|The American Presidency Project|
|• Lyndon B. Johnson|
|Remarks to the Members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.|
|April 27, 1964|
THANK YOU very much.
I suppose it might not be entirely accurate to greet you as "My fellow Democrats" But I am very proud to welcome you to your Capital city--as, my fellow Americans.
Last week the railroad dispute was settled--without a strike, and without compulsion.
The previous week it was announced that our gross national product had reached $608 1/2 billion in the first quarter of this year, after the longest period of uninterrupted prosperity in the peacetime history of America.
A few weeks ago, since I became President, the largest tax cut in all American history, almost two centuries, went into effect for American families and for American private enterprise. I understand that some of you here have an interest in taxes.
But I must apologize to you this morning. We haven't done anything for business this week.
You know, Vice President Barkley told the story about the man whose son went to West Point. He got his brother a veteran's pension, he gave his daughter a job in the office, and finally he went back and the old man was fighting him and just giving him thunder in the campaign working for his opponent. He said, "How could you do this to me? Here are all the things I have done for you."
He said, "Yes, but you haven't done anything lately."
No, we haven't done anything yet this week--but please remember, this is only Monday morning.
Times are good. As I told your new president when he came down on the plane with me from New York the other day, it is awfully good to be here with you.
Twenty-seven years ago this month I came here as a newly elected Congressman-aboard the train with the President. I like to remind my old and dear friend Harry Byrd, that he and I both arrived in Washington and are both still here, and about the only two original New Dealers that are still around.
Washington has changed very little since then. Not long ago I called in one of the very bright and very busy young men I have working with me, and I said to him, rather brusquely, because I was in a hurry, "The people want to know what we are going to do about the farm bill. Let's get our recommendations up right away."
He came right back and said, "Mr. President, I don't think we have to consider that. I don't have a file on it. I will look it up, but I think you ought to go tell them: If we owe it, we will pay it."
If Washington has changed a little, the country has changed much, and what the country wants and what the country requires and what our national leadership in your National Capital requires, I think you ought to know that it must change from time to time.
So this morning I want to follow the advice that George Washington, our first President, once gave when he said, "Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive."
In these last 150 days of my administration, 5 months, your national leadership has sought to serve the changing needs and the hopes of a changing Nation.
Each year for the last 3 years, with the growing population, with new demands and new needs upon us, our local and our State budgets have materially increased over the country. I think it is only natural that our national budget would increase. I hope, as you talk about budgets, that you think about your own budget and what has happened to it over the last 10 years.
During the last 3 years our budget increased because of increase in population about $5 billion per year, until it got in the general vicinity of $100 billion and 190 million people and a world of 3 billion that we are dealing with.
When I came into office, I had 37 days to wrap up a budget involving $100 billion. The budget last year was $98.8 billion. If I increased it $5 billion, and we have a number of built-in increases like military pay raises--it was already voted; we had no choice; we had to pay them--that budget would be $103.8 billion if we followed the normal, natural, ordinary course that we had followed the last 3 years.
After 37 days and nights we brought that budget down to $98.9 billion. In other words, we cut last year's budgets--the expenditures that we made last year. We asked Congress to give us only enough money to expend this year and we reduced that budget of last year, not increased it by $5 billion, but reduced it by $1 billion.
Now that budget does not go into effect until June 30th of this year. We have to submit it and the Congress has to approve it and take each one of 15 appropriation bills. But we did not ask for $5 billion additional. We asked for $1 billion less.
In doing that we cut last year's deficit in half. Last year our deficit between our expenditures and our income was in the neighborhood of $9 billion. We proposed to cut that deficit from $9 billion to $4 1/2 billion.
Next we cut Federal employment. This March--and it is difficult in rising population with increased needs, with State and local governments' expenditures and employment going up like that, to hold to where you are. But we cut Federal employment, March this year, below March last year by some 13,000.
Now that is not much, but I would have thrown my hat to the ceiling if it had just been one, and I am taking pleasure in delivering a letter to Senator Byrd today, telling him that at least 1 month, the month of March, we have 13,000 employees less than we had last year.
When my budget does get into effect on June 30th I think we will materially reduce employees all across the board. One of the reasons for that is Secretary McNamara cut approximately 1,000 out that had already been appropriated out for, and budgeted for, by closing installations. We closed one installation and got 100,000 letters of protest.
