Franklin D. Roosevelt

Press Conference

December 29, 1933

THE PRESIDENT: Well, what is the news?

Q. That is what we would like to know.

THE PRESIDENT: I think everything is all quiet. No message written yet, no Budget message. We are still scribbling lots of figures and essays and so forth all over sheets of paper. I am living with sheets of paper. . . .

Q. Can you tell us anything about the conference this afternoon with General Johnson, Senator Nye and Senator Borah?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I think so. It was merely a preliminary conference to discuss some of the new problems which have been raised through the actual operation of N.R.A. We have had two worries, not only Senator Borah and Senator Nye, but General Johnson and myself. The two worries are that the operation of some of the codes may work out in such a way that big business will be benefited to the detriment of the little businesses. The other problem is that certain developments would tend to show that some industries believe that the Sherman Anti-trust Law principle has, in some mysterious way, been abolished by the N.R.A.—which, of course, is not so.

What we are seeking is the method of answering those two questions. The first is the adequate protection of the little fellow against the big fellow, and the second is the retaining of the principles of the Sherman Anti-trust Law.

That is about as far as we got. It was just a preliminary discussion as to how to go about it.

Q. Will that lead to legislation or be largely administrative correction without legislation?

THE PRESIDENT: So far as the protection of the little fellow goes, it can probably be done administratively. So far as the clarification of the retention of the Sherman Anti-trust Law goes, we may have to make the language of N.R.A. a little bit more clear by legislation.

Q. Mr. President, does this first proposal contemplate taking more of the small retailers out than were taken out in this order that was put through some time ago? How do you intend to tackle that administrative problem?

THE PRESIDENT: Probably through the setting up of some better machinery for the protection of the little men. As I say, we haven't got to the details of it yet. We did discuss the possibility of some board that would act toward that problem in the same relative way as Senator Wagner's Board has functioned in regard to disputes between capital and labor.

Q. Can you tell us what the disputes are between those two classes of business men? What is the dispute between the business men?

THE PRESIDENT: A lot of little fellows have thought that they might be forced out of business. We want to avoid that; and there will have to be somebody assigned for them to go to.

Q. Go to for modification of the code?

THE PRESIDENT: No, to go to to check up their particular case. In a great many cases, probably the majority, it would not involve modification of the code itself. It would be merely a question of saying what is a fair practice.

Q. Mr. President, doesn't this bring up the inevitable fact that the operation of the N.R.A. must drive the marginal producer or business man out of business?

THE PRESIDENT: That is a pretty broad subject and there is a lot in it. Well, the simplest way of putting it is to give an illustration. What are you going to do in the case of shoes? There are enough shoe factories in the country today to turn out 900 million pairs of shoes a year and we wear only about 325 million pairs of shoes a year. There is a certain limit to the number of shoes a human being can wear in the course of a year. What shall we do in case you decide to go into the shoe business tomorrow and start a brand new factory? You only complicate things. Well, those are the things we have not solved yet.

Q. If I am a little fellow, a little inefficient fellow, I am going to be the fellow that comes to the Board.

THE PRESIDENT: You might be a big fellow. Inefficiency is not necessarily based on size. . . .

Q. Are you going to recommend legislation on the stock market?

THE PRESIDENT: I haven't done a thing about it. I believe a lot of people are looking it up and checking on it—members of both Houses and the Commerce Committee and I don't know who else. There are lots of people checking on it.

Q. Do you contemplate some legislation?

THE PRESIDENT: I cannot tell you because I haven't a thing on it as yet. . . .

Q. Can you tell us whether you discussed with Senators Borah and Nye a proposition of either of them accepting a place on this Board that may possibly be created to discuss anti-trust legislation?

THE PRESIDENT: We only mentioned it casually. I think we are all agreed that they could not and should not— no member of Congress should or could accept a place on an Administrative Board with powers.

But we also were in general agreement with the thought that Congress should, in some way, keep in touch with the administrative procedure from day to day and week to week through the year. In other words—now this is off the record just so as to give you the thought in the back of my head—it would be a great deal better for the Government as a whole if Congress could keep in very close touch with the operations of the administrative branch of the Government right straight through the year. The custom in the past has been for Congress, every once in so often, to conduct an investigation which goes back two or three or four or five years. It doesn't do anybody any particular good, because, if the Administration is doing anything it should not do, it would be a great deal better to have it known right away.

So, for a long time, I have been trying to work out some practical method of keeping the Congress in touch, day in and day out, with what the Administration is doing, so that there won't be an accumulation of things which may result after a long period of years in scandal or investigation. At the same time we could keep perfectly clear the separation of functions.

Some of you who were in Albany remember the drag-down knock-out fight I had four years ago, when the New York State Legislature tried to maintain, throughout the year, a control over the expenditures of appropriations. I had to carry it all the way up to the Court of Appeals. We lost in the lower court and won out by a unanimous opinion in the Court of Appeals, which decided that the Legislature had no right to control Executive functions in any shape, manner or form. That does not mean that the Legislature hasn't the right—and probably should have the actual practice—of constantly inspecting Executive acts. That is a very different thing, as long as they do not tell the Executive how to carry out the Executive functions.

If you use this, draw the distinction that we cannot have interference by the Legislature. After they once pass a law and appropriate the money, they have nothing more to say about its expenditure in an Executive way; but, at the same time, they have every right to watch the operation of spending. It makes for frankness and public knowledge of Government throughout the year. . . .

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

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