Harry S. Truman photo

Address in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

October 23, 1948

Mr. Chairman, and fellow Democrats of Allegheny County:

I can't tell you how very much I appreciate this magnificent reception. I am always happy when I am with John Kane and Dave Lawrence, and Frank Myers and all the rest of the good Democrats of Pennsylvania.

I think a Presidential campaign is one of the most important elements in our democratic process. It's a chance to get things out in the open and discuss them and make decisions. I am an old campaigner, and I enjoy it.

This is about my 230th meeting, and I am still going strong, and I will be going strong at midnight of November the 1st.

You know, I would enjoy this campaign a lot more if my opponent had the courage to discuss the issues. The American people have the right to know where I stand and where my opponent stands on the issues that affect every person in this country.

Now, the people know where I stand. But the Republican candidate refuses to tell where he stands.

My opponent is conducting a very peculiar campaign. He has set himself up as some kind of doctor with a magic cure for all the ills of mankind.

Now, let's imagine that we, the American people, are going to see this doctor. It's just our usual routine checkup which we have every 4 years.

Now, we go into this doctor's office.

And, "Doctor," we say, "we're feeling fine."

"Is that so?" says the doctor. "You been bothered much by issues lately ?"

"Not bothered, exactly," we say. "Of course, we've had a few. We've had the issues of high prices, and housing, and education, and social security, and a few others."

"That's too bad," says the doctor. "You shouldn't have so many issues."

"Is that right?" we say. "We thought that issues were a sign of political health."

"Not at all," says the doctor. "You shouldn't think about issues. What you need is my brand of soothing syrup--I call it 'unity.'"

Then the doctor edges up a little closer.

And he says, "Say, you don't look so good."

We say to him, "Well, that seems strange to me, Doc. I never felt stronger, never had more money, and never had a brighter future. What is wrong with me?"

Well, the doctor looks blank and he says, "I never discuss issues with a patient. But what you need is a major operation."

"Will it be serious, Doe?" we say.

"Not so very serious," he says. "It will just mean taking out the complete works and putting in a Republican administration."

Now, that's the kind of campaign you have been getting from the Republicans. They won't talk about the issues, but they insist that a major operation is necessary.

Take this vague talk of the Republican candidate about the "failures" of the present administration. That puzzled me for a little bit.

I thought of the fact that our national income is now running at the rate of over $220 billion a year--over five times as much as it was in 1932.

Is that what he calls a failure?

Or perhaps he was worried about the profits of the corporations. In 1932, corporations lost $3 billion--lost $3 billion. Now corporate profits are running at the rate of $19 billion a year, after taxes.

Is that what he calls a failure?

Perhaps he was thinking about our mighty undertakings to assist the free nations of the world to protect themselves against the inroads of communism. These efforts are proving successful.

Is that what he calls a failure?

In his speech here in Pittsburgh just a few days ago, the Republican candidate pretended to be upset about the way my administration has treated labor--about the terrible condition that labor was in in 1946. That's the excuse he gives for the passage of the Taft-Hartley law.

All right--all right, let's examine that.

In 1946, more people had jobs than ever before in the history of the country. Unions were healthier and had more members than ever before. And the workingmen and women of the United States produced more goods in 1946 than in any previous peacetime year.

The world wasn't perfect in 1946. But before any Republican begins complaining about that, he had better take a look at 1932--the last Republican year.

The Republican candidate talks about the workdays lost from strikes in 1946. Our industrial production in 1946 was three times as much as it was in 1932. And the days lost from strikes in 1946 were less than 1 1/2 percent of the total days worked that year.

Republicans don't like to talk about 1932--and I don't blame them. Do you? But it is a good year for you to remember when you start out to vote on election day.

When the Republican candidate finished telling you, here in Pittsburgh, how labor had suffered under my administration, he told you who had come to the rescue of labor.

Now, who do you think it was ?

It was the Republicans, according to the Republican candidate.

Now, how do you suppose they did it?

They did it with the Taft-Hartley Act. That is how they came to the rescue of labor.

Yes, sir. The Republican candidate marched up proudly and embraced the Taft-Hartley law--lock, stock, and barrel. No workingman can have any doubt about that any more.

