Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Telecast, Wttv, Indianapolis, IN
(Participants: Senator John F. Kennedy, Matt Welsh, Ted Knap, Indianapolis Times, James Carroll, South Bend Tribune, Jep Cadow, UPI.)
Mr. WELSH. Senator Kennedy, on behalf of the people of Indiana, it is my pleasure to introduce you to the radio audience and to the panel that is here and to, of course, wish you every success in this campaign and in this election. I feel confident that you are going to carry Indiana.
Senator KENNEDY. Matt, I appreciate that. I am glad to be here with you as your guest. Indiana occupies a key place this year in the elections. That is why we are coming tonight, to spend the day tomorrow and be back before the campaign ends.
Mr. WELSH. You are always welcome.
QUESTION. Senator, I have heard it said that Indiana is the problem child of the North for your campaign. I have wondered - we have often been told, and I know it personally, that you have the best system of finding facts in Indiana as any candidate in Indiana. I just wondered what you think your status is in Indiana?
Senator KENNEDY. Well, I would think we were behind in Indiana. I think we have been doing better the last 3 weeks and I think particularly in the last 7 days we have gained some. But I would still say we are behind in Indiana.
QUESTION. You think you are still behind?
Senator KENNEDY. That is my judgment; yes.
QUESTION. In the rural areas, probably, or where would you say?
Senator KENNEDY. Well, I have not got a regional breakdown or a functional breakdown. I would just say we are behind in Indiana and we have to try to do better in the next 5 weeks. But I think in the last 3 weeks I feel that the tide has moved somewhat in our favor, but we still have some to go before we are ahead.
QUESTION. You are pretty satisfied with the cooperation of the State ticket in Indiana and your candidacy?
Senator KENNEDY. Yes. Well, I think Matt Welsh is ahead in Indiana, and I think he is going to win. They have been very helpful to us.
QUESTION. Are you riding on Matt Welsh's coattails, Senator?
Senator KENNEDY. I will be glad to, if they are big enough to give me room.
QUESTION. That would be a switch. I just wondered.
QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, over the weekend President Eisenhower rejected the proposal by five so-called neutralist nations that he meet with Khrushchev. Do you agree or disagree with that decision?
Senator KENNEDY. Well, in view of Khrushchev's statements last week that he did not want to meet with the President unless the President gave an apology for the U-2 flight, in view of his very harsh intransigent statements at the United Nations during the past 3 weeks, I think the President showed good judgment. There is no sense having a meeting unless there is an atmosphere before the meeting which leads you to hope that there will be some success.
On the issues on which we are divided with the Soviet Union, disarmament and Berlin, which are the two chief ones at the present time, there is no indication that there is a common meeting ground. Therefore, just to meet, just to sit down, just to spend an hour, unless there is some basis for hope, particularly as Khrushchev is being extremely belligerent now, I thought the President showed good judgment.
QUESTION. Some Democrats have been critical of the decision of the State Department to restrict Khrushchev to Manhattan. Do you think these travel restrictions were wise or necessary?
Senator KENNEDY. That was really a decision for them and I never quarreled with it.
QUESTION. You have never made any statement on that?
Senator KENNEDY. No. I never disagreed with it. It was on the basis of security. I don't think we should harass visitors, but in view of the judgment of the State Department that it involved security for Mr. Khrushchev as well as harmony between the nations, because they did not want anything to happen to Mr. Khrushchev or Mr. Castro, I never quarreled with their decision.
QUESTION. Senator, did you ever actually say that we should apologize?
Senator KENNEDY. No; I never recommended that we apologize. I thought that what we should have done, rather than the lie we told, I thought it would have been proper for us to express regrets that a plane of ours landed on Soviet territory, because as Mr. Lodge said on "Meet the Press" the other day, technically we were in the wrong from the point of view of international law, and if there was any value to the summit conference, then it would have been of some advantage with a word to try to keep it going.
QUESTION. The Republicans keep saying that you said he should apologize. That is not so?
Senator KENNEDY. No; that has never been so, and I would hope that you as a good newspaperman would ask me to produce evidence of that, because my remarks were fully recorded and fully reported. There is a good deal of difference between the words "apologize" and "regret." Apologize expresses some feeling of morally in the wrong. We apologized, I believe, to Mr. Castro, or at least expressed regrets, when a plane, a private plane, landed in Cuba, as you remember, this last winter. The Soviet Union expressed regrets to us during the Barents Sea incident before the last summit conference. That is an acceptable procedure between nations, and if anyone thought that the summit was worth while, and quite obviously the President did because a great effort was made to develop the summit, then it would have been, I thought, more advantageous to us, more advantageous to peace, if there had been merely an expression of regret rather than saying a lie.
