Harry S. Truman
January 21, 1946
To the Congress of the United States:
A quarter century ago the Congress decided that it could no longer consider the financial programs of the various departments on a piecemeal basis. Instead it has called on the President to present a comprehensive Executive Budget. The Congress has shown its satisfaction with that method by extending the budget system and tightening its controls. The bigger and more complex the Federal Program, the more necessary it is for the Chief Executive to submit a single budget for action by the Congress.
At the same time, it is clear that the budgetary program and the general program of the Government are actually inseparable. The president bears the responsibility for recommending to the Congress a comprehensive set of proposals on all Government activities and their financing. In formulating policies, as in preparing budgetary estimates, the Nation and the Congress have the right to expect the President to adjust and coordinate the views of the various departments and agencies to form a unified program. And that program requires consideration in connection with the Budget, which is the annual work program of the Government.
Since our programs for this period which combines war liquidation with reconversion to a peacetime economy are inevitably large and numerous it is imperative that they be planned and executed with the utmost efficiency and the utmost economy. We have cut the war program to the maximum extent consistent with national security. We have held our peacetime programs to the level necessary to our national well—being and the attainment of our postwar objectives. Where increased programs have been recommended, the increases have been held as low as is consistent with these goals. I can assure the Congress of the necessity of these programs. I can further assure the Congress that the program as a whole is well within our capacity to finance it. All the programs I have recommended for action are included in the Budget figures.
For these reasons I have chosen to combine the customary Message on the State of the Union with the annual Budget Message, and to include in the Budget not only estimates for functions authorized by the Congress, but also for those which I recommend for its action.
I am also transmitting herewith the Fifth Quarterly Report of the Director of War Mobilization and Reconversion.1 It is a comprehensive discussion of the present state of the reconversion program and of the immediate and long—range needs and recommendations.
This constitutes, then, as complete a report as I find it possible to prepare now. It constitutes a program of government in relation to the Nation’s needs.
With the growing responsibility of modern government to foster economic expansion and to promote conditions that assure full and steady employment opportunities, it has become necessary to formulate and determine the Government program in the light of national economic conditions as a whole. In both the executive and the legislative branches we must make arrangements which will permit us to formulate the Government program in that light. Such an approach has become imperative if the American political and economic system is to succeed under the conditions of economic instability and uncertainty which we have to face. The Government needs to assure business, labor, and agriculture that Government policies will take due account of the requirements of a full employment economy. The lack of that assurance would, I believe, aggravate the economic instability.
With the passage of a full employment bill which I confidently anticipate for the very near future, the executive and legislative branches of government will be empowered to devote their best talents and resources in subsequent years to preparing and acting on such a program.
I. FROM WAR TO PEACE—THE YEAR OF DECISION
In his last Message on the State of the Union, delivered one year ago, President Roosevelt said:
“This new year of 1945 can be the greatest year of achievement in human history.
“1945 can see the final ending of the Nazi—Fascist reign of terror in Europe.
“1945 can see the closing in of the forces of retribution about the center of the malignant power of imperialistic Japan.
“Most important of all—1945 can and must see the substantial beginning of the organization of world peace.”
All those hopes, and more, were fulfilled in the year 1945. It was the greatest year of achievement in human history. It saw the end of the Nazi—Fascist terror in Europe, and also the end of the malignant power of Japan. And it saw the substantial beginning of world organization for peace. These momentous events became realities because of the steadfast purpose of the United Nations and of the forces that fought for freedom under their flags. The plain fact is that civilization was saved in 1945 by the United Nations.
Our own part in this accomplishment was not the product of any single service. Those who fought on land, those who fought on the sea, and those who fought in the air deserve equal credit. They were supported by other millions in the armed forces who through no fault of their own could not go overseas and who rendered indispensable service in this country. They were supported by millions in all levels of government, including many volunteers, whose devoted public service furnished basic organization and leadership. They were also supported by the millions of Americans in private life—men and women in industry, in commerce, on the farms, and in all manner of activity on the home front—who contributed their brains and their brawn in arming, equipping, and feeding them. The country was brought through four years of peril by an effort that was truly national in character.
Everlasting tribute and gratitude will be paid by all Americans to those brave men who did not come back, who will never come back—the 330,000 who died that the Nation might live and progress. All Americans will also remain deeply conscious of the obligation owed to that larger number of soldiers, sailors, and marines who suffered wounds and sickness in their service. They may be certain that their sacrifice will never be forgotten or their needs neglected.
The beginning of the year 1946 finds the United States strong and deservedly confident. We have a record of enormous achievements as a democratic society in solving problems and meeting opportunities as they developed. We find ourselves possessed of immeasurable advantages—vast and varied natural resources; great plants, institutions, and other facilities; unsurpassed technological and managerial skills; an alert, resourceful, and able citizenry. We have in the United States Government rich resources in information, perspective, and facilities for doing whatever may be found necessary to do in giving support and form to the widespread and diversified efforts of all our people.
And for the immediate future the business prospects are generally so favorable that there is danger of such feverish and opportunistic activity that our grave postwar problems may be neglected. We need to act now with full regard for pitfalls; we need to act with foresight and balance. We should not be lulled by the immediate alluring prospects into forgetting the fundamental complexity of modern affairs, the catastrophe that can come in this complexity, or the values that can be wrested from it.
But the long—range difficulties we face should no more lead to despair than our immediate business prospects should lead to the optimism which comes from the present short—range prospect. On the foundation of our victory we can build a lasting peace, with greater freedom and security for mankind in our country and throughout the world. We will more certainly do this if we are constantly aware of the fact that we face crucial issues and prepare now to meet them.
To achieve success will require both boldness in setting our sights and caution in steering our way on an uncharted course. But we have no luxury of choice. We must move ahead. No return to the past is possible.
Our Nation has always been a land of great opportunities for those people of the world who sought to become part of us. Now we have become a land of great responsibilities to all the people of all the world. We must squarely recognize and face the fact of those responsibilities. Advances in science, in communication, in transportation, have compressed the world into a community. The economic and political health of each member of the world community bears directly on the economic and political health of each other member.
The evolution of centuries has brought us to a new era in world history in which manifold relationships between nations must be formalized and developed in new and intricate ways.
The United Nations Organization now being established represents a minimum essential beginning. It must be developed rapidly and steadily. Its work must be amplified to fill in the whole pattern that has been outlined. Economic collaboration, for example, already charted, now must be carried on as carefully and as comprehensively as the political and security measures.
It is important that the nations come together as States in the Assembly and in the Security Council and in the other specialized assemblies and councils that have been and will be arranged. But this is not enough. Our ultimate security requires more than a process of consultation and compromise.
It requires that we begin now to develop the United Nations Organization as the representative of the world as one society. The United Nations Organization, if we have the will adequately to staff it and to make it work as it should, will provide a great voice to speak constantly and responsibly in terms of world collaboration and world well—being.
There are many new responsibilities for us as we enter into this new international era. The whole power and will and wisdom of our Government and of our people should be focused to contribute to and to influence international action. It is intricate, continuing business. Many concessions and adjustments will be required.
The spectacular progress of science in recent years makes these necessities more vivid and urgent. That progress has speeded internal development and has changed world relationships so fast that we must realize the fact of a new era. It is an era in which affairs have become complex and rich in promise. Delicate and intricate relationships, involving us all in countless ways, must be carefully considered.
