Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

March 23, 1934

Q. Mr. President, there is a delegation of steel officials at the N.R.A. conferring with General Johnson and there is considerable secrecy around their negotiations. Do you know anything?

THE PRESIDENT: I cannot imagine anything unless it is caused by the report of the Federal Trade Commission. It might have been. It created quite a commotion.

Q. Have you any observations on that report?

THE PRESIDENT: No, except as background. It goes back—I think I talked to you about this before—it goes back to the question of this open-price posting. Of course in practice that almost necessarily results in one-price bidding, because everybody else follows the first one to post, and posts exactly the same price; and then they all bid on exactly the same identical price. Of course that is not free competition and the thing is not working. We have to find some method of restoring competitive bidding, which seems to be pretty well precluded by this open-price posting method that exists. How we are going to go about it we don't know; but we have to do something about it.

Q. Mr. President, are any new slum-clearance plans being considered?

THE PRESIDENT: No. On the slum clearance, as a whole, the general thought is this: Our difficulty in giving Federal aid to the majority of cities that need slum clearance arises out of real estate values which are very largely fictitious. In fact, in many cases the assessed valuations themselves are fictitious. There are many cases in the slum areas in New York where the city assessment is way above what the owner of the property would be willing to sell the property for. There are a great many tenement-house owners that would be tickled to death if they could get 75 percent of the assessed value in cash. Obviously, just so long as you have to pay exorbitant real-estate prices in clearing slum properties, you cannot put up any new buildings on a sufficiently sound basis so that you will be able to get your money back.

What we would like to see is some method of getting lower real-estate costs; and, if we can get that, it means we would be able to put up buildings in the City of New York that would rent for $6 or $7 instead of $10 or $12 a room a month. We are being held up by the real-estate problem. That is the answer. If we can get around that and purchase real estate at a lower price so that we can put up buildings with low rents, the Federal Government stands ready to increase very greatly its slum clearance allotment out of its next year's appropriation.

Q. Subject to that condition?

THE PRESIDENT: Subject to that condition.

Q. You mentioned New York. Does that hold good elsewhere?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, except that in other places the scale of real estate prices is a different one, of course. For example, in a great deal smaller city that has a slum problem, $6 or $7 a month per room is too high. In a city of that kind, you want rentals of $4 or $5 a month per room.

Q. Have you signed the Vinson Bill yet?

THE PRESIDENT: No, it has not come down. It does not come down until tomorrow. If I do sign it and if I have time and do not get taken up too much with automobiles and things like that, I shall file a memorandum with it for your information. Perhaps you had better not break the story at all and make this off the record. It will be a memorandum which will point out the distinction between an appropriation and an authorization. It is time that the public was informed of the difference. It is not the fault of the press, because we have all been using a word that we understand, but the reading public does not understand when they read a story in the newspaper that Congress has authorized the building of one hundred two new ships. The public assumes that they are going to start building those one hundred two new ships right away.

So I have to point out in a memorandum that in its essentials this bill is really nothing more than a resolution that it is still the policy of the United States to build up to the London Naval Treaty limits, and that it depends on the action of future Congresses as to whether the ships will be actually started or not. I have to do that because I have had so many appeals from pacifist organizations which do not understand it.

Q. Are you coming up to the Press Club tomorrow night, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: What happens?

Q. The dinner.

THE PRESIDENT: Do I have to make a speech?

Q. I don't know about that. We will let you off on the speech, if you come.

THE PRESIDENT: All right, if you will do that I will come. . . .

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

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