Remarks by Senator John F. Kennedy, Shopping Center, Levittown, PA - (Advance Release Text)
Mr. Nixon's campaign on domestic issues has three basic themes - themes as familiar and as old as the Republican Party itself:
The first is the assertion that "You've never had it so good." From "stand pat" with McKinley, to "prosperity is just around the corner" with Herbert Hoover, the Republicans have always told the American people that things have never been better, that we are approaching the limit of our capacity for growth and prosperity. But today, as in 1900 and in 1932, the Democrats believe that America can do better - that 4 million men out of work, a declining rate of economic growth, and constantly rising prices are not the greatest possible achievements of our economy, and today, as in the past, the Democrats have positive programs to combat economic distress, while the Republicans only offer reassurances that there is no distress. Mr. Nixon's second theme is a plea that you forget party labels. And I don't blame Mr. Nixon for trying to forget the record of a party which has opposed virtually every single Democratic measure designed to improve human welfare in this century, a party which has not initiated a single piece of forward looking social legislation since the time of William Howard Taft. Mr. Nixon did not ignore party affiliations between elections, when he led the Republican opposition to increased minimum wages, medical care for the aged, aid to education, help for distressed areas, and all the rest and the American people are not going to ignore Mr. Nixon's party affiliation next week.
The third Nixon theme is an attack on the policies of the Democratic Party. He says that our programs are "extreme." He implies that they are "socialistic" and will involve unhealthy increases in the "power of the Federal Government" and "wild, irresponsible spending."
The voice is the voice of Richard Nixon, but the words are the words of every Republican candidate since William McKinley. They are the same old slogans, catchwords, and scare phrases which have been the standard Republican response to almost every progressive measure in this century and the standard Republican argument against every Democratic effort to improve the welfare of the American people.
Today the Interstate Commerce Commission is accepted as an essential protection to consumers and industry alike. But when it was proposed in 1887 the Republicans predicted that "if this bill shall become a law its consequences will be most disastrous * * * to the business interests of the country."
Today the pure food and drug laws are universally acclaimed as a vital safeguard to our people's health. But when it was before the Congress in 1904, a Republican Senator proclaimed that in terms of "paternalism and socialism, I do not think I ever heard a proposition inside the walls of this Capitol that was to my mind as monstrous as this."
Today the Federal Reserve System is used by both parties as the most important instrument of combating inflation and depression. But in 1933, Republican leaders attacked it as "revolutionary, socialistic, and dangerous."
Today prohibitions on child labor are accepted as a vital protection for our youth. But when these laws were first proposed Republican leaders attacked them as "socialistic in origin, philosophy, and associations."
Today the Fair Labor Standards Act, with its guarantee of a decent minimum wage, has become an established feature of the American economic System but in 1937 a leading Republican Congressman warned that "if you pass this bill * * * gone with the wind is our democratic system of government and all the institutions we hold dear." Other Republicans attacked minimum wage as "communism" and the "road to economic hell" - 93 percent of the Republicans in Congress voted to kill the bill calling for a 25-cent minimum wage and the Republicans have opposed every increase in the minimum wage ever since.
Today the Social Security Act is regarded as the most important and beneficial single piece of social legislation in American history. But in 1935 a Republican congressional leader warned that "this bill * * * threatens the integrity of our institutions and to pull the pillars of the temple down upon the heads of our descendants." Other Republicans called it a "cruel hoax" that would enslave American workers - 99 percent of Senate Republicans voted to kill social security in 1935, the Republican presidential candidate in 1936 called for its repeal, and the Republicans have opposed every increase in benefits ever since.
There are a host of examples. When they were first proposed the Republicans said that the Federal protection of securities would "Russianize everything," that the Federal Farm Loan Act was "socialistic," that the U.S. Housing Act "will eventually create communism and chaos," that TVA was patterned closely after one of the Soviet dreams and would * * * leave a tremendous debt for the taxpayer to pay," and that the Housing Act of 1949, now praised by Mr. Nixon, was "socialistic" and "would break the back of our economy."
This is the political history of a party which lacks faith in the capacity and strength of America, a party which is more concerned with conserving old gains than meeting future needs, with defining limitations rather than setting goals for the future.
The Democratic Party is proud of its past contributions, but it is also concerned with the future, with working to meet problems of the challenging decade ahead, with creating new abundance rather than rationing scarcity, with setting goals for the future which today's Republicans will attack as they always have, but which tomorrow's Republicans will praise, and ultimately incorporate into their party platform. For Republican platforms are not prophecies - they are histories - and in them the scholar can find an accurate account of the Democratic goals of the preceding generation.
The Democratic Party today has set forth many goals for the future of America - programs for progress in almost every area of our national life.
I want to discuss one of these goals in more detail with you today, a goal whose attainment is basic to all our other programs, and to all our hopes for increased prosperity in the future, the goal of full employment, specifically the goal of 82 million jobs by the end of 1968.
Today there are 73 million workers in our labor force. By 1968 - the end of two Presidential terms - there will be approximately 84 million men and women eligible for employment - or more workers than the total population of our country 60 years ago. In a full employment economy all but 2 or 3 percent of our work forces will be employed. Thus we will need 82 million jobs.
If you entrust the leadership of this country to the Democratic Party for the next 8 years, then, as the presidential candidate, I pledge myself and my party to seeking 82 million jobs by 1968.
What will 82 million jobs mean to America?
It means full employment - that almost every man and woman who wants to work will be able to find work. It means, if we fully develop the potential of our manpower and technology in the next decade, a 50-percent increase in the production of goods and services, it means the gross national product will increase from $500 billion to $750 billion each year. And it means that we can provide our expanding population with a 25-percent rise in the standard of living by 1968.
This is our promise to America - our vision of the America to be. I have no doubt that the men of little faith who lead the Republican Party will criticize this goal as utopian and unrealistic. Such criticism comes easily to a party whose candidate has said that "unemployment is inevitable" - a party which has allowed the unemployment rate to soar to 5.7 percent - a party which has presided over a continual decline in our rate of economic growth.
But such criticism will not halt our efforts. For Republicans have always derided Democratic goals - while Democrats have been busy accomplishing those goals. When Franklin Roosevelt, 1 month after Pearl Harbor, called for the production of 40,000 planes and 6 million tons of shipping - Republicans said it couldn't be done. But by the end of that year we had 48,000 planes and 8 million tons of shipping.
When, in 1945, the Democrats called for a gross national product of $200 billion by 1948, the Republicans said such a figure was impossible. But by 1948 our GNP was actually $259 billion.
When the Democrats, in 1945, called for 60 million jobs by 1950, Republican Leader Taft said, "How can we say there will be 60 million jobs when perhaps 50 million workers can do all the work of the Nation?" But today we have 64 million jobs.
In short the history of our two political parties in this century has been the history of a Democratic party wishing to move ahead, working to increase the welfare of our people, willing to set goals for the future because it believed we had the strength to meet those goals - and the history of a Republican Party deriding our goals, prophesying disaster, fighting against progress - a party at war with the future and reluctantly accepting the past.
In that history can be found the background to next week's decision: whether the American people will choose the easy but dangerous philosophy which is willing to stand still - to accept what we have rather than work toward something better. Or whether they will choose the arduous and strenuous task which we offer - the tasks which will require effort and will - but the tasks which promise to lead to the vision of America which Thomas Wolfe saw when he wrote--
to every man, regardless of his birth, his shining golden opportunity, to every man the right to live, to work, to be himself, and to become whatever thing his manhood and his vision can combine to make - this, seeker, is the promise of America.
John F. Kennedy, Remarks by Senator John F. Kennedy, Shopping Center, Levittown, PA - (Advance Release Text) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/274815