Harry S. Truman photo

Address in Louisville, Kentucky.

September 30, 1948

Governor Clements, distinguished guests, and fellow Democrats of Kentucky:

I am happy to be here in the State of Kentucky, the State of my good friend and running-mate, America's most beloved Senator, Albert Barkley.

Here in Kentucky, Alben Barkley needs no endorsement from me. But I wonder if even you Kentuckians know how much he means to the Democratic Party, to the Nation, and to the world.

Alben Barkley represents 35 years of continuous, responsible experience in national affairs.

He knows as few men do the business of our Government, the affairs of the Nation, and the problems of the world. He has graduated from a great school of statemanship with the highest honors. And he earned his degree the hard way. He labored in the grim years of the Hoover depression, and he led in the great New Deal battle against human misery--under Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The respect which all Americans, regardless of party, hold for Alben Barkley was earned by a lifetime of distinguished public service.

Alben Barkley and I are engaged in a tough, hard fight. And we are going to win that fight, because we are right.

In this fight we are bringing out the facts of a shameful record--a Republican record. And the Republicans don't like it one bit. They say is isn't polite. They want us to confine the campaign to undisputed generalities, so the people will lose their big chance to find out what the real issues are.

This campaign of plain facts and plain speaking is annoying the Republicans but it is pleasing the people.

And I intend to keep waging this fight, until the people of this Nation know all the issues of this campaign.

This is not a parlor game we are playing. This election is a very serious business. The future of the American people is at stake.

I know that there are some forgetful people who say there is no real difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties.

They are just as wrong as they can be. When you elected Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, you found out how great the difference is between the Democrats and the Republicans.

The very course of your life was changed. The dark Republican days of discouragement and fear gave way to new hope and revived energy, as the Democratic administration went to work for the people.

We have been working for the people-for all the people--for the past 16 years.

The question that faces you now is whether you are going to continue the kind of government that has done so much for the people, or whether you are going to turn around and start back down the Republican road.

The issue in this election, as I have said time and again, is the people against special privilege. Is the Government of the United States going to be run in the interest of the people as a whole, or in the interest of a small group of privileged big businessmen?

Some of you may think I am exaggerating when I say that the Republican Party is the party of special privilege. Some of you may think I am exaggerating, when I say I have watched big business using its lobbies, and spending its millions, in Washington to turn the Congress away from its duty to serve the people.

You don't have to take my word for it. Look at the record.

Look at the record on inflation.

Right after the end of the war, big business in this country set out to destroy the laws which were protecting the consumer against exploitation.

This drive was spearheaded by the National Association of Manufacturers, the most powerful organization of big business in this country. The NAM boasts of a membership of 15,000 industrial firms, but it is dominated by the officers of just a handful of giant corporations.

The NAM is big business.

In 1946 the NAM set out on a wellplanned and well-financed campaign to destroy price controls.

The reason was not that American business had suffered under price control. Since 1941, business profits had been higher than ever before in the Nation's history: $10 1/2 billion in 1943, and almost $11 billion in 1944, compared with only $5 billion in 1939.

The reason the NAM set out to destroy price controls was that, in their greed, the leaders of big business wanted to make even higher profits.

We know how the NAM organized this conspiracy against the American consumer. One of its own officers was so proud of the work they did that he spilled the story in an interview, which was published after price control was killed. Now listen to this very carefully.

In this interview, the Director of Public Relations of the NAM told how his organization spent $3,000,000 in 1946 to destroy OPA. The NAM spent a million and a half on newspaper advertising. They sent their own speakers to make a thousand talks before women's clubs, civic organizations, teachers, another one to 15,000 clergymen, another one to 35,000 farm leaders, and still another to 40,000 leaders of women's clubs. A special clip sheet with NAM propaganda went to 7,500 weekly newspapers and to 2,500 columnists and editorial writers.

There never was a more vicious or a better organized campaign to mislead and deceive the American people.

That is what the NAM had to say about the result of their $3 million propaganda campaign. This is what they had to say: Their own publicity director said that, when NAM started the campaign against OPA, a survey showed that 85 percent of the people believed that OPA was absolutely necessary. In November 1946, after the NAM campaign, he boasted that only 26 percent of the people believed that OPA was vital.

Let me give you just one example of their propaganda. You can judge from that how much their advice is worth and how much their promises can be believed. In a full-page newspaper ad in the summer of 1946, NAM said, and I quote: "If OPA is permanently discontinued, the production of goods will mount rapidly and, through free competition, prices will adjust themselves quickly to levels that consumers are willing to pay." Now, that's what NAM said in an ad.

Well, prices adjusted themselves all right. They adjusted themselves the NAM way-the big business way--the Republican way-they went up and up and up.

For instance, here in Louisville you paid 28 cents for chuck roast in June 1946. In August of this year you were paying 67 cents.

For hamburger, you paid 27 cents in June 1946. For hamburger in August 1948, you were paying 56 cents.

These prices certainly did adjust themselves--they just doubled.

Now, the policies of the NAM were carried out by the Republican Party. We have proof of that. Senator Wherry of Nebraska, the Republican majority leader in the Senate, told an NAM group in February 1948, and I quote him--this is what he said:

"I do not need to remind the membership of this association that it was the Republican leadership in the Senate and the House that was responsible for ending OPA." I want to read that to you again. Listen to this. This is the Republican attitude in the public interest: "I do not need to remind the membership of this association that it was the Republican leadership in the Senate and the House that was responsible for ending OPA."

