Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing Bill Establishing the National Commission on Product Safety

November 20, 1967

Secretary Trowbridge, distinguished Members of the Senate and the House, ladies and gentlemen:

We have come here this morning to sign a bill that will help everyone in this room and, I think, everyone in our country. This is a bill not just for the rich, not just for the poor, but for all 200 million Americans.

We just counted the 200 millionth over at Secretary Trowbridge's department a few moments ago.

Actually, some time ago I appointed a commission to try to discover when that 200 millionth child was born and from the report that appears to have been leaked, he was born on June 21st in Seaton Hospital in Austin, Texas.

As those of you who are here this morning know, technology has brought us many blessings in this country. But many of them are booby-trapped. Far too many of them cause us great tragedy and present great hazards to us in this 20th century.

The homes that we live in can really be more dangerous than a booby-trapped mine field in the battle area.

One hundred and twenty-five thousand Americans are injured by faulty heating devices each year. Many of these victims of the faulty heating devices are the very young who cannot protect themselves, and the very old who are sometimes helpless.

I just wonder about the marvels of this age when I recognize that 94 percent of our people have TV's, and I see how many are occasionally injured on the highway, and I see how many are occasionally wounded on the battlefield--although they didn't even stop to be hospitalized--that is presented to us on the screen.

I wonder if it wouldn't be good to remind ourselves of the 125,000 each year who are injured by faulty heating devices; or

--the 100,000 who are hurt and maimed each year by faulty power mowers or faulty washing machines; or

--the 100,000 each year, mostly little children, who have their limbs crushed by the automatic clothes wringers; or

--the 40,000 each year who are gashed when they fall through a glass door; or

--the 30,000 who are shocked and burned by defective wall sockets and extension cords.

--And there are just so many other dozens of thousands that we don't know anything about because they either didn't know what did it or it wasn't reported.

So this summarizes the fact that we live each day and each hour surrounded by a great many hazards that we know nothing about. The most innocent product can sometimes bring great injury. The electric knife, for instance, that is going to carve our Thanksgiving turkey could injure a member of our family this Thanksgiving. The Christmas tree could flame and kill a whole family.

This adds up to saying that we have lived too dangerously too long. So we have come here this morning to try to accentuate and stress that we are going to put safety first.

We have acted to stop tragedy before that tragedy strikes. We are establishing a National Commission on Product Safety. That is the first commission of this type to ever be established in this country.

This Commission his primarily three vital jobs to do:

--First, to tell us which products are dangerous so we will know how to be on guard and how to protect ourselves.

--Second, to tell us how good our present laws are--if they are good, or how bad they are--Federal, State, and local laws.

--Third, to tell us what steps we should and what steps we must take to protect our children and our families from the hazards that occur in the home.

I want this Commission to come up and make recommendations that are solid, that are solutions. I don't want just another statistical study group.

I want it to act in the national interest in the name of American consumers--in the name of American business, because business is threatened, too, by the hazard of unfair competition from unsafe products.

Now, this happens to be the first major consumer law that I have signed this year. I don't want to blame anybody--and I am not going to call anybody's name--but it ought to be the 12th consumer law. I hope that in due time we will be signing all 12 of them.

We have been here almost 12 months. We have observed all of our holidays. We worked hard on a lot of other legislation. But this is the first major consumer law that the Congress has passed this year, and that the President has signed. We need many others. And we need them now. We ought to have had them already.

We need the strongest possible meat inspection bill. Nobody in this country ought to ever take a chance on eating filthy meat from filthy packinghouses--it doesn't make any difference how powerful the meat lobby is.

We need legislation to insure pipeline safety for people living in the areas where natural gas pipelines run. We don't want gas-filled pipes bursting in our homes and our streets, causing a major tragedy, before we wake up and pass a law that will protect us from that.

Now, I know it is natural that the gas pipelines have some reservations in that field. But they will be the first ones begging after a terrible tragedy explodes upon them. So we ought to take the time now and pass that kind of legislation.

We need a truth-in-lending bill. It passed the Senate some time ago. Interest rates are going up every day. They will be going up more as a result of the financial crisis that has come about through the devaluation of the pound.

Although the Senate acted, and acted promptly, that legislation is still in committee. It ought to be reported and ought to be passed, because people in this country are paying usurious rates of interest, and the poor people pay the highest rates, usually. The poorer you are, the higher your money costs are.

We need to protect our families against fabrics that flame--burst into flames--without any warning--and without the family having any knowledge.

We need to crack down on the con man, the gyp who preys on the aged and who preys on the defenseless. Some of our parents save up all of their lives to buy a little home for retirement. Then some swindler comes along and gets hold of them. They wind up in a useless swamp with a piece of no-good land, or they wind up in a worthless shack.

We are producing the best social security bills that this Nation has ever seen--the Senate is considering one now; I hope Congress passes the Senate bill; I hope it passes it today or tomorrow. I hope the conferees will get together and let no holidays or anything else come between us, so we can put that social security bill, as we recommended it and as the Senate has reported it, on the books.

There are millions of old people in this country sitting, waiting, and wondering what is going to happen. So I hope we can do this. All of these bills we need. We need them badly. I hope some time I can ask you to come back here to attend another signing ceremony. We don't raid the Treasury with any of them. Most of them cost very little and save very much. There is no field in this country that needs legislation more today than this one.

I am happy and proud that Miss Betty Furness and the women of this country are becoming aroused, and the Congress is awakening to its responsibility, and the executive branch of the Government is trying to provide some leadership to give us desirable consumer legislation.

I think the delay of this legislation is bad. But we can pass it and we ought to. It is urgent. It is a magnificent opportunity now for responsible men and women of this country to look at these various measures and try to get behind them.
The legislation costs the taxpayers practically nothing, but the blessings will bring us safety of life, safety of limb, peace of mind, peace of heart. These are possessions beyond price for every family in this land. They await our answer. We are going to be graded on how well we do the job.

In a few months or a few years our people are going to look back at our meat inspection, our truth-in-lending, our gas safety, our flammable fabrics, and all of these things that are crying now for attention. They are going to take out a check card and say, "Where were we? How did we stand? What did we do?"

We can't use the argument that they cost too much because there is very little cost involved.

It gives me great pride to say to the Congress and to say to the people who sponsored this legislation, who helped bring it about, that I welcome it this morning and I will welcome the other 12 measures just as soon as we can get them.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:37 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Secretary of Commerce Alexander B. Trowbridge.

As enacted, the bill (S.J. Res. 33) is Public Law 90-146 (81 Stat. 466).

For remarks by the President upon signing other consumer legislation, see Items 520, 539, 541. For consumer bills referred to by the President but not enacted during the first session of the 90th Congress, see note to Item 575.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing Bill Establishing the National Commission on Product Safety Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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