On the domestic scene, as well as on the international scene, we must lay a new and better foundation for cooperation. We face a great peacetime venture; the challenging venture of a free enterprise economy making full and effective use of its rich resources and technical advances. This is a venture in which business, agriculture, and labor have vastly greater opportunities than heretofore. But they all also have vastly greater responsibilities. We will not measure up to those responsibilities by the simple return to “normalcy” that was tried after the last war.
The general objective, on the contrary, is to move forward to find the way in time of peace to the full utilization and development of our physical and human resources that were demonstrated so effectively in the war.
To accomplish this, it is not intended that the Federal Government should do things that can be done as well for the Nation by private enterprise, or by State and local governments. On the contrary, the war has demonstrated how effectively we can organize our productive system and develop the potential abilities of our people by aiding the efforts of private enterprise.
As we move toward one common objective there will be many and urgent problems to meet.
Industrial peace between management and labor will have to be achieved—through the process of collective bargaining—with Government assistance but not Government compulsion. This is a problem which is the concern not only of management, labor, and the Government, but also the concern of every one of us.
Private capital and private management are entitled to adequate reward for efficiency, but business must recognize that its reward results from the employment of the resources of the Nation. Business is a public trust and must adhere to national standards in the conduct of its affairs. These standards include as a minimum the establishment of fair wages and fair employment practices.
Labor also has its own new peacetime responsibilities. Under our collective bargaining system, which must become progressively more secure, labor attains increasing political as well as economic power, and this, as with all power, means increased responsibility.
The lives of millions of veterans and war workers will be greatly affected by the success or failure of our program of war liquidation and reconversion. Their transition to peacetime pursuits will be determined by our efforts to break the bottlenecks in key items of production, to make surplus property immediately available where it is needed, to maintain an effective national employment service, and many other reconversion policies. Our obligations to the people who won the war will not be paid if we fail to prevent inflation and to maintain employment opportunities.
While our peacetime prosperity will be based on the private enterprise the government can and must assist in many ways. It is the Government’s responsibility to see that our economic system remains competitive, that new businesses have adequate opportunities, and that our national resources are restored and improved. Government must realize the effect of its operations on the whole economy. It is the responsibility of Government to gear its total program to the achievement of full production and full employment.
Our basic objective—toward which all others lead—is to improve the welfare of the American people. In addition to economic prosperity, this means that we use social security in the fullest sense of the word. And people must be protected from excessive want during old age, sickness, and unemployment. Opportunities for a good economy and adequate medical care must be readily available. Every family should build a decent home. The new economic rights to which I have referred on previous occasions is a charter of economic freedom which seeks to assure that all who will may work toward their own security and the general advancement; that we become a well—housed people, a well—nourished people, an educated people, a people socially and economically secure, an alert and responsible people.
These and other problems which may face us can be met by the cooperation of all of us in furthering a positive and well—balanced Government program—a program which will further national and international well—being.
II. THE FEDERAL PROGRAM
I. FOREIGN POLICY
The year 1945 brought with it the final defeat of our enemies. There lies before us now the work of building a just and enduring peace.
Our most immediate task toward that end is to deprive our enemies completely and forever of their power to start another war. Of even greater importance to the preservation of international peace is the need to preserve the wartime agreement of the United Nations and to direct it into the ways of peace.
Long before our enemies surrendered, the foundations had been laid on which to continue this unity in the peace to come. The Atlantic meeting in 1941 and the conferences at Casablanca, Quebec, Moscow, Cairo, Tehran, and Dumbarton Oaks each added a stone to the structure.
Early in 1945, at Yalta, the three major powers broadened and solidified this base of understanding. There fundamental decisions were reached concerning the occupation and control of Germany. There also a formula was arrived at for the interim government of the areas in Europe which were rapidly being wrested from Nazi control. This formula was based on the policy of the United States that people be permitted to choose their own form of government by their own freely expressed choice without interference from any foreign source.
At Potsdam, in July 1945, Marshal Stalin, Prime Ministers Churchill and Attlee, and I met to exchange views primarily with respect to Germany. As a result, agreements were reached which outlined broadly the policy to be executed by the Allied Control Council. At Potsdam there was also established a Council of Foreign Ministers which convened for the first time in London in September. The Council is about to resume its primary assignment of drawing up treaties of peace with Italy, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Finland.
In addition to these meetings, and, in accordance with the agreement at Yalta, the Foreign Ministers of Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States conferred together in San Francisco last spring, in Potsdam in July, in London in September, and in Moscow in December. These meetings have been useful in promoting understanding and agreement among the three governments.
Simply to name all the international meetings and conferences is to suggest the size and complexity of the undertaking to prevent international war in which the United States has now enlisted for the duration of history.
It is encouraging to know that the common effort of the United Nations to learn to live together did not cease with the surrender of our enemies.
When difficulties arise among us, the United States does not propose to remove them by sacrificing its ideals or its vital interests. Neither do we propose, however, to ignore the ideals and vital interests of our friends.
Last February and March an Inter—American Conference on Problems of War and Peace was held in Mexico City. Among the many significant accomplishments of that Conference was an understanding that an attack by any country against any one of the sovereign American republics would be considered an act of aggression against all of them; and that if such an attack were made or threatened, the American republics would decide jointly, through consultations in which each republic has equal representation, what measures they would take for their mutual protection. This agreement stipulates that its execution shall be in full accord with the Charter of the United Nations Organization.
The first meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations now in progress in London marks the real beginning of our bold adventure toward the preservation of world peace, to which is bound the dearest hope of men.
We have solemnly dedicated ourselves and all our will to the success of the United Nations Organization. For this reason we have sought to insure that in the peacemaking the smaller nations shall have a voice as well as the larger states. The agreement reached at Moscow last month preserves this opportunity in the making of peace with Italy, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Finland. The United States intends to preserve it when the treaties with Germany and Japan are drawn.
It will be the continuing policy of the United States to use all its influence to foster, support, and develop the United Nations Organization in its purpose of preventing international war. If peace is to endure it must rest upon justice no less than upon power. The question is how justice among nations is best achieved. We know from day—to—day experience that the chance for a just solution is immeasurably increased when everyone directly interested is given a voice. That does not mean that each must enjoy an equal voice, but it does mean that each must be heard.
Last November, Prime Minister Attlee, Prime Minister MacKenzie King, and I announced our proposal that a commission be established within the framework of the United Nations to explore the problems of effective international control of atomic energy.
The Soviet Union, France, and China have joined us in the purpose of introducing in the General Assembly a resolution for the establishment of such a commission. Our earnest wish is that the work of this commission go forward carefully and thoroughly, but with the greatest dispatch. I have great hope for the development of mutually effective safeguards which will permit the fullest international control of this new atomic force.
I believe it possible that effective means can be developed through the United Nations Organization to prohibit, outlaw, and prevent the use of atomic energy for destructive purposes.
The power which the United States demonstrated during the war is the fact that underlies every phase of our relations with other countries. We cannot escape the responsibility which it thrusts upon us. What we think, plan, say, and do is of profound significance to the future of every corner of the world.
The great and dominant objective of United States foreign policy is to build and preserve a just peace. The peace we seek is not peace for twenty years. It is permanent peace. At a time when massive changes are occurring with lightning speed throughout the world, it is often difficult to perceive how this central objective is best served in one isolated complex situation or another. Despite this very real difficulty, there are certain basic propositions to which the United States adheres and to which we shall continue to adhere.
One proposition is that lasting peace requires genuine understanding and active cooperation among the most powerful nations. Another is that even the support of the strongest nations cannot guarantee a peace unless it is infused with the quality of justice for all nations.
On October 27, 1945, I made, in New York City, the following public statement of my understanding of the fundamental foreign policy of the United States. I believe that policy to be in accord with the opinion of the Congress and of the people of the United States. I believe that that policy carries out our fundamental objectives.
