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Remarks on the NBC Radio Network: "Bridges to Human Dignity, The Programs"

May 02, 1968

In a radio address last week, I stated this conviction: that the economic crisis confronting America today is so acute that it rules out a massive transfusion now of additional Federal funds into the nation's cities. Rather than spending more, the Federal budget must be cut by some $8 billion if the fiscal crisis is to be averted and the dollar itself preserved.

But I also stated that a lack of available Federal funds ought not to stifle our ingenuity. I spoke of bridges that can and should be built between the developed and the under-developed parts of our society — between rich and poor, white and black — human bridges, economic bridges, bridges of understanding and of help.

Tonight I would like to describe some of those bridges.

These programs represent a beginning; they illustrate the new direction that our efforts to reconcile the races and to rescue the poor ought to be taking.

They will not by themselves eliminate poverty now or even in the next decade. They will not guarantee complete racial harmony. But they will point the way toward our becoming at last one nation and one people. For they aim at breaking the dismal cycles of despair and dependency, which have created a welfare class catered to by a welfare bureaucracy. And the point about them is that they are all things which can be done now — which do not require the massive spending which can be neither realistically promised nor responsibly delivered.

The old approach was custodial: to care for the poor with Federal doles, Federal housing, Federal make-work jobs. The new approach is remedial: to involve the poor in the rebuilding of their own communities, and in the fostering of self-reliance and self-respect.

The first need is to replace dependence with independence.

This means laying the economic stepping-stones of meaningful and productive jobs securely in place. Beyond this, it also means encouraging black pride through the vigorous development of black management and of black capital ownership, and thus helping remove the ceiling from black aspiration.

The possible answers to our nation's problems are infinite in number — the product of the ingenuity of the American people multiplied by their commitment of the cause of justice. But here are some of the things — specific, practical things — that can be done now to get private enterprise into the ghetto, and the people of the ghetto into private enterprise.

Core City Credits — Rural Development

Tax incentives — whether direct credits, accelerated depreciation or a combination of the two —■ should be provided to those businesses that locate branch offices or new plants in poverty areas, whether in the core cities or in rural America.

Free enterprise goes where the profits are. Tax incentives can place these profits where the people are, and where the need is.

I include rural America in this incentive program for two reasons.

The first is need. We don't see rural America exploding on television, but these harsh realities cannot be overlooked: more than half the Americans living below the poverty line live in rural America. Unemployment on the farm is twice what it is in the city. More than half the nation's inadequate housing is in rural areas.

The second reason is, quite simply, that many of the cities' problems are rooted in rural decay. As workers are forced off the farms, they crowd into the cities — often as unprepared for city life as they are for city jobs. To the extent that new jobs can be opened in rural America, to that extent will the pressure be lessened on the cities.

New Capital

If our urban ghettos are to be rebuilt from within, one of the first requirements is the development of black-owned and black-run businesses. The need is more than economic. Black ownership — of homes, of land, and especially of productive enterprise — is both symbol and evidence of opportunity, and this is central to the spirit of independence on which orderly progress rests.

Establishing new businesses requires both capital and know-how.

Too often, the normal sources of capital are unavailable for ghetto enterprises. The risks are considered too high.

As the President's Riot Commission has recommended, the Small Business Administration's loan program should be substantially expanded in these areas.

Beyond this, additional loan guarantee programs can be combined with active efforts to enlist traditional lending institutions in ghetto development.

Reinsurance programs cost little to establish, and these can reduce the risk of investment in poverty areas.

Dr. Andrew Brimmer, a Governor of the Federal Reserve Board, has urged a greater use of correspondent relationships between large, white- controlled lending institutions and smaller, black-controlled ones, which again would increase the capital available for ghetto business loans.

Churches, unions, and corporations doing substantial business in poverty areas, might choose to keep some of their cash deposits in banks that serve those communities.

Federal and state banking authorities might join with private banking institutions to provide technical and capital assistance for the establishment of more new, black-controlled banks.

Senator Javits has proposed creation of a Domestic Development Bank, roughly comparable in concept to the World Bank. This would make loans and guarantees for businesses that either are located in poverty areas or draw most of their employees from poverty areas, with preference given to those enterprises that are locally-owned or that allow residents of the area to participate in ownership.

New Enterprises

A New Enterprise program should be established to serve the Negro in the central city, helping black employees to become employers.

Under such a program, successful businessmen and business school teachers could provide training in the techniques of business management. If such a program were organized, surely enough could be found who would volunteer their time — and, as an extra inducement, I would suggest an individual tax deduction equivalent to the rate of pay of an instructor in a business school for the time individually put in, and corporate tax deductions for those companies that loan their executives.

Human Investment

Next, I urge immediate enactment by Congress of the Republican-sponsored Human Investment Act, providing tax incentives to corporations which hire and train the unskilled and upgrade the skills of those at the bottom of the employment ladder.

A few years ago, American industry was given a seven per cent tax credit for the modernization of equipment. The credits were widely used. Productivity increased, and the entire economy benefited. A similar tax credit for increasing the productivity of people is overdue, and along with it should go a vigorous effort— led by the President — to persuade industry to utilize it to the fullest. Workers, business and the nation would benefit.

Critics have questioned such tax-credit proposals on the ground that each dollar of tax credit increases the budget deficit by as much as a dollar of new spending.

But in this case, it wouldn't work that way. In the first place, those put on payrolls will be taken off welfare rolls or unemployment — compensation rolls; and in the second place, as industry is moved into the job-training field, government can be moved out of it.

The Job Corps, for example, has proved a costly failure. It costs some $10,000 a year to train a Job Corpsman for a job that often turns out not to exist. Under the Human Investment Act, industry itself — which creates the jobs — would be training men at far less cost for jobs that did exist.

