherited the house I grew up in and due to personal reasons, very much wanted to be in Washington. And I no sooner got myself detailed over there, than I was detailed to work with Tom Joe on whatever he was doing on the Family Assistance Plan. He and I were something of a mismatch from day one.
A lot of the work he asked me to do was stuff I had no clue about: design an ideal administrative setup; describe how different departments-- Labor, HEW, Housing, Food stamps--would work together; and that kind of stuff. I noticed throughout the period, when I was going through my files, I had a number of administrative-type assignments (I don't know, I may not do them as poorly as I think) but it's not a type of activity I'm comfortable with. And I did not have good communication with Tom Joe; I couldn't sort of read his meaning a lot of the time. He has a sarcastic way of speaking, and he uses a lot of humor to convey meaning, but I wasn't getting a lot of the meaning a lot of the time.
I did discover a really strong note I wrote on his behalf (this would have been sometime in 1970) I wrote over my signature, telling John Montgomery that Tom Joe is really upset that a lot of the legislative planning (or the planning activity for administering FAP seems to be going in the direction of re-imposing all the suspicions and anti-dignity.
Q: The old philosophy that they were trying to get away from. . .
Ross: Tom Joe was a real "do it by affidavit and don't look behind the affidavit" type; I don't know if he still is; don't ever look behind--that's the kind of person he was.
The Administration introduced its FAP proposals in October, as well as Social Security benefit increases and cost-of-living adjustments. And Ways and Means began holding hearings almost right away in October and November. And Patracelli had a small staff of people from ASPE and it seems to me there were weekly meetings in Patracelli's office. It seems to me I attended them and I reported to a number of people about them, though I must not have done that in writing. Because I know I reported back to Tom Joe about them and I think I also reported to Alvin or carried messages back to SSA. I went to them and Fran White from the General Counsel--somebody must have been there from Legislation, though I don't remember who. And this corps of people from Planning and Evaluation which included Alair Townsend, who later when on to work in Budget and who worked for Mayor Koch for years in New York as Budget Director for New York City; Jody Allen, who I think went from there to the Urban Institute or someplace; and wound up--well she's now on the editorial staff of the Washington Post; Mike Mahoney and Jim Story who did some policy stuff but did an awful lot of numbers crunching, and a woman named Mary Jane Cronin, who wound up doing an awful lot of work on refuting the notion that there were adverse incentives in the FAP system.
But even with this ballyhooed reform, there were still situations where working people were worse off than people who didn't work.
I noticed throughout that, at different moments, different people are kind of taking up the reins to do public information--prepare pamphlets and chart books; and I guess the White House was also doing a certain amount of it; they had done fact sheets for the company that did it.
Q: Now, you were not doing just administrative planning at this point, you were still making some policy decisions about how this would all work; is that right, or were these primarily administrative type issues that you were dealing with?
Ross: For Tom Joe, it was this pie in the sky stuff; for Patracelli, it was more putting out fires, responding to whatever ways and Means was calling attention to, providing rationale for this that and the third.
One of the disconnects that ran throughout this planning was that the people that were really working on reform were not well tied in, I thought--and I had trouble getting myself tied in--with the people in SRS who knew something about how assistance was working already and what did and didn't work in the States.
And of course, in the midst of it all, the Congress passed the 15 percent benefit increase that December that sort of took some of the push out of doing something on Social Security.
So the thing hangs over and we get into 1970 and Ways and Means does a report on the Family Assistance Plan. And in the Family Assistance bill, there were substantial changes in adult assistance. There was a Federal minimum stated. Previously, there were 4 adult assistance categories in the law: aged, blind and disabled in three separate titles, and there was one title--title XVI under which States could have a combined adult-assistance program.
Part of the original FAP welfare reform proposals would have eliminated the other three--the three original categories--and required that all adult assistance be channeled through title XVI, which would have provided for aged, blind and disabled at the State level.
Q: Still at the State level but not federalized?
Ross: Still at the State level, but with an option for Federal administration, which States could have elected. and there was a slight financial incentive to encourage that in terms of administrative costs, but not very much.