Now I don't know what you think about it, but I do hope that if you are interested in cutting the number of employees and in reducing expenditures and operating a wise and frugal and thrifty Government, that you, too, will write once in a while.
We are cutting waste where we find it. We are cutting inefficiency where we can prove it. We are cutting out the nonessentials so we can better support what is essential.
We are determined the people shall have what they need and we hope to have a frugal and thrifty Government, striving for a dollar's value for every dollar spent, a dollar's return for every dollar invested. That was a statement I made 24 hours after I took office. That is a statement I repeat every day to my Cabinet, to my administrators, and to anyone else who will listen to me.
In doing what we have done, we have endeavored to shut down unneeded installations of other wars. We have closed down some obsolete, unnecessary, what you might call illustrative cavalry forts in this missile age. They have been carried over from other times and other needs, but no one has really walked in and said, "I am pulling down the curtain." We have done that so we can sustain the muscle of our might, to have more missiles for these times and the times to come.
I can tell you with positive assurance that your country has never been stronger militarily than it is at this hour. I can tell you without the slightest fear of contradiction for the next months that I am sure I am going to be in this office we are determined to keep it that way. We are always going to keep our guard up, but our hand out, searching for some way to avoid a nuclear holocaust.
We are determined that no nation shall ever exceed us in preparedness, and none shall ever excel us in the pursuit of honorable peace, for we shall keep both our reason and our readiness at all times..
As this Nation can be reasonable without becoming restless in its relations with other nations, I believe earnestly and genuinely that this Government must be more frugal without becoming less compassionate here at home.
Private citizens and public officials don't have to be loose with the dollar to prove that they are liberals and progressives. They do not have to be callous to prove that they are conservative.
We cut on estimated needs of the military almost $10 billion before it ever got to the President. After it got to the President we cut more than $1 billion, and with other departments, more than $3 billion before we started putting back in. Then we added poverty in Appalachia and some of the things for hungry people, fathers who have 11 children and have only $20 on which to support them.
We put back $2 billion, still staying under last year's budget by $1 billion, but if you take all the money you are spending on poverty in Appalachia, it is just around 1 percent of the entire budget. I ask you--I ask you--aren't you willing to take a penny out of a dollar to try to make taxpayers out of taxeaters ?
I came here this morning because I want you to be a part of this administration, of this Government, whether you are Democrats or Republicans or whatnots. We have one big tent, and all America is welcome until November, and we will welcome everybody then, but we will expect some of you to go across the street.
This administration is determined to begin on building a great society for tomorrow. Something that you can proudly--and Mr. Carey and Mr. Nellart can proudly--say "I was a part of that. I put in the first stone. I helped build that society." Something that you can look back on for generations and say, "I was there when it happened." And your people can point: "My great uncle--or cousin or aunt or grandpa or grandma or great, great, great, great grandpa or grandma-had a part to do in that."
We must do those things that are undone and we must fill those needs that are unfilled.
Having done what we have done in this generation to make freedom safe from aggressors, I believe that we must move with courage to keep freedom safe from erosion from within by poverty, by despair and by disease and by poor schools and by poor slums.
I don't know how many of you live on the side of the tracks where you even see this. I wish you could have gone with me and looked into their eyes and seen the faith and hope that they have in their country, when I traveled into Pittsburgh and saw the unemployed steelworkers, and into South Bend and saw the 8,300 men all of whom lost their jobs Christmas Eve--auto workers-and into eastern Kentucky and West Virginia and saw the unemployed coal miners. One man with 11 children told me that he had 4 days' work last month at $4 a day, not because he does not want work but because it is not there.
So I have gone into these schools and these slums and I have seen these insidious enemies of a stable economy and the ones that really promote recessions and inflation. I want to tell you that no segment of our society has a greater stake in these people than folks who are well enough, can afford to come to Washington, and belong to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
I talked to an old friend of mine the other day whose brother brought me to Washington as a secretary at $260 a month 32 years ago. He owns the world's largest ranch and he does not have any trouble getting three meals a day, because he has oil and gas under practically every acre of it.
But he had invested in some Latin American countries where the ancient enemies of mankind were still operating, disease and ignorance and illiteracy. And guess what our conversation was about--not about the million acres that he owns in the United States which it could have been about, not about the tax bill, but about the 60,000 acre ranch that he once owned in Cuba.
