Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

December 28, 1943

MR. DONALDSON: All in. . . .

Q. Mr. President, after our last meeting with you, it appears that someone stayed behind and received word that you no longer like the term "New Deal." Would you care to express any opinion to the rest of us?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I supposed somebody would ask that. I will have to be terribly careful in the future how I talk to people after these press conferences. However, what he reported was accurate reporting, and—well, I hesitated for a bit as to whether I would say anything. It all comes down, really, to a rather puerile and political side of things. I think that the two go very well together—puerile and political.

However, of course lots of people have to be told how to spell "cat," even people with a normally good education. And so I got thinking the thing over, and I jotted down some things that a lot of people who can't spell "cat" had forgotten entirely.

And of course, the net of it is this—how did the New Deal come into existence? It was because there was an awfully sick patient called the United States of America, and it was suffering from a grave internal disorder- awfully sick- all kinds of things had happened to this patient, all internal things. And they sent for the doctor. And it was a long, long process —took several years before those ills, in that particular illness of ten years ago, were remedied. But after a while they were remedied. And on all those ills of 1933, things had to be done to cure the patient internally. And it was done; it took a number of years.

And there were certain specific remedies that the old doctor gave the patient, and I jotted down a few of those remedies. The people who are peddling all this talk about "New Deal" today, they are not telling about why the patient had to have remedies. I am inclined to think that the country ought to have it brought back to their memories, and I think the country ought to be asked too, as to whether all these rather inexperienced critics shouldn't be asked directly just which of the remedies should be taken away from the patient, if you should come down with a similar illness in the future. It's all right now--it's all right internally--now--if they just leave him alone.

But since then, two years ago, the patient had a very bad accident- not an internal trouble. Two years ago, on the seventh of December, he was in a pretty bad smashup -broke his hip, broke his leg in two or three places, broke a wrist and an arm, and some ribs; and they didn't think he would live, for a while. And then he began to "come to"; and he has been in charge of a partner of the old doctor. Old Dr. New Deal didn't know "nothing" about legs and arms. He knew a great deal about internal medicine, but nothing about surgery. So he got his partner, who was an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Win-the-War, to take care of this fellow who had been in this bad accident. And the result is that the patient is back on his feet. He has given up his crutches. He isn't wholly well yet, and he won't be until he wins the war.

And I think that is almost as simple, that little allegory, as learning again how to spell "cat."

The remedies that the old Dr. New Deal used were for internal troubles. He saved the banks of the United States and set up a sound banking system. We don't need to change the law now, although obviously there are some people who don't like saving the banks who would like to change the whole system, so that banks would have the great privilege under American freedom of going "bust" any time they wanted to again.

Well, at the same time, one of the old remedies was Federal deposit insurance, to guarantee bank deposits; and yet I suppose there must be some people, because they make so much smoke, who would like to go back to the old system and let any bank, at will, go and lose all its depositors' money with no redress.

In those days, another remedy was saving homes from foreclosure, through the H.O.L.C.; saving farms from foreclosure by the Farm Credit Administration. I suppose some people today would like to repeal all that and go back to the conditions of 1932, when the people out West mobbed a Federal Judge because he was trying to carry out the existing law of the land in foreclosing a farm; rescuing agriculture from disaster—which it was pretty close to—by the Triple A [Agricultural Adjustment Administration] and Soil Conservation; establishing truth in the sale of securities and protecting stock investors through the S.E.C. And yet I happen to know that there is an undercover drive going on in this country today to repeal the S.E.C., and "let's sell blue-sky securities to the widows and orphans and everybody else in this country." A lot of people would like to do that, take off all the rules and let old Mr. Skin skin the public again.

Well, we have got slum clearance—decent housing; and there hasn't been enough done on slum clearance. I don't think that people who go into slums in this country would advocate stopping that, or curtailing the program, although of course a small percentage of real-estate men would like to have slums back again, because they pay money.
Reduction of farm tenancy.

