Harry S. Truman photo

Address at Convention Hall in Philadelphia

October 06, 1948

Senator Myers, and fellow Democrats of Pennsylvania:

I am certainly glad to be here tonight and to have this opportunity to discuss with you some of the issues in this campaign. I was here one night not long ago and discussed some of them with you at 2 o'clock in the morning.

I am going to discuss some of the real issues--and discuss them in plain language-just as I have been doing all over the country.

A national election is a great event in the life of a free people. It gives them a chance to decide their own national destiny. In making this decision, they are entitled to know where the opposing parties and the opposing candidates stand on the vital issues.

They are entitled to hear something more than sweet lullabies, which is all they are getting from the Republican candidates.

In this election, I know very well why the Republicans want to stick to vague generalities and stay away from specific issues. It is because-on the issues that count with the people, the Republican Party is wrong, and the Democratic Party is right.

But we will take care of that. We will tell the people where the Democratic Party stands. And, since the Republicans are ashamed to tell where they stand, we will tell the people about where they stand, too.

There was a time a few years ago, when the Republicans would come out--even at election time--and openly attack the Democratic Party's New Deal. But that didn't work so well. They lost too many elections that way. So they changed their tune.

Then they began coming around at election time with a theme song entitled, "Me, too, but I can do it better." They lost a few elections that way, too, but they're still trying.

They tell you, "We know the Democrats took you out of the great depression that we created, but they didn't do it very well. We can do it better."

The Republicans tell you, "We are all for labor's right to collective bargaining, which the Democrats gave you, but we know how to make it work better."

They say to the farmer, "We know you are better off than you ever have been before, and the Democratic farm program is so good that we are not against it any more, but we could run it a lot better."

They don't talk much at election time about how they fought against these great progressive measures tooth and toenail. They just say, "Turn all these Democratic programs over to us, and we will take care of everything. Just leave everything up to the Republican Party and you won't have anything to worry about."

Do you know what that sounds like to me? It sounds like a "company union." It sounds like one of these generous employers who say to the men and women who work for them, "You don't need to form a union. I'll do it for you--and the union I give you will be better than yours, because we won't be fighting with each other."

That's what the Republicans are trying to do now. They want to take the industrial workers and the white-collar workers, and the farmers, and all the other plain people in this country, and roll them all together in one big company union, and run it for the benefit of the National Association of Manufacturers.

They have all their promises wrapped up in a 'package called "unity," which they guarantee to cure more ills than any patent medicine man ever saw. They won't tell you any more about what's in that package than a quack doctor will tell you about what's in his magic cure-all.

I don't believe the American people will be taken in by that kind of quackery.

Now, all of us believe in unity, of course. You believe in it and I believe in it.

But we believe in unity of free men. We believe in unity in great causes.

We don't believe in unity of slaves, or the unity of sheep being led to slaughter. We don't believe in unity under the rule of big business--we will fight it to the end.

Now, some of these Republican campaign orators have been going around trying to sell the idea that their kind of unity would strengthen our voice in world affairs. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The United States is the hope of the world, because we are a free people and because we are prosperous. When these freedoms begin to be cut down, and when our great prosperity begins to wane, under the dead hand of reaction, then our chances of leading the world to peace will surely be weakened.

Peace, my friends, is the goal of my public life. I'd rather have a lasting peace in the world than to be President of the United States. I wish for peace, I work for peace, and I pray for peace continually.

Now, there is another carefully cultivated line of propaganda going around to the effect that the Democratic Party ought to be turned out of office, just because it has been in power for 16 years. I regard that as a very strange and fallacious argument.

Some things get better with age. That is true of the liberal principles which were given new life and meaning under that great American--Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Are you ready to desert those liberal principles now? I am sure you don't! I think you know how much they mean to you and to the Nation and to the world. I don't think you've forgotten the depths of despair from which the Democratic Party rescued this country in 1932.

I don't think you've forgotten the steady climb to new confidence and prosperity that has taken place since then.

And now when this country is enjoying the greatest prosperity it has ever known, I don't think you will throw it away by returning to the party of special privilege.

The Republican Party doesn't like to be referred to as the party of special privilege. They want you to think that the elephant's got a "new look."

I know that there are enlightened and liberal elements in the Republican Party. But they do not control it. Any liberal who wants to make his vote count in this election must vote for the Democratic Party.

