Harry S. Truman photo

Address in Indianapolis at the Indiana World War Memorial

October 15, 1948

Mr. Mayor, fellow Democrats of Indiana:

I am happy to be in Indianapolis again tonight--I almost said Independence. You know, I had a very funny experience here in Indianapolis once. I had a Republican friend in Washington and he wanted to get to St. Louis the shortest way, and he wanted to drive his car. So I told him how to leave Washington on 240 and take 40 to Indianapolis and that he had better stay overnight in Indianapolis, and then drive to St. Louis the next morning. Well, he stayed here--being a Republican, of course, he stopped at the Lincoln Hotel. He got up about 5:30 the next morning and they gave him his car out on that diagonal street that's on the east side of the Lincoln Hotel; and he inquired the way to 40, and they pointed out Washington Street to him, and he drove down the diagonal street and started on 40 toward what he thought was St. Louis--and about 2 hours after that he found out he was in Richmond, Ind. Now, I think that's rather typical of the way the Republicans go most of the time.

The people of Indiana all during this day have given me a wonderful reception. I never saw anything like it anywhere. From the bottom of my heart I thank you for your real Hoosier hospitality.

Now, I would like very much to talk to you this evening about the people of our country--the everyday citizens who have made this country great.

But first, I have a confession to make. Apparently I have offended the Republican gentleman who wants to be President. I'm afraid I have startled him by talking about issues and about depressions. Republicans don't like people to talk about depressions. You can hardly blame them for that.

You remember the old saying: Don't talk about rope in the house where somebody has been hanged.

Certain Republicans say we shouldn't talk about the possibility of a depression, because that will give aid and comfort to the Communists. The Communists, as we all know, have been predicting that our capitalistic system would break down.

I have repeatedly told the Congress and the American people that the Communists were hoping for a depression in the United States, and I have said time and again, something ought to be done to prevent it.

But now the lesson seems to have become mixed up a bit, and I think we had better straighten it out. The thing that helps communism is not talking about a depression. The thing that would help the Communists is having a depression, and that is what I have been trying to prevent.

That is why I have been urging that we do something about inflation--to halt inflation.

And that is why I have been saying that we must protect the purchasing power of the wage earner, the farmer, the small businessman, and the people with fixed incomes.

That is why I have been saying that we must never return to the policies of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, and isn't it a peculiar circumstance that the Republican candidate for President never points with pride to any Republican administration ? He only wants to say "me, too" on those successful Democratic policies that we put into effect.

Now, the Communists don't think I'm helping them. They don't want me to be the President of the United States. They are doing all they can in this election to bring about a Republican victory.

And I have often said, if you elect a Republican President to go along with a Republican Congress like the 80th, you can expect them to take you headlong back down the road that led to the great depression in the 1930's.

And you don't have to travel that road. I want to be sure we don't go that way. That is one of the reasons I have been speaking to our people all over the country.

The basic difference between the two parties in economic matters is simply this: The Republican Party, as it operates in Washington, favors the interests of a few small ,powerful groups at the expense of the rest of the people.

This is the course that leads to depression.

The Democratic Party, on the other hand, consistently works for measures which increase and protect the purchasing power of the great majority of our people.

I used to think that the dangers of depression would not be as great in the future as they have been in the past. I had been counting on laws enacted under Democratic leadership since 1933 to help maintain the purchasing power during the downturn in a business cycle.

I had been counting on these laws to afford enough protection to millions of our people so that never again would they face such days of black despair as they did in 1932•

Social security benefits, unemployment compensation, bank deposit insurance, farm price supports, a legal floor under wages, healthy collective bargaining--all these things I was counting on.

I thought they had so clearly proved their worth that they would never be subject to serious attack. I was just too optimistic. I gave the elephant too much credit. No matter what the Republicans say, the elephant hasn't taken on the "New Look."

The Republicans in the 80th Congress certainly disillusioned me on that score.

Don't be misled by Republican promises in this campaign. Actions speak louder than words. The record of the Republican Party that really counts is the record of that good-for-nothing, "do-nothing" 80th Congress.

And the Republican candidate, who has embraced that record so warmly, gives you no reason to hope for anything better from him. He says he is proud of the record of the 80th Congress.

The American people can no longer assume that the laws which safeguard them from disaster are secure from attack. The thing that couldn't happen here, has happened here. The Republican Party has actually started us backward. Now it promises more of the same--to take us all the way back.

That's why I have talked about the danger of depression. That's why I have talked about it in plain terms so that the people will know just what I mean and just where I stand. I regard it as a proper function of the Government to fight depressions.

The prosperity of this great Nation depends upon justice. We boast about our initiative, our inventiveness, our enterprise. All these things are important, but unless each group of our people gets a fair share of our national income, our prosperity will crash.

This is a lesson we learned the hard way. We learned it under Republican administrations in the 1920's. In those days, wages were held down. In those years, farmers were left to contend with the rise and fall of farm prices. The farmers were in the hands of the speculators, and the 80th Congress has 'put them in those same hands again--or at least it has tried to.

In those years--those Republican years-the aged and infirm were left to take care of themselves. As a result, the purchasing power of the Nation declined. There was no place to sell the products of our farms or our industries--and the result was unemployment and collapse.

We know now that we cannot have prosperity automatically. The only thing we can get automatically is boom and bust. To secure continuing prosperity takes foresight and intelligent planning. This is the purpose of a law which I regard as one of the most important laws passed during my administration, after I became President. This is the Employment Act of 1946.

This act was passed by a Democratic Congress and it embodies the Democratic principles of which I am speaking. It sets up a kind of economic signal room--the Council of Economic Advisers--in which the danger signals flash when things start to go wrong.

