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Question and Answer Session, Statewide TV Appearance of Senator John F. Kennedy, Civic Auditorium, Seattle, WA

September 06, 1960

Senator JACKSON. Ladies and gentlemen, in the remaining 10 or 11 minutes that we have left on television and on the air, we are going to do something different in the way of a political meeting. We want to give the audience an opportunity to participate.

About 90 minutes ago, each person here was given an opportunity to fill out on a card the question they might like to ask Senator Kennedy. These cards have been selected. The cards have been screened by a group of distinguished Seattle Democrats. [Laughter.] There is no payola in this. [Laughter.]

Senator Kennedy has not seen the questions. It is not possible to let every person ask a question in the next 10 minutes, but the judges have tried to select 10 representative people to ask or propound the questions. Senator Kennedy has not seen the questions. So with that we will start with the first question.

QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, in your attainment of the suggested program of the new frontier, what safeguards, if any, are you proposing to avoid an unhealthy inflation or an unhealthy national debt?

Senator KENNEDY. Let me say that I think it is extremely important that the United States maintain to the extent possible, a sound fiscal policy and a balanced budget. There are only two reasons, in my opinion, for an unbalanced budget. One, if there is a great national emergency requiring an expenditure by the Federal Government to protect the security of the United States, or, two, if there is serious unemployment which requires action by the Federal Government. The most serious, potent peacetime deficit in the history of the United States was in 1958, when we ran a $12 billion deficit. It was not due to excessive expenditures. It was due to the recession of 1958, which was permitted to slide and which cost us over $12 billion in revenue.

I would hope we could avoid recessions. I would hope we could take action early enough. I would hope that our fiscal and monetary policy would have sufficient vitality to maintain the upward growth of our economy. Within that general sphere I would attempt to maintain a balanced budget and a balance between the funds that come in and the funds that go out, unless there was wide unemployment, or a threat to our security that required the defense expenditure. [Applause.]

Senator JACKSON. As you state your question, please give your name.

QUESTION. I am Bill Buskirk, and I would like to ask you how do you propose to counteract the persistent attacks leveled on you against your religion, especially in the South?

Senator KENNEDY. I don't propose really to counteract them, because I am not - what I propose to do is answer any questions that anyone might address to me on any matter of public policy, even if it involves the question of church and state. The Presidency is a very powerful office. I do not take exception at all if someone asks me my views on those matters where church and state may come close together, and if anybody wants to ask my views on aid to education or on the general question of religious freedom, I am delighted to answer.

I know that probably some people aren't interested in my views. They have made up their minds that regardless of what my previous history may have been, regardless of how I expressed my views or what my statements may have been, regardless of what support I give the first amendment as a matter of conviction, they will vote against me. And I am sure there is nothing I can say to them. All I can say is that this is a very dangerous time in the life of our country. There are very serious issues. I cannot believe that anyone would throw away their vote by voting for me or against me because of my religion, rather than the things for which I might stand. [Applause.]

Senator JACKSON. The next question, and state your name, please.

QUESTION. I am Mrs. Charlotte Hoyt. Senator Kennedy, would you outline the program you propose to help solve the farm surplus problem, please?

Senator KENNEDY. I think that the decline in farm income, which is so sharp, makes this the No.1 domestic problem. I think the No.1 overall problem which faces farmers and city dwellers alike is, of course, or relations with the Sino-Soviet bloc and the fight for peace. But within the United States, while we face many serious problems, involving segments of our economy, I do think the problem facing the farmers of the United States at the present time is the most serious one, because it really affects us all. Farmers are the No.1 market for Detroit for automobiles, and Detroit is the No.1 market for Pittsburgh for steel, and therefore, there is an interrelationship in the economy. I would say we would have to bring about a balance between the supply and the demand. I think the Government should make a determination each year in the basic commodities, how much we can consume in the market place each year in our country, how much we can sell around the world, how much we need for school lunches and for people who are on relief - and there are 5 million Americans dependent on surplus food - how much we need to help those countries who do not have enough food, whose assistance we want, and who desire to be associated with us, particularly the countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. And beyond that I think we should make a limitation on production so that we don't have surpluses which break the price. Within that production I would have a higher support price than the present administration has permitted. I think it is an extremely difficult problem, but if supply and demand are in balance, with a higher support price and more imaginative use of our surpluses, I think we can begin them on the upward turn again. Today, many farmers are as low as they have been in 20 years. [Applause.]

Senator JACKSON. The next question, please, and state your name.

QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, my name is Bill Cavanaugh. I would like to ask you, how do you propose to effectively deal with the problem of communism from within, or indirect aggression, such as has recently been evidenced in Cuba

Senator KENNEDY. I agree with you, I think that is obviously the most serious kind of challenge you are going to have in the 1960's, but then it does tie in with the point I tried to make in my speech. One of the problems that we have in these countries is that many of them feel that the balance of power is shifting against us and in favor of the Communist world. If we were first in space, if our economic growth was comparable to that of the Communist world, if we maintained a vitality in the sciences and engineering and education, then many of these countries would think the future lay with us and not with the Communist world. Now, in the case of the Congo, I think the responsibility belongs to the United Nations. I think this is the great test of the United Nations. I do not believe the United Nations can possibly afford to permit the Communists, under the shield of the United Nations, to carry on subversion. The United Nations cannot force a solution in the Congo, but they can prevent Russians or Chinese Communists from infiltrating and using the present crises in the Congo as a method of securing power.

Secondly, in the case of Cuba, I think the basic error was made in the last stage of Batista, when we did not use our great influence which we had then to persuade Batista to permit free elections and a return to constitutional government, and let the Cuban people pick his successor, instead of letting Castro seize it in almost a palace revolution.

Thirdly, I think that in the problem of Cuba we have to work with the other - the Organization of the American States, and I am most concerned, not only that we isolate Cuba, but that we attempt to isolate the Cuban revolution from the rest of South America. I think that is the big danger, that from Cuba as a base they will expand their power. I think we should use our influence to prevent it.

Scoop Jackson is waving at me.

I would say if I may I think you have asked a fundamental question in foreign policy and it is extremely difficult to answer it in 1 minute. I am sorry. [Applause.]

I guess there are five other questions that I did not get to. I want to apologize for going on so long, but they are all matters of great importance.

Senator JACKSON. We have time for another question, even if we are not on TV. [Applause.]

QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, I would like to hear your comments as to what your position will be relative to the development of our natural power resources in the Northwest here.

Senator KENNEDY. In the first place, the United States is going to have twice as many people by the year 2,000 as it does today. Therefore, the demands on all of our natural resources, power, land, water and all of these, are going to be at a far greater extent than they are today. I think that we should recognize that every time water goes down from where it begins to the sea without being used, either for power or for irrigation, it is being wasted. I take the same view that Theodore Roosevelt took 45 years ago, and there it is a source of satisfaction to me that the two Americans that did more to develop the resources of the United States were both from the State of New York, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt, and I would follow in that tradition. [Applause.]

We can have one more question. I think we are off the air, but if there is one more, I thought we might perhaps try to get through with the 10, anyway. [Applause.]

QUESTION. I am Mrs. Ralph Closer. Senator Kennedy, what do you believe to be the most important political issue of this campaign?

Senator KENNEDY. I think the most important issue, and it is not political in the partisan sense, but it is the issue which concerns us all, is how we can live on the same globe with the Communists, both possessing hydrogen capacity which could destroy us all, and try to live in peace and protect our security, and continue to survive. I would say that is the big challenge ahead for the United States. I am confident that we can do it. But I don't think we can afford to do it, to continue to do it, if we are on the decline here in the United States. I think that the real issue in the sense of the need for action is for us to demonstrate to people all around the world that we are an expanding society, whose high noon is still ahead, and not in the past. I think that is the real issue. [Applause.]

QUESTION. My name is Mrs. Archie Wornecke. Senator Kennedy, I would like to ask you would you suggest a better health and welfare program for the aged people?

Senator KENNEDY. Well, I could not think of a worse program, in my judgment, considering the needs, than the one that was finally passed in this session and signed by the President. [Applause.]

I supported an effort and Scoop Jackson and Senator Magnuson both voted the same way, which was to tie medical care for the aged to social security. The program which passed this Congress and was signed by the President is going to cost an estimated $2 billion a year, $1 billion from the States and $1 billion from the Federal Government, to provide inadequate services, when we had a great system which it could have been tied to, which was social security, which has worked so well for nearly 25 years. I think that medical care for the aged should be tied to social security, financed through the social security system, and I think we ought to do it next January, even if we did not do it last August. [Applause.]

QUESTION. My name is J. T. Hong. Senator Kennedy, I would like to ask you, how do you plan to obtain 5 percent economic growth without raising taxes?

Senator KENNEDY. Let me say that I don't believe that there is an intimate relationship between raising taxes and economic growth. In fact, under the present conditions, I can imagine nothing more deflationary than to increase taxes. I don't say that it is possible immediately to provide 5 percent economic growth. The Democratic platform called for it and the Rockefeller brothers 2 years ago said it was possible. I do think, however, that we can secure a better economic growth than we have today, and we can aim for the goal of 5 percent. It is a fact that Germany, France, and England all had a growth of 5 percent or over last year. We had the lowest rate of economic growth of any major industrialized society in the world. I do think that both monetary and fiscal policies combine with other programs which I think could stimulate economic activity, a redrafting of our tax laws, a ceasing of dependence on a high-interest policy which I think directly tightened up credit at the beginning of 1958 depression which led to that serious drop in our national growth. I don't think that anyone has suggested that we should increase taxes at the present time in order to stimulate growth. The only time I heard taxes discussed, and I discussed them, would be if we had a serious national emergency requiring a large appropriation for national defense at a time when our economy was booming and we suffered a serious danger of inflation. That would be, in my opinion, the time that you might have to face up to the problem of taxes. But if you are talking about economic growth, there is not an intimate relationship at the present time between a tax increase and economic In fact, in my opinion, they would be contradictory.

