Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference in Hyde Park, New York

June 28, 1938

THE PRESIDENT: Doris [Miss Fleeson], how are you? I am glad the big boy lets you sit down.

Q. [Miss Fleeson] Better than at the Nelson House.

THE PRESIDENT: It must be overrun.

Q. [Miss Fleeson] Yes, it is.

THE PRESIDENT: Here is the oldest [indicating Mr. Joseph Early, of the Brooklyn Eagle]. I think you and I started together almost at the first session.

Q. [Mr. Early] It was my first assignment and you gave me a good many stories for the first page of the Senatorial fight.

THE PRESIDENT: January, 1911. You would never know it to look at him.

Q. [Mr. Early] Thank you—gray hair and things of that sort.

Q. What can you do in the way of stories in 19387

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know. George [Durno] had a pretty good idea. He was going to come in here and say, "Thank you, Mr. President," and let it go at that. (Laughter)

Q. Mr. Aubrey Williams made the front page this morning with some interesting statements.

THE PRESIDENT: Did he? I haven't seen any papers except the Poughkeepsie Eagle News. I wanted to read about the boat race and that is all I have done. It was wicked we did not get to see it.

Q. Terrible.

THE PRESIDENT: It did two things, it proved the supremacy of the Navy and—

Q. [interposing] And Harvard. (Laughter)


Q. Have you signed any bills that we ought to know about?

THE PRESIDENT: I have signed twenty-two this morning. I guess Mac and Kannee will have a release on it.

Q. Any comment on the Wage and Hour Bill?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think so. I mentioned it in my speech Friday night. I think that covered it all right. I do think that next to the Social Security Act it is the most important Act that has been passed in the last two or three years.

Q. Have you thought about appointing the Administrator yet?

THE PRESIDENT: Not yet. I hope to appoint an Administrator before I leave, but that is one appointment I am not dead sure about. The bill does not go into effect for sixty days, you know, so I have time to turn around.

Q. How about the Civil Aeronautics Authority?

THE PRESIDENT. I am working on that. It is up to 550 applications now.

Q. How many are politicians?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I would say about a third.

Q. How about our Judges?

THE PRESIDENT: They will come along in driblets.

MR. MCINTYRE; I am not convinced as to what "politicians"covers.

THE PRESIDENT: Work it out with Doris [Miss Fleeson]. (Laughter)

Q. In the morning papers there is a story from Washington in which it says that WPA is going to boost its rolls from 2,700,000 to 3,150,000, thereby adding 400,000. Those figures are approximate. Is there going to be any concerted start of the spending lending money?


Q. Are the other agencies going to tie in?

THE PRESIDENT: Of course you know about PWA. They are going as fast as they possibly can and those are the two major things. CCC will be up to its new number on the first of July-the new enrollees. . . .

Q. Is it correct to say that July first is the start of this, and that they will all shove off together?

THE PRESIDENT: As far as it is humanly possible.

Q. On that relief picture, if it does not seem too naive, how should our relief policy be stated? Many people are asking, "Does the Government owe them—"

THE PRESIDENT: [interposing] I should say this, that the object of work relief as distinguished from the dole is to give wages for work instead of just enough money to keep body and soul together without work. During the past six months there has been an increase—perhaps that is not fair because it brings it down a little bit late, the increase took place between last October and this April—an increase of unemployed to such numbers that existing funds did not make it possible to take care of every able-bodied person who was able to work, to take care of them with work.

Now, this addition will take care of a large part of that additional number of able-bodied citizens who can work, and for whom we did not have enough money before.

Q. I had in mind a more fundamental thing. There used to be a favorite statement with some people that the Government has no obligation to any of these people.

THE PRESIDENT: It is a continuing policy and there are two perfectly definite schools of thought. One is to give them wages for work to a sufficient extent to keep them going, in as decent a way as we can afford to do. The other school of thought is merely to give them enough money for food and clothing, without asking them to work for it.

