John F. Kennedy photo

Speech by Senator John F. Kennedy, Fair Grounds, Saginaw, MI - (Advance Release Text)

October 14, 1960

In 1936, speaking before 100,000 people in Franklin Field, Franklin Roosevelt accepted the second Presidential nomination, and in that speech he said,

Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that Divine Justice weighs the sins of the coldblooded and the sins of the warmhearted in a different scale. Better the occasional faults of a government living in the spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.

For the past 8 years this Nation has been subjected to the leadership of a party frozen in the ice of its own indifference. And nothing more clearly demonstrates the extent and depth and scope of that indifference than a statement which Mr. Nixon made this June to Republican businessmen in Hot Springs, Va.

Unless unemployment goes over 4.5 million it cannot become a significant issue in the minds of a great many people * * * there must be some unemployment.

I do not agree - and the Democratic Party has never agreed.

Unemployment is not inisignificant to the almost 4 million Americans who want to work, but who can't find work - almost a quarter of a million of them in Michigan alone - or to the almost 900,000 Americans who have been out of work for more than 15 weeks and who are now classified as "long-term unemployed."

Unemployment is not insignificant to the families of the unemployed - families who are forced to live in substandard homes and are unable to maintain even a subsistence of living in the richest country on earth.

Unemployment is not insignificant to the children of the unemployed who are deprived of decent clothing and a decent diet.

Unemployment is not insignificant to an America which desperately needs the skills and labor of all its citizens if it is to rebuild the strength which alone can maintain the cause of peace and freedom in a perilous and changing world.

And unemployment is not insignificant to the Democratic Party - which has always pursued a policy of full employment - which has never said that there "must be some unemployment" and which is going to see that there are jobs for all Americans in the sixties.

In fact, unemployment is only insignificant to Mr. Nixon and a Republican Party which has opposed every Democratic effort to put men back to work in the past 8 years - which has complacently stood by while unemployment rose from less than 2 million in 1952 to 4 million today and while Michigan lost more than 100,000 jobs despite an expanding population. For I believe that the American people are going to reject a party which - again in Mr. Nixon's words - believes that "unemployment is inevitable," a party which lacks faith in the capacity of a strong and growing America to provide jobs for all its people, a party which, in the most fundamental sense, is letting America run down because it is failing to build America up, a party whose candidate is all too ready to threaten war but is unwilling to build up the strength which is the only guarantee of peace, who is always willing to speak loudly, but is unwilling to be sure that America carries a big stick.

The Republican slowdown of the American economy is reflected in the record of the past 30 years. Mr. Nixon has carefully selected facts and figures, he has carefully chosen years of comparison - the few years favorable to the Republicans - in an effort to show that Americans have done better than ever under the Republican Party.

But the harsh fact of the matter is that almost every index of has decreased in the past 8 years - every index of productivity has fallen back. Our entire economy has slowed down. And we can see the Republican failures not by looking at part of the record - not by looking at some years and not at others - but by looking at the whole record of performance of both parties.

Under the Democrats, from 1933-52, the average annual increase in personal income was 10 percent. Under the Republicans it has been less than 5 percent.

Under the Democrats, the average annual increase in industrial productivity was more than 10 percent. Under the Republicans, it has been 2.7 percent.

Under the Democrats, the average annual increase in farm income was 13.8 percent. Under the Republicans, annual farm income has decreased 1.4 percent.

Under the Democrats, our economy grew at a rate of 5.8 percent a year. Under the Republicans, it has slowed down to 2.4 percent.

In fact, under the Republicans, the only figures which have mounted are those which show an increase in interest income figures which banks receive from those who must borrow money - and those which show an increase in the cost of living. These are complete figures. They tell the whole story. They are not distorted. But neither are they essential to a comparison of the performance of our two parties. For every man and woman in this audience - every man and woman in America - who has lived through the past 30 years - who remembers this country in 1930 - who remembers that Franklin Roosevelt and the Democratic Party did help them receive better incomes, live in better homes, and maintain a higher standard of living - in the lives and welfare of those people is clearly written the story of the leadership of the Democratic Party and its capacity and determination to meet the needs of the American people.

Last night, in our debate, Mr. Nixon was asked to give his program for economic growth - what he intended to do to put idle plants and idle men back to work - to move America toward new heights of production and strength - to provide new jobs for an expanding population. But Mr. Nixon had no new program, no new approach; just the same old tired policies which have resulted in a doubling of unemployment and in a slowing down of our growth until, today, we are growing more slowly than every other industrial nation in the world - policies which have resulted in a steel industry operating at only 50 percent of capacity - an automobile industry which has laid off thousands of men - and a State of Michigan where more than 200,000 men are unemployed and which has never emerged from the Republican recession of 1958.