1. We seek no territorial expansion or selfish advantage. We have no plans for aggression against any other state, large or small. We have no objective which need clash with the peaceful aims of any other nation.
2. We believe in the eventual return of sovereign rights and self—government to all peoples who have been deprived of them by force.
3. We shall approve no territorial changes in any friendly part of the world unless they accord with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned.
4. We believe that all peoples who are prepared for self—government should be permitted to choose their own form of government by their own freely expressed choice, without interference from any foreign source. That is true in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, as well as in the Western Hemisphere.
5. By the combined and cooperative action of our war allies, we shall help the defeated enemy states establish peaceful democratic governments of their own free choice. And we shall try to attain a world in which nazism, fascism, and military aggression cannot exist.
6. We shall refuse to recognize any government imposed upon any nation by the force of any foreign power. In some cases it may be impossible to prevent forceful imposition of such a government. But the United States will not recognize any such government.
7. We believe that all nations should have the freedom of the seas and equal rights to the navigation of boundary rivers and waterways and of rivers and waterways which pass through more than one country.
8. We believe that all states which are accepted in the society of nations should have access on equal terms to the trade and the raw materials of the world.
9. We believe that the sovereign states of the Western Hemisphere, without interference from outside the Western Hemisphere, must work together as good neighbors in the solution of their common problems.
10. We believe that full economic collaboration between all nations, great and small, is essential to the improvement of living conditions all over the world, and to the establishment of freedom from fear and freedom from want.
11. We shall continue to strive to promote freedom of expression and freedom of religion throughout the peace—loving areas of the world.
12. We are convinced that the preservation of peace between nations requires a United Nations Organization composed of all the peace—loving nations of the world who are willing jointly to use force, if necessary, to insure peace.
That is our foreign policy.
We may not always fully succeed in our objectives. There may be instances where the attainment of those objectives is delayed. But we will not give our full sanction and approval to actions which fly in the face of these ideals.
The world has a great stake in the political and economic future of Germany. The Allied Control Council has now been in operation there for a substantial period of time. It has not met with unqualified success. The accommodation of varying views of four governments in the day—to—day civil administration of occupied territory is a challenging task. In my judgment, however, the Council has made encouraging progress in the face of most serious difficulties. It is my purpose at the earliest practicable date to transfer from military to civilian personnel the execution of United States participation in the government of occupied territory in Europe. We are determined that effective control shall be maintained in Germany until we are satisfied that the German people have regained the right to a place of honor and respect.
On the other side of the world, a method of international cooperation has recently been agreed upon for the treatment of Japan. In this pattern of control, the United States, with the full approval of its partners, has retained primary authority and primary responsibility. It will continue to do so until the Japanese people, by their own freely expressed choice, choose their own form of government.
Our basic policy in the Far East is to encourage the development of a strong, independent, united, and democratic China. That has been the traditional policy of the United States.
At Moscow the United States, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and Great Britain agreed to further this development by supporting the efforts of the national government and nongovernmental Chinese political elements in bringing about cessation of civil strife and in broadening the basis of representation in the Government. That is the policy which General Marshall is so ably executing today.
It is the purpose of the Government of the United States to proceed as rapidly as is practicable toward the restoration of the sovereignty of Korea and the establishment of a democratic government by the free choice of the people of Korea.
At the threshold of every problem which confronts us today in international affairs is the appalling devastation, hunger, sickness, and pervasive human misery that mark so many areas of the world.
By joining and participating in the work of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration the United States has directly recognized and assumed an obligation to give such relief assistance as is practicable to millions of innocent and helpless victims of the war. The Congress has earned the gratitude of the world by generous financial contributions to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.
We have taken the lead, modest though it is, in facilitating under our existing immigration quotas the admission to the United States of refugees and displaced persons from Europe.
We have joined with Great Britain in the organization of a commission to study the problem of Palestine. The Commission is already at work and its recommendations will be made at an early date.
The members of the United Nations have paid us the high compliment of choosing the United States as the site of the United Nations headquarters. We shall be host in spirit as well as in fact, for nowhere does there abide a fiercer determination that this peace shall live than in the hearts of the American people.
It is the hope of all Americans that in time future historians will speak not of World War I and World War II, but of the first and last world wars.
2. FOREIGN ECONOMIC POLICY
The foreign economic policy of the United States is designed to promote our own prosperity, and at the same time to aid in the restoration and expansion of world markets and to contribute thereby to world peace and world security. We shall continue our efforts to provide relief from the devastation of war, to alleviate the sufferings of displaced persons, to assist in reconstruction and development, and to promote the expansion of world trade.
We have already joined the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. We have expanded the Export—Import Bank and provided it with additional capital. The Congress has renewed the Trade Agreements Act which provides the necessary framework within which to negotiate a reduction of trade barriers on a reciprocal basis. It has given our support to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.
In accordance with the intentions of the Congress, lend—lease, except as to continuing military lend—lease in China, was terminated upon the surrender of Japan. The first of the lend—lease settlement agreements has been completed with the United Kingdom. Negotiations with other lend—lease countries are in progress. In negotiating these agreements, we intend to seek settlements which will not encumber world trade through war debts of a character that proved to be so detrimental to the stability of the world economy after the last war.
We have taken steps to dispose of the goods which on VJ—day were in the lend—lease pipe line to the various lend—lease countries and to allow them long—term credit for the purpose where necessary. We are also making arrangements under which those countries may use the lend—lease inventories in their possession and acquire surplus property abroad to assist in their economic rehabilitation and reconstruction. These goods will be accounted for at fair values.
The proposed loan to the United Kingdom, which I shall recommend to the Congress in a separate message, will contribute to easing the transition problem of one of our major partners in the war. It will enable the whole sterling area and other countries affiliated with it to resume trade on a multilateral basis. Extension of this credit will enable the United Kingdom to avoid discriminatory trade arrangements of the type which destroyed freedom of trade during the 1930’s. I consider the progress toward multilateral trade which will be achieved by this agreement to be in itself sufficient warrant for the credit.
The view of this Government is that, in the longer run, our economic prosperity and the prosperity of the whole world are best served by the elimination of artificial barriers to international trade, whether in the form of unreasonable tariffs or tariff preferences or commercial quotas or embargoes or the restrictive practices of cartels.
The United States Government has issued proposals for the expansion of world trade and employment to which the Government of the United Kingdom has given its support on every important issue. These proposals are intended to form the basis for a trade and employment conference to be held in the middle of this year. If that conference is a success, I feel confident that the way will have been adequately prepared for an expanded and prosperous world trade.
We shall also continue negotiations looking to the full and equitable development of facilities for transportation and communications among nations.
The vast majority of the nations of the world have chosen to work together to achieve, on a cooperative basis, world security and world prosperity. The effort cannot succeed without full cooperation of the United States. To play our part, we must not only resolutely carry out the foreign policies we have adopted but also follow a domestic policy which will maintain full production and employment in the United States. A serious depression here can disrupt the whole fabric of the world economy.
3. OCCUPIED COUNTRIES
The major tasks of our Military Establishment in Europe following VE—day, and in the Pacific since the surrender of Japan, have been those of occupation and military government. In addition we have given much needed aid to the peoples of the liberated countries.
The end of the war in Europe found Germany in a chaotic condition. Organized government had ceased to exist, transportation systems had been wrecked, cities and industrial facilities had been bombed into ruins. In addition to the tasks of occupation we had to assume all of the functions of government. Great progress has been made in the repatriation of displaced persons and of prisoners of war. Of the total of 3,500,000 displaced persons found in the United States zone only 460,000 now remain.