Q: Now you mentioned that Ways and Means did pass out the FAP. But I also understand that they were skeptical of the idea of having SSA be the administrative agency.
Ross: I don't remember if this is written into their committee reports, that's something I didn't check, but they clearly leaned towards a wholly new agency. Nobody was particularly enthusiastic about having the existing Welfare Administration do it. We just had too much baggage over there.
Everybody admired Charlie Hawkins, who was the legislative person for Welfare, and Jack Costa certainly wasn't tarred with any of the old feathers. Which I guess is why John Montgomery's shop was established to make a showing of a whole new Social Security-style approach that would not have been there otherwise.
Where we really ran into trouble was on the Senate side. The Finance Committee held hearings at the end of April and the beginning of May and took the proposal apart from every possible angle. And it was Senator Harris on that committee who had, for a long time, supported a guaranteed income plan and there was Senator Talmadge who wasn't going to be too much and Senator Williams of Delaware who was the ranking Republican who very quickly latched onto devastating tables that we used throughout that process--creative cases that showed horrible notches where you earn another dollar and you lose all X Y or Z, where Medicaid and food stamps and public housing and what not would come together to create tremendous disincentives and notches and whatever.
Finch testified with Venneman and Patracelli and Hawkins; the record is just rife with requests for information; and an awful lot of them say at the bottom of the page in the printed record, "As of the date of publication, this information was never received."
At the end of that period, around noon Friday May 1, the Finance Committee went into executive session and invited Finch in with them and came back very quickly and announced that the Administration was going to reconsider its Family Assistance Plan and would resubmit it with amendments which would deal with some of these problems. Then everybody went to lunch, and that's all the public record shows.
But there was a further hearing that afternoon, I'm certain of, and it's not in the record. The only Senator I can remember being present was Ribicoff. The only person I can remember sitting at the witness table was Finch. They had a sort of friendly but distant discourse. "I appreciate so much you're being willing to come back on a Friday afternoon," and so on, and when they got over the pleasantries, there was some substantive back and forth. And it seems to me Ribicoff said something like, "Gosh, Mr. Secretary, if I didn't know better, I would think the performance that your department has put on here the last 3 days is deliberately designed by the White House to undercut their own proposal." And Finch said, and I love this line, "Senator, this scenario could not have been contrived."
Things were going from bad to worse, the Administration was being attacked from the right because all these people were being put on welfare and there weren't really any incentives to get them off, "can you show me that these manpower programs will really work to get people trained and into jobs, and don't we all have a terrible record," and they were being attacked from the far left by the National Welfare Rights Organization, which along about this time, staged a sit-in at Secretary Finch's office.
Q: In connection with Senator Ribicoff's question: In recent years, some information has come out in Bob Haldeman's diaries, for example, that suggested that Nixon wasn't necessarily all that interested in FAP and may not have been really pushing it vigorously, sort of as Ribicoff suggested. Did you see any evidence of that when you were there working on it, that the Administration wasn't really serious about this and they were just going through the motions? Was there any evidence of that at all?
Ross: I didn't see anything to that effect in the first 2 years, in 1969 and 1970. In 1971, they asked the Finance Committee to discontinue its work on FAP while it considered income-tax proposals. But before that overt thing, it seems to me once they failed to get it through in the first 2 years, it didn't seem to have the same priority at the White House.
As late as December 22, 1970, there was a letter from Nixon to Jerry Ford, who was still in the House of Representatives saying, "We've got to get this thing done this year." And I think part of that was that the agenda is moving on. And then, of course the whole thing died at the end of 1970 and the effort to push it in 1971 was half-hearted, I guess.
Q: So, what did you do then in response to the rejection, or the rebuff by Senate Finance?
Ross: Well, everybody goes back to the drawing boards and Finch, by this time, was not in good health.