But the Democratic Party does have a program - a program which will reverse the downward trend of the past 8 years - which will put men back to work and move America toward new heights of productivity and abundance - which will build the stronger America on which the cause of freedom depends.

First, we must help our economy generate the funds for investment - the supply of money - which is vital to business growth and expansion. If the industry and small business of Michigan cannot get the money it needs in order to survive and expand, then Michigan will not have new jobs for your unemployed and for your constantly expanding labor force. And what is true for Michigan is true for America. Yet in the past 8 years the Republican Party has intervened in the normal operation of our economy in order to maintain artificially high interest rates, drying up the supply of money and stifling investment. By reversing these disastrous policies we will once again channel our wealth into investment in a growing America.

Second, we must once again use fiscal policies - the management of our national budget - to stimulate growth and halt the constant rise in our cost of living. For example, by maintaining a budget surplus in times of prosperity we can keep prices down without discouraging investment, thus using the Federal budget as an instrument to create jobs and protect the incomes of our workers.

Third, we must develop our great natural resources - material resources and resources of the mind - to provide a sound basis for a growing economy. In the past 8 years those resources have been neglected. Mr. Nixon has followed a policy of "no new starts" for our natural resources and "no help for new schools" or for underpaid teachers. As a result, our economy has faltered. For industry cannot hope to expand without power to drive its factories, roads to transport its goods, water to supply its plants, and increased skills and knowledge to deal with the growing complexities of modern production and supply the flow of new ideas and inventive talent which has been the source of our past greatness.

Only governments - the combined efforts of Federal, State, and local governments - can build the dams and highways and schools on which the strength of our free enterprise economy depends.

Fourth, we must move to meet the growing crisis of automation - the replacement of men by machines - which has already thrown thousands of men out of work here in Michigan and which threatens the jobs of millions of men throughout the country. In the past 8 years nothing has been done to harness automation to serve the welfare of all our people, rather than permitting it to become an instrument of economic distress and unemployment. In 1961, a Democratic President will call a conference of leaders of industry and labor to formulate new programs for dealing with the problems of automation. At the same time we must begin to retrain displaced workers, to provide employment opportunities by broadening the activities of the U.S. Employment Service, and providing technical assistance to help businesses which are trying to modernize without throwing men out.

Fifth, we must use the full moral and legal authority of the Federal Government to make sure that no American is denied a job because of his race or religion. If America is to grow and prosper it needs the talents and skills of all its citizens and talent and skill knows no barrier of race or creed. Michigan has pioneered in this effort, and now our Federal Government must also work to insure that all Americans have equal access to job opportunities. For I believe that we must act to eliminate discrimination in employment if a growing America is to serve as a living example of freedom to all the world.

Sixth, we must formulate special programs to those areas of our country which are suffering from severe economic distress and chronic unemployment. Today, the country has 126 areas of substantial labor surplus - areas like Bay City, Flint, and the Iron Range - areas of declining industry - where there is poverty and hunger - where men have been searching for work, but cannot find work.

Unemployment in any of these areas harms the entire Nation, depriving all our industry of markets, decreasing total purchasing power, and depriving us of needed production. The distress may be regional ,but the problem is a national problem.

Twice a Democratic Congress has passed legislation to provide the long-term development loans and technical assistance which can put our distressed areas back on their feet and put men back to work; loans and assistance which will help the underdeve]oped areas of America just as we are trying to help the underdeveloped countries of Asia and Africa and Latin America. And twice these bills have been vetoed by the Republicans. In 1961, this legislation will become law, along with an effective trade adjustment program to help areas suffering under the impact of increased foreign imports.

Seventh, we must establish a committee on national economic goals, a committee composed of leaders of industry and labor as well as the best economic talent of our universities and research institutes. This committee will assess our potential productive capacity and the needs of our Nation and help the President to formulate the broad goals of our free economy.

With the advice of such a broadly based group, the President will be able to set our Nation's unfinished business before the Nation, the President will be able to set our Nation's unfinished business before the Nation, not to direct our economy, but to help and encourage our people to direct their untapped capacities and the untapped capacities of our free enterprise system in a great national effort to revitalize our strength and bring employment to all Americans.

In the past, America has met its responsibilities to its own people and to world freedom. For we are, by tradition and capacity, a vital and growing nation. But in the past 8 years the hand of timidity and retreat, of little faith and little vision, has reached out and intervened in our economy to halt our long historic march toward a greater and stronger America. America cannot afford such intervention