The extensive complications involved by the requirement of dealing with three other governments engaged in occupation and with the governments of liberated countries require intensive work and energetic cooperation. The influx of some 2 million German refugees into our zone of occupation is a pressing problem, making exacting demands upon an already overstrained internal economy.
Improvements in the European economy during 1945 have made it possible for our military authorities to relinquish to the governments of all liberated areas, or to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, the responsibility for the provision of food and other civilian relief supplies. The Army’s responsibilities in Europe extend now only to our zones of occupation in Germany and Austria and to two small areas in northern Italy.
By contrast with Germany, in Japan we have occupied a country still possessing an organized and operating governmental system. Although severely damaged, the Japanese industrial and transportation systems have been able to insure at least a survival existence for the population. The repatriation of Japanese military and civilian personnel from overseas is proceeding as rapidly as shipping and other means permit.
In order to insure that neither Germany nor Japan will again be in a position to wage aggressive warfare, the armament making potential of these countries is being dismantled and fundamental changes in their social and political structures are being effected. Democratic systems are being fostered to the end that the voice of the common man may be heard in the councils of his government.
For the first time in history the legal culpability of war makers is being determined. The trials now in progress in Nurnberg—and those soon to begin in Tokyo—bring before the bar of international justice those individuals who are charged with the responsibility for the sufferings of the past six years. We have high hope that this public portrayal of the guilt of these evildoers will bring wholesale and permanent revulsion on the part of the masses of our former enemies against war, militarism, aggression, and notions of race superiority.
4. DEMOBILIZATION OF OUR ARMED FORCES
The cessation of active campaigning does not mean that we can completely disband our fighting forces. For their sake and for the sake of their loved ones at home, I wish that we could. But we still have the task of clinching the victories we have won—of making certain that Germany and Japan can never again wage aggressive warfare, that they will not again have the means to bring on another world war. The performance of that task requires that, together with our allies, we occupy the hostile areas, complete the disarmament of our enemies, and take the necessary measures to see to it that they do not rearm.
As quickly as possible, we are bringing about the reduction of our armed services to the size required for these tasks of occupation and disarmament. The Army and the Navy are following both length—of—service and point systems as far as possible in releasing men and women from the service. The points are based chiefly on length and character of service, and on the existence of dependents.
Over 5 million from the Army have already passed through the separation centers.
The Navy, including the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard, has discharged over one and a half million.
Of the 12 million men and women serving in the Army and Navy at the time of the surrender of Germany, one—half have already been released. The greater part of these had to be brought back to this country from distant parts of the world.
Of course there are cases of individual hardship in retention of personnel in the service. There will be in the future. No system of such size can operate to perfection. But the systems are rounded on fairness and justice, and they are working at full speed. We shall try to avoid mistakes, injustices, and hardship—as far as humanly possible.
We have already reached the point where shipping is no longer the bottleneck in the return of troops from the European theater. The governing factor now has become the requirement for troops in sufficient strength to carry out their missions.
In a few months the same situation will exist in the Pacific. By the end of June, 9 out of 10 who were serving in the armed forces on VE—day will have been released. Demobilization will continue thereafter, but at a slower rate, determined by our military responsibilities.
Our national safety and the security of the world will require substantial armed forces, particularly in overseas service. At the same time it is imperative that we relieve those who have already done their duty, and that we relieve them as fast as we can. To do that, the Army and the Navy are conducting recruiting drives with considerable success.
The Army has obtained nearly 400,000 volunteers in the past four months, and the Navy has obtained 80,000. Eighty percent of these volunteers for the regular service have come from those already with the colors. The Congress has made it possible to offer valuable inducements to those who are eligible for enlistment. Every effort will be made to enlist the required number of young men.
The War and Navy Departments now estimate that by a year from now we still will need a strength of about 2 million including officers, for the armed forces—Army, Navy, and Air. I have reviewed their estimates and believe that the safety of the Nation will require the maintenance of an armed strength of this size for the calendar year that is before us.
In case the campaign for volunteers does not produce that number, it will be necessary by additional legislation to extend the Selective Service Act beyond May 16, the date of expiration under existing law. That is the only way we can get the men and bring back our veterans. There is no other way. Action along this line should not be postponed beyond March, in order to avoid uncertainty and disruption.
I. THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK
Prophets of doom predicted that the United States could not escape a runaway inflation during the war and an economic collapse after the war. These predictions have not been borne out. On the contrary, the record of economic stabilization during the war and during the period of reconversion has been an outstanding accomplishment.
We know, however, that nothing is as dangerous as overconfidence, in war or in peace. We have had to fight hard to hold the line. We have made strenuous efforts to speed reconversion. But neither the danger of a postwar inflation nor of a subsequent collapse in production and employment is yet overcome. We must base our policies not on unreasoning optimism or pessimism but upon a candid recognition of our objectives and upon a careful analysis of foreseeable trends.
Any precise appraisal of the economic outlook at this time is particularly difficult. The period of demobilization and reconversion is fraught with uncertainties. There are also serious gaps in our statistical information. Certain tendencies are, however, fairly clear and recognition of them should serve as background for the consideration of next year’s Federal Program. In general, the outlook for business is good, and it is likely to continue to be good—provided we control inflation and achieve peace in management labor relations.
Civilian production and employment can be expected to increase throughout the next year. This does not mean, however, that continuing full employment is assured. It is probable that demobilization of the armed forces will proceed faster than the increase in civilian employment opportunities. Even if substantial further withdrawals from the labor market occur, unemployment will increase temporarily. The extent to which this unemployment will persist depends largely on the speed of industrial expansion and the effectiveness of the policies of the Federal Government.
Along with extraordinary demand there are still at this time many critical shortages resulting from the war. These extraordinary demands and shortages may lead to a speculative boom, especially in the price of securities, real estate, and inventories.
Therefore, our chief worry still is inflation. While we control this inflationary pressure we must look forward to the time when this extraordinary demand will subside. It will be years before we catch up with the demand for housing. The extraordinary demand for other durable goods, for the replenishment of inventories, and for exports may be satisfied earlier. No backlog of demand can exist very long in the face of our tremendous productive capacity. We must expect again to face the problem of shrinking demand and consequent slackening in sales, production, and employment. This possibility of a deflationary spiral in the future will exist unless we now plan and adopt an effective full employment program.
2. GENERAL POLICIES—IMMEDIATE AND LONG—RANGE
During the war, production for civilian use was limited by war needs and available manpower. Economic stabilization required measures, to spread limited supplies equitably by rationing, price controls, increased taxes, savings bond campaigns, and credit controls. Now, with the surrender of our enemies, economic stabilization requires that policies be directed toward promoting an increase in supplies at low unit prices.
We must encourage the development of resources and enterprises in all parts of the country, particularly in underdeveloped areas. For example, the establishment of new peacetime industries in the Western States and in the South would, in my judgment, add to existing production and markets rather than merely bring about a shifting of production. I am asking the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor to explore jointly methods for stimulating new industries, particularly in areas with surplus agricultural labor.
We must also aid small businessmen and particularly veterans who are competent to start their own businesses. The establishment and development of efficient small business ventures, I believe, will not take away from, but rather will add to, the total business of all enterprises.
Even with maximum encouragement of Production, we cannot hope to remove scarcities within a short time. The most serious deficiencies will persist in the fields of residential housing, building materials, and consumers’ durable goods. The critical situation makes continued rent control, price control, and priorities, allocations, and inventory controls absolutely essential. Continued control of consumer credit will help to reduce the pressure on prices of durable goods and will also prolong the period during which the backlog demand will be effective.
