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Excerpts of Remarks of the Vice President of the United States, Rockford, IL

September 22, 1960

Comments by my opponent, as well as his spokesmen, on economic conditions seem to be part and parcel of their strategy of talking down America's strengths in every field. Listening to them, one would never know that ours is a $500 billion economy, with more than 68 million Americans at work, earning more, spending more, saving more, investing more, building more than ever before in history.

Now, of course, we have a few areas in our country which have not shared in the general good times, and I have discussed a sensible program to attack that problem where it exists. But contrary to the impression left by my opponent's remarks at times, I do not find America one vast depressed area. Neither would he, if he looked for national strengths rather than being obsessed with finding weaknesses.

Judging from my opponent's remarks, one would be further forced to conclude that the American economy doesn't stack up very well against that of the Soviet. He cites the well-known fact that the Soviet Union is showing a faster growth rate than we are but he fails to tell the rest of the story.

Now this comparison we should weigh very carefully, but it should hardly surprise us nor should it be taken as an adequate basis for comparing the two economies. The Soviets are in an early stage of industrial development and percentage gains are therefore easy to attain - just as, by adding 1 bean to 10 beans, a 10-percent gain can be recorded, while adding 1 bean to 20 yields a gain of only 5 percent. The fact is that our economy during the years 1880-1920, when it was in a similar stage of development to that of the Soviet economy, showed similar growth rates. The American economy is producing now at more than twice the rate of the Soviet. We are ahead and, if we accent the real forces making for growth, we can stay well ahead.

On this subject of economic growth Senator Kennedy revealed a rather remarkable do-it-with-mirrors philosophy in Detroit the other day. He told his audience that with a higher annual average growth rate than that which prevailed over the last 8 years, every working man would have received $7,000 more than he did receive. Since this is a pure mathematical exercise, he might as well have produced a result of $10,000 or $15,000. If I wanted to engage in such exercises, I could show that, had the growth rate of average family income in real terms during the Truman administration continued through the Eisenhower administration, the average American family would have had at least $3,000 less than it did, since the Truman improvement was only 2 percent while the Eisenhower improvement was 15 percent in real terms.

Everyone would agree, of course, on the desirability of such a high growth rate as the Senator implies in his calculation, but there is nothing in the record of his party to show they can produce it. Consider their credentials:

In charge of the Government for almost 7 years before war broke out in Europe, their record shows that unemployment in the United States stood at just under 9.5 million in 1939. They did not succeed in solving the unemployment problem until the coming of World War II.

From 1946 to 1953, while still in charge, they gave the Nation 7 years of inflation. The cost of living went up almost 40 percent in those years, a bad record even adjusting for the impact of the Korean war.

During the last 7 Truman years, real income for the average family increased 2 percent, compared to 15 percent in the first 7 Eisenhower years.

Expedient and ill-considered action in labor-management disputes - whether the proposal to draft workers into the Army in 1946 or the seizure of the Nation's steel mills in 1952 - reveals an alarming lack of regard for the way a free economy operates.

These opposition economic practitioners cannot come to the American people and ask to be put in charge of the Nation's economic policy on their record. Spurring economic growth is too vital a matter for America to be left to those with such a record. It will require leaders whose policy is to accent the traditional strengths of our free economy - initiative and investment, productivity, and efficiency - not leaders who merely emphasize expanding Government activity all along the line together with artificially easy credit. It will mean stressing what 180 million Americans can do, not what Government can do for them. It will require facing the blunt fact that our national leadership cannot prepare us for competition with the Communists by trying to make everything as easy as possible for everyone. It will require playing up the key matter of personal incentives, not playing them down. It means tax reforms to spur savings and investment as the way to create jobs and growth, instead of punitive measures designed to take away more of our incomes and redistribute them through the Federal Treasury. It means that Government undertakes to do not the most things or the least things, but the right things. It means meeting the economic problems of the 1960's, not with retreads of depression - born ideas of the 1930's that are out of date and out of touch; and that means clearing away the Democratic confusion that policies for recovery can serve as policies for growth.

Only with such accents and such policies, can we achieve a strongly growing, stable economy, capable of meeting our growing needs at home and abroad in this time of testing for our people and for our Nation.

Richard Nixon, Excerpts of Remarks of the Vice President of the United States, Rockford, IL Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project