I never want to contemplate talking to the builders and the owners of America about something they once owned here. But before you get too cocky, please remember that you are outnumbered in the world 17 to 1, and don't put it on a religious basis or on a numbers basis or on a class basis or on a race basis, because there are a good many more of them than there are of you.
Please always remember that if we do nothing to wipe out these ancient enemies of ignorance and illiteracy and poverty and disease, and if we allow them to accumulate--I saw three families in Inez, Ky. One had 11, one had 8, and one had 6. The father of one had finished the third grade. His boy had grown to 18 and he quit at the third grade too, and his girl quit at 17 in the third grade. I pied with him to please keep those children in school if he could.
But if you don't remember anything else that I say to you today, remember this because it is in the interest of each of you, regardless of what party you belong to and regardless of your balance sheet: If a peaceful revolution to get rid of these things-illiteracy, and these ancient enemies of mankind that stalk the earth where two-thirds of the masses are young and are clamoring and are parading and are protesting and are demonstrating now for something to eat and wear and learn, and health--if a peaceful change of these conditions is impossible, a violent change is inevitable. I am just as sure of that as I sit here.
In this political democracy, what you have and what you own and what you hope to acquire is not secure when there are men that are idle in their homes and there are young people that are adrift in the streets, and when there are thousands that are out of school and millions that are out of work, and the aged are lying embittered in their beds.
This man told me that he sat up until 4 o'clock the morning before with his neighbor, who was 85. He should have been in a hospital. But during his working years he hadn't been permitted to put a dollar per month to match a dollar of his employer's in a fund that would take care of him, after he had worked 40 years, to pay his hospital bill.
The Government would not have paid anything. But under a plan, if he could put in a dollar a month and his employer a dollar a month, and he went into the work market at 20 years old and he worked until he was 65, that would have been 45 years at $24 a year, which would have brought him about $1,100 or $1,200. You multiply that by 3.75 over what it earns over 45 years and you get about $4,000 that he would have had. But he is prohibited from doing that because his Government had not gotten that far along yet.
It is like the fellow down in my country-I want you to relax a little and not get too tense, because some of these things are distressing when you hear them--a man went up and bought five hams from him during the war. He charged him $3 a ham, and he gave him a $10 and a $5 bill, and he said, "What about the stamps?"
The old man lived over in the back woods of Texas--not far from where I live--and he said, "What about the stamps?" and he said, "What stamps?" You had to get stamps to buy meat in those days. He said, "Well, the OPA stamps. How many stamps do I owe you? .... Oh," he said, "You are talking about the OP and A. Well, we never did put that in down here."
We never have put in this program where a man can take a dollar a month out of his wages and his employer can put a dollar to match it, and that two dollars will provide him at the end of 40 years $4,000 to pay his hospital bills. What he has saved then can pay his own doctor and he can select any doctor he wants to and what he has saved up he can pay on his doctor, but this will take care of his hospital.
Well, head as well as heart tells us that if we are looking ahead and have good judgment, we will act now.
The poverty of other people is already a mounting burden. How much? You are now paying $4 billion a year for public assistance. You are now paying $8 billion a year for police and health and fire departments. The costs are high and they are going higher. Unless you attack the causes of poverty itself, you are going to be shoveling it out to the taxeaters instead of producing and training taxpayers.
I went in this eastern Kentucky town and I was real stimulated to see 600 people being trained. Fifty of them were in a cosmetology class, learning how to fix up ladies' hair, and all of them will have a job when they get out. Another sizable group was in an auto mechanics class, and I said, "What is that great big piece of steel there?" and he said, "That is the rear end of a truck."
We are teaching those people who have no skills some skills, and it is costing us $31 a week for them to do it, so they can live. But when they get off at the end of r year, they will be able to hold a job and we have got a good many more jobs in a good many more classifications than we have got people to fill.
So if the 9 million families who are poor could earn just $3,000 a year, personal income would climb more than $11 billion per year. All of those people would become taxpayers having deducts made to their checks instead of taxeaters from the deducts from your checks.
Now this is only one simple example that I am giving you.
Waste is not unique to Washington-neither is it only the product of what Government does. Sometimes the greater waste comes from a society and what that society leaves undone.
