Administrative Burden

Administrative Burden

Policymaking by Other Means

Pamela Herd, Donald P. Moynihan

Uncertainty over the constitutionality of the Social Security Act also clouded the implementation process. Some employers simply refused to report earnings, at least partly on the basis of ideological objections, and their resistance was encouraged by the prospect of Roosevelt facing a Supreme Court defeat on the constitutionality of Social Security. 16 The Court had already struck down much of the policy architecture of the New Deal. Indeed, Roosevelt was able to draw staff to support Social Security from the National Recovery Administration only because it had been declared unconstitutional and needed to be disbanded. Most ominously for Roosevelt, the Agricultural Adjustment Act was ruled unconstitutional on the basis of a revenue-raising and spending structure quite similar to Social Security. It was not until May 1937, just seven months before all beneficiaries needed to be enrolled, that the Supreme Court ruled the program constitutional. 17 The favorable judgment was part of the “switch in time that saved nine” when Justice Owen Roberts switched from conservative to the liberal bloc of the Court in the aftermath of Roosevelt’s court-packing proposal.

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