Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

August 25, 1942

Q. Mr. President, can you tell us what Archbishop Edward Mooney [with Monsignor Michael J. Ready] was here so long about?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, we talked about a flock of things.

Q. Any Detroit problems involved?


Q. Can you tell us what some of those were?

THE PRESIDENT: No. I think the only thing I could say on the particular Detroit problem must be said completely off the record. And that is this, that they have, of course, a problem like a great many other places: a very large influx of population, and the problem of housing. And one portion of the problem—not the whole of it, a portion of it probably—is that a great many new workers are colored; and there is an effort on the part of a great many people to create trouble.

Well, of course, in all human probability this influx of population in Detroit is not a permanent thing, any more than it was at the time of the last war, or at the time of the boom of 1929. And after that—both those cases—the population that had come in, a very large portion of it, went back home.

Well, about the only thing you can say on it is a word of advice to treat this as a temporary problem—do the best we can. We are living together in turning out munitions—and especially to avoid creating trouble. . . .

Q. Mr. President, does your meeting tomorrow with William Green of the A.F. of L. and Philip Murray of the C.I.O. have a bearing on the new plan against spiraling the cost of living?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Oh, yes.

Of course, the problem of the "cost of living"—which as you know I prefer as a term to the word "inflation"—it's a very, very serious matter before the country, affecting people's lives and affecting very definitely the actual active conduct of the war. Therefore, it will probably be one of the subjects.

Q. Mr. President, in addition to the labor angle of that, Secretary Claude Wickard the other day, I am sure you noticed, made a statement in favor of the repeal of the 110 percent ceiling on farm prices, in favor of certain —

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) Well, all right. I will tell you what I will do. I will give you a sort of an idea for a story.

Q. Swell. (Laughter)

THE PRESIDENT: In this problem, remember there are quite a number of points to be taken up, savings, buying bonds, and so forth and so on; and an effort, this is largely on the financial end, to prevent people from bidding against each other to get all kinds of things, which they have got to do without—simply have to. It will upset the whole war effort if they don't make certain sacrifices in the things they buy.

However, that part of it is rather distinct from two of the points which I made in that last talk, two points on which I have a sort of a feeling that the country is being a bit whipsawed between two so-called groups. They are not. They are all American citizens. They are really all one group. But as part of the democratic process, people are apt to oversimplify it and call them two separate groups. Well, they are not. And yet they try to make it appear so. They very often appear as if they were two different groups.

One is Labor and the other is Agriculture.

Now, after a good many months of effort it looks as if it wouldn't be fair to impose certain restrictions on one group without imposing restrictions on the other group. And I think from the point of view of national defense, and the conduct of the war, we have got to do both, one way or another. And these conferences today relate to the methods of imposing certain sacrifices on everybody, including both of these so-called groups.

Now one of the first things to point out- reiterate what I said about there really being one group—take, for example, the agricultural family. You can't oversimplify it and say that the agricultural family lives off the farm, because it doesn't. Now that's just a plain fact that I think has been greatly overlooked. The agricultural family buys an awful lot in the store. The agricultural families, most of them, buy a lot, for example, of canned goods, and clothing of various kinds, and household needs of various kinds. So of course they are very deeply affected if the price of those needs goes skyrocketing. And it will hurt them, perhaps not altogether as much as the city family, but pretty close to the city family, if consumer goods in the store go up in price.

And I think that if the farmer's wife all the way through the country had it explained to her, about the cost of living to her, I think the farmer's wife would appreciate it, and understand it, and go along with the effort to stabilize the cost of living.

But you can't stabilize wages without stabilizing farm prices. Nor can you stabilize farm prices without stabilizing the cost of wages. And that's the thing that we are working on, to bring about a result of a stabilized cost of living, insofar as it is possible to do it.

Now there is no use talking about individual instances, and examples, and methods, because nobody in this country has got the thing absolutely clearly in mind yet. We are making definite progress toward it, and we have made very great progress since last spring in—what will I say?—not keeping it down, but in very greatly reducing the speed of the increase. So that in the last five or six months, the actual cost of living has only gone up a fraction of 1 percent. But you can't do that permanently. And if you can start it going up by increasing price ceilings in a store, for example, then you are on dangerous ground, and the whole spiral may gather speed again. But we are trying to stop it.

Q. Mr. [Leon] Henderson said it might be that food prices might go up 30 percent, if they do it at the rate of 2 1/2 percent a month.

THE PRESIDENT: Perfectly possible.

Q. Do you think your plan will minimize that 30 percent?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. That's the whole point. That's the objective: Reduce it down as far as possible to an absolute level. That's the objective. You can't always reach it in every article. . . .

Q. Mr. President, could you explain a little more what you mean by wage stabilization- clarify it as to whether it does mean the holding of its present level, or—

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) Essentially. After all, let's talk about it in a common-sense way. Suppose the cost of food were to go up 30 percent. Do you think we should keep the national wage scale down to where it is now? I don't. But, on the other hand, if you keep the cost of food down to where it is now, why should labor get an advantage? We are all in the same boat, and we are going to make some pretty tough sacrifices—on the part of everybody—before we get through. . . .

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

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