Racial and religious discrimination last year, according to the President's Council of Economic Advisers, cost us $15 billion because we wanted to say a Negro or a Mexican or somebody else couldn't work at this kind of a job. Unused or underused manpower costs us even more. And that is why this administration is dedicated to lifting off the burdens which weigh down our national productivity, our national expansion, and our national prosperity.
You know, business has changed since the 1930's. And I can tell you that Government has changed in that time, too.
How has business changed?
Corporation profits after taxes. When I came to Washington in late 1931, for the year 1932, every corporation in this country, after they paid their taxes, had a net loss of $3 4/10 billion. Now, that was a conservative Government. Mr. Hoover wasn't responsible for all the things that happened, but no one ever charged him with being adventuresome and reckless and wasteful, but they lost $3 4/10 billion, all the corporations of America.
Ten years later, in 1942, we changed that loss and we made $9½ billion, all the corporations. That is after taxes, because people talk a lot about taxes these days, but after the taxes were paid they made $9½ billion in 1942.
In 1952 it stepped up to $17.2 billion. I am not talking about administrations, because it is almost double there, and that was President Eisenhower's administration--42 was ours and '52 was his. But in 10 years--that was the year he was elected, 1952, but our prosperity continued during his 8 years, with a couple of recessions--in 1962, corporation profits after taxes--all of you feel sorry for yourself now, all of you who have a martyr complex and all of you who think you are mistreated and all of you who haven't had this experience of once owning a 60,000-acre ranch and not owning it any more, I want to show you how bad off you are--you made $24,600 million in '62, up 17 to 24 from '52 to '62.
In 1 year, from '62 to '63, it jumped to $27.1 billion, and the estimate for 1964 is $30 billion after taxes.
The return on the net worth for the average railroad--and I am getting to be an expert on railroads these last few days--the return they made on their net worth, and they are down at the bottom of the heap, was 2.2 in 1961 but that jumped to 3.7 in 1963, almost double. But on this $27 billion, which is going to be $30 billion this year, the return on net worth for all manufacturing companies was 10 percent. That is the average in the United States.
Now, the first 311 corporations that have been tabulated, that reported to the Federal Reserve--a very nonpartisan organization and a very sound organization led by a very able man, Mr. William McChesney Martin, who served under many administrations-the first 311 corporations tabulated this first quarter, January, February, and March, show a 23 percent increase over the same period in 1963. That is what the first quarter in '64 looks like.
So, in this new day, I do not accept the viewpoint--on either side--that business and Government are inherently hostile opponents. We would work much closer together if we didn't have some public relations men and mimeographing machines getting out statements for each of us, trying to get our name in the paper and show that we attack somebody.
I remember the Bond Club asked Mr. Rayburn to come and speak to them after he introduced that death sentence amendment, the Holding Company Act, in 1935. They called it a death sentence. They said it would kill every corporation. It didn't kill any of them. They all got richer than ever, but it kept them from swindling a bunch of widow women.
They wanted to be nice to him one day when he was presiding over a hearing. They said, "Why don't you come up to New York some time and make a speech ?" He felt like making a speech to the Bond Club like I felt like coming to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He was a little bit--well, kind of like a mule you are trying to put the bridle on. He was a little bit shy and holding back, but he accepted.
And I thought of what he said when Mr. Carey said he was awfully disappointed I was not going to make it over here, and I thought I couldn't make it here because I have a rough schedule today. When he was flying back with me, he said, "I just think you ought to come and talk to them and let us know each other better." I thought about what Mr. Rayburn said. He told them yes, he would come right in the middle of that big fight.
He went up there and the fellow that introduced him was a little embarrassed. He was not President and they couldn't do like they did this morning and just say "The President of the United States." You don't have to say any more. You don't have to say a good President, a bad President, a middle-sized President. You just say "The President," and that is the proper way to introduce the President. But I don't always do things the proper way, as you have observed in the newspapers.
There is something good that comes out of everything, you know. When lightning struck Lady Bird's plane out in Cleveland the other day, it scared us for a moment, but a lot of good came out of it. She is willing to start riding with me again now.
I told Dick Nixon the other night when I went out to Chicago to speak--I met Dick coming back from Viet-Nam and Rockefeller and Goldwater going out--and I hope they are not too disappointed if we do well out there, because it is all our boys, all of our country, but I told Dick that from now on I didn't know whether I was--I was at the Gridiron Club and they were roasting all of us--I said I don't know whether a fellow is safer being a guest of the newspaper people or whether he is worse off having them as his guests.