While we are meeting these immediate needs we must look forward to a long—range program of security and increased standard of living.
The best protection of purchasing power is a policy of full production and full employment opportunities. Obviously, an employed worker is a better customer than an unemployed worker. There always will be, however, some frictional unemployment. In the present period of transition we must deal with such temporary unemployment as results from the fact that demobilization will proceed faster than reconversion or industrial expansion. Such temporary unemployment is probably unavoidable in a period of rapid change. The unemployed worker is a victim of conditions beyond his control. He should be enabled to maintain a reasonable standard of living for himself and his family.
The most serious difficulty in the path of reconversion and expansion is the establishment of a fair wage structure.
The ability of labor and management to work together, and the wage and price policies which they develop, are social and economic issues of first importance.
Both labor and management have a special interest. Labor’s interest is very direct and personal because working conditions, wages, and prices affect the very life and happiness of the worker and his family.
Management has a no less direct interest because on management rests the responsibility for conducting a growing and prosperous business.
But management and labor have identical interests in the long run. Good wages mean good markets. Good business means more jobs and better wages. In this age of cooperation and in our highly organized economy the problems of one very soon become the problems of all.
Better human relationships are an urgent need to which organized labor and management should address themselves. No government policy can make men understand each other, agree, and get along unless they conduct themselves in a way to foster mutual respect and good will.
The Government can, however, help to develop machinery which, with the backing of public opinion, will assist labor and management to resolve their disagreements in a peaceful manner and reduce the number and duration of strikes.
All of us realize that productivity—increased output per man—is in the long run the basis of our standard of living. Management especially must realize that if labor is to work wholeheartedly for an increase in production, workers must be given a just share of increased output in higher wages.
Most industries and most companies have adequate leeway within which to grant substantial wage increases. These increases will have a direct effect in increasing consumer demand to the high levels needed. Substantial wage increases are good business for business because they assure a large market for their products; substantial wage increases are good business for labor because they increase labor’s standard of living; substantial wage increases are good business for the country as a whole because capacity production means an active, healthy, friendly citizenry enjoying the benefits of democracy under our free enterprise system.
Labor and management in many industries have been operating successfully under the Government’s wage—price policy. Upward revisions of wage scales have been made in thousands of establishments throughout the Nation since VJ—day. It is estimated that about 6 million workers, or more than 20 percent of all employees in nonagricultural and nongovernmental establishments, have received wage increases since August 18, 1945. The amounts of increases given by individual employers concentrate between 10 and 15 percent, but range from less than 5 percent to over 30 percent.
The United States Conciliation Service since VJ—day has settled over 3,000 disputes affecting over 1,300,000 workers without a strike threat and has assisted in settling about 1,300 disputes where strikes were threatened which involved about 500,000 workers. Only workers directly involved, and not those in related industries who might have been indirectly affected, are included in these estimates.
Many of these adjustments have occurred in key industries and would have seemed to us major crises if they had not been settled peaceably.
Within the framework of the wage—price policy there has been definite success, and it is to be expected that this success will continue in a vast majority of the cases arising in the months ahead.
However, everyone who realizes the extreme need for a swift and orderly reconversion must feel a deep concern about the number of major strikes now in progress. If long continued, these strikes could put a heavy brake on our program.
I have already made recommendations to the Congress as to the procedure best adapted to meeting the threat of work stoppages in Nation—wide industries without sacrificing the fundamental rights of labor to bargain collectively and ultimately to strike in support of their position.
If we manage our economy properly, the future will see us on a level of production half again as high as anything we have ever accomplished in peacetime. Business can in the future pay higher wages and sell for lower prices than ever before. This is not true now for all companies, nor will it ever be true for all, but for business generally it is true.
We are relying on all concerned to develop, through collective bargaining, wage structures that are fair to labor, allow for necessary business incentives, and conform with a policy designed to “hold the line” on prices.
Production and more production was the byword during the war and still is during the transition from war to peace. However, when deferred demand slackens, we shall once again face the deflationary dangers which beset this and other countries during the 1930’s. Prosperity can be assured only by a high level of demand supported by high current income; it cannot be sustained by deferred needs and use of accumulated savings.
If we take the right steps in time we can certainly avoid the disastrous excesses of runaway booms and headlong depressions. We must not let a year or two of prosperity lull us into a false feeling of security and a repetition of the mistakes of the 1920’s that culminated in the crash of 1929.
During the year ahead the Government will be called upon to act in many important fields of economic policy from taxation and foreign trade to social security and housing. In every case there will be alternatives. We must choose the alternatives which will best measure up to our need for maintaining production and employment in the future. We must never lose sight of our long—term objectives: the broadening of markets—the maintenance of steadily rising demand. This demand can come from only three sources: consumers, businesses, or government.
In this country the job of production and distribution is in the hands of businessmen, farmers, workers, and professional people—in the hands of our citizens. We want to keep it that way. However, it is the Government’s responsibility to help business, labor, and farmers do their jobs.
There is no question in my mind that the Government, acting on behalf of all the people, must assume the ultimate responsibility for the economic health of the Nation. There is no other agency that can. No other organization has the scope or the authority, nor is any other agency accountable, to all the people. This does not mean that the Government has the sole responsibility, nor that it can do the job alone, nor that it can do the job directly.
All of the policies of the Federal Government must be geared to the objective of sustained full production and full employment—to raise consumer purchasing power and to encourage business investment. The programs we adopt this year and from now on will determine our ability to achieve our objectives. We must continue to pay particular attention to our fiscal, monetary, and tax policy, programs to aid business—especially small business—and transportation, labor—management relations and wage—price policy, social security and health, education, the farm program, public works, housing and resource development, and economic foreign policy.
For example, the kinds of tax measures we have at different times—whether we raise our revenue in a way to encourage consumer spending and business investment or to discourage it—have a vital bearing on this question. It is affected also by regulations on consumer credit and by the money market, which is strongly influenced by the rate of interest on Government securities. It is affected by almost every step we take.
In short, the way we handle the proper functions of government, the way we time the exercise of our traditional and legitimate governmental functions, has a vital bearing on the economic health of the Nation.
These policies are discussed in greater detail in the accompanying Fifth Quarterly Report of the Director of War Mobilization and Reconversion.
3. LEGISLATION HERETOFORE RECOMMENDED
AND STILL PENDING
To attain some of these objectives and to meet the other needs of the United States in the reconversion and postwar period, I have from time to time made various recommendations to the Congress.
In making these recommendations I have indicated the reasons why I deemed them essential for progress at home and abroad. A few—a very few—of these recommendations have been enacted into law by the Congress. Most of them have not. I here reiterate some of them, and discuss others later in this Message. I urge upon the Congress early consideration of them. Some are more urgent than others, but all are necessary.
(1) Legislation to authorize the President to create fact—finding boards for the prevention of stoppages of work in Nationwide industries after collective bargaining and conciliation and voluntary arbitration have failed—as recommended by me on December 3, 1945.
(2) Enactment of a satisfactory full employment bill such as the Senate bill now in conference between the Senate and the House—as recommended by me on September 6, 1945.
(3) Legislation to supplement the unemployment insurance benefits for unemployed workers now provided by the different States—as recommended by me on May 1945.
(4) Adoption of a permanent Fair Employment Practice Act—as recommended by me on September 6, 1945.
(5) Legislation substantially raising the amount of minimum wages now provided by law—as recommended by me on September 6, 1945.
