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Remarks at the Swearing In of Merton J. Peck as a Member, Council of Economic Advisers, and Upon Designating Arthur M. Okun as Chairman

February 15, 1968

Dr. and Mrs. Peck and family, Mr. and Mrs. Okun and family, Secretary Wirtz, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

I want to welcome all of you to this ceremony this morning.

I stand here with one eye wet and one eye dry. Gardner Ackley's departure saddens me. I would hope that he feels the same way.

When Gardner took the CEA chairmanship more than 3 years ago, the economy was already setting peacetime records. He has kept the curve climbing, turning a youthful boom into a mature and solid 8-year expansion.

Of all the good advice Chairman Ackley has given to me throughout the years, I was happiest to accept one of his fine recommendations to appoint Art Okun as his successor.

Art brings many special talents to this new job. His forecasts are so amazingly accurate that one newspaper once called him the administration's secret weapon.

Far away from the limelight, he has been invaluable to international monetary policy--to the Treasury Department in developing the Rio Accord--to drafting the new system of Special Drawing Rights. And I am relying heavily on Chairman Okun and the Council to help us move this Nation and all nations towards swift acceptance of these new monetary arrangements.

To fill the Council vacancy, we have Merton Joseph Peck from Yale University.

I am delighted that he joins Jim Duesenberry and Art Okun at this particular time. One of our most urgent concerns in the Nation now is price stability. We have recently created a Cabinet committee to concentrate heavily on this problem. Dr. Peck is an expert on markets. He will bring special insights to price and wage problems arising from structural imperfections in labor markets, product markets, and markets for services.

Looking around us as we meet here this morning, we see more and more evidence of our economic strength. The January unemployment rate, we are pleased to say, was the lowest in more than 14 years. Corporate profits for the last quarter of 1967 were pointing upward again--to new records.

But we cannot rejoice without recognizing the dangers posed by price and cost increases. To preserve our record-breaking prosperity, we must combine it with a return to price stability.

As we have long emphasized, the first order of business is the prompt enactment by the Congress of the penny on the dollar tax increase that we will need to pay for part of our extraordinary defense costs.

Second, we need full cooperation and restraint from business and labor in their price and wage decisions. Excessive wage and excessive price increases can weaken the dollar. They cannot win lasting gains for any group. The short-run sacrifices that we ask promise long-term benefits to all of us.

Third, we must work through the new Cabinet committee for structural improvements in every market--for greater efficiency, greater productivity, and greater incentives for cost-reduction and price competition.

I will continue to look to the Council of Economic Advisers for advice on guarding our prosperity against inflation.

I was talking to someone last night and he was outlining for me the progress that our country has made throughout the years. He said, "Mr. President, there are two things that a leader must never take his mind off of in our political system. You will have many messages and many bills, but two simple rules, I suggest."

I said, "Tell me what they are"--because he was a man of wisdom and experience and nonpartisanship.

He said, "The first one is the buck-that dollar--it must be sound. It must be stable and people must have some of them. The next one is--you don't have to be told that one, but I want to remind you every day--the ballot. Because through the ballot people can gain the rewards they think they are entitled to. They can bring about the reforms that are essential. They can turn into motion the revolutions that are inside of all of us and they can bring them to reality and bring them to reality constitutionally and appropriately, and as we human beings should. We don't have to act like animals to get our revolutions and reforms translated into action. That comes through the ballot."

So, if my economic advisers are not trained counselors on the ballot, they are on the buck and that seems to be a major portion of a President's problem. I am going to continue to look to them to guard our prosperity against inflation. They will have the help of the President and I hope they will have the help of the Cabinet and the Congress and the business and labor communities.

The Council today enjoys a worldwide reputation, I think, a reputation of three wise men who have been responsible and are responsible in the future for guiding the American economic miracle.

We expect great things from you, Dr. Peck. I am happy to welcome you officially into the world's smallest, but the world's most vital fraternity.

Gardner, you are on sabbatical leave, but we will expect you to carry on your good work across the ocean.

Note: The President spoke at 1:15 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words he also referred to Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz. During his remarks he referred to James S. Duesenberry, member of the Council of Economic Advisers, and to Gardner Ackley, outgoing Chairman of the Council, whose nomination as Ambassador to Italy was announced by the President on January 1 (see Item 1 ).

Establishment of the Cabinet Committee on Price Stability was announced by the President in his message to the Congress transmitting the Economic Report (see Item 47). For his memorandums to the appointees and to department and agency heads directing their cooperation with the Council, see Items 89, 90.

The tax increase referred to by the President was enacted as the Revenue and Expenditure Control Act of 1968. For his statement upon signing the measure, see Item 343.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Swearing In of Merton J. Peck as a Member, Council of Economic Advisers, and Upon Designating Arthur M. Okun as Chairman Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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