Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

June 25, 1943

THE PRESIDENT: I have only got a hot-weather story for you, showing my tender solicitude for the White House press. About twenty years ago, there was a President of the United States who really did think about dollars and cents. This end of the White House Executive Offices is heated by a steam line from the State Department. So President Coolidge went over to Camp Meade and dug up some old pipe and brought it over here. And, by gosh, it has lasted twenty years. It was all right, and it was a good economy. However, it has got to a very old age now; it is just about gone.

And they tell me that the Executive Offices in the White House are going to freeze next winter unless we get a new steam pipe; it is losing about a thousand pounds of steam a week. So, carrying out President Coolidge's thought of economy, I felt that that loss of steam was a pretty serious thing; so don't be surprised and write some pertinent pieces about spending Government money when you see the street all dug up, because we have got to lay a new steam line if you fellows are going to have any comfort next winter at all. (Laughter) So you can put it entirely on yourselves and the solicitude of the President to see that you don't freeze to death. And it is going to cost about $25,000, but I don't see any way out. Incidentally, it doesn't mean buying any new pipe because we have got it in the stock pile of the—what is it?—Park Service. So it's a very important item to all of you.

Q. You say that's the only story you have, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes! (Laughter)

Q. When are you going to take us into your confidence on the anti-strike bill?

THE PRESIDENT: I am going to—er—sometime before midnight.

Q. Before you said that, Mr. President, you said, "I am going to."

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I am going to take you into my confidence sometime before midnight. (Laughter)

Q. Are you going to take Congress into your confidence before midnight?

THE PRESIDENT: That might give you an intimation. It might be called almost a leading question. (Laughter)

Q. Yes.

Q. Mr. President, in this coal mine dispute, do you recognize and accept any October 31 deadline of the employees working for the Government?

THE PRESIDENT: No. I am trying to mine coal, keep it mined, and keep on mining it. We have got to do it some way. It will be cold if we don't. In other words, perhaps a great many of us—I sometimes do- get away from the fact that we are at war, that the existence, the life of the Nation is very much at stake.

Just the same way, I was a little interested, for instance, in the editorial in The New York Times this morning. Well, it's one of those editorials that started of[ with the thought that was uppermost in the mind of the writer, and it talked about the loss of property by the coal mining companies. In other words, that was the first thing that occurred to the writer-the loss of property.

Now there isn't going to be any loss of property to the coal mine owners under Government operation. They are going to come out at least even, and probably with a profit. And they are going to get their mines back. But I am just using it as a psychological illustration that hits us all. This is war. Well, I am all for saving property, naturally, but the question at issue is not the property end of things. They are going to get their property back. They are not going to be out of pocket on account of Government operation. The question doesn't arise. There may be some technical things and details as to how they are going to be compensated, but the big thing is that this is war. If necessary we have to give our property, and if necessary we have to give our lives. And I am just using it as an illustration of a frame of mind that proves that some people in this country don't know that the United States is at war.

Q. Well, Mr. President, I think one of the things that may have motivated that editorial writer is that nobody in the Government has said that the operators are going to get their mines back, and that they are going to get their profits.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, put it the other way around. Who in the world thought they weren't going to get their mines back? Have we ever said that?

Q. One of the conditions of John L. Lewis's return to work was that the Government operate the mines.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, obviously somebody has got to operate the mines. We have got to get the coal out. I don't care who operates the mines as long as we try to get the coal out to try to win the war. It's a serious thing. We are going to be cold next winter if we don't get the mines in operation. It may take two months or three months to get them into full operation. That is why Ickes said yesterday we might have to ration coal to make good the loss caused by strikes. . ..

Q. Mr. President, there is still talk on the Hill about a food czar.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know I hate to say that anything is a red herring. Supposing we had the angel Gabriel as food czar, with full powers. Is he going to get more food to the people at present cost? The real thing is- if you talk about anything else it comes pretty close to being a red herring—the real question is: Are you for inflation, or aren't you? Now that, in the last analysis, is the thing.

Put in a food czar! Sure! He is faced with two situations, the 1943 situation and 1944. Now we are all in favor of plans for growing a great deal more in 1944. That is grand. But that doesn't take care of things in 1943, or the beginning of 1944 until the new crops come on. A food czar won't do it, or a joint committee of Congress can't do it.

The question is: Are we going to try to keep prices down, or are we going into an inflationary spiral?

And there are a lot of people on the Hill that say the easiest way to use up the surpluses in earning power, in income, is to let the whole of prices shoot sky-high.

Well, there was a fellow on the radio the other day who said, let the prices go on up. It will use this surplus of twenty billion dollars, or something like that, in purchasing power.

Sure, he said, it means the richer people will be able to pay the higher prices for food. Well, automatically rents would go up and clothing would go up too. And in effect he said, of course the poorer people will suffer, but what difference does that make? It will get rid of the surplus purchasing power.

Now that was handed out to the American people. Let the poorer people suffer. And the poorer people would suffer, and will suffer—people on reasonably small salaries, the white-collar crowd—their pay won't go up with the increase in prices.

So it comes right down to that one thing: The issue before the Congress and the people is whether we are going to go into the inflationary spiral or not.

Now if Congress wants to do it, 100 percent of the responsibility is going to be on the Congress; and I might just as well be honest. They have a perfect right to adopt an inflationary out-of-hand rise in the cost of living policy, and if they do the country ought to know who does it. That's the real answer. . . .

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

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