We were doing--I was doing a certain amount of legislative support that they weren't accustomed to on the welfare side. Like back in those days, when you had a significant bill like H.R.16311 (the FAP bill) we would produce an annotated bill and you would go through the whole bill and write in the margins in plain English what each section did and why it was good and why it was there; we were doing all that kind of stuff. The bill originally proposed by the Administration was shot through with vague statements--I forget how they described who was going to be referred for employment, but it was everybody except those who would not be referred because of illness or advanced age. "What do you mean by illness or advanced age?" The bill was shot through with vague statements like that and with parenthetical expressions such as, "In accordance with regulations to be prescribed by the Secretary." Nobody knew what that meant. Or, "and other resources in accordance with regs." So one of the efforts that we did in May and June, and later that year, was to provide written explanations for what was meant by these vagaries or to redraft the legislative language to clarify what was income, what was earned income, what was unearned income, and the like.
It was interesting work in a way because you had people who have been dealing with it in a welfare context for so long that everybody knows what they mean, and the Social Security types who are so precise but sort of get tripped up by such things as, "If you treat it as earned income . . ."--by the fact that having income hurts a person.
But the Administration did ultimately submit a new plan and some of the issues were partially dealt with by a proposed change in housing legislation. I think later came the notion of cashing out food stamps, although that could have come up then, and a further notion that you would have a kinder, gentler notion of dealing with the Medicaid notch-- the point at which somebody suddenly doesn't get Medicaid. And the Administration then planned to submit a Family Health Plan (HIP) the following year. But the notion that it was going to take a year to work out FAP was another reason why the Finance Committee could delay action.
Q: So they resubmitted a revised version of the FAP in 1970?
Ross: Yes. In June of 1970. And at some point about late June or early July, Finch resigned and Secretary Richardson was appointed. And he then was going to carry the ball. His first big public thing to do as Secretary of HEW was to return and testify further on the revised Family Assistance Plan. He was a terrific guy. But an awful lot of staff work was done at that point to give him all the information on the background. He was asking good questions right, left, and center since he had not been part of the original planning of the thing. And he got up to speed, and mastered the stuff and worked the staff to a frazzle. And he really testified well.
Then the Department of Labor went. Labor had also changed Secretaries in this period. There was no Undersecretary Shultz, but Secretary Hodgeson. But in both cases accompanied by Jerry (Jerome) Rossow, who, I gather, was one of the original planners of FAP. I haven't reread their testimony, but from what little of it I can remember from the hearing, they talked a good game, but they didn't have a convincing way of responding to criticisms. In the past, Labor had talked a good game and nothing had happened.
Q: Now, this second round of hearings happened at the end of July ?
Ross: At the end of July and the beginning of August. Then the Finance Committee moved on and held public hearings with public witnesses, and then they went into executive sessions. They were also, at the same time, holding hearings on the Social Security cash benefit bill which, by now, was H.R.17550. And at some point in early October, it was becoming clear that the Finance Committee was not going to report a separate welfare bill; they had a committee vote that was 14-1 against the Family Assistance Plan.
The June submission had been called the Revised Family Assistance Plan; they then submitted in October and published in November something that was subsequently called "revised-revised." And it included what the Administration considered to be the core FAP bill that they were still supporting, with some further modifications to deal with incentive problems and cost problems. Each time a new set of cost estimates was prepared, the cost of the same things seemed to be going up; the things were changing so that it was hard to make direct comparisons; the caseload estimates were going up and the costs were going up.
In addition to the so-called "core" bill were additional amendments that the Administration was cooler about but would entertain--which included pre-testing of the Family Assistance Plan in select jurisdictions. And out of the core package, there was put together a Ribicoff-Bennett plan which I believe included the pre-testing. Senator Bennett was a moderate Republican from Utah and Senator Ribicoff, of course, was from Connecticut (and a former Secretary of HEW). We put together for them, at their request, a Ribicoff-Bennett Amendment which failed in Committee by a vote of 10-6, which was already some progress.
Q: Why was there such a difference in the reaction between Ways and Means on one side and Finance on the other? What was the politics or what caused there to be such a different reception to the FAP on both sides?