I say that mostly because we are moving into a plateau now in our economic growth, and I think it is a matter of concern to us in the winter of 1961.

QUESTION. My name is Chris Matthews. Senator Kennedy, I would like to ask, assuming you were President of the United States, specifically how would you react if East Germany signed a defense treaty with the Soviet Union?

Senator KENNEDY. I would think it would be a matter of serious concern because it could well lead to a blockade by the East Germans of the entrance into West Berlin. If that happens, our commitments are extremely clear. We have to make it clear, and I don't think we will have the eventuality, if we do - we have to make it clear and mean it that our guarantees to West Berlin are going to be maintained, that we are not going to permit---[Applause]. Of course, the reason is clear. If we permitted the Soviet Union to drive us out of West Berlin, then our whole position in Western Germany and indeed in all of Western Europe, would be endangered, and since their policy since the end of World War II has been to secure control of Western Germany and Japan, and our objective has been to maintain West Germany and Japan, it is obvious that this security falls to the United States. I think we should make it extremely clear that if a peace treaty resulted in a blockade of Berlin, that it would be regarded as an extremely important act, involving the security of the United States. I think we should make it very clear, and I do as a Democrat, that I support the administration's efforts in the case of West Berlin and will continue to do so, regardless of what position I may hold. [Applause.]

QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, my name is Frank Roberts. I would like to ask what can be done to salvage our national prestige among the uncommitted nations of the world?

Senator KENNEDY. Well, I would say there are three or four things very quickly. In the first place, the United States has really almost ignored Latin America up to the last 6 months. In fact, the administration has proposed [applause] - the administration has proposed a program of some economic assistance to Latin America, but it is only a request for an authorization, and there will not be a request for an appropriation until the next administration takes over, 8 years later than the action should have been carried out.

Secondly, our intimate association in some countries with dictators at a time when a whole democratic movement was sweeping Latin America has led to some of our difficulties, not only Cuba, but in some other sections of that vital area.

I am chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa. Africa is going to be extremely important because one quarter of all the members of the General Assembly in the next 2 or 3 years will be Africans, and I can say that as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the United States has been completely blind as to what has been happening in the Congo. There are less than 12 college-educated people who hold university degrees in that country. The head of the Army was a sergeant. There were no Negro officers who were natives of the Congo. That country was wholly unprepared for the freedom and independence, and no effort was made, which at least the British in the case of India made, to build up educated men and women who could assume the responsibilities of government. We treated Africa as a dark and unknown partner, and we are reaping the harvest. I think we ought to put an effort into an exchange of students. We ought to make sure that we bring in not only students, but trade-union leaders and all the rest. We had a long debate in the month of July about 300 African students, whether they were going to get over to the United States, and the State Department had no funds. [Applause.]

Thirdly, I would say that the most critical area involving the so-called undeveloped world and newly emerging world is in the case of India, because 35 to 40 percent of all the people who live in the underdeveloped world live in India, and India's economic position is going to be extremely critical after the first of the year when she is going to have a great drain on her foreign exchange. I don't think the United States has ever strengthened the loan fund the way Senator Fulbright and Senator Humphrey and I hoped they would 2 years ago. In fact, the administration blocked our efforts. So for India, which looks to us for free world assistance, comes the first of the year and we are unable to provide her with the loans she is going to need, and she is in economic competition with the Communist Chinese.

If India fails and China succeeds, then of course the balance of power moves against us. This in the 1960's will be the great area of competition.

And lastly may I say, and this is the end, I want to emphasize that what we do in this country affects our position in all of these undeveloped countries. The reason that Woodrow Wilson was so successful was because he had his new freedom here which was directly related to the 14 points abroad. Franklin Roosevelt's good neighbor policy and his other policies around the world were directly related to the idealistic aspirations of the New Deal. Therefore, I think the same thing can be said of President Truman. What he tried to do here in the Fair Deal was reflected in the Marshall plan, point 4, technical assistance, and the others. If we are moving ahead here in the United States, if we are making a better society here, then that reflects itself around the world and those who stand today on the razor edge of decision desire then to be associated with a winning cause which represents the cause of freedom. Thank you. [Applause.]

John F. Kennedy, Question and Answer Session, Statewide TV Appearance of Senator John F. Kennedy, Civic Auditorium, Seattle, WA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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