(6) Legislation providing for a comprehensive program for scientific research—as recommended by me on September 6, 1945.
(7) Legislation enacting a health and medical care program—as recommended by me on November 19, 1945.
(8) Legislation adopting the program of universal training—as recommended by me on October 23, 1945.
(9) Legislation providing an adequate salary scale for all Government employees in all branches of the Government—as recommended by me on September 6, 1945.
(10) Legislation making provision for succession to the Presidency in the event of the death or incapacity or disqualification of the President and Vice President—as recommended by me on June 19, 1945.
(11) Legislation for the unification of the armed services—as recommended by me on December 19, 1945.
(12) Legislation for the domestic use and control of atomic energy—as recommended by me on October 3, 1945.
(13) Retention of the United States Employment Service in the Federal Government for a period at least up to June 30, 1947—as recommended by me on September 6, 1945.
(14) Legislation to increase unemployment allowances for veterans in line with increases for civilians—as recommended by me on September 6, 1945.
(15) Social security coverage for veterans for their period of military service—as recommended by me on September 6, 1945.
(16) Extension of crop insurance—as recommended by me on September 6, 1945.
(17) Legislation permitting the sale of ships by the Maritime Commission at home and abroad—as recommended by me on September 6, 1945. I further recommend that this legislation include adequate authority for chartering vessels both here and abroad.
(18) Legislation to take care of the stock piling of materials in which the United States is naturally deficient—as recommended by me on September 6, 1945.
(19) Enactment of Federal airport legislation—as recommended by me on September 6, 1945.
(20) Legislation repealing the Johnson Act on foreign loans—as recommended by me on September 6, 1945.
(21) Legislation for the development of the Great Lakes—St. Lawrence River Basin—as recommended by me on October 3, 1945.
4. POLICIES IN SPECIFIC FIELDS
(a) Extension of Price Control Act.
Today inflation is our greatest immediate domestic problem. So far the fight against inflation has been waged successfully. Since May 1943, following President Roosevelt’s “hold the line” order and in the face of the greatest pressures which this country has ever seen, the cost of living index has risen only three percent. Wholesale prices in this same period have been held to an increase of two and one—half percent.
This record has been made possible by the vigorous efforts of the agencies responsible for this program. But their efforts would have been fruitless if they had not had the solid support of the great masses of our people. The Congress is to be congratulated for its role in providing the legislation under which this work has been carried out.
On VJ—day it was clear to all thinking people that the danger of inflation was by no means over. Many of us can remember vividly our disastrous experience following World War I. Then the very restricted wartime controls were lifted too quickly, and as a result prices and rents moved more rapidly upward. In the year and a half following the armistice, rents, food, and clothing shot to higher and still higher levels.
When the inevitable crash occurred less than two years after the end of the war, business bankruptcies were widespread. Profits were wiped out. Inventory losses amounted to billions of dollars. Farm income dropped by one—half. Factory pay rolls dropped 40 percent, and nearly one—fifth of all our industrial workers were walking the streets in search of jobs. This was a grim greeting, indeed, to offer our veterans who had just returned from overseas.
When I addressed the Congress in September, I emphasized that we must continue to hold the price line until the production of goods caught up with the tremendous demands. Since then we have seen demonstrated the strength of the inflationary pressures which we have to face.
Retail sales in the closing months of 1945 ran 12 percent above the previous peak for that season, which came in 1944. Prices throughout the entire economy have been pressing hard against the price ceilings. The prices of real estate, which cannot now be controlled under the law, are rising rapidly. Commercial rents are not included in the present price control law and, where they are not controlled by State law, have been increasing, causing difficulties to many businessmen.
It will be impossible to maintain a high purchasing power or an expanding production unless we can keep prices at levels which can be met by the vast majority of our people. Full production is the greatest weapon against inflation, but until we can produce enough goods to meet the threat of inflation the Government will have to exercise its wartime control over prices.
I am sure that the people of the United States are disturbed by the demands made by several business groups with regard to price and rent control.
I am particularly disturbed at the effect such thinking may have on production and employment. If manufacturers continue to hold back goods and decline to submit bids when invited—as I am informed some are doing—in anticipation of higher prices which would follow the end of price controls, we shall inevitably slow down production and create needless unemployment. On the other hand, there are the vast majority of American businessmen who are not holding back goods, but who need certainty about the Government pricing policy in order to fix their own long—range pricing policies.
Businessmen are entitled therefore to a dear statement of the policy of the Government on the subject. Tenants and housewives, farmers and workers—consumers in general—have an equal right.
We are all anxious to eliminate unnecessary controls just as rapidly as we can do so. The steps that we have already taken in many directions toward that end are a clear indication of our policy.
The present Price Control Act expires on June 30, 1946. If we expect to maintain a steady economy we shall have to maintain price and rent control for many months to come. The inflationary pressures on prices and rents, with relatively few exceptions, are now at an all—time peak. Unless the Price Control Act is renewed there will be no limit to which our price levels would soar. Our country would face a national disaster.
We cannot wait to renew the act until immediately before it expires. Inflation results from psychological as well as economic conditions. The country has a clear right to know where the Congress stands on this all—important problem. Any uncertainty now as to whether the act will be extended gives rise to price speculation, to withholding of goods from the market in anticipation of rising prices, and to delays in achieving maximum production.
I do not doubt that the Congress will be beset by many groups who will urge that the legislation that I have proposed should either be eliminated or modified to the point where it is nearly useless. The Congress has a clear responsibility to meet this challenge with courage and determination. I have every confidence that it will do so.
I strongly urge that the Congress now resolve all doubts and as soon as possible adopt legislation continuing rent and price control in effect for a full year from June 30, 1946.
(b) Food subsidies.
If the price line is to be held, if our people are to be protected against the inflationary dangers which confront us, we must do more than extend the Price Control Act. In September we were hopeful that the inflationary pressures would by this time have begun to diminish. We were particularly hopeful on food. Indeed, it was estimated that food prices at retail would drop from 3 to 5 percent in the first six months following the end of the war.
In anticipation of this decline in food prices, it was our belief that food subsidies could be removed gradually during the winter and spring months, and eliminated almost completely by June 30 of this year. It was our feeling that the food subsidies could be dropped without an increase to the consumer in the present level of food prices or in the over—all cost of living.
As matters stand today, however, food prices are pressing hard against the ceilings. The expected decline in food prices has not occurred, nor is it likely to occur for many months to come. This brings me to the reluctant conclusion that food subsidies must be continued beyond June 30, 1946.
If we fail to take this necessary step, meat prices on July 1 will be from 3 to 5 cents higher than their average present levels; butter will be at least 12 cents a pound higher, in addition to the 5 cents a pound increase of last fall; milk will increase from 1 to 2 cents a quart; bread will increase about 1 cent a loaf; sugar will increase over 1 cent a pound; cheese, in addition to the increase of 4 cents now planned for the latter part of this month, will go up an additional 8 cents. In terms of percentages we may find the cost—of—living index for food increased by more than 8 percent, which in turn would result in more than a 3—percent increase in the cost of living.
If prices of food were allowed to increase by these amounts, I must make it clear to the Congress that, in my opinion, it would become extremely difficult for us to control the forces of inflation.
None of us likes subsidies. Our farmers, in particular, have always been opposed to them.
But I believe our farmers are as deeply conscious as any group in the land of the havoc which inflation can create. Certainly in the past eighteen months there has been no group which has fought any harder in support of the Government’s price control program. I am confident that, if the facts are placed before them and if they see clearly the evils between which we are forced to choose, they will understand the reasons why subsidies must be continued.