Ross: Ways and Means was a more liberal committee, but I think they were much more inclined to believe that nothing could be a whole lot worse than what they already had. A lot of the comparisons that were accepted in the Ways and means Committee where you could show that FAP was better than old law, seemed to go down. On the Finance Committee side, you had to show that FAP had no flaws; and you had to be showing it to extremes. Senator Harris was discounted somewhat--but not really because he becomes a player on the Senate floor.
The Finance Committee did report out the adult assistance (or some adult assistance amendments) but much less. But the notion of a guaranteed minimum--which was now $110, which was higher, I think the second or subsequent individuals got less than $110, but I'm not specific on that. But the $110 in the House bill was $130 plus $70 in the Senate bill; the Senate bill was $130 per person and $70 for each additional person in an adult-assistance household. It also included some punitive--or what were viewed, particularly by liberals, as punitive--amendments having to do with residency--countering the effect of the liberalizing Supreme Court decisions. These provisions had to do with saying residency requirements were okay and lien requirements were okay and it was a crime to cross State lines to avoid paternity responsibilities and child-support responsibilities.
Q: One of the things that was going on around this time was sort of a cultural change or a philosophical change with the beginnings of this idea of welfare as an "earned right." I don't know if the Kerner Commission reflected that or not, but around this same time that philosophy became prominent and there were lots of welfare-rights advocates and activists pushing that idea. Did that idea motivate either the House or the Senate, either favorably or unfavorably? Was that in the mix in any way that you could see?
Ross: Well, it was certainly in the mix; it was reflected in Senator Harris' approach to the whole thing, and it was reflected in Senator Mondale's approach; Senator Mondale subsequently introduced the National Welfare Rights Organization bill.
This, of course, was one of the reasons that we could do for the aged, blind and disabled things that you couldn't do for families with children; somehow, it's a lot easier to think that people who are old or blind or disabled have a right to something.
I also did a certain amount of letter-answering and it seems to me we used to get that complaint. The Administration response was that this was not a guaranteed income; anybody who could work had to work, and that there were requirements and responsibilities imposed on recipients. I guess there was an underlying notion that people had a basic right to a minimum income.
Q: Now we were talking about the Ribicoff-Bennett amendment and how it had begun to move the Senate a little bit.
Ross: Well, it moved the Finance Committee, but not much other than it gave some small encouragement to the Administration.
So the Finance Committee reported out what few welfare provisions they were going to have in the Social Security bill 17550, and they also tacked onto that bill a bunch of trade amendments. That bill hit the Senate floor in December, and was the subject of a subtle but effective filibuster.
Interestingly enough, a lot of this was led on the Senate floor by Senator Williams who, in the guise of trying to get everybody off the dime, kept proposing unanimous-consent requests, because they had to operate by agreement. He would never get unanimous consent. The people who opposed the trade bill, which included Senator Javits, who was basically somebody who would have been mildly supportive of family assistance, wanted to be sure that they could get a clear-cut vote on the trade title in the bill. The people that supported FAP wanted to be able to get a clear vote on the Ribicoff-Bennett Amendment. But even within that, there were some who only wanted to be able to vote on that amendment (this is Senator Harris) only if that amendment in turn would be amendable because he wanted to modify it. So it was caught between the folks that didn't want anything to happen, those who would make it easier for the trade section to go through, and the folks that wanted some sort of a vote on the family assistance section. In the course of all this filibuster (negotiating around for a modus operandi here)-- which went on from the 16th to the 29th of December, so it was half the month and pretty much every day that they were in session with just a couple of days off at Christmas-there was a certain amount of substantive debate on the family-assistance business, but most of it was a rehash of what had happened in Committee and no minds were changed, one would say. But the point was that it was becoming clear with each passing day that there wasn't going to be time to go to Conference; Congress was going to adjourn. Under the Constitution; the 91st Congress dies at the end of January 2. And with each passing day, there wasn't going to be time to go to conference, there wasn't going to be time to iron out differences between the House and the Senate bills.
Q: Now, the House passed the bill earlier in 1970?