But anyway, we put in a new rule at the LBJ Ranch. If I ever get to go down there-I have just been down there twice in 5 months, because there is a crisis every week, nearly, and they would really ruin me if I happened to be there and a crisis developed. But I will tell you one thing for sure: If any of you show up down there, we have got some new rules. Everybody is going to walk, at the LBJ, from now on, and I am going to do what Lady Bird tells me, and we are going to make everybody drink nothing but pure rain water or Pepsi-Cola.
No, I was saying that there is not anything inherently wrong with business and Government, along with labor and agriculture and the public at large getting along, that they are inseparable partners in building a more prosperous America.
Now some people say I talk out of both sides of my mouth. I don't know why you have to be anti-workingman and pro-manager or anti-manager and pro-workingman because they all three, the capitalist and the manager and the workingman, go together to make up these profits I'm talking about, and that is the free enterprise system as I see it.
So tomorrow night I am having the head of the Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Carey, and your executive vice' president, and a hundred other businessmen over to talk to them about how to keep from raising prices so that inflation won't eat the dollar away and make it a soft dollar instead of a hard dollar, and where it will be worth something to you, and where you won't have the condition repeated where 10 years ago you bought a house for $10,000 and that house would now cost you $22,000, that same house.
We are going to try, each one of us, with all these profits we are making, to either use them to try to reduce prices a teeny weeny bit or at least hold prices where they are. And then I am going to call in the leaders of the workingmen of this country this same week and tell them the same thing.
That may be talking out of both sides of your mouth, but the way I fed about it, I am President of all the people.
When this administration came into office, the Nation faced a recession and the challenge of high unemployment.
The first thing I did was to reject the expedient of make-work sedatives. I have seen the WPA. I worked very closely with it back in 1933, '34, and '35, but instead of having make-work sedatives, I wanted to go after the causes and I wanted to produce a cure, and I think you know the record.
Now, what is the record? The revision of the depreciation schedule was made in 1962. That is for the taxpayers and it was a wise one, and a beneficial one, and it has helped the Government.
There was the investment tax credit that same year. We have had the tax cut this year, the biggest one in the 188 years of history, 175 since you had a President.
We have the trade expansion act to keep American producers competitive in world markets where we can sell something besides just ourselves, and the vigorous and increasingly successful attack on our balance of payments deficit.
Now the first quarter is always better, and you can't judge the other quarters by the first. And it is not accurate and we are not sure of it, but I am telling you that it doesn't make me mad when I see the first quarter is about to balance out when we have had these huge losses. I said to Secretary McNamara only last night at dinner, "Please get some of your top colonels and generals out talking to these other countries about things that they can buy in the way of equipment from us so we can get some of their money back over here."
We have a drive on in every agency of this Government and you may get tired of hearing about it--they already have--I see them leak to the columnists, these cocktail columnists run around to each one of these Cabinet departments, "What do you know that you can whisper to me?" and I see that they say I talk a little rough to the Cabinet and the independent offices and they say a little corn, and they say I ought not to be insisting on efficiency and economy and that I drive them too hard, and that I am going to get sick because I am working too much, and all that stuff. But we are insisting on efficiency and economy because if we don't stop this spiral, the sky is the limit. And we will go the way the other nations have gone.
The emphasis, and all of our actions, are on the importance of private investment. All of these have borne fruit in the good times America is enjoying now.
I know the total burden of Government-at all levels--is heavy. I ask you to remember that your Federal Government is large and your share of its burden great, but the expenses haven't gone up for the Federal Government like they have for the State and city. You ought to look at how much they have increased. But your Federal Government has a position that no one else really has: We have to stand and defend and preserve freedom in our time.
When we cut the nuclear production the other day, our nuclear production was up here, and all of the targets we would be required to use it on are down here, and that is all we would need. I just cut it that much. I still have got that much in between on the chart, that much safety valve.
When I tried to do that, you have no idea how much effort, how they tried to hold me back, and they said, "You will lose 400 men in this man's district and he is running for reelection this year."
I said, "I am not going to operate a WPA nuclear project or a WPA Defense Department. Let's put that over in poverty and let's put that over in Appalachia where we are spending 1 percent of our budget, but let's don't put it over here in Defense where we are spending 50 percent of our budget. Let's have the bombers and the missiles and the men and the Marines that we need. I am going to use it unless they are needed."