If there ever was any doubt about this, it has now been dispelled. The leadership of the Republican Party stands foursquare upon the record made by that party in the 80th Congress--the "do-nothing" Congress--as far as the welfare of the people is concerned.

They have achieved unity--but it is not based on the benefits or beliefs of Theodore Roosevelt or George Norris or Bob Lafollette. They have based their unity on the record of the Tabers and the Tarts, and the Martins and the Wherrys, and the Hartleys and the Hallecks.

Is that the kind of unity you want? I am sure you don't!

Let's take a look at the record of the 80th Congress they're so proud of. I call it the "notorious, do-nothing, Republican 80th Congress." Maybe I ought to leave out the "do-nothing" part of it, because it did do some things--most of them bad.

What did the 80th Congress do to labor?

It passed the Taft-Hartley law. I want to tell you what kind of law that was, but just so I won't be accused of making a partisan statement, I'll quote from a Republican Senator--one who has had more experience in labor matters than any other Republican in the Senate.

This is what Republican Senator Wayne Morse said about the Taft-Hartley Act, and I quote from the Congressional Record. This is what he said: "This bill is a device for making unions so weak they cannot carry on effective collective bargaining." That's a real indictment.

That Taft-Hartley Act was passed over my veto.

It ought to be repealed.

The Democratic Party platform, made right here in this hall, calls for its repeal.

But the Republican 'platform brags about the Taft-Hartley Act; and we are informed that the Republicans are preparing even more repressive legislation for the next Congress.

I don't believe that labor unions ought to be destroyed. I don't believe the American people think so, either. And on November the 2d, I believe the American people will repudiate the enemies of labor at the ballot box.

Now, let's get back to that famous 80th Congress.

I am not attacking the institution of the Congress. I served in Congress for 10 years and I am proud of that service. The Congress is one of the great bulwarks of our liberties. That is why I am unhappy when the control of Congress falls into bad hands.

I am not attacking all the individual members of the 80th Congress. For many of them were fine, forward-looking men-doing all they could for the people. I might add that those fine, forward-looking men were Democrats.

The 80th Congress was controlled by its Republican leadership. That is the same leadership that would control the next Congress, if the Republicans were in the majority. That is the leadership that made the record that tells you what you can expect from the Republican Party.

It was an unholy alliance between the Republican Party and big business that actually created the most pressing domestic problem facing the country today--the high cost of living.

Let me tell you some history.

During the war, such a large part of our national production was required for war purposes that we were not able to meet all the civilian demands at home. Of course, when the demand for goods greatly exceeds the supply, prices naturally go up.

To prevent this, President Roosevelt proposed, and a Democratic Congress adopted, price controls. We made sure that the goods which were available would be sold at a fair price, and would be fairly distributed. We made sure that the wages and salaries we were earning would not lose their purchasing power during the wartime.

From the time of President Roosevelt's "hold-the-line" order in May 1943 until the Republicans killed effective price control in 1946, prices remained almost unchanged. They increased only 6 1/2 percent. This was the greatest job of stabilizing a wartime economy any country ever did.

There was no good reason why prices could not have been held down after the war ended--until supply caught up with demand.

Our Democratic administration had a careful plan for keeping controls on goods in short supply, and gradually taking them off as supply caught up with demand. Under that plan, the country would have gone forward steadily and firmly to a peacetime economy.

But the unholy alliance of big business and the Republican Party did not want it that way. Big business wanted to make more money. Corporate profits, even under price control, were more than double what they had been before the war. But that wasn't enough for big business.

So the biggest corporations in the country chipped in $3 million to one organization to convince the American people that price control was bad. This $3 million campaign was a huge success. The National Association of Manufacturers actually boasted about it. They said that when NAM started the campaign against OPA, a survey showed 85 percent of the people believed that OPA was absolutely necessary. They said in November 1946, after the NAM campaign, only 26 percent of the people believed that OPA was vital. You see how that organization misled everybody in the country.

Once public support was destroyed, it was not too hard to get the law changed. The Republican leaders in Congress were ready, willing, and able. They killed OPA by amending it to death.

They were so proud of their accomplishment that Senator Wherry, the Republican whip, stated to the lumber manufacturers, and I quote Senator Wherry, who is the Republican whip in the Senate: "It was the Republican leadership in the Senate and the House that was responsible for ending OPA."

