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Rick Shenkman


  • Originally published 02/27/2013

    Social Security

    Download this backgrounder as a Word documentWorth ReadingWhen Did Social Security Become the Third Rail of American Politics?BackgroundSocial Security is the nation's largest social program. More than 50 million people receive benefits totalling more than $600 billion a year. Originally established to provide retirement benefits, the program was extended to widows, the disabled, and children in some cases. It is estimated to keep 40 percent of the elderly out of poverty. Currently, retirement benefits are paid to people when they reach the age of 65, though younger people will have to wait until they are 66 or 67, depending on the date of their birth.

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    A Brief History of Presidential Inaugurations

    HNN Hot Topics: Presidential Inaugurations President Kennedy giving his inaugural address. Credit: JFK Library.Worth ReadingHNN Hot Topics: Presidential InaugurationsHighlights of Past InauguralsNixon Pigeon-Proofed His Inaugural Parade RouteBackground

  • Originally published 02/10/2010

    The Left's Blind Spot

    Let's start with Howard Zinn and then move on. Zinn, rather unlikely for a historian, has been feted like a Hollywood celebrity, receiving encomiums from stars like Danny Glover, James Earl Jones, and of course, Matt Damon, whose character in Good Will Hunting famously brandishes a copy of Zinn's A People's History of the United States during a raucus encounter with Robin Williams. In 2003 a large crowd turned out at a celebration in Manhattan at the 92nd Street Y to mark the sale of the one millionth copy of the book. Recently, there was even a television series built around the book's themes.Why is Zinn so popular (with the general public, if not with historians, many of whom have expressed reservations about his books)? The answer is that Zinn plays the role in a self-satisfied often-uncritical mainstream culture of the seemingly attractive dangerous rebel. "If you want to read a real history book, read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States," Damon exclaims in the movie. "That book will knock you on your ass."

  • Originally published 07/08/2003

    Top 5 Myths About the Fourth of July!

    Credit: Wiki Commons.#1 Independence Was Declared on the Fourth of July.America's independence was actually declared by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776. The night of the second the Pennsylvania Evening Post published the statement:"This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States."So what happened on the Glorious Fourth? The document justifying the act of Congress-you know it as Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence-was adopted on the fourth, as is indicated on the document itself, which is, one supposes, the cause for all the confusion. As one scholar has observed, what has happened is that the document announcing the event has overshadowed the event itself.When did Americans first celebrate independence? Congress waited until July 8, when Philadelphia threw a big party, including a parade and the firing of guns. The army under George Washington, then camped near New York City, heard the new July 9 and celebrated then. Georgia got the word August 10. And when did the British in London finally get wind of the declaration? August 30.

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