You know, a friend of mine is running for President, and he is higher up in the military than I am. He is a general, and I stayed in about 25 years and never got but one promotion. When I got to be President, I got mad and resigned, but when I quit I was the equivalent of about a major or a chicken colonel.
When Castro got upset and all frustrated and excited, you remember, down in Cuba and cut our water off, I got all these recommendations from these experts and I was new in the job and didn't know just quite how to handle everything. But they told me, "Land the Marines. Send the Marines in."
I studied it over and figured it out and went home and talked to Lady Bird about it and next morning I decided we don't have to shoot from our hip and let's not just go berserk here because Castro talked in a strong voice. Wouldn't it be better to send one little admiral in there to cut that water off than to send all of these Marines to turn it on? And that is what we did. But that costs money, even that admiral or that battalion of Marines.
You take away arms out of the Federal budget, the military costs, you take away the costs of the past wars, the veterans that are on pensions that lost their legs and arms, you take away the defense and the security items, and this year, 1964, Federal purchases of goods and services to our national gross product will be within one-half of one percent of what it was in 1929.
Now I want you to remember that. When you eliminate the war picture, the defense picture, the thing that is keeping you from having somebody rap on your door at midnight and click their boots and tell you to get up in your gown and come out to a concentration camp, when you take away that protection, you are within onehalf of one percent of 1929, and it is going to be lower than at any time in any postwar year.
You have only one Government, and all of you rely on it a lot more than you realize. You rely on it in Panama and you rely on it in Guantanamo and you rely on it in Cyprus and you rely on it in Zanzibar and you rely on it in Brazil and you never know what moment you will need it. When you need it, you mean business, and you want it to come. But if you wipe that out, you are doing just about what you are doing in the Federal Government in 1929. That is 25 years ago, and I challenge any rockribbed, private enterprise, freedom-loving member of the Chamber of Commerce, to tell me that his budget is the same as it was 25 years ago, when his revenues had increased proportionately with ours.
So your task and mine is to make sure that that Government functions, not to obstruct-you ought not to do that to us. You ought not to oppose it. You ought not to prevent it from functioning.
I ask you what would happen to your business if each day your stockholders-and that is what you are in this Government-spent all day long like one or two of them do sometimes at an annual board meeting, criticizing what you do and finding fault with everything you do, and resolutely against you every day, every week-just as fast as those mimeographs can turn them out.
Now, you are stockholders in this Government, and every time you hit me--I am the only President you have got--you make me a little bit weaker to do the things that you have hired me to do. I don't expect to muffle criticism. Every one of you say we invite free speech in our country and we want free speech and we want criticism-don't you? Every one of you do. But there is a limit to how much you want, and there is a ceiling on how much is good for you.
Most of these countries tear themselves to pieces fighting among themselves, and I have never even announced for the Presidency. I said I am going to stay in this job and be President to all of the people as long as I can. I am going to follow my political philosophy, which is this, and it is stated and written and almost in stone and steel:
I am a free man first, and I am proud I am free and I treasure it and I am glad of it. I am an American second, and you don't know how I appreciate the citizenship that goes with that flag. Being an American is the proudest thing you can be except being free and a public servant honored to be the President of all of the people, third, and a Democrat fourth--in that order.
I have been rejecting the political advice of experts for 32 years that I have been in this game, but I still have the old-fashioned feeling that if you will take care of the next generation, this generation will take care of you, and that is the kind of a course that I embarked on.
So this morning I would like specifically to ask your support, not in the election, but for a purpose that I regard as most vital. I will see you later about the election.
Today, in the State and local governments throughout the land, there are 1,000 offices that pay more than the salary of a Cabinet officer. Now, here are 9 or 10 men with the President who are responsible for whether we send in the Marines or send in an admiral, whether we handle $100 billion carefully--I don't know how many of you handle a billion--I know one corporation made $3 1/2 billion profits this past year, and I was mighty proud to see them make it. It didn't hurt my feelings just a bit and I just thought it was a wonderful year--but these men are handling $100 billion for you. They are handling your children for you. They are handling your life for you, and they are handling your civil defense for you, and there are at least 1,000 of them in State and local governments that make more than they do.