Now, for 2 long years, the red lights have been blinking in the signal room. They have been telling us that if we didn't do something about inflation, we would be asking for collapse and depression.

For 2 long years, we have been turning in fire alarms, alarms against the fire of inflation. And after 2 long years, the Republican firemen have been too busy playing a game of political checkers to put out the blaze.

They figured that maybe the fire of inflation would burn itself out, or that it was un-American to put an extinguisher on the flames.

Now, that is a terrible way to run a fire department. But that's the way the Republican 80th Congress met the problem of inflation.

Now another alarm bell rang on social security. But that is not enough. Millions of workers are not yet covered by its benefits, and those benefits are not nearly high enough to meet today's excessive prices.

I recommended--in plain and simple terms--to the Both Congress that we extend social security to the workers not now covered.

Did the Republican leaders extend it? They did not. Instead, they took the social security protection away from nearly a million workers who already had it.

I recommended--in plain and simple terms--that the 80th Congress increase oldage insurance benefits by at least 50 percent. Did the Republican leaders do that? No, they did not!

The Republican firemen not only failed to turn out the hook-and-ladder. They actually set fire to a couple of buildings, just for fun. They struck nearly a million Americans off the social security rolls; and their fire chief now says he is proud of that Congress.

Now, let's look at health and medical care. We need more doctors, more nurses, more hospitals. We need a system which will enable the average American family to pay for proper medical care.

Each year, because of lack of proper medical care, we lose more people than we lost in all the fighting of World War Two. Listen to that!--each year, because of a lack of proper medical care, we lost more of our people than we lost in all the fighting in World War Two.

Each year, we lost over four million man-years of work because of bad health--more working time than we have ever lost in the worst strike year on record. The Republican Congress passed the Taft-Hartley bill, because it claimed it was worried about strikes. The Congress would have done better to spend its time worrying about the loss of production due to sickness.

Each year, we lose $27 billion in national wealth through sickness and disability. These are dreadful figures. If we can stop that loss, we can pay off the national debt in 9 years by the saving.

We can do something about it, and we must do something about it.

Here is what we need. For every four doctors in practice today, we need at least one more--and we need to have them located more evenly throughout the country.

We need twice as many hospitals as we have. And we need to distribute them better. There ought to be a good hospital within easy reach of every person in the country.

Most of all, we need to make it possible for every American to afford medical care. At present, only one out of five Americans can afford the medical care he needs.

This is the crux of the problem and I am not going to mince words about it. The best health facilities and the finest doctors in the world are not much help to people who can't afford to use them.

I proposed a national system of health insurance in 1946, and I have urged it repeatedly since that time. There is no other way to assure that the average American family has a decent chance for adequate medical care.

There is no other way to assure a strong and healthy Nation.

Prepaid health insurance will be one more keystone in the great structure of social insurance which has been erected by the Democratic Party.

There has been a lot of nonsense talk about health insurance. There has been a well-organized campaign to discredit it and to confuse the issues involved.

The plan I have proposed does not disturb the traditional relationship between doctor and patient--except that the doctor will be paid more regularly for his services. Nor is this any more revolutionary than any other form of insurance.

It is 100 percent American.

It is just a way to collect the cost of medical care on a pay-as-you-go basis.

What did the Republicans do with my proposal for health insurance? You can guess that one. They did nothing!

All they said was--"Sorry. We can't do that. The medical lobby says it's un-American." And they listened to the lobbies in the Congress.

I put it up to you. Is it un-American to visit the sick, aid the afflicted, or comfort the dying? I thought that was simple Christianity.

Does cancer care about political parties? Does infantile paralysis concern itself with income? Of course it doesn't.

The Democratic Party holds that the people are entitled to the best available medical care. We held that they have a right to ask their Government to help them get it.

Now, let's take a look at another very important thing--education. It's the same disgraceful story with education that it is with health.

There is no reason on earth why a great Nation like ours should not educate all its children. But every American mother and father knows that the schools in the United States face a crisis today. Elementary schools, high schools, and colleges are bursting at the seams. We don't have nearly enough schoolteachers and we don't pay them nearly enough.

And if the schoolteachers want to campaign and organize for better pay--I am all for them doing it.

The school situation is getting worse--not better. At least 6 million more children than are now enrolled in elementary schools and high schools will be seeking admittance by 1955. Think how that will crowd our schools! We shall need at least 200,000 more classrooms by that time. And we shall need tens of thousands of new teachers.

Without a strong educational system-free of government control--democracy is crippled.

Knowledge is not only the key to power. It is the citadel of human freedom.

We must maintain and expand our schools or we shall surrender our liberties without even fighting for them.

Now, I asked the Republican Both Congress, again and again, to pass legislation which would help us meet the educational crisis. It flatly refused.

Here again the issue is plain and clear.

This Nation is no wiser than the education of its citizens.

This Nation is no stronger than the health of its citizens.

This Nation's security begins with the welfare of its citizens.

The Democratic Party believes in the people.

We believe that the people are entitled to prosperity, to health, to education, to social security.

We believe that it is the function of the Government to see to it that these people have these advantages.

This great Nation must not stand still, it must not go backward; it must go forward--go forward to even greater heights of leadership in the world.

To accomplish this, our people must grow in strength, in wisdom, and in security.

It is my daily prayer that with a strong, healthy, united, and well-educated people, and with the aid of Almighty God, we will lead the world to lasting peace.

Note: The President spoke at 9:01 p.m. at the War Memorial in Indianapolis. His opening words "Mr. Mayor" referred to Al Feeney, Mayor of Indianapolis. The address was carried on a nationwide radio broadcast.

Harry S Truman, Address in Indianapolis at the Indiana World War Memorial Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233621

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