QUESTION. What is your feeling about President Eisenhower's proposal that we make more use of the United Nations to aid under-developed nations?
Senator KENNEDY. Yes, that has been suggested by a good many people and I think it would be extremely useful. I don't overestimate how much the United Nations would be able to do in Africa, but I think that we should increase our support for it in two or three areas. One, give more support to the effort which they made to secure civil servants for the African nations and other nations. They have set up this service in recent years, and begun to develop it. The big need in Africa now are trained civil servants. The Congo has none. All the Belgians have left.
QUESTION. We have a few in our post office.
Senator KENNEDY. I think the United States would be an admirable recruiting ground. Secondly, I think they could do something on education.
QUESTION. Senator, both you and Vice President Nixon have suggested that we get rid of the surplus grain by sending it to the needy nations. But as I understand it, the State Department has always fought it on the ground that Canada and Australia and other nations are fearful that it will destroy the market, the international price market, for grain.
Senator KENNEDY. That is correct. That has been an argument against Public Law 480. We have done a good deal with Public Law 480 and the so-called food-for-peace program. My own judgment is that within the normal, within the limitations which you suggest, of Canada, the Argentine, Australia and so on, I think we can pursue the program more vigorously.
QUESTION. Do you think you can send more grain abroad, then, if you are elected President, than we have been sending?
Senator KENNEDY. I do. I think we can make more effective use of it. With countries like India and other countries which have great needs for capital, which have great food shortages, I think we can make more effective use of our food. In addition, I would hope that any future agricultural program would provide reasonable controls over production so that there can be some balance between supply and demand. It is pretty hard to distribute effectively the kind of surpluses we are now building up in corn and wheat and will build up this year under this program. I don't think you can possibly control your surpluses and possibly provide a decent income for our farmers, until you have effective controls over production.
QUESTION. Senator, do you think that either your program or the program of Vice President Nixon is very specific on agriculture?
Senator KENNEDY. I think they are both specific. I understand what they are both getting at. Mr. Nixon's program, as you know, provides that there shall be the support - that the support price shall be the average market price for the 3 preceding years, 90 percent of it. As that market price drops, and it is steadily dropping - corn is selling for 85 or 88 cents, depending on what region you are in that is the market price, and, therefore, the support price would be tied to that, 90 percent of that, and next year, if the market price goes lower, the support price again will be hitched to the market price, so that where in 1952 you had $1.50-corn, now you have 85- or 88- or 90-cent corn. You are going to find the market price and the support price under Mr. Nixon's program steadily dropping, and you do not have under Mr. Nixon's program effective controls over production. Under our program we do have effective controls over production. We hope to bring supply and demand into reasonable balance and then work for a parity income which is tied, the income of the farmer, to the same income he would receive in other industries with a comparable use of his resources and managerial skill. I think there is a very distinct difference between the programs. Mr. Nixon's program is a continuation of Mr. Benson's, and ours would go in a different direction.
QUESTION. What would be the effect of your strict production controls on the consumer food prices?
Senator KENNEDY. I think - you have to realize the amount of income that a farmer gets out of the food dollar is extremely limited. In the case of bread, it is 3 cents out of a 25- or 26-cent loaf. In the case of eggs, it is extremely limited, and in the case of milk, which is as high as it is in any item, it is 6 cents out of a 25- or 26-cent quart of milk. So that the actual return to the farmers is very marginal. The amount of cotton there is in this shirt, the amount of income that the farmer got---
QUESTION. What you are saying is that it would not have an appreciable effect.
Senator KENNEDY. Even if you take in the case of wheat, and you said the farmers' income is going to increase 25 or 26 percent, if it is 3 cents, it still is only 1 penny, and I don't think anyone hopes or feels that they can possibly maintain food prices if you are going to have the farmer being liquidated at the rate he is now. You are going to have large corporation farms. Food will be more expensive that way and less desirable that way.