Ross: The House had earlier passed H.R.550, the Social Security bill, which was now the sole vehicle. They had also passed the benefit assistance plan in 16311, which included adult assistance, some of which had squiggled into 17550 on the Senate side. Finally, the Senate stripped off the trade stuff and they stripped out some of the welfare stuff and passed the bill on December 29. But already, on the House side, Mills and Burns were saying, "There's not going to be time to Conference this bill; we can't get the benefit increase."
For those who were working computer systems at the time, on the Social Security side, there were nightmares with each passing month as to whether or not there was going to be a Social Security benefit increase (which was going to be either 10 percent in the Senate bill or 5 percent in the House bill) or what month it was going to be for and whether or not it was going to be retroactive and this whole debate would go on past whatever the cutoffs were for doing a benefit conversion--a lot more lead time was needed--and whether there were going to be pass-through provisions. It seems to me the assistance folks were writing memos through Bob to Ways and Means for ever and ever.
But it was not only becoming clear that there wouldn't be time to conference the bill, but people were now talking in terms of when they do have the benefit increase making it retroactive to when it would have been, and Burns and Mills were promising to introduce the Social Security Amendments and welfare early in the next Congress which was going to be the 92nd Congress convening in January of 1971. And so the bill died. In January, the Ways and Means Committee did introduce the Family Assistance Plan and the Social Security Amendments and they proceeded to go through Ways and Means.
It seems to me, at this point the Ways and Means version got a little more serious about SSI, though I'm not sure about that. And then, of course they had the 10 percent benefit increase enacted on a separate bill in March which took, again, some of the pressure off doing something, because the beneficiaries had been promised something last December and finally got it.
I think the adult-assistance program was substantially shifted from what it had looked like--from a strengthening of the existing State programs to something much closer to SSI. Ways and Means got through with the bill I guess at the end of May or June and I think it still included family assistance. And here's where--I think it's got to be where--the Administration was pushing its tax-reform proposals ahead of family assistance and welfare reform on the Senate side.
By this time, a guy named Jim Edwards was running the Department's legislative effort. I was doing more work back here in Baltimore--I think I actually came back to Baltimore as Betty's staff assistant for a while there. But it also seems to me I was working much more closely with the legislative people and they were taking up the cudgels on PR activities; they were issuing a rebuttal to the welfare-rights criticisms on the one hand and a rebuttal to the American Conservative Union criticisms on the other hand.
Q: Was anything happening on the Senate side while this was going on?
Ross: There was a certain amount of positioning, it seems to me; of course, I kept finding as I was going through stuff, revised versions of the Ribicoff-Bennett approach and solely a Bennett bill that didn't go anywhere near as far but I guess he thought it's got a chance, and a Ribicoff bill that was separate. And a long in here is when McGovern introduced the National Welfare Rights version of the bill.
I don't know whether people were already starting to look to the 1972 election; somehow the bipartisanship (what there had been of it) which Nixon had really used well in a lot of respects in his first 2 years--and needed to because he didn't have a huge mandate before 1972--was fading.
Oh, there was a reorganization of Montgomery's FAP staff. At the time I wasn't as well acquainted with the organization of the Department as I became since. One of the things they did with John Montgomery as coordinator of the FAP--planning to administer a welfare reform-- was that they put him in several different jobs at once. He was an Assistant to the Secretary so that he could report to the Secretary; he was in ASPE as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Income Maintenance and reported through ASPE, I suppose, for that. Even without legislative authority, the Department began the so-called Vermont Experiment, and contracts with Mathematica to do a Seattle study, and a New Jersey study to show how recipients respond to work proposals and incentives, and what-not, which was run out of the Assistant Secretary for Planning, and he was Director of the Family Assistance Staff.
Well, there were some SRS detailees and detailees from the Office of Child Development, but it was 20 people from SSA-and, as I look back on it, it was quality people, it wasn't detailing people you hope would leave. It was a really serious effort. But although it was more smooth running, less was really happening to change the kinds of minds that had to be changed in order to get something to happen.
