Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

February 04, 1938

Q. Was not the small business men's conference held at the request of the small business men?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, and no. The origin, of course, is perfectly simple. We got in the White House, beginning about two months ago, a large number of letters saying, "Please, can we come down to Washington? Why don't you pay the same attention to us?" There were hundreds of them that wanted some kind of a conference in Washington. It was perfectly vague, but they wanted to be here. Of course, to a good many of them we wrote back and said it was impossible to see everybody individually and would they write their views. They still kept coming back and saying, "We would like to come to Washington." There were a good many hundreds of them. We were confused, quite frankly, with the dilemma. If we said "No" to them, certain agencies in the country would say that we were turning them down. If we invited them down here, it would be very difficult to handle a group of that kind. But I do not think it is a fair thing to ridicule either them or their efforts.

Q. How were they invited? Were those who wrote the letters, were they the ones?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, largely. I think entirely. They were all people who had written letters.

Q. Mr. President, a great many of the delegates expressed the belief that the conference has been a flop. Do you share in that view?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know. I have not heard from them.

Q. Mr. President, have you asked any Federal agency to study the possibility of extending financial aid to small business men?

THE. PRESIDENT: Well, that matter is under study, as I said last week.

Q. Mr. President, may I read one sentence from Senator Wagner's speech on the Housing Bill, when he subscribed to the idea of taking out the prevailing wage amendment? He said:

If we ever come to the time when we in this body pass laws saying how much a bricklayer shall receive per day, how much a carpenter shall receive, how much a clerk working in private industry of any kind shall receive, and begin to fix all those wages, we will destroy unionism and freedom of collective bargaining and advance on the road toward fascism. [Page 1266, Cong. Record, 75th Congress, 3rd Session.]

Would you mind telling us whether that is your thought, too?

THE PRESIDENT: It goes in line with everything I have always said, always. Now, do not misinterpret that. There are lots of ways of misinterpreting it.

Q. His idea was that if you go beyond fixing, you get into this realm of doubt and danger.

THE PRESIDENT: I will just give you one thought on it. You know we talked a good deal about a floor for Agriculture. Well, just use the analogy on wages. The Agricultural bill does not attempt, in any way, to set the price on corn or the price on anything else. All it does is sets a floor. Use the same analogy on wages and you will about hit it right. . . .

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

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