That, of course, is not the story they tell you now. They blame high prices on everything and everybody, except the Republican Party and excessive business profits.

They're using the farmer as their whipping boy in the cities, and labor as their whipping boy on the farm. Apparently, they figure that, if they can get the city folks good and mad at the farmers, and get the farmers good and mad at the city folks, they will have unity.

I want to say something to you here and now--because I don't talk out of both sides of my mouth at the same time. I am just as strong for the welfare of the farmer as I am for the welfare of the city worker. I believe the prosperity of one helps the prosperity of the other. I want you to know that I am in favor of fair prices for the farmer, just as I want the farmer to know that I am in favor of good wages for labor.

Farm price supports have not caused high prices. As a matter of fact, the farm price support program is a great blessing to city people. It has resulted in such great increases in farm production that consumer prices are far lower than they would be, if we had no farm price support program.

Now, how about our workers? Since OPA was killed in 1946, workers have been on a treadmill, running as hard as they could trying to keep from falling behind. And workers have been losing the race. While weekly earnings have gone up 22 percent, prices have gone up 29 percent.

White-collar workers, retired people, disabled veterans, and others on fixed incomes have taken an even worse beating.

It could all have been easily avoided.

The Republicans will, of course, tell you that every price increase has been made necessary by wage increases.

Now, since OPA was killed, big business has made every cost-of-living wage increase the excuse for rising prices. And those price increases have paid for wage increases many times over.

Look at the steel industry, for example. It had a wage increase recently which will cost it $160 million. So it increased prices enough to bring in $600 million more--more than 3½ times as much as the industry needed to cover wage increases.

No wonder corporate profits have increased 70 percent since the end of OPA.

That's the true story of why prices are so big.

That's the story you'll never get from the big corporations.

That's the story you'll never read in the reactionary Republican papers.

That's the story you'll never hear from Republican campaign orators.

The murder of price control is a skeleton in the Republican family closet, and they don't want to draw it out.

Now, there is no secret to this problem of controlling high prices. We did it before-during the war--and we could do it again.

I called a special session of the 80th Congress for that purpose in November 1947, when the cost of living had shot up so far that everybody could see how wrong the Republicans were with their soothing promises and prophecies of 1946. They refused to act. Prices went higher.

In the State of the Union Message this last January, I said that the high cost of living was the most urgent domestic problem before the Congress. Still the Republicans refused to act. And prices climbed still higher.

So I called this year's special session in July. And the Republican Congress again refused to act.

The directions received from Albany were to hang around a week or two and then go home. And they did just that.

The Republican attitude was summed up by Senator Taft, when he said-- and I quote him: "If consumers think the price is too high today, they will wait until the price is lower. I feel that in time the law of supply and demand will bring prices into line."

There is your answer from the Republicans. If it costs too much, just wait. If you think 15 cents too much for a loaf of bread, do without it, until it comes down.

If you don't want to pay 60 cents a pound for hamburger, just don't buy any hamburger, do without it--wait!

How long will you have to wait? Well, I'll tell you.

You will never get anything done about high prices by a Republican President or a Republican Congress. Their big corporation backers don't want prices to come down.

But with a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress, the country will get action on high prices, I can guarantee that.

We Democrats believe that America is big enough and prosperous enough to produce plenty for everybody.

We believe that we Americans have it within our power to control our Nation's destiny.

That is where you can do your part. Make sure that all your friends know what the issues are.

Don't let the Republicans hide from the truth. That is what they are trying to do now.

We can take heart from a comment made by that great American heavyweight champion Joe Louis. In one fight, some time ago, he had a hard time catching up with his opponent. But Joe finally did catch up with him, and he knocked him out.

After the fight, this was what Joe said: "Well, he could run away, but he couldn't hide."

Don't let the Republicans hide the truth from you.

We can have the kind of America we want, if the people vote for it on election day.

Don't let the Republicans hide the truth. We want an America where everybody gets a decent break all the time. Now, in order to get that break, get up early on election day and go vote the Democratic ticket straight.

Note: The President spoke at 9:35 p.m. at Convention Hall in Philadelphia. His opening words "Senator Myers" referred to Senator Francis J. Myers of Pennsylvania. Later he referred to Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, Senator Kenneth S. Wherry of Nebraska, and Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio.

Harry S Truman, Address at Convention Hall in Philadelphia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233348

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