Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing Bills Increasing the Pay of Federal Civilian Employees and of Members of the Uniformed Services

December 16, 1967

Postmaster General O'Brien, Chairman Macy, Senator Monroney, other Members of the Post Office Committee in the Senate, Members of the House, ladies and gentlemen:

It could be that another man should be standing in for me here today. But it happens that he is a famous toymaker and this is his busy season.

He did send me a telegram that I think I should share with you. It read:

"Regret unable to join all of you. I am swamped by orders received following last night's Republican telecast. All Americans want wooden soldiers for Christmas." Signed: "Santa Claus."

I would not want my Republican friends to misinterpret this telegram. It was sent in the spirit of the season--the spirit of peace and good will.

And Senator Dirksen did receive a copy.

It was sent by special delivery reindeer.

Even if Santa Claus is not here this morning, we must proceed to our business, which, in this case, is a pleasant undertaking. Even ahead of the Christmas tree, we are going to unwrap our Christmas package.

We will shortly sign two bills which we think will greatly brighten the Christmas of our men in uniform, of our Government employees, and of our postal workers.

This year our postal system moved as much mail as all the other nations combined--80 billion items. And it is going up by the millions every year.

That is an incredible, unbelievable achievement. It is a staggering burden.

The postal service cannot handle it without modern equipment and facilities. We must be frank--they just do not have the equipment or the facilities now.

One of the bills that we sign here this morning will give them $900 million to get going--to streamline to serve Americans better.

It will cost a great deal of money, but it will come out of the right pockets. The largest costs will be borne by the largest mail users--not the small taxpayer.

The change is long overdue. It is an extra little present that we put under the family Christmas tree this year.

You men and women in the Congress are responsible for it. Your President thanks you on behalf of the people and the employees.

Our men and our women in uniform, and our citizens in Government, are also going to have something to celebrate. Today we sign the fourth civilian pay bill since I took office 4 years ago.

Looking back, we can see just how far we have come.

We can see how long the men and women of Government have waited.

There were no pay increases at all for 15 years--from 1930 through 1945. Then we did some catching up after World War II. The going was steady, but it was very slow even then.

We really hit our stride in 1964.

I have signed a civilian and postal pay increase bill every year since I became President: in 1964, in 1965, in 1966, and in 1967. And that isn't status quo.

Together, these bills have given a 15.2 percent increase to Federal workers and an 18.1 percent raise to postal workers. They have been among the proudest moments of my Presidency.

This year I am prouder still because I know that this bill takes care of 1968 and takes care of 1969 as well.

I see Senator Monroney has just come in. I want to thank him for seeing that 1968 and 1969 were taken care of. I also want to thank the other Members of Congress who provided for these particulars.

We think this bill is by far the best in guaranteeing equity and justice which we have long sought. Government employees and their families will no longer have to live on the margin.

This bill, we think, emancipates them.

It continues the long climb to equality-and we think the goal is close.

Government salaries will compare with industry's.

This will happen in three stages: October 1967, July 1968, and July 1969.

Now, this three-step increase we think is prudent. We have tried not to overburden the Federal budget. As enacted by the Congress, these new benefits will cost $1 billion in fiscal 1968 and $2 billion in fiscal 1969.

I had recommended October 1968 as the effective date for the second step of the pay raise. The Congress enacted a July date. This change will add $400 million to next year's budget costs. And I am sure that I will be criticized for missing the estimates on the budget or for having a deficit.

But we will endure that, too.

This bill will create a commission to review executive-level salaries every 4 years.

We have asked for that as extra protection.

For the first time, equity and justice now have a permanent place in the Federal pay system.

For the first time, our public servants will not have to make the choice between leaving public service or suffering great financial sacrifice.

For the first time, we have a bill that we think fairly and wisely revises the insurance coverage.

The Government now guarantees a sound, basic insurance program for its employees. It allows additional insurance to all who want to buy it at their own expense.

The new provisions are practical and just for both Government worker and for taxpayer.

The military receive equal recognition and justice.

Last April f asked the Congress to put the civilian and military pay raises into one package. I wanted a law that proclaimed full equality--a bill based on the principle that the military would move forward in step with the civilians and not bring up the rear, as they have too often been forced to do.

I thank the Congress publicly, very much again, for correcting that.

This military pay bill is the fifth in as many years. With it, basic military pay has risen by more than 40 percent since 1962. And other benefits have grown, too, for all ranks, from the sergeant to the general. And I am glad of that.

Patriotism can be its own reward and thank God we have many gallant men and women who are willing to live and die by that belief. But that is no excuse for making patriotism a penalty.

Military men and women, and their families, deserve a standard of living equal to the demands we place upon them. That is our duty to those who bear the hard duty of defending our freedoms and of guarding our peace.

With this bill, we will accept that duty proudly and gladly. So, it is a pride and gladness in which I think all Americans share.

This bill is signed for the benefit of all Americans. It strengthens all Americans, and particularly the American Government of which we are so proud.

Really, that is our people's strength--that is our Nation's greatness.

I am happy that after these many long 11 months we have finally found an area of agreement that I think promotes equity, fairness, and justice. That is somewhat of a tribute to the Founding Fathers who conceived three independent and separate branches of government.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:12 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Lawrence F. O'Brien, Postmaster General, John W. Macy, Jr., Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, and Senator A. S. Mike Monroney of Oklahoma, Chairman of the Senate Post Office and Civil Service Committee. During his remarks he referred to Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois, Senate Minority Leader.

As enacted, the bills (H.R. 7977 and H.R. 13510) are Public Laws 90-206 and 90-207 (81 Stat. 613, 649).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing Bills Increasing the Pay of Federal Civilian Employees and of Members of the Uniformed Services Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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