There are at least 290 top appointive Federal executives receiving the same or less pay than a top career man that works under him. I don't know how many of you have people working under you that make more than you do, but that is what you have here with the best Cabinet that I have ever seen assembled here in Washington--and I can say so without bragging because I didn't appoint a single one of them.
Now, I am asking your support and it is going to cost you very little and it is going to save you a lot, and it is going to give you a great deal more protection.
The middle-level positions pay less than half the comparable scales of business and industry. The few million dollars that the Johnson administration has proposed to correct these inequalities could be paid by an increase of one-hundredth of one percent in the efficiency of the Federal management.
Some of the top and most valuable men to me are out in my office now wanting to see me because they are borrowing money and can't stand it any longer and want to go home, and I won't see them. I won't take their resignations. I am not looking for political patronage. I am looking for performance.
I don't want to give any figures, but one of the great economic advisers, one of the ablest men in Government, has to maintain two homes and three children in college and a sick wife, and he has borrowed $16,000 to serve the Government in the last 3 years, so he has got to quit. He is giving up. He can get twice as much back in private business working for a university than you allow us to pay him.
Now, I am asking your support to do something about that for yourselves. So it will show on your tax return. So I will have some good management. And we can catch corruption, we can stop it before it gets going, we can have some businesslike practices and we can do a good job. And these men get half of what you pay yours.
Finally, I would say to you this: Whatever else you have--and you may not have much this morning--but you can go home and tell your friends that you have an independent, taxpaying, light-bill-saving President in the White House. You have one who has great faith in his country because there is no other of the 120 lands where a man could come from where I was to where I am.
I have a little house where I was born, the son of a tenant farmer, a picture of which is hanging up in my bedroom, because every night when I go to bed and every morning when I wake up, I call it the "opportunity house." No one could look at that house and the way it looks, and not say that there is still opportunity in America. So I have faith in America and what I want you to know is that I have faith in private enterprise because it is what made America.
What I know of opportunity and initiative and enterprise I learned from life itself. I started out at a dollar a day on a road gang, working for the lowest bidder. He tried to make up what he had left on the table out of us--and did. It was the best training I got.
I came here this morning to pledge Mr. Nellart and Mr. Carey and the rest of you good people in this organization your Government's restraint and responsibility and to pledge you a hand that means only to help, and I hope never to hinder so long as the public interest is being served. I ask from you only the same restraint in those decisions which you make which affect the general economic well-being, responsibility in choosing to support or not support the policies and proposals of the Government which serves all the 'people. That is your business.
These last 27 years since I came here to Washington represent half our economic history. In that span the material welfare of the average American has gained as much as in the years before, and I am determined that we shall set a course, and we shall hold to it, which will gain for all people more in the next 27 than we gained in the last 27•
I believe this strong and this rich and this successful Nation can bring peace to the world and I believe it so strongly I am going to work for it and fight for it and I hope get it.
I not only want to bring peace to the world, but I want to bring peace to all of our lives and think about the problems that keep you awake at night, and think about what you would do if you were the father of 11 and had 4 days work, so I want to bring peace to all of our lives. Now I know you think that is a big order, but I am not going to shrink from it. I am going to work toward it.
They said in the railroad strike, "What are you going to do when the negotiations bust up?" I said, "I am not thinking about that, because they are not going to bust up. We're going to settle it. Period." They wanted me to threaten them with this and threaten them with that, and "guesstimate" on this and that, and I just never would do it.
I said I was perfectly confident that if these railroad men that run the carriers don't know more about the railroad business than I do, then they have been overpaid for a long time. If these union men don't know more about the needs of their people than I do, they ought to get some new union leaders. So if you have free, collective bargaining, let's get the Government out of it and lock the door and you sit down here and work it out and I am going to keep you here until you do.
Labor would raise this question, and carriers would raise that question every time they came in with a bunch of things that haunted them about what the Government might do or what they were doing.
I just said, "There is only one thing I can tell you: get out your speech and a piece of paper, write down your gripes, and your Government will give you a fair shake. I don't care whether you are the biggest man in the land or the littlest man in the land, that is what we are going to do to you, and go on back and settle this thing." And they did.
So this is the work of our generation, as I see it, yours and mine.
I must get back to your work at the White House and, I guess, let you get back to your work on me.
|Citation: Lyndon B. Johnson: "Remarks to the Members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.", April 27, 1964. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=26193.|
© 1999-2011 - Gerhard Peters - The American Presidency Project