I got intensely involved in some silly Work Incentive (WIN) amendments that had some very strange opportunities. When you're suddenly in a place where there's not another soul that knows about anything--even if you don't know much about it yourself, as I didn't know anything about the work-incentive program that HEW and Labor -were supposed to be jointly administering--I at least had heard of it and knew that there was such a thing. And I was among people who had barely had heard of it, which was one of the problems-it was why the Administration didn't make, in some respects, a better showing when they had to talk about this welfare and work coordination and how it was going to work. They had so little notion--and I didn't have any notion either; I just knew it was there in a way, and knew it was there in a way it would matter to Congress- there was a whole history of a work-incentive program that had not worked. And I turned into an instant expert on that in about a month in 1971.
As you implied, did the White House lose it's enthusiasm? I don't know. I can't read the motivations. Was Senator Long slyly scuttling the thing from Day One, or was there ever a moment when he was open-minded about it? Tom Joe, I would say, lost enthusiasm--as an idealist loses enthusiasm-- when other people are messing in the idea and it isn't going someplace, and they let it go and go on to other things.
I was beginning, by this point, to get increasingly involved to some extent in adult assistance and, to some extent, the Social Security bill. Back in the 1969-1970 period, when the Finance Committee was carrying the water on blocking FAP, Ways and Means was blocking the automatics which, I guess, finally passed the House. But really, nothing much further happened which was new and forward-moving in the family-assistance world in 1971.
That about winds down my real involvement.
1972 was a fascinating year. The Finance Committee was still holding hearings on H.R. 1. The House finally passed H.R.1 at the end of June or the beginning of July. The Finance Committee held hearings in August through September and suspended them while the tax bill went through. In those hearings--they weren't the grueling experience for the Administration that they had been the previous year--they created the record with mountains of material and 6 volumes between that and the resumed hearings in January and February of 1972, which was a really strong effort again for welfare reform and for a bunch of other things, and for beefed-up child-support enforcement.
Q: How did this idea of peeling off the adult categories from the whole Family Assistance Plan come about? Did that happen in 1971 at the end of this as it began to lose its steam? Were they developing that idea?
Ross: The fact that the Finance Committee reported some adult-assistance amendments, and the notion of a Federal floor in adult assistance, was acceptable to the Finance Committee.
Q: When did they decide to do the H.R. 1 strategy which ended up becoming the SSI program?
Ross: I think that's Ways and Means in the spring of 1971, and that's what I really didn't dig into. But I think that's when, for example, we first had this question of it becoming clear--or being clarified--that benefits for disabled people could extend to children under 18, which isn't of too big moment if you've got a FAP out there that's picking up children under 18 anyway. It becomes of huge moment; if you don't make reforms in the category for families with children and you just add that in the title XVI context. So it's in that connection that there was correspondence between Bob Ball and Alvin David about what kind of a definition of disability--at least initially, one of the drafts in the spring of 1971 would have provided that you just looked at whether they met the medical criteria without any test of SGA and without any test of vocational factors--for children under 16. The implication in the series of notes is that "Well, it's better than nothing but we really should have 18 rather than 16 before we have to look at vocational stuff."
Q: So, it's very clear that people were aware that one of the implications of H.R. 1 was going to be that children would be eligible for this program. Is it also fair to say that nobody anticipated how large a component of the program that population would become?
Ross: Nobody anticipated the Zebley decision.
Remember, this is 1972. I guess we already had a 1-year prognosis. I think the notion was that we were going to do a very strict test of disability, as, for example, we had in effect for widows for years; they look only at medical criteria. The language that we have seen Tom Joe take credit for, which I have no idea if it was appropriate, the language that got into the law of "comparable severity" I don't know that anybody foresaw how that would wind up being stretched.
