The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• John F. Kennedy
Excerpts from the Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy Municipal Auditorium, Canton, Ohio - (Advance Release Text)
September 27, 1960

A PROGRAM FOR FULL EMPLOYMENT

If we are to put idle men back to work and provide for the employment needs of a growing population - if we are to start America moving toward the new heights of production and strength which will give us full employment - then the Federal Government must provide the framework of government policy on which our free enterprise system can thrive and prosper. For the Federal Government has a responsibility to see that plants and men are not idle, that our country does not waste its resources of human skill.

First, we must rededicate ourselves to the goal of full employment written into law by a Democratic administration in 1946. That goal has been forgotten in the past 8 years. Mr. Nixon has said that unemployment is inevitable in a free economy. I don't believe it. I believe that our free enterprise system is strong and productive enough to provide jobs for all who want to work. But full employment will never become a reality unless we pursue that goal with energy and dedication, and with faith in our own capacities.

Second, we must liberate the investment funds which are vital to business growth and expansion. In the past 8 years the Republican Party has deliberately pursued a policy of maintaining high interest rates, a policy which dries up the supply of money and makes it more difficult for new business to survive and for existing business to expand. As a result we now have the highest rate of business failure since the great depression. By reversing these policies we will again channel our wealth into the investment in America which is essential to a growing economy - an economy with more jobs for the future.

Third, we must again use fiscal policies - the management of our national budget - to stimulate growth and halt the continual rise in the cost of living. Today, with the Federal budget at an all time high, the way in which our Government spends its money and raises its revenues has an enormous influence on the health of our economy. We must reshape our fiscal policies to meet the needs of a growing economy. For example, by maintaining a budget surplus in time of prosperity we can keep prices down without discouraging investment - thus using the Federal budget as an instrument to create jobs and protect the incomes of our workers.

Fourth, we must move to meet the growing crisis of automation - the replacement of men by machines - which has already thrown thousands of men out of work and which threatens the jobs of millions more. This fast-moving technological revolution offers hope of vastly increased productivity - of greater abundance for all Americans. But we must harness it to serve the welfare of our people and not allow it to become an instrument of economic distress and unemployment. In the past 8 years nothing has been done to meet this growing challenge. In 1961 a Democratic President will call a conference of the leaders of industry and labor to formulate new programs which will harness modern technology to serve the interests of all the people. At the same time we must begin to retrain displaced workers to provide new opportunities by broadening the activities of the U.S. Employment Service and provide technical assistance to help businesses which are trying to modernize with the least possible impact on their workers. In this way automation will bring increased prosperity and not deepening economic distress.

Fifth, we must develop our great natural resources, material resources and resources of the mind, to provide a sound basis for a growing economy. In the past 8 years those resources have been neglected - and our economy has faltered. For industry cannot hope to expand without power to drive its factories, roads to transport its goods, water to supply its plants, and increased skills and knowledge to deal with the growing complexities of modern production - and which will provide the continual flow of new ideas and inventive talent which has been the source of our past greatness, and which is the key to future growth in which full employment depends. But industry itself cannot meet these needs. Only government - the combined efforts of local, State, and Federal Governments - can build the dams and highways and schools on which the strength of our free enterprise economy depends.

Sixth, we must formulate special programs of assistance to those areas of our country which are suffering from severe economic distress and chronic unemployment. Today the country has 126 areas of substantial labor surplus, areas of declining industry, where there is poverty and hunger, where men have been searching for work, but cannot find that work.

Unemployment in any of these areas harms the entire Nation, depriving all our industry of markets, decreasing total purchasing power, and depriving us of needed production. The distress may be regional, but the problem is a national problem.

Twice a Democratic Congress has passed legislation to provide the long-term development loans and technical assistance which can put our distressed areas back on their feet and put men back to work, loans and assistance which will help the underdeveloped areas of America just as we are trying to help the underdeveloped countries of Asia and Africa and Latin America. And twice these bills have been vetoed by the Republicans. In 1961 this legislation will become law, along with an effective trade adjustment program to help areas suffering under the impact of increased foreign imports.

Seventh, we must establish a Committee on National Economic Goals - a committee composed of leaders of industry and labor as well as the best economic talent of our universities and research institutes. This Committee will assess our potential productive capacity and the needs of our Nation, and help the President to formulate the broad goals of our free economy.

With the advice of such a broadly based group the President will be able to set our Nation's unfinished business before the Nation, not to direct our economy, but to help and encourage our people to direct their untapped capacities and the untapped capacities of our free enterprise system in a great national effort to revitalize our strength and bring employment to all Americans.

For a strong America requires a strong and growing economy - where all who want to work can find fruitful and productive use for their skills and labor. Only the power and determination of the American Republic stands between the increasing menace of militant communism and world domination. History and events, as well as our own deep determination, have committed us to the defense of freedom. We cannot meet that commitment with idle plants and idle men. We cannot meet it with a stalled economy. We cannot meet it by looking to past achievement rather than to the urgent needs of the future.

In the past America has met its responsibilities to its own people and to world freedom. For we are, by tradition and capacity, a vital and a growing Nation. But in the past 8 years the hand of timidity and retreat, of little faith and little vision, has reached out and intervened in our economy to halt our long historic march toward a greater and stronger America. America cannot afford such intervention by its governments.

We do not lack faith, and we do not believe in intervention which stifles and retards. Rather we seek to liberate our economy and our people, to free them to do what they want to do and what they have the strength to do. If we can succeed in this then the horizons of the future are limitless.

Citation: John F. Kennedy: "Excerpts from the Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy Municipal Auditorium, Canton, Ohio - (Advance Release Text)", September 27, 1960. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=74230.
 
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