QUESTION. You have talked about economic growth. Why should I or the average Hoosier care about that? Is it important
Senator KENNEDY. I think it is the great problem for the next President, that and the decline in farm income. In order to maintain full employment in the 1960's, which, after all, must be the object for all of us, we are going to have to have an economic growth twice what we had last year, about 4.5 percent per year instead of 2.4 percent. We have to secure 25,000 new jobs a week for the next 10 years in order to provide jobs for all of the people coming into the labor market. That is a terribly difficult task at a time when automation and new machinery has taken the jobs of men. And at the present rate of economic growth or productivity increase, we are not going to have those jobs or people. We now have 4 million out of work. You have 3 million on part time. You will have a million and a half people coming on the labor market next summer. I think it is the big problem that will face the President of the United States domestically. There is no easy answer to it. But I do think that the economic, monetary, and fiscal policies of the administration have helped limit growth.
QUESTION. I wonder if we can come back to the farm problem for one question. Your program calls for some agency or something to determine what is a fair return for a fanner in terms of his labor. Who is going to do this?
Senator KENNEDY. I think the Department of Agriculture. I don't think that that is impossible at all to compute, statistically. I think you could make a reasonably good judgment as to the amount of capital investment, the amount of labor, managerial skill, a farmer puts into the production of his pound or bushel of his commodity as to what he would receive in a comparable nonagricultural industry.
QUESTION. What I was wondering is, couldn't this same type of thing be extended to other segments of the economy, say the ma and pa grocery operator or the gasoline station man or the newspaper reporter?
Senator KENNEDY. They don't have the same problem that the farmer has in regulating their production. You can close down. A steel company closed down and is now Operating at 54 percent of capacity. Their profit margin remains the same. They can go up next week to 90 percent of capacity. But a farmer has a very difficult time making that kind of control over his production, if he plants in the spring and harvests in the fall. In addition, may I just say that if the farmer continues to decline in income, you are not going to have any ma and pa, because, after all, most of them depend pretty much, in small towns, finally on the farmer.
QUESTION. Will this tend to keep the marginal farmer on the land, the farmer who is doing a poor job of farming?
Senator KENNEDY. If he is doing a poor job of farming, then I think sooner or later - I am sure that most of the people that you would refer to have jobs now in towns or cities. If he is doing a poor job of farming, his future is not going to be particularly bright under any program. There is not much that you can do for anyone who is poor at his work.
QUESTION. This would not guarantee an income for him, then?
Senator KENNEDY. It does not guarantee a farmer that is unable to farm that he would be maintained on the farm, but it, does guarantee that those who are within the economic, the viable, that they can be continued.
QUESTION. Senator, isn't there a depression on now?
Senator KENNEDY. No; I would not say that, but I would say that there is certainly a plateau of economic activity which could be serious in the winter of 1961, but I would not use that term as yet, because I don't think we know enough where we are going. But. I would say that the prospects for the winter of 1961 - this could be a serious time unless we get an upturn.
QUESTION. I would like to ask that question of Senator Welsh, as pertains to Indiana. What do you think is the economic picture in the State and in the immediate future?
Mr. WELSH. Well, in northern Indiana, around the steel mill area, of course, there is economic distress, because the steel mills are operating at 50 or 55 percent of capacity. In the rural areas, generally speaking, I think we have had a good crop year. However, in some parts of the State the crops are not good because of drought. In most of the cities of the State, I would say there is a good bit of concern about employment, about business. A general air of uneasiness would be the way I would characterize it.
QUESTION. Is that usually - does that mean Democratic votes in the fall, do you think?
Mr. WELSH. If there is anything to the old political axiom that people vote against, I would say yes. Certainly, many people are dissatisfied with present conditions, many people are.
QUESTION. Senator, is the heavy registration because of the AFL-CIO, or some other factor?
Mr. WELSH. It is general. It is general. In Republican, normally Republican counties, where the voting population is overwhelmingly small town and rural, not industrial, the percentage increase in registration is equally as great as it is in the industrial areas. This is an election when the people have made up their minds they are going to go to the polls, and we are going to see a tremendous vote this fall.
QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, I wonder - Senator Matt Welsh mentioned difficulties in the steel mills and there are those who maintain this is partly a result of imports of foreign steel. I wonder how the Democratic national platform planks seem to be for sort of free trade how that will affect the steel industry in the next 4 years if you are in the White House.
Senator KENNEDY. Actually, as far as trade, we have a favorable balance of trade. In the last 12 months we are selling abroad more than we are importing, and that is true of steel as well as other products. One of the reasons of course, I am frank to say, is because the German and Belgian mills are overordered and it takes a longer time to get orders than it does from the United States. But at least for the present now we are selling abroad in steel as well as other commodities more than we are importing. But I do think it is a matter that we should concern ourselves with. The unfavorable deficit is due to the fact that we are paying troops abroad to maintain bases, giving foreign aid. That is what is hurting. The balance of trade this year is all right.