The legislation continuing the use of food subsidies into the new fiscal year should be tied down specifically to certain standards. A very proper requirement, in my opinion, would be that subsidies be removed as soon as it is indicated that the cost of living will decline below the present levels.
(c) Extension of War Powers Act.
The Second War Powers Act has recently been extended by the Congress for six months instead of for a year. It will now expire, unless further extended, on June 30, 1946. This act is the basis for priority and inventory controls governing the use of scarce materials, as well as for other powers essential to orderly reconversion.
I think that this Administration has given adequate proof of the fact that it desires to eliminate wartime controls as quickly and as expeditiously as possible. However, we know that there will continue to be shortages of certain materials caused by the war even after June 30, 1946. It is important that businessmen know now that materials in short supply are going to be controlled and distributed fairly as long as these war—born shortages continue.
I, therefore, urge the Congress soon to extend the Second War Powers Act. We cannot afford to wait until just before the act expires next June. To wait would cause the controls to break down in a short time, and would hamper our production and employment program.
(d) Small business and competition.
A rising birth rate for small business, and a favorable environment for its growth, are not only economic necessities but also important practical demonstrations of opportunity in a democratic free society. A great many veterans and workers with new skills and experience will want to start in for themselves. The opportunity must be afforded them to do so. They are the small businessmen of the future.
Actually when we talk about small business we are talking about almost all of the Nation’s individual businesses. Nine out of every ten concerns fall into this category, and 45 percent of all workers are employed by them. Between 30 and 40 percent of the total value of all business transactions are handled by small business.
It is obvious national policy to foster the sound development of small business. It helps to maintain high levels of employment and national income and consumption of the goods and services that the Nation can produce. It encourages the competition that keeps our free enterprise economy vigorous and expanding. Small business, because of its flexibility, assists in the rapid exploitation of scientific and technological discoveries. Investment in small business can absorb a large volume of savings that might otherwise not be tapped.
The Government should encourage and is encouraging small—business initiative and originality to stimulate progress through competition.
During the war, the Smaller War Plants Corporation assisted small concerns to make a maximum contribution to victory. The work of the Smaller War Plants Corporation is being carried on in peacetime by the Federal Loan Agency and the Department of Commerce. The fundamental approach to the job of encouraging small concerns must be based on:
1. Arrangements for making private and public financial resources available on reasonable terms.
2. Provision of technical advice and assistance to business as a whole on production, research, and management problems. This will help equalize competitive relationships between large and small companies, for many of the small companies cannot afford expensive technical research, accounting, and tax advice.
3. Elimination of trade practices and agreements which reduce competition and discriminate against new or small enterprises.
We speak a great deal about the free enterprise economy of our country. It is competition that keeps it free. It is competition that keeps it growing and developing. The truth is that we need far more competition in the future than we have had in the immediate past.
By strangling competition, monopolistic activity prevents or deters investment in new or expanded production facilities. This lessens the opportunity for employment and chokes off new outlets for idle savings. Monopoly maintains prices at artificially high levels and reduces consumption which, with lower prices, would rise and support larger production and higher employment. Monopoly, not being subject to competitive pressure, is slow to take advantage of technical advances which would lower prices or improve quality. All three of these monopolistic activities very directly lower the standard of living—through higher prices and lower quality of product—which free competition would improve.
The Federal Government must protect legitimate business and consumers from predatory and monopolistic practices by the vigilant enforcement of regulatory legislation. The program will be designed to have a maximum impact upon monopolistic bottlenecks and unfair competitive practices hindering expansion in employment.
During the war, enforcement of antimonopoly laws was suspended in a number of fields. The Government must now take major steps not only to maintain enforcement of antitrust laws but to encourage new and competing enterprises in every way. The deferred demand of the war years and the large accumulations of liquid assets provide ample incentive for expansion. Equalizing of business opportunity, under full and free competition, must be a prime responsibility in the reconversion period and in the years that follow. Many leading businessmen have recognized the importance of such action both to themselves and to the economy as a whole.
But we must do more than break up trusts and monopolies after they have begun to strangle competition. We must take positive action to foster new, expanding enterprises. By legislation and by administration we must take specific steps to discourage the formation or the strengthening of competition—restricting business. We must have an over—all antimonopoly policy which can be applied by all agencies of the Government in exercising the functions assigned to them—a policy designed to encourage the formation and growth of new and freely competitive enterprises.
Among the many departments and agencies which have parts in the program affecting business and competition, the Department of Commerce has a particularly important role. That is why I have recommended a substantial increase in appropriations for the next fiscal year for this Department.
In its assistance to industry, the Department of Commerce will concentrate its efforts on these primary objectives: Promotion of a large and well—balanced foreign trade; provision of improved technical assistance and management aids, especially for small enterprises; and strengthening of basic statistics on business operations, both by industries and by regions. To make new inventions and discoveries available more promptly to all businesses, small and large, the Department proposes to expand its own research activities, promote research by universities, improve Patent Office procedures, and develop a greatly expanded system of field offices readily accessible to the businesses they serve.
Many gaps exist in the private financial mechanism, especially in the provision of long—term funds for small— and medium sized enterprises. In the peacetime economy the Reconstruction Finance Corporation will take the leadership in assuring adequate financing for small enterprises which cannot secure funds from other sources. Most of the funds should and will be provided by private lenders; but the Reconstruction Finance Corporation will share any unusual risks through guarantees of private loans, with direct loans only when private capital is unwilling to participate on a reasonable basis.
(e) Minimum wage.
Full employment and full production may be achieved only by maintaining a level of consumer income far higher than that of the prewar period. A high level of consumer income will maintain the market for the output of our mills, farms, and factories, which we have demonstrated during the war years that we can produce. One of the basic steps which the Congress can take to establish a high level of consumer income is to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to raise substandard wages to a decent minimum and to extend similar protection to additional workers who are not covered by the present act.
Substandard wages are bad for business and for the farmer. Substandard wages provide only a substandard market for the goods and services produced by American industry and agriculture.
At the present time the Fair Labor Standards Act prescribes a minimum wage of 40 cents an hour for those workers who are covered by the act. The present minimum wage represents an annual income of about $800 to those continuously employed for 50 weeks—clearly a wholly inadequate budget for an American family. I am in full accord with the proposal now pending in the Congress that the statutory minimum be raised immediately to 65 cents an hour, with further increases to 70 cents after one year and to 75 cents after two years. I also favor the proposal that the industry committee procedure be used to set rates higher than 65 cents per hour during the two—year interval before the 75—cent basic wage would otherwise become applicable.
The proposed minimum wage of 65 cents an hour would assure the worker an annual income of about $1,300 a year in steady employment. This amount is clearly a modest goal. After considering cost—of—living increases in recent years, it is little more than a 10—cent increase over the present legal minimum. In fact, if any large number of workers earn less than this amount, we will find it impossible to maintain the levels of purchasing power needed to sustain the stable prosperity which we desire. Raising the minimum to 75 cents an hour will provide the wage earner with an annual income of $1,500 if he is fully employed.
The proposed higher minimum wage levels are feasible without involving serious price adjustments or serious geographic dislocations.
Today about 20 percent of our manufacturing wage earners—or about 2 million—earn less than 65 cents an hour. Because wages in most industries have risen during the war, this is about the same as the proportion—17 percent—who were earning less than 40 cents an hour in 1941.
I also recommend that minimum wage protection be extended to several groups of workers not now covered. The need for a decent standard of living is by no means limited to those workers who happen to be covered by the act as it now stands. It is particularly vital at this period of readjustment in the national economy and readjustment in employment of labor to extend minimum wage protection as far as possible.