I was astonished to see at the very end of the 1970 debate on December 29, Senator Dole got up and made a speech saying, "Well, it's been a long debate and I won't prolong it much longer but other things being equal, there's two amendments I would have offered. And one of them is ..." and it was an amendment that was in the context of the old State assistance programs. But he has a rationale about how disabled children are not adequately dealt with in the AFDC program, because they do have special needs and their disabilities do require special attention, and they would be better served, in his view, at State option I guess, if they were taken care of under the programs for disabled people. It takes away the old requirement that to get aid to the disabled, you had to be 18, and it makes very explicit a requirement that for assistance to disabled persons under 18, it would take account of income and resources of the parents. He didn't press it because the bill was dying minute by minute.
Q: But eventually that sort of became part of the SSI program.
Q: One other thing that just occurred to me in terms of a contemporary controversy--and I'm wondering whether anybody foresaw or had any debate about it back in this time--was drug addicts and alcoholics and their eligibility for these adult categories. Was there any conversation about this at the time?
Ross: Yes, there were mountains of conversation about it on the Senate side, and in particular, with the Senate staffer Tom Vail. Some of the upshot of that was just the opposite of what was intended. Because we were saying, for example, that we would expect to treat DA and A the way it was then treated in title II, which was, "Nobody gets assistance on the basis of simply being drunk or being high. You have to have a physical impairment--regardless of whether you got cirrhosis from drinking or from being struck cirrhotic--if you meet the definition you're disabled." And I guess this is where the Social Security planning types, like me, were not meeting mentally on the same plane with the welfare folk who knew perfectly well that there's a bunch of addicts and alcoholics out there that need assistance and how are you going to get it to them? So there was a blind spot there into which Tom Vail, who was Chief Counsel and Senator Long's man on this stuff, kept leaping. And as a result of the language that got in the law--and I don't know the precise phrasing--it made it perfectly clear that you were, in title XVI, going to be dealing with alcoholics and addicts; and you were going to have the same definition of disability in the two titles--we wound up with a back-door liberalization of the way alcoholics and addicts can get on the rolls in title II. I think that was absolutely not anticipated by the committee.
I think the Committee anticipated a much different kind of administration of the requirements for rep payees for alcoholics and addicts in treatment and all that good stuff. It's hard to say that what's happened since was anticipated because, arguably, if (a) Social Security had either aggressively implemented those provisions or (b) gone back to the Committee and said, "We can't implement those provisions," something else would have happened.
I don't think that anybody could have foreseen that those provisions would neither be very aggressively implemented nor be looked at again in 20 years or whatever it was. I think there's an area where no one anticipated benign neglect and we paid the price. But yes, it was very much on the Finance Committee's mind in 1972, as I recall.
Q: The one last question I have, you talked about this earlier and maybe you already answered it. You alluded to the fact that there were concerns about how this type of program would be administered. Did anybody at this time have any premonition of the kind of chaos that was going to happen with the SSI program, when it became implemented and faced all these administrative challenges that seemed, at the time, to be much greater than anyone imagined? Was there any premonition of that at this point in time?
Ross: It was known that it was going to be a huge deal and there were provisions that were made in the law--I have forgotten the whole nine- yards-but for startup costs coming out of title II and being reimbursed and so on.
It seems to me it was understood, if it wasn't made explicit, that we were going to be reaching personnel ceilings and doing a lot of stuff, but that was in 1972, with an effective date of November 1974. I think where a lot of the hassle and confusion comes from was the extent of the SSI amendments that occurred in 1973; the program was amended a whole lot before it was ever implemented which had two effects: (1) it shortened the lead time, and (2) it diverted the attention of Art Hess and others who were involved in planning the implementation.
I don't know that anybody anticipated--and I'm sure there are a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacks on this--the loading up of the welfare rolls that occurred (for purposes of getting people on the rolls) in 1973 so that they would be converted into the SSI program in 1974. I think there were people who thought about that and saw it coming and just didn't say that much.
Anybody in their right mind, if they were going to implement a welfare program in the future, would have the effective month in warm weather; nobody could have foreseen those buses of people in cold climates in line outside New York and other offices in the middle of January.
I don't know enough about the Sumner Whittier operation to know if they were behind schedule at all; I know that at some point in there, we switched Secretaries again and we've got Califano.