Well, your old doctor, in the old days, old Doctor New Deal, he put in old-age insurance, he put in unemployment insurance. I don't think the country would want to give up old-age insurance or unemployment insurance, although there are a lot of people in the country who would like to keep us from having it.

We are taking care of a great many crippled and blind people, giving a great deal of maternity help, through the Federal aid system. Well, some people want to abolish it all.

And the public works program, to provide work, to build thousands of permanent improvements—incidentally, giving work to the unemployed, both the P.W.A. and W.P.A.

Federal funds, through F.E.R.A., to starving people.

The principle of a minimum wage and maximum hours.

Civilian Conservation Corps.


The N.Y.A., for thousands of literally underprivileged young people.

Abolishing child labor. It was not thought to be constitutional in the old days, but it turned out to be.

Reciprocal trade agreements, which of course do have a tremendous effect on internal diseases.

Stimulation of private home building through the F.H.A. The protection of consumers from extortionate rates by utilities. The breaking up of utility monopolies, through Sam Rayburn's law.

The resettlement of farmers from marginal lands that ought not to be cultivated; regional physical developments, such as T.V.A.; getting electricity out to the farmers through the R.E.A.; flood control; and water conservation; drought control--remember the years we went through that!--and drought relief; crop insurance, and the ever normal granary; and assistance to farm cooperatives. Well, conservation of natural resources.

Well, my list just totaled up to thirty, and I probably left out half of them. But at the present time, obviously, the principal emphasis, the overwhelming first emphasis should be on winning the war. In other words, we are suffering from that bad accident, not from an internal disease.

And when victory comes, the program of the past, of course, has got to be carried on, in my judgment, with what is going on in other countries—postwar program—because it will pay. We can't go into an economic isolationism, any more than it would pay to go into a military isolationism.

This is not just a question of dollars and cents, although some people think it is. It is a question of the long range, which ties in human beings with dollars, to the benefit of the dollars and the benefit of the human beings as a part of this postwar program, which of course hasn't been settled on at all, except in generalities.

But, as I said about the meeting in Teheran and the meeting in Cairo, we are still in the generality stage, not in the detail stage, because we are talking about principles. Later on we will come down to the detail stage, and we can take up anything at all and discuss it then. We don't want to confuse people by talking about it now.

But it seems pretty clear that we must plan for, and help to bring about, an expanded economy which will result in more security, in more employment, in more recreation, in more education, in more health, in better housing for all of our citizens, so that the conditions of 1932 and the beginning of 1933 won't come back again.

Now, have those words been sufficiently simple and understood for you to write a story about?

Q. Does that all add up to a fourth-term declaration? (Laughter)

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, now, we are not talking about things like that now. You are getting picayune. That's a grand word to use—another word beginning with a p—picayune. I know you won't mind my saying that, but I have to say something like that.

Q. I don't mean to be picayune, but I am not clear about this parable. The New Deal, I thought, was dynamic, and I don't know whether you mean that you had to leave off to win the war and then will take up again the social program, or whether you think the patient is cured?

THE PRESIDENT: I will explain it this way. I will ask you a question.

In 1865, after the Civil War, there was a definite program arranged for and carried through under the leadership of the Congressman from Pennsylvania, Thaddeus Stevens, who was the leader of the Republican Party at that time. That was the policy. It lasted for nearly ten years, a policy of repression and punishment of the whole of the South. That was the policy of the United States. Well, they didn't like it at all—the country didn't. And finally, after ten years, they threw it out.

Now, do you think that twenty-five years later, in 1890, that we should have gone back to the same old policy? I don't. The country didn't go back to it.

You have a program to meet the needs of the country. The 1933 program that started to go into effect that year took a great many years. If you remember what I said, it was a program to meet the problems of 1933. Now, in time, there will have to be a new program, whoever runs the Government. We are not talking in terms of 1933's program. We have done nearly all of that, but that doesn't avoid or make impossible or unneedful another program, when the time comes. When the time comes.

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

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