Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address at Cleveland, Ohio

October 16, 1936

I am glad, indeed, to come back to Cleveland; although once more I find that I am denied the privilege of seeing more of your Exposition.

I have had a wonderful time today, coming across Ohio with your Governor and your Senators. Indeed, it has been a very exciting and a very instructive trip all through the last ten days.

It has been cheering after these hard years to see on all sides smiling faces and happy crowds again. Four years ago there were crowds too, but they had the anxious faces of uncertainty and doubt, faces shadowed by trouble and fear of the future. During the past week the hundreds of thousands of men and women and children I have seen have cheerful faces and voices of courage and hope.

I am sure that you people in Cleveland and other parts of Ohio need no proof that your factories, your shops, your stores, your farms, are all doing bigger business, that those who work in them are getting more and fatter pay envelopes. If anyone needs recovery figures for Ohio, listen to these: Compare the first half of 1936 with the first half of 1933. What do you find? Employment in all industries is up 36 percent. Payrolls in all industries are up 83 percent. Electric power production is up 44 percent. Farm income, excluding benefit payments, is up 53 percent. Department store sales in the Cleveland Federal Reserve District are up 44 percent. Retail furniture sales in the same district are up 86 percent. And, one of the finest things of all, building permits in 47 Ohio cities have increased by 367 percent, from seven and one-half million to thirty-five million dollars. Residential construction in the same cities has increased 741 percent, from about two million dollars to about eighteen and one-half million dollars.

These figures show an increase in business for every group in Ohio. The fact that recovery has come to all of these groups is a refutation of the old theory which had guided the previous Administration, the old theory which I call the "trickle down" theory. That theory is that if you lend some money to the few financial interests at the top of the economic pyramid, it will trickle down and some of it will find its way into the pay envelopes of the workers, into the ledgers of the millions of independent business men throughout the Nation, and into the pocketbooks of the farmers. But the trouble with that theory was that there was always too little left to trickle down more than halfway.

Our theory for the last three and a half years has been just the opposite. We have acted on the conviction that the way to bring about recovery was to tackle the problems of those who were at the bottom of the economic pyramid, to increase earnings and income, and through them the purchasing power of everybody. We knew that sales could not be made to people who had lost the power to buy.

And so we tackled the problem from the point of view of all groups. What is happening today shows the soundness of that program.

Particularly was that true of the wage earners of the Nation. For the first time in many years the industrial workers and wage earners of America have had an Administration in Washington which was determined to give them an opportunity for a fairer wage and a more decent standard of working hours. We were determined to do this not only because that was simple justice, simple Americanism, but also because it was good business. And the business men of America now know that it was good business. They know that a great portion of their regained sales comes from the increasing purchasing power of those who work in the cities and on the farms.

The interest of every business man is bound to the interest of every wage earner. Whether he is running a store on the corner or is a stockholder in a corporation, big or little, he is financially better off when wages and working conditions are good than when wages and working conditions are poor. Surely the last panic proved that!

Remember that when men and women are idle, they are not in the market for the products of industry. When wages are low and the working week is long, their purchasing power is limited.

It is to the real advantage of every producer, every manufacturer and every merchant to cooperate in the improvement of working conditions, because the best customer of American industry is the well-paid worker. And the best guarantee of corporate dividends is a rising standard of living.

If the workers in a particular industry are poorly paid they become poor customers of every other industry and of every other merchant. And the corporation directors and lawyers who use the money of their stockholders to persuade their stockholders that they ought to chastise the Administration that is trying to broaden home and foreign markets for their own goods are, to put it mildly, a little foggy in their thinking processes.

In this era, when many families hold stocks in many diversified industries, it does them no good to depress the condition of labor in any industry. They profit best when labor profits best.

I said in Chicago, and I repeat here that the business men of America, the investors in business enterprises, are going to show on November 3d that they have not been frightened or fooled by the expensive propaganda of those who would seek to spread the gospel of fear—fear that this Administration is antagonistic to business.

Read the record of what we have done for business and you will find the answer to that charge. I repeat here that the record shows that no Administration in the history of the United States has done so much to encourage the business of the Nation.

Back in the spring of 1933 the whole system of free enterprise and private profit was on the edge of ruin. It had been dragged there by the same leaders who are now trying to scare you. It was because of our determination to keep the American system that we succeeded in doing what we did at a time when the system was almost buried under the ruins.

Few of the public are being fooled this year.

Every now and then stockholders and bondholders in the United States are flooded with literature warning them against returning this Administration to office. They probably will be appealed to again. That literature is being sent out from the center of the great financial district of New York. The money of the stockholders is being used to finance this literature. This waste of stockholders' money is being perpetrated by the same group which had brought business as a whole to its knees during the dark days of the depression. We fight only against that kind of concentrated wealth and economic power which in the old days used to dictate not only to the business of the Nation but to Government itself—against that small minority of financial interests whose concern was not the welfare of the Nation, not the welfare of business in America, but solely the extension of their own power. It is the glory of America that the standard of living is higher here than in any country or at any other time in the ,history of the world. The underlying issue in every political crisis in our history has been between those who, laying emphasis on human rights, have sought to exercise the power of the Government for the many and those, on the other hand, who have sought to exercise the power of Government for the few. We are now coming to learn that the interests of the few are best served when the interests of the many are best safeguarded.

That is our fight now. It will be won now as it has always been won in America since the day on which the members of the Continental Congress declared inalienable the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And so, on the third of November, which I take it is two weeks from next Tuesday, I am expecting a telegram from Cleveland and from Ohio; and I am confident of what that telegram will say.

Before we pull out, may I thank you all for staying here? We were very late getting in, but it was because of the very large crowds all the way from Cincinnati. I am grateful to you.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at Cleveland, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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