Computer Job Bank

Part of the unemployment problem is simply a matter of getting the man and the job together.

Last month, while the Department of Labor reported that three million American men and women were looking for jobs, classified pages all across the nation were thick with "Help Wanted" ads.

This is an area in which modern technology can serve human needs. If computers can match boys and girls for college dates, they can match job-seeking men with man-seeking jobs.

Thus I have recommended the creation — immediately — of a National Computer Job Bank.

Under this plan, computers would be located in areas of high unemployment, both urban and rural. These would be programmed with data on available jobs and job training programs — locally, statewide and nationwide. A jobless man could tell the computer operator his employment background, his skills, his job needs — and in minutes he could learn where to find the work or the training he seeks.

These economic programs all are simple in concept and modest in cost. They lack the drama of a $2 billion or a $20 billion pricetag. But they are aimed at enlisting the real engines of American progress — individual initiative, private capital, voluntary services; the dynamic four-fifths of our economy not accounted for by government.

Now let us turn to education.

When it comes time for budget-cutting, this is one area that must not be shortchanged. Doing so would shortchange the future of our children, and the future of the nation.

The Federal government has an immensely important role to play in advancing education, as do the states and the local communities.

But there also is a great deal the people can do.

Student-Teacher Corps

Young Americans have shown their idealism and their dedication in the Peace Corps and in VISTA. To these now should be added a National Student Teacher Corps of high school and college students; carefully selected, paid volunteers who would work at the tutoring of core-city children. What they might lack in formal teaching skills, they could make up in the personal bonds of friendship and respect.

A comparable program already is at work in New York City where Homework Helpers — supervised high school seniors — are tutoring fourth- to-sixth grade students. Both helper and pupil have benefited. The Riot Commission has commended the program — and it represents the kind of helping hand needed across the nation.

Extended Training

Compensatory education is the first step toward bringing quality education to slum schools. Without it, the children of poverty will never catch up with the children of abundance.

I recommend inauguration of Extended Training Programs in core-city schools, in which classes in basic language and communication skills would be made available after regular school hours and during the summer months. For those willing to take advantage of them, these programs would provide an essential and often missing foundation for further learning.

Teacher-Veterans

One of the key needs in the ghetto is for more black teachers and administrators, highly trained, highly motivated. As Floyd McKissick put it a few months ago, "We need a black authority figure . . . with whom our children might be able to identify and to whose position they might aspire."

Among the nation's greatest underutilized assets are the returning Negro veterans of Vietnam. These include thousands of officers and noncommissioned officers, trained and proven in leadership. Many of these would be superbly qualified for training as teachers.

The universities and schools for teacher training should intensify their recruitment among these veterans. For its part, the Department of Defense should set up a special information program to make Vietnam veterans, black and white alike, aware of the opportunities and rewards of teaching.

The black soldier has written a proud record in Vietnam — and that pride is needed in the ghetto schools.

Home Ownership

People who own their own homes don't burn their neighborhoods; rather, in pride and self-interest, they turn to fixing up their communities and making them livable for themselves and their neighbors.

Exciting new trails are being blazed toward more widespread home ownership.

Senator Percy's National Home Ownership Foundation plan, for example, would provide a private sector device for channeling mortgage capital into the slums and for enabling the poor to own their own homes — and it would do so at only a minute fraction of the cost of packing them into public housing.

Flanner House, a private self-help organization in Indianapolis, has shown dramatically that "sweat equity" can be made to work as a means of getting the poor into their own homes; some 400 families there have built their own homes from scratch. The example should be widely copied.

The FHA is largely limited today to "safe" mortgages. It should be turned in the direction of taking greater mortgage risks, so that it can function effectively in slum areas where now it does little.

I have tried tonight to set forth a few example of low-cost steps that could be taken now to attack the problems of slum housing, rather than spending hundreds of millions to clear more slum acres, to displace more families, and to build more public housing.

The basic principle here is the same as in the job programs I outlined: imaginative enlistment of the private and the independent sectors, encouragement of private ownership, development of the pride that can only come from independence.

Significantly, some of the nation's outstanding Negro leaders have shown the way. Men like Dr. Leon Sullivan in Philadelphia and Dr. Thomas Matthew in New York have established private programs which have opened doors of opportunity to thousands of Negroes who might never have benefited from a government program.

The old way — the government way — will no longer do. The old way is still the conditioned reflex of those whose policy approaches are rooted in the 30's — the old way of massive spending piled on massive spending, and of looking to Washington to solve the problem of Watts.

The old ways have failed, because the Crisis of the Old Order is not the crisis of today. In the ruins of downtown Washington, of Detroit and Watts and Newark, lie the ruins of a philosophy of government that has outlived its origins and no longer speaks to its time.

It's time now for a new way, which yet is the oldest way of all — the way that begins with people, marshaling their own energies, moved by their own will, pursuing their own dreams.

The people are responding — individuals, voluntary organizations, businesses, universities.

People are asking what they can do. Businesses are looking for ways to enlist.

Our legislative goal should be the maximum mobilization of this will and these resources, with government's primary role not to do the job by itself, but to assist in getting it done.

Through this creative interaction of public and private, of government and people, the poor can finally receive what law alone cannot provide — the hope, the help, the fellowship of human dignity, which stem from that greatness of heart that lies at the heart of America's greatness.

APP NOTE: From section two of the volume "Nixon Speaks Out" titled, "To Make Our People One".

Richard Nixon, Remarks on the NBC Radio Network: "Bridges to Human Dignity, The Programs" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/326764

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