And in praising the Taft-Hartley law, he displayed his characteristic tendency of claiming credit where no credit is due. He tried to tell you that it is the Taft-Hartley Act that is driving the Communists out of labor unions.

Now, if you want to know how much truth there is in this claim, ask Bill Green-ask Phil Murray. They will tell you who got the Communists out.

It's being done in the good American way--the unions are doing it themselves.

Now in this speech the Republican candidate made here in Pittsburgh, he admitted, with characteristic modesty, that he is going to lead the country--and, indeed, the whole world--out of all its troubles. And he made a lot of promises.

He opened his mouth and he closed his eyes, and he swallowed the terrible record of that good-for-nothing Republican Both Congress.

Now, 4 years ago this same Republican Presidential candidate went around the country saying that he was in favor of what the Democrats had done, but he could do it better. He said he was in favor of the National Labor Relations Act, the Wage and Hour Act, the Social Security Act, and "all the other Federal statutes designed to promote and protect the welfare of the American workingmen and women"--but he could do it better.

For some reason or other the American people did not believe him in 1944.

This year the same candidate is back with us, and he is saying much the same thing; that he likes the Democratic laws, but that he can run them better than we can.

It sounds to me like the same old phonograph record; but this year the record has a crack, and the needle gets stuck in that crack every once in a while.

Now the crack in the soothing syrup of that record was provided by the Republican 80th "do-nothing" Congress.

Now, in 1948, every time the Republican candidate says, "I can do it better," up comes an echo from the crack which says, "We're against it."

So the sounds coming out of the Republican Party this year are not very harmonious. And they are even less believable than they were in 1944.

The candidate said, and I quote: "The present minimum wage set by law is far too low and it will be raised."

Now, that's fine. I am glad he said that.

We're right with the candidate on that. In fact, we are 'way out ahead of him.

Time and time again in the last 2 years I urged the Republican "do-nothing" 80th Congress to raise the minimum wage from the present 40 cents an hour to at least 75 cents an hour.

But that Republican Congress--that crack in the record--said, "Nothing doing--we're against it."

And the minimum wage stayed where it was. Now, the Republicans like to say they are for a minimum wage, but it is perfectly clear that the smaller the minimum the better.

Now, let's look at another song on the record the candidate played for you here in Pittsburgh.

That Republican candidate for President said, and I quote: "We will overhaul the Social Security System for the unemployed and the aged, and go forward to extend its coverage and increase its benefits." That is a direct quote from his speech, made right here in Pittsburgh.

Now, that sounds good, although it's a little vague. But that's the candidate speaking. Where do the Republicans actually stand on social security ?

As your President, I made every effort to get the Republican 80th Congress to extend social security coverage and increase social security benefits. What did that Congress do?

They took social security benefits away from nearly a million people.

What do you believe--campaign promises, or plain facts of Republican action?

Now, again that cracked record gives them away. It says, "We're against it."

In my recommendations to the special "do-nothing" session of Congress in July, I pointed out the desperate need to increase old-age insurance benefits at least 50 percent. At the present time the average insurance benefit payment for an old couple is less than $40 a month.

The Republican Congress did nothing about it--and neither did the Republican candidate for President.

He was silent as the tomb while the Congress was in session. Now, while he's campaigning, he suddenly takes quite an interest in increasing social security benefits. And I ask you: "Can you believe that kind of a campaign promise?"

That Republican outfit went to Philadelphia and wrote a platform, and that platform was the most hypocritical document that ever was written; and I called them back to Washington to see whether they meant what they said in their platform. And they didn't.

Take another promise in that Pittsburgh speech. The Republican candidate said, and I quote: "We will make the Labor Department equal in actual Cabinet status to Commerce and Agriculture. It will make an important contribution to the national welfare." Doesn't that sound nice?

That promise is ridiculous in the face of what the Republicans in the 80th Congress did.

The Republican 80th Congress stripped the Mediation and Conciliation Service from the Labor Department.

The Republican 80th Congress cut the appropriations for the Bureau of Labor Statistics almost in half--apparently to prevent the Bureau from showing what's happening to the cost of living.

That's the plain factual record of what the Republicans have done to the Labor Department in the last 2 years.

Remember, the Republican candidate has said he is proud of the record of the 80th Congress.