Lifting the basic minimum wage is necessary, it is justified as a matter of simple equity to workers, and it will prove not only feasible but also directly beneficial to the Nation’s employers.
(f) Agricultural programs.
The farmers of America generally are entering the crop year of 1946 in better financial condition than ever before. Farm mortgage debt is the lowest in 30 years. Farmers’ savings are the largest in history. Our agricultural plant is in much better condition than after World War I. Farm machinery and supplies are expected to be available in larger volume, and farm labor problems will be less acute.
The demand for farm products will continue strong during the next year or two because domestic purchases will be supplemented by a high level of exports and foreign relief shipments. It is currently estimated that from 7 to 10 percent of the total United States food supply may be exported in the calendar year 1946.
Farm prices are expected to remain at least at their present levels in the immediate future, and for at least the next 12 months they are expected to yield a net farm income double the 1935—39 average and higher than in any year prior to 1943.
We can look to the future of agriculture with greater confidence than in many a year in the past. Agriculture itself is moving confidently ahead, planning for another year of big production, taking definite and positive steps to lead the way toward an economy of abundance.
Agricultural production goals for 1946 call for somewhat greater acreage
than actually was planted in 1945. Agriculture is prepared to demonstrate that it can make a peacetime contribution as great as its contribution toward the winning of the war.
In spite of supplying our armed forces and our allies during the war with a fifth to a fourth of our total food output, farmers were still able to provide our civilians with 8 percent more food per capita than the average for the five years preceding the war. Since the surrender of Japan, civilian food consumption has risen still further. By the end of 1945 the amount of the increase in food consumption was estimated to be as high as 15 percent over the prewar average. The record shows that the people of this country want and need more food and that they will buy more food if only they have the jobs and the purchasing power. The first essential therefore in providing fully for the welfare of agriculture is to maintain full employment and a high level of purchasing power throughout the Nation.
For the period immediately ahead we shall still have the problem of supplying enough food. If we are to do our part in aiding the war—stricken and starving countries some of the food desires of our own people will not be completely satisfied, at least until these nations have had an opportunity to harvest another crop. During the next few months the need for food in the world will be more serious than at any time during the war. And, despite the large shipments we have already made, and despite what we shall send, there remain great needs abroad.
Beyond the relief feeding period, there will still be substantial foreign outlets for our farm commodities. The chief dependence of the farmer, however, as always, must be upon the buying power of our own people.
The first obligation of the Government to agriculture for the reconversion period is to make good on its price—support commitments. This we intend to do, with realistic consideration for the sound patterns of production that will contribute most to the long—time welfare of agriculture and the whole Nation. The period during which prices are supported will provide an opportunity for farmers individually to strengthen their position in changing over from a wartime to a peacetime basis of production. It will provide an opportunity for the Congress to review the needs of agriculture and make changes in national legislation where experience has shown changes to be needed. In this connection, the Congress will wish to consider legislation to take the place of the 1937 Sugar Act which expires at the end of this year. During this period we must do a thorough job of basic planning to the end that agriculture shall be able to contribute its full share toward a healthy national economy.
Our long—range agricultural policies should have two main objectives: First, to assure the people on the farms a fair share of the national income; and, second, to encourage an agricultural production pattern that is best fitted to the Nation’s needs. To accomplish this second objective we shall have to take into consideration changes that have taken place and will continue to take place in the production of farm commodities—changes that affect costs and efficiency and volume.
What we seek ultimately is a high level of food production and consumption that will provide good nutrition for everyone. This cannot be accomplished by agriculture alone. We can be certain of our capacity to produce food, but we have often failed to distribute it as well as we should and to see that our people can afford to buy it. The way to get good nutrition for the whole Nation is to provide employment opportunities and purchasing power for all groups that will enable them to buy full diets at market prices.
Wherever purchasing power fails to reach this level we should see that they have some means of getting adequate food at prices in line with their ability to buy. Therefore, we should have available supplementary programs that will enable all our people to have enough of the right kind of food.
For example, one of the best possible contributions toward building a stronger, healthier Nation would be a permanent school—lunch program on a scale adequate to assure every school child a good lunch at noon. The Congress, of course, has recognized this need for a continuing school—lunch program and legislation to that effect has been introduced and hearings held. The plan contemplates the attainment of this objective with a minimum of Federal expenditures. I hope that the legislation will be enacted in time for a permanent program to start with the beginning of the school year next fall.
We have the technical knowledge and the productive capacity to provide plenty of good food for every man, woman, and child in the United States. It is time we made that possibility a reality.
(g) Resource development.
The strength of our Nation and the welfare of the people rest upon the natural resources of the country. We have learned that proper conservation of our lands, including our forests and minerals, and wise management of our waters will add immensely to our national wealth.
The first step in the Government’s conservation program must be to find out just what are our basic resources, and how they should be used. We need to take, as soon as possible, an inventory of the lands, the minerals, and the forests of the Nation.
During the war it was necessary to curtail some of our long—range plans for development of our natural resources, and to emphasize programs vital to the prosecution of the war. Work was suspended on a number of flood control and reclamation projects and on the development of our national forests and parks. This work must now be resumed, and new projects must be undertaken to provide essential services and to assist in the process of economic development.
The rivers of America offer a great opportunity to our generation in the management of the national wealth. By a wise use of Federal funds, most of which will be repaid into the Treasury, the scourge of floods and drought can be curbed, water can be brought to arid lands, navigation can be extended, and cheap power can be brought alike to the farms and to the industries of our land.
Through the use of the waters of the Columbia River, for example, we are creating a rich agricultural area as large as the State of Delaware. At the same time, we are producing power at Grand Coulee and at Bonneville which played a mighty part in winning the war and which will found a great peacetime industry in the Northwest. The Tennessee Valley Authority will resume its peacetime program of promoting full use of the resources of the Valley. We shall continue our plans for the development of the Missouri Valley, the Arkansas Valley, and the Central Valley of California.
The Congress has shown itself alive to the practical requirements for a beneficial use of our water resources by providing that preference in the sale of power be given to farmers’ cooperatives and public agencies. The public power program thus authorized must continue to be made effective by building the necessary generating and transmission facilities to furnish the maximum of firm power needed at the wholesale markets, which are often distant from the dam sites.
These great developmental projects will open the frontiers of agriculture, industry, and commerce. The employment opportunities thus offered will also go far to ease the transition from war to peace.
(h) Public works.
During the war even urgently needed Federal, State, and local construction projects were deferred in order to release sources for war production. In resuming public works construction, it is desirable to proceed only at a moderate rate, since demand for private construction will be abnormally high for some time. Our public works program should be timed to reach its peak after demand for private construction has begun to taper off. Meanwhile, however, plans should be prepared if we are to act promptly when the present extraordinary private demand begins to run out.
The Congress made money available to Federal agencies for their public works planning in the fiscal year 1946. I strongly recommend that this policy be continued and extended in the fiscal year 1947.
State and local governments also have an essential role to play in a national public works program. In my message of September 6, 1945, I recommended that the Congress vote such grants to State and local governments as will insure that each level of government makes its proper contribution to a balanced public construction program. Specifically, the Federal Government should aid State and local governments in planning their own public works programs, in undertaking projects related to Federal programs of regional development, and in constructing such public works as are necessary to carry out the various policies of the Federal Government.
1The report dated January 1, 1946, and entitled “Battle for Production” is printed in House Document 398 (79th Cong., 2d sess.). Return to text