Q. Might it not be called a sort of continuing emergency proposition? I mean, you will probably always have them with you, and they will probably always have to be taken care of.

THE PRESIDENT: I would not put it that way because you are only stating a third of the problem—a quarter of the problem. It is far deeper than that. Technology, economics, or whatever you choose to call it—some people say it is the result of the World War, other people say it is the result of new needs of civilization, other people stress the new machinery by which you can turn out, with the same amount of labor, twice as much goods as you did eighteen or twenty years ago—they are causes, and all are contributing factors. In every civilized country there is more unemployment than ever before in history—world history.

Now, that is the simple fact, and no country has devised a permanent way, a permanent solution, of giving work to people in the depression periods as well as in the boom periods. The only method devised so far that seemed to give 100 per cent of relief, or nearly so, is the method of going in for armaments, putting the unemployed to work manufacturing goods which have no permanent capital value-goods which do not reproduce wealth. Of course, everybody knows that while that may work for a year or two years or a few years, it is by no means the permanent solution of the problem. We are all groping and trying to find a way of doing it without the use of armaments.

Q. What do you think of the recommendation made, I believe, by the National Resources Committee for a reservoir public works program, with the projects all set up and approved, which you could let out almost immediately?

THE PRESIDENT: That is one of the answers but not the only permanent answer. That particular answer has been used with very great effect in Sweden which, however, is a very small compact country.

Q. It worked to a certain extent on this program, did it not?

THE PRESIDENT: We are, to a certain extent, using it here at the present time. The difference over here has been that we did apply that method in 1933, 1934 and 1935, but in the process, when it was working in 1935, 1936 and 1937, we did not pay off the cost of it, but the Swedes did.

Q. How did they do that?

THE PRESIDENT: In other words, in time of prosperity the Swedes laid aside enough in Government revenue to pay for the things they did in the period of depression.

Q. Do you think that experience is worth emulating in this country?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it is being studied.

Q. To go back to the statement you made a little bit ago regarding armaments, can it be said or thought that our new armament program has something to do with rehabilitation?

THE PRESIDENT: Relatively very little, Claude [Mahoney] because, if you will remember the figures I used three or four months ago about the armament figures in some of the countries of Europe, they ran as high as 45 or 50 per cent of the national income. Well, at that time, our armament figures were about 12 per cent. With the new program I should say, as a guess—I have not checked—the armament percentage of our Government expenditures may run as high as 15 or 16 per cent. Therefore, it is not to be compared with the economic result in those countries where they are spending 45 or 50 per cent. . . .

Q. A few weeks ago fifty-five members of a college faculty sent a petition to you calling for an administrative policy with respect to Spain. Have you made any reply to them?

THE PRESIDENT: I can only tell you in the utmost secrecy, if you promise not to use it. I did not know that I got it. (Laughter)

MR. MCINTYRE: You got it.

THE PRESIDENT: What did you do with it?

MR. MCINTYRE: It was one of six hundred.

THE PRESIDENT: I think it was mislaid in the mails.

Q. [Mr. Durno] Thank you, Mr. President. I am a little late on that.

Q. Mr. President, can we look for the appointment of an Ambassador to Moscow within the next—

THE PRESIDENT: [interposing] That is one of the things I am going to talk to the Secretary of State about next Monday. I have not done a thing about it and if I get time before I leave, I will look over these [indicating]— look over the bids for this little cottage on top of the hill and maybe I can give you a story—I hope so.

And maybe on Thursday or Friday—what day is today?maybe on Thursday or Friday I can take you up to the top of the hill and show you where it is going up.

Q. Did you sketch the plans yourself?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. What I did was to draw the plan and Henry Toombs did the real job. I have to be careful about that because I haven't the license to practice architecture in this State.

Q. There are a lot of us here who are glad to hear you ask what date it is because we are having the same trouble. (Laughter)

Q. [Mr. Storm] We assume, Claude [Mr. Mahoney], you were speaking for yourself. (Laughter)

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

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