But that crack in the record gives them away.

Here's another one of his promises. Here in Pittsburgh, the Republican candidate said, and I quote again: "We will bring a new and vigorous leadership to the Federal Conciliation and Mediation Service so that major disputes are settled before they become strikes."

Now that's a very, very peculiar promise. The present director of the Mediation Service is a well-known industrial leader named Cyrus Ching. Mr. Ching has been widely praised for his work in mediation. I think the Republican candidate is a bit confused here. And that is not the only thing he is confused on, either.

Let me take another campaign promise, here in Pittsburgh. The Republican candidate said right here: "We will encourage unions to grow in responsibility and strengthen the processes of collective bargaining."

I know it's hard to believe, but that's exactly what he said.

And he said it in the very same speech in which he went all out for the Taft-Hartley law.

Now, in this case, the candidate has fallen in the crack with the Republican Congress. He makes a promise, but the record says they're both against it.

Here's another promise by the Republican candidate; and I quote again: "We will vigorously and consistently enforce and strengthen our antitrust laws against business monopolies."

Now that's really fantastic. The Republican Party is notoriously favorable toward big business monopolies. The record of the Republican 80th Congress furnishes plenty of proof. They passed over my veto a bill to exempt railroads from antitrust laws. And at the same time they refused to pass, as I recommended, the O'Mahoney-Kefauver bill to plug loopholes in the antitrust laws.

In the face of that record, the candidate now claims that the Republicans will strengthen the antitrust laws.

How can the Republican candidate say such things with a straight face?

But here's another--here's another! Here in Pittsburgh again, he said, and I quote: "We will break the log jam in housing so that decent houses may be provided at reasonable cost for the people."

For 2 solid years I tried in every way I knew to get the Republican Both Congress to break the log jam in housing by passing the Taft-Ellender-Wagner bill.

The Republicans would not act.

In the face of pleading and urging from Governors and Mayors, from veterans and plain people all over the country, the Republican Congress refused to pass the housing bill. And I gave them four chances to do it.

But now--now in the middle of the campaign--the Republican candidate has the gall to promise that the Republicans will take action on housing.

I certainly wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it in print.

Let me quote just one more campaign promise from that incredible Pittsburgh speech.

"We will make sure," said the Republican candidate, I quote: "we will make sure that soaring prices do not steal food and clothing and other necessities from American families."

Now that one completely stops me.

Everybody in this country knows that the Republican 80th Congress refused, time and time again, to pass the laws we need to stop high prices. In November 1947, in January 1948, in July 1948, I asked that Republican Congress to act against inflation.

They didn't do a thing about it.

And neither did the Republican candidate. All through the time when the Congress was in session, stalling and blocking anti-inflation legislation, the Republican candidate was silent as the grave.

But now--now that he's trying to persuade the people to vote for him--the Republican candidate says the Republicans will do something about high prices. It looks to me as though it's a little late in the game for that promise, anyway.

Now, the candidate says--the Republican candidate says: "Me, too." But the Republican record still says, "We're against it." And if you return the Republicans to power, you will have that same clique in control of the Congress that is in control of it now.

These two phrases, "me, too," and "we're against it," sum up the whole Republican campaign.

My friends, it isn't funny at all. It's tragic, tragic for the everyday citizen.

This soft talk and double talk, this combination of crafty silence and resounding misrepresentation, is an insult to the intelligence of the American voter. It proceeds upon the assumption that you can fool all the people-or enough of them--all the time.

In this campaign you don't have to rely on promises. This time, you have the record.

You don't have to play just the Republican side of that record. Turn it over.

Our side--the Democratic side--doesn't say, "We're against it." It says, "We can do it." And we will do it--if you will give us a chance.

Our side is the Victory March a victory on November 2d for all the people and for the people's party--the Democratic Party.

Note: The President spoke at 9 p.m. at the Hunt Armory in Pittsburgh. His opening words "Mr. Chairman" referred to John J. Kane, chairman of the Allegheny County Board of Commissioners. Later he referred to David L. Lawrence, Mayor of Pittsburgh, Francis J. Myers, Senator from Pennsylvania, William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor, Philip Murray, president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and Cyrus S. Ching, Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Harry S Truman, Address in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233779

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