The Senator not only admitted that the Republicans killed the OPA, he boasted about it.

That's the plain, factual record on inflation. The forces of big business, operating through the Republican Party, tore down the protection against high prices, which had been built up for our people.

The people who told you in 1946 that your Democratic administration was wrong, when we wanted to continue price control-the people who told you that prices would take care of themselves--these same people are telling you now that, if you will turn the Government of the United States over to them, everything will take care of itself.

I don't think you're going to be fooled again by that sort of tommyrot.

Since they killed price control in 1946, the Republican Old Guard have given ample proof that they were quite satisfied with prices going higher and higher and with profits of big business getting bigger and bigger.

Time and time again in 1947 and 1948, I asked the Republican "do-nothing" 80th Congress to concern itself with the way our people were suffering from high prices, and to do something constructive to hold down the cost of living. Every time, the Republican Congress refused to take effective action.

That's what I mean when I say that the Republican Party is acting for the benefit of big business and against the best interests of the people.

Now, have you benefited from high prices?

Have you found it easier to make ends meet now, than you did 2 years ago? Well, of course you haven't.

But there are some who have benefited by high prices.

Profits, after taxes, of all corporations were running at the rate of 12 billions a year in the spring of 1946, before price control was ended. Two years later, in the spring of 1948, they were running at the rate of $21 ½ billion--an increase of 70 percent in corporation profits.

There are some people whose incomes have gone up faster than prices, even if yours hasn't. One of America's largest corporations reports that it paid its top ten executives $865,000 in 1946.

Do you want further proof that the Republican Party is the instrument of special privilege?

Look at the record on housing.

What kind of housing do our people need ? We need good low-priced low-rent housing.

For 3 years there has been legislation before the Congress to bring more good housing at lower prices and lower rents. For 3 years the real estate lobby, operating through the Republican Party, has blocked that legislation. As a result the Government today can do nothing to help the cities and towns build low-rent housing, nothing to help cities and towns clear their slums, and nothing to bring better rural housing.

That's the plain, factual record. That's another reason why I say that the Republican Party is the party of special interests, and not the party of the people.

Who has benefited from this housing situation? Not the people who have had to pay three or four times the normal value of a house. Not the veterans who have had to mortgage their future to buy housing at exorbitant prices to have a roof over their heads.

Only the special interest group--represented by the real estate lobby--has benefited.

Would you like still another example of what I mean when I say the Republican Party serves special interests instead of the people?

Look at the record on social security.

The 1944 Republican platform, like the Democratic platform--now the Republican platform and the Democratic platform were alike--promised to extend the benefits of our social security system to millions of workers who are not now protected by it. Well, what happened?

Have the Republicans extended social security? They have not. Instead of extending social security to more people, they passed a law--over my veto--actually taking away social security rights from nearly a million people who already had them.

That wasn't for the benefit of the people. That was for the benefit of employers who didn't want to pay the social security tax.

That's what I mean when I say the Republican Party works for the benefit of special privilege. That's why I say we need a Democratic victory in this election because the Democratic Party stands for the people. The Democratic Party stands for the people!

Now, let's just take another example. Look at the record on monopoly. The plain facts on monopoly are these:

--Two hundred giant industrial corporations own nearly half of all our industrial assets.

--One hundred commercial banks control one half of all the bank deposits in the United States.

--Three steel companies own 59 percent of all the ingot capacity of the United States.

--Two corporations produce 83 percent of all the tin cans.

These facts shout a warning to all of us. They mean that big business can manipulate prices and production at its own discretion, regardless of the public good. That's not healthy for this country--it's the biggest threat there is to our free enterprise system.

My administration has been doing what it could to break up monopolies through the antitrust laws. And we asked the Republican 80th Congress to strengthen those antitrust laws to plug up some of the loopholes.

Studies by the Federal Trade Commission have shown that big corporations have been gobbling up small businesses faster than ever during the past few years. And this process cannot be stopped until the Congress passes legislation to stop up these loopholes.

Did the Republicans give us unity in our fight against monopoly? Well, of course not. That's not the kind of unity they believe in.

Instead of strengthening the antitrust laws, the Republican Congress passed-over my veto--an act which exempts one whole segment of industry from those laws. Under this act, the railroads no longer have to worry about antitrust laws when they set rates. The Republican Congress fixed that for them.

That's what I mean when I say the Republican Party is willing and eager to listen to the voice of big business and special privilege.

That's the only conclusion that can be drawn from an honest look at the record.

And that's why I say it's time for a change--a change from the Republican Congress we've been suffering under for the last 2 years.

Give us a Democratic Congress and we will get action against high prices. That will be a change.

Give us a Democratic Congress and we will get action for more housing at lower prices. That will be a change.

Give us a Democratic Congress and we will take action against monopoly. That will be a change.

Give us a Democratic Congress and we will move forward for the benefit of all the people, toward better housing, better medical care, better education--all the things that mean a happier and more secure life for the average American family.

That is the sort of change we Democrats propose. That is the kind of change the American people need and want, and you can get that change, if you'll do your duty and vote on election day.

Note: The President spoke at 9 p.m. at the Louisville Armory. In his opening words he referred to Governor Earle C. Clements of Kentucky. Later he referred to Senator Kenneth S. Wherry of Nebraska.

The address was carried on a nationwide radio broadcast.

Harry S. Truman, Address in Louisville, Kentucky. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233276

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