Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at a Luncheon for a Group of Businessmen.

July 23, 1964

I HAVE ASKED you here to review the position and prospects of America.

Such a meeting is especially important now--as we approach a national election. For I believe that all of us--whatever our political views--can agree the demands of politics should not lead us to any acts which might damage the health of the economy or interrupt our steady expansion. Far too much is at stake--for our country and for its people--to permit that to happen.

As long as I am President I will continue these meetings with leaders of the American economic community. I will review our progress, discuss our plans, and seek your counsel. No President, no government, no nation can hope for meaningful progress without constant communication and contact with those who lead the great decision making machinery of our democratic economy.

I believe in the importance of these meetings because today more than ever we share a broad common purpose.

The business of government is people. Its job is the prosperity and safety, the welfare and freedom of all Americans.

These are also the essential conditions to 'the growth of American business. For American business is like no other in the history of the world. It is not the property of a few. It is not a tool for exploitation of the many. It is owned by millions. It is shaped by the demands and needs of an entire nation. It draws its strength from the fact that nearly 190 million people can desire and choose and share in the enormous abundance which our genius has created. And it flourishes best in the atmosphere of freedom, and peace, and confidence in the future which is the business of government to ensure.

The object of business is production and profit and progress. And government knows that your success in realizing these goals is essential to the people which it serves.

There is another thread of common purpose which we too often neglect. Government and business are not abstract and isolated empires. Government officials and businessmen--you and I--are Americas; sharing love of country, pride in achievements, faithfulness to freedom. We are, many of us, parents; sharing hope for the education and careers and safety of our children. We are moral human brings; sharing compassion for the helpless, belief in justice, hope for the brotherhood of man. This common purpose will always transcend any other considerations.

I believe we are entering a new era of cooperation between government and business and labor and the many groups which form this Nation. This does not mean we will always agree. It does mean we have created an economy which has never existed before, and which some said could never exist.

It is an economy where the health of business benefits all the people. It is an economy where the prosperity of the people benefits the health of business. It is an economy where, in large measure, the fortunes of each are tied to the fortunes of all.

Over the years the effort of millions has laboriously built our American economy. It rests, in all essentials, on the private decisions of private individuals and organizations and groups. It is not neat. It is not orderly. It does not fit into a preconceived plan. But it works. And it works better than any other system ever shaped by the mind of man or the force of events.

In this system government is not a dictator or a master planner. Government is the great moderator--adjusting those differences and injustices which require its effort. Government is the public servant--carrying forward those public tasks which its people require. Government is an agent of prosperity-carefully and prudently using its influence and scope in the cause of economic progress.

Let me tell you how well this partnership is working.

For the past 41 months we have enjoyed the longest and largest peacetime expansion in our history. Our 5.3 percent unemployment and 87 percent industrial operating rate remind us that we have not yet made full use of our potential. But we are on the way.

You, and others, are employing nearly 5 million more people than in February 1961. Total jobs now number 72 million, an all-time peak. And payrolls are expanding.

Work stoppages due to strikes during the past 3 1/2 years have been at their postwar low. In the past 8 months the country has solved all of its major national labor disputes-including the 5-year dispute in the railroad industry--without strikes.

Corporate profits after taxes were running almost $12 billion, or 60 percent higher, in the first quarter of this year than 3 years ago. And they are still rising.

The total value of shares in your companies, and others, is up $100 billion since I assumed the Presidency 8 months ago.

Wholesale prices in June were down almost 1 percent since early 1961. This is part of a price and cost stability over the past 3½ years unmatched by any other country.

With your business leadership, and your help--and the help of the labor leadership I will meet with tomorrow--the years 1961-1964 have been the most prosperous in American peacetime history. The Council of Economic Advisers informed me today that this will be the first peacetime administration in a century unmarred by economic recession or depression. This is in sharp contrast with the three recessions we unfortunately suffered in the 1950's.

And I am also proud to report to you that we turned the corner on our external payments position about a year ago.

This year's payment deficit will be below last year's. Next year's should be even lower. Our record on costs and prices--our monetary and tax policies to check capital outflow--on conserving defense and foreign aid dollars through buying goods at home-and your cooperation in our export drive-will all bring increased strength to the dollar.

Nor need we fear that a European inflation will weaken our defense of the dollar. The reasons for confidence are simple.

First, the Europeans are acting responsibly to hold prices in check. We wish them well, even though rising prices overseas improve our competitive position.

Second, new methods of cooperation in OECD, IMF, the group of Ten, and the Bank for International Settlements are a great force for international stability.

Third, we have across-the-board bipartisan support--here at home--of policies to defend the dollar.

As a result of this effort we have restored the full meaning of "sound as a dollar" across the world.

This combination of rapid expansion and real stability is not only a great achievement. It is a great lesson. It teaches us that if we eliminate fear, and hostility, and distrust, among ourselves--if we work together in a partnership of moderation--then the history of these years can be only the first page in a new era of American abundance.

While working to expand the economy, we have also worked to bring about the most prudent and efficient use of every tax dollar collected by the United States Government.

We have done this in the spirit of the man who said, "it is every American's duty to support his government, but not necessarily in the style to which it has been accustomed."

I have some charts here to show you how that effort is coming along.

That concludes the report I wish to make to you as businessmen. That is the state of the American economy and the national budget in the summer of 1964.

But I did want to take a moment to talk to you as Americans--Americans who are also leaders of the Nation, shapers of opinion, molders of events. I wish to talk to you not only about fiscal responsibility but about moral responsibility.

Our Constitution and our laws place upon us a duty to provide equal justice to all Americans. To fail to observe this duty attacks the entire structure of ordered liberty on which the life of this Nation depends.

I ask you to use the influence and position and respect--which you possess in such abundant measure--to persuade others that the law of the land must be obeyed.

I did not become President to preside over mounting violence and deepening disorder. I fully intend to use all the resources I have to make sure that those who claim rights-and those who deny them--bend their passions to peaceful obedience to law.

I intend to work to ensure that every person enjoys the full constitutional rights and equal opportunity that are his birthright as an American citizen.

But this cannot be done from the White House alone. I need the help of every American. I ask you to do this not just because it is good for business or for economic stability. I ask you to do this because it is vital for the America you and I know and believe in.

Much of the work of my great office is devoted to preserving the freedom and health of this country. No day goes by without problems whose wise resolution is important to our liberties and the strength of our people.

Government is not a business. Its success or failure cannot be gauged in statements of profit and loss. But it requires the same qualities as any great human enterprise-the qualities you bring to your work-moderation in the conduct of affairs, responsible innovation to meet rapid change, the imagination to find new solutions to new needs.

The Presidency is not just a place to protect the present. It is a focus for the possibilities of the future. It is often said that a President must have a vision of the America and world he wants to see. I believe that to be so. But the President does not put his purely personal stamp upon the future. His vision is compounded of the hopes and anxieties and values of the people he serves. He can help guide them toward the highest and most noble of their desires. He cannot take them where they do not want to go. Nor can he hope to move ahead without the help of all those who share a common purpose.

I believe that in this room are Americans who share with me a common dedication to American greatness. Each of you contributes to that purpose each day in the conduct of our economy. I hope that we will always be able to match shared beliefs to shared actions in the interests of all the people of this land.

Note: The President spoke in the State Dining Room at the White House. The luncheon was attended by more than 200 of the Nation's leading businessmen.

As printed, this item follows the prepared text released by the White House.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at a Luncheon for a Group of Businessmen. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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