Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

January 21, 1938

Q. Mr. President, the Business Advisory Council had some specific suggestions the other day as to what you might do. Can you give us any comment on any of the suggestions made?

THE PRESIDENT: I think only this: I think we are clearing the atmosphere very, very well and the whole thing is most helpful. They are, for example, learning that the whole question is one that just does not involve business alone, that it is all of those other things that I mentioned the other day, agriculture, labor, transportation—the whole list of them. We are trying to see things from a national point of view, and we are making very distinct progress.

Q. Is there a proposal to appoint some new committee of some sort, sir, to discuss those things, as a sort of advisory committee, to take in agriculture and labor and other factors?

THE PRESIDENT: There again, we cannot, any of us, be factual. In other words, we cannot say that there is going to be a special body set up. What we are trying to do is to work out ways and means by which, without legislation, we shall be able to have these different groups in the Nation come together and exchange information among themselves.

It was, for example, helpful the other day in that conference in the White House to have John Lewis and Phil Murray sitting at the same table with Tom Lamont and Owen Young. Well, that was only two groups. Agriculture was not there. Transportation was not there. Credit was not there.

In this conference the other day with the fifty people, in addition to the list of things that they brought up on their memorandum, we talked about quite a number of other things that fit into the entire picture which they had not discussed among themselves. There was, for instance, the question of the expansion of credit facilities and investment facilities. Those things were not down on their particular agenda and they were very much interested. Also there was the clearing up in their minds of a great many things where they had completely false impressions. It is the old story. Most of these things are due to politics, we know, like the crowd who said, "What is the use in curtailing acreage and at the same time in improving acreage?" Well, of course we all know because I have talked about it so often that the two are not in any way inconsistent. If you prevent soil erosion, you improve land and, at the same time, you are taking certain lands out of cultivation. The two things go hand in hand and are not inconsistent. That requires stressing.

Another thing that some of them are not clear on is-well, for instance, the editorial I happened to pick up saying that it is frightfully inconsistent for the President to say, as he did in 1933 and 1934, that we have got to raise the price level in the country and then, in the spring of 1937, to say that prices are too high. Well, of course the President never said anything like that at all. The objective is exactly what it was in 1933. The price level at that time was about 68 or 69 in comparison with the 1924-1926 period which was 100, and our objective was to get it up to somewhere around that 100, and we did pretty well. Obviously, however, it was perfectly proper to object to certain rises in commodity prices which threw the whole picture out of balance. Go back in your own minds to last April, when I cited the 18- and 19-cent copper. There is the illustration. That was bringing, on the same scale, it was bringing copper not to 90 or 100 but to about 180. That is getting just as much out of line in the particular instance on the particular commodity on the upside as it had been on the downside during the depression. So there is, again, no inconsistency.

Take the question of our old friend, the holding company, which we have been talking about lately. Last week, in the conference, we were talking about public utility operating companies and that type of holding company. Obviously we were not talking about, let us say, the Pennsylvania Railroad which is an operating unit but which operates, because it is in a great many states, through a dozen different corporations. That is not a holding company. Nobody ever accused the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, as such, of being a holding company. We talked about certain bank stock holding companies which are not management companies. Immediately some of our Wall Street write-up friends tried to confuse that—I hope mistakenly—with the question of branch banking. They are two entirely different subjects.

It is things like that that are being clarified in the minds of all those people. They are also getting the point of view of a great many of these problems, such as the failure to get legislation, or to stop legislation- failures which are not due entirely to the administrative end of the Government-that Congress fits into the picture too. One of them suggested the other day that this business group was not getting sufficient cooperation from the Administration on the crop control bill. I pointed out that the Administration last January, at the request of the Congressional leaders, did not draw the bill. We very carefully kept our hands of[. These people said, "Well, we do not know that." So it is an educational process, but it has been working out very satisfactorily.

Q. Have you noticed any disposition on the part of the 10 per cent, so-called, to eliminate the abuses complained of in your State of the Union message?

THE PRESIDENT: I think they are understanding that better. There will be some irreconcilables, of course, but taking it by and large the cooperation is good.

Q. Do you expect, as a result of these conferences, to issue a statement that will clear the air for everybody, including the Press?

THE PRESIDENT: No. You will have to use your own brains.

Q. Can you tell us anything about your plans to see the small business men?

THE PRESIDENT: They are coming in some time next week. We are going over the names because there are so many. I think we have probably had about four or five hundred letters from small business men.

Q. What sort of small business men?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, everything below the big business men.

Q. True, but where does that begin?

THE PRESIDENT: I cannot define it any more than that. Some fellow may be employing twenty-five men and another twenty-five hundred men.

Q. And still be small?


Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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