QUESTION. What would you do to give the hypo to the general picture?
Senator KENNEDY. On the steel mills?
Senator KENNEDY. I think that is affected by the general state of the economy. As the economy slowed down, we had a recession in 1954. We had a recession in 1958, and now it is 1960, 2 years later, and we are moving into a difficult economic period, and of course steel feels it first.
* * * * * * * * * * I would think that those programs such as schools, hospitals and so on, I think can stimulate the steel industry. Secondly, the housing industry is not building as much as it should in view of the increase in our population. That has partially been affected by the administration's failure to support good, progressive housing legislation, add also by the high-interest-rate policy. If you had housing moving ahead, I think you would also assist the steel industry.
QUESTION. Would you, for example, support a move to lower the FHA interest rate on older houses to the point where it is close to new houses?
Senator KENNEDY. Do you mean for repairs?
QUESTION. No, for purchase. For example, as I understand it, if you are going to buy a $20,000 house, if it is new, you can buy it with $2,000 down, but if it is an old house, it would take maybe $7,000 down.
Senator KENNEDY. I would certainly attempt to liberalize credit in 1960 in the housing field. We are building 200,000 houses less than we should be for the increase in our population. There are 15 million American homes which are substandard. Therefore, I would hope that we would do everything we could to stimulate particularly new housing. That is where we want to go, to replace this old housing.
QUESTION. Senator, some Republicans have charged here in Indiana that during the postconvention session of Congress you scuttled the passage of a $1.15 minimum wage bill for political motives. I just wonder what were your motives.
Senator KENNEDY. In the first place, it is inadequate. I supported $1.25 which passed the Senate. Mr. Nixon considers that too extreme. We went to the House Conference and when we were unable to get $1.25, which I don't think is extreme - that is $50 a week, and that is not this year; that is 1962. This $1.25 would be paid, for those not now covered by the minimum wage. Those who work in retails and restaurants and laundries, they would have gotten it by 1964. Mr. Nixon considers that too extreme. I think that is a very clear difference in our perspective on social legislation. But when we were unable to get the $1.25, we offered $1.15, the Eisenhower program, with 3 million new coverage, and we could not persuade the Republicans from the House or Senator Goldwater and Senator Dirksen to accept the $1.15.
QUESTION. Did that ever come out of conference?
Senator KENNEDY. It never came out of conference because we could not get the votes for $1.15 for 3 million new coverage. I think we should have taken $1.25. I would have taken $1.15. The question was whether we would get new coverage. In other words, would we cover people working in the retail stores? If a retail store makes more than a million dollars, in my judgment they should pay more than $1.25. And they certainly should pay $1.15. The Republicans opposed that on this occasion as they did the minimum wage of 25 cents in 1925, as they do medical care for the aged. These issues are very sharp. I think the people of Indiana should make a judgment if that is the kind of administration they want in the sixties, that considers $50 a week extreme, that they consider medical care for the aged tied to social security as extreme, considers aid to education as extreme.
QUESTION. Wouldn't your program cost a great deal more money?
Senator KENNEDY. Minimum wage would not cost anything. The average wage for laundry women in five cities in the United States is 65 cents an hour for a 48-hour week. Can you tell me anything more wasteful than that? So the minimum wage does not cost anything.
Medical care for the aged is financed under social security. Far more wasteful is the bill which was finally passed which would cost $2 billion a year, $1 billion by the Federal Government out of the Treasury, and $1 billion by the States, and before anybody gets any assistance they have to take a pauper's oath before they can get any assistance, if they are over 65.
The program we put forward would have been financed under social security and everyone under social security would have contributed to it, and when they retired, would have received assistance, which is far more responsible than the program that was finally passed.
QUESTION. What would be the average contribution under the social security tax under your program?
Senator KENNEDY. As I recall, it was a half a percent.
QUESTION. That would be for the employee?
Senator KENNEDY. The employer and the employee would both contribute to the program. That, in my opinion, is the way we should finance these kinds of programs. Ours was fiscally far sounder. We wanted to put it under social security. Governor Rockefeller supported the same proposal. Social security has worked for 25 years. Before anybody who is 65 and over, or women over 62, can get any medical assistance under the present law, they have to spend all their savings and take an oath that they are indigent. I think that is the Republican policy on all these programs.
QUESTION. I don't mean to argue that yours is or is not expensive or too expensive, but I would like to know how much it would add to the Federal budget.
