I want to say a word tonight to the farm families of America, and also to the families that consume farm products of every kind. That means everybody—everywhere.
No one can think back over the last nine years without coming to the conclusion that the most significant single fact in recent American history is the ability of the American people to face a tough situation and to take orderly and united action in their own behalf and in behalf of the things in which they believe.
There has been a considerable amount of discussion lately about the alleged complacency of the American people. Newspaper editors and commentators have been telling us that the American people are complacent—that they are apathetic.
I think I know the American people pretty well. A lot of them write to me. A lot of them send me messages of one sort or another. They talk to me pretty frankly. If there is one single thing of which I am certain, it is that the American people are not now, and have not been, complacent. On the contrary, they are keenly aware of the situation in which they find themselves, and they are wholeheartedly and entirely committed to action, nearly all of them. Now, as a decade ago, they are facing up to the job they have to do, and they propose to see to it that the job is done.
Americans are preparing with all possible speed to take their places on the actual battle fronts, and some are there now. Workers in the mills and mines are laboring long hours, under great pressure, to turn out the weapons and equipment without which the war cannot be won. Men and women in thousands of communities are giving their time and energy in the work of civilian defense. And out in the country, farmers are straining every effort to produce the food which, like the tanks and the planes, is absolutely indispensable to victory.
The members of each of these various groups know the extent to which they themselves are responding. But they do not always know what is being done by the others. And that gives an opportunity to the enemy to get in some deadly blows. That gives an opportunity to the enemy to spread malicious words. Labor, says the evil whisper, is sabotaging the war program with strikes and slowdowns and demands for higher wages. Business, it says, is gouging the country with unconscionable profits. And the farmer, according to this treacherous voice, is using the war to grab all he can.
Now it happens that, as a result of the war program, the incomes of all three groups on the average are substantially increased. Of course there are instances where a few businessmen or a few workers, or a few farmers, are demanding and getting more than they ought. But, in general, the increase to the different groups has been kept fairly well in balance, and there has been only a moderate rise in the cost of living in city and in country up to now.
It seems to me that we ought to feel proud of the undoubted fact that we are getting cooperation and a reasonably fair balance among 90 percent of our population and that if less than 10 percent of the population is chiseling we still have a pretty good average national record.
But if all prices keep going up, we shall have inflation of a very dangerous kind—we shall have such a steep rise in prices and in the cost of living that the entire Nation will be hurt. That would greatly increase the cost of the war and the national debt. It would hamper the drive for victory. It would inevitably plunge everyone—city workers and farmers alike—into ruinous deflation later on.
I wish somebody could invent a better word than "inflation." What we really mean is that even though we may not realize it at the moment, it is not a good thing for the country to upset all the old standards if the cost of living goes up through the roof and wages go up through the roof, and farm prices go up through the roof. Actually, in such a case we are no better off than we were before as individuals or heads of families, and it comes pretty close to being true that that which goes up has to come down.
This fight against inflation is not fought with bullets or with bombs, but it is equally vital. It calls for cooperation and restraint and sacrifice on the part of every group. It calls for mutual good will and a willingness to believe in the other fellow's good faith. It calls for unflagging vigilance and effective action by the Government to prevent profiteering and unfair returns, alike for services and for goods.
And so, on this ninth anniversary of the founding of the National Farm Program, we can all rededicate ourselves to the spirit with which this common effort by the farmers came to birth. Never before in our history has there been as much need for unstinting service to the country. Hard, trying, difficult days are ahead. How hard and how bitter they will be depends on how well we can keep our eyes, our thoughts, and our efforts directed toward the only thing that matters now for every one of us in the United Nations- winning the war.