Harry S. Truman photo

Address in Johnstown, Pennsylvania

October 23, 1948

Mr. Chairman, and all these distinguished guests and candidates for office, and good Democrats all:

I'm highly pleased to be back in Johnstown today and to have this opportunity to talk with you about the issues of this campaign. I'm especially glad to be in Buzz Wagner's hometown. Buzz was a great hero and a great American. All of us can be proud of him.

The people of Johnstown have reason also to be proud of one of Buzz Wagner's fighting comrades--Colonel Bob Coffey. He will make a fine Congressman from this 26th District, and I hope you give him a record total of votes on November 2d. If you do that, I won't have any trouble, either.

The great issue in this campaign--the great issue--is whether this country is going to be governed in the interest of all the people, or in the interest of big business and special privilege.

I have been criticized during this campaign for talking plainly to people about the issues, but that's the only way I know how to do business. I want you to know where I stand. I won't talk high-level platitudes that don't mean anything.

That's all the people are getting from the Republican candidate for President.

You know what G.O.P. stands for these days; it stands for "Grand Old Platitudes."

As President of the United States, I am worried about a lot of things--the same things that you should worry about.

One of these worries is high prices. Prices are so high now that they are cutting into people's savings. It is a terrible thing when a family has to dip into its savings to pay the grocery bill--savings which it had set aside for old age, to educate the children, or for the down payment on a home.

I have done my best to get that Republican anti-everything 80th Congress to do something about high prices. I called that 80th Congress back into special session twice and asked for legislation to control high prices. The Republican leaders refused to do anything about it. But if a Republican Congress is reelected this year, the same men will be in power again and they still won't do anything!

I'll tell you why they won't do anything. They won't do anything because their "big business bosses" won't let them. And a lot of the "big business bosses" of these Republican leaders are right here in Pennsylvania.

Big business is making too much money out of those exorbitant prices. Back during the war we had inflationary pressures just as great as we have today. But a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress established price controls. Because of that, prices were held down-they stayed on an even keel right through the war.

When the war ended, big business decided to torpedo price controls. They wanted to take over the wartime savings of the American people. So the National Association of Manufacturers spent $3 million to fool the American people into believing that price control was a bad thing. The Republicans in Congress led the fight to end price control and, after they had ended it, they boasted about what they had done.

You know what has happened since. Prices have gone up 30 cents on the Food has increased in price almost 50 on the dollar. We have had to spend our"' wartime savings to pay the grocery bill.

Wages have lagged way behind prices, increasing only 20 cents on every dollar. Yet they will tell you that the increases in wages have caused high prices, and they tell the farmers that the increase in prices is caused by prices to the consumer. Now, none of these things has a word of truth in it. The truth is that the profits of the fellow who skims the cream off the people are what is causing high prices. He doesn't want those prices to go down.

Now, since price increases haven't gone into wages, where has the money gone?

It has gone just where big business and the Republican Party planned for it to go-into higher profits.

Corporation profits after taxes have increased 70 cents on the dollar since price control was killed. You know, when wheat was going up--when wheat was going up as high as $3 a bushel, bread was increased from 10 cents to 11 cents--12 cents--13 cents and 14 cents a loaf. Well, wheat has gone down more than a dollar a bushel. Are you getting any lower price for your bread now ? Of course you're not.

Don't think big business doesn't appreciate all that the Republican Party has done for it. Don't think big business doesn't appreciate the fat profits that the Republican Party has laid in its lap by killing price control.

During this past summer, up to August 31, officers and directors of the country's largest corporations contributed immense sums to the Republican election campaign funds. Contributions since that time have not yet been published.

Thousands of dollars came from the railroad industry.

The railroad executives no doubt appreciate the fact that the Republicans passed the Bulwinkle bill over my veto. Now they don't have to worry about antitrust laws any more.

Thousands of dollars came from the steel industry to show their appreciation for the 75 percent increase in steel profits since the end of price control.

A quarter of a million dollars came from the big bankers. No doubt that's just a small token of appreciation for the $8 billion increase in corporation profits since price control was killed.

These contributions are not just appreciation of past favors. I was down in West Virginia the other day, and I picked up this sheet here [indicating]. It says: "Money in your pocket. The Republican 80th Congress reduced your income tax. The following table shows your saving under the new tax law." That is that rich man's tax bill which they passed over my veto, and they had to pass it three times before they could make a law out of it. Now they go on to say that a fellow making $2,500 saves about $78, if he has two children; and they go on to show the different savings all the way down. A man who gets $100,000 a year, they say he saves $16,658.44, if he has two children. Then they say down at the bottom, "If you want more of this constructive Government action," in the interests of special privilege--I am putting that in, in the interests of special privilege-of course, they didn't put that in! Then it says--listen to this, now: "Use your tax savings to make a substantial investment in a Republican victory." Now, if a Congress is in session for special privilege, it no longer represents the Government, and my friends, that is what I am trying to overcome. I am trying to tell you just what this Congress will do.

That is why they are trying to make perfectly sure that there will not be any price control with a Republican President and a Republican Congress.

But if you people here in Johnstown and the millions like you, all over the United States, come out and vote on election day, we will get a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress. Then I won't be worried with a housing shortage. I can stay in the White House another 4 years. Then we can bring prices down.

Then we can bring prices down to where your weekly pay envelope will not only keep your family going for the week, but you will be able to put something aside for all the fine things you hoped to buy after the war and haven't been able to buy.

Then we will have a Government for the people. That is what Government was set up for, to represent the people, not just a few of them.

We will have Federal aid to education.

We will have slum clearance, and half a million new low-rent houses.

We will have a 75-cent minimum wage. The Republican candidate says he is for a minimum wage. He doesn't say how much. I think the smaller the minimum the better.

We will have extended social security for every workingman and woman in the United States. The Republican candidate says he is for social security, yet this Republican "do-nothing" 80th Congress took a million people out from under social security!

We will have health insurance to help pay the doctor bills of every American family.

These are what we need for a prosperous country, and a vast majority of the American people are in favor of every single one of these issues.

Big business is opposed to them.

We will never get them with a Republican President and a Republican Congress. You know, back in 1946 two-thirds of you stayed at home, two-thirds of you didn't exercise that great privilege you have of controlling the Government. One-third of you went to the polls and elected that 80th Congress, and you got just what you deserved--the two-thirds of you did, because you didn't go out and exercise your rights as American citizens must.

If you and millions of American voters like you go to the polls a week from Tuesday and vote the straight Democratic ticket, we can go forward together to build a richer, stronger, and better Nation for the American people and for the whole world.

Note: The President spoke at 5 p.m. in Johnstown, Pa. His opening words "Mr. Chairman" referred to John R. Torquato, Cambri County Democratic Chairman. Later he referred to Lt. Col. Boyd D. Wagner, American aviator killed in World War II, and Robert L. Coffey, Jr., Democratic candidate for Representative from the 26th District of Pennsylvania.

Harry S Truman, Address in Johnstown, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233766

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