Senator KENNEDY. It would not have added at all.
QUESTION. I don't mean just medical care. I mean your overall programs, Federal aid to education and medical care.
Senator KENNEDY. Federal aid to education, the bill that finally came up, I think, was $400 million a year. The farm program will be, I hope, far more economical than the present administration program, the most expensive program. They have spent more in the last 3 years under the administration's program than 20 years preceding. Mr. Benson has spent more money than all the Secretaries of Agriculture in the history of the United States since the Department was founded. So I cannot think of anything more wasteful than their agricultural program. I cannot think of anything more wasteful than their high-interest-rate policy. That costs the taxpayer $3 billion a year on interest on the debt more than he was paying 10 years ago on interest on the debt. Every year it is added on. He has to pay $3 billion more in taxes, just to maintain the interest on the debt. We have spent $42 billion in the Defense Department and General Medaris and others have indicated that we have not gotten a missile program, we have not gotten conventional forces which should be as strong as they should be. My judgment is that the next budget, unless there is a national emergency, or unless you have a recession where there is a drop in tax revenue, I think the next budget should be balanced. I believe in a balanced budget. I believe in trying to get the best we can get for each dollar. But I can think of nothing more wasteful than these programs that I have described.
QUESTION. Senator, the Republicans have charged that it is the Democrats who bring up the religious issue. I was with Lyndon Johnson a week ago tonight. He spent quite a period in Columbia, Ind., talking about the religious issue, and he said he was concerned, that he did not think he would ever see the day when there would be politics in the pulpit. The next day I met one of your leading Democrats in Indiana, and he said he talked Lyndon Johnson into bringing that up.
Senator KENNEDY. Mr. Caddow, I have not mentioned the religious issue since I have been nominated unless I have been asked a question about it.
QUESTION. That is what I thought.
Senator KENNEDY. I do not plan to.
QUESTION. What about your speech in Salt Lake City?
Senator KENNEDY. I didn't talk about mine. I talked about the contribution which a good many people have made, the Mormons on that occasion. I never discussed my problem, or a person of my faith, nor did I in that speech.
QUESTION. I think this implication was clear, that you were talking about a member of a group that was a minority group.
Senator KENNEDY. Is that improper?
QUESTION. I just wondered. To me it seemed as though you were bringing up the religious issue.
Senator KENNEDY. I talked about the contribution of the Mormon Church and how they demonstrated in spite of great difficulties their support of the Constitution. Every poll shows that 25 or 28 or 30 percent of the people are very concerned about it. My experience in Houston shows it is a matter of the greatest concern. I am delighted to answer any questions about it. What I hope is that the serious issues which face the United States will be such that people will make their judgment based on that, not on my religion. I have answered every question that I could be asked. I am delighted to answer any more. There is nothing improper about discussing it. After all, I am running for the Presidency, and I should talk about anything that is of concern. Evidently it is of great concern in many States. I wish we could do away with it. If there is anything I can say on it, I would be delighted to say it.
QUESTION. May I get back to one of the serious issues? Senator Kennedy, you and also Senator Johnson, when he was here recently, have expressed concern about the fact that there is a Communist-led dictatorship 90 miles offshore. If you were President, what would you do about Castro, or what would you have done?
Senator KENNEDY. I can think of nothing that has demonstrated this administration's refusal to face up to issues than permitting Mr. Castro to operate and seize power as he did 3 years ago. Now Mr. Castro is in control. Now the only way that-- nobody suggests that we launch an invasion of Cuba, so you are faced with the situation where he is now in office, now in control. In 1957 he was not in control. Why was he permitted to seize control? Why was the judgment made of Mr. Castro that he represented a force for liberal democracy in Cuba? I think that is a proper question. I think it is a proper question to ask how they could have permitted Mr. Castro to seize power. You say, What can we do about Chinese Communists? We cannot do anything today, but everyone wonders why they were permitted to seize power.
QUESTION. What can we do about Castro?
Senator KENNEDY. I think the following things. First, I think we should be extremely vigorous in our programs through Latin America. We have two problems: one through Cuba, itself, and the other through the rest of Latin America. That will be the big fight in the sixties, whether Castroism or communism will spread through other countries. This administration has ignored Latin America.
* * * * * * * * * * Latin America has been almost forgotten. It was not until we had difficulty with Cuba and we wanted the OAS endorsement of our policy toward Cuba that we began to give them economic assistance.
ANNOUNCER. That ends the program, Senator.
John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy, Telecast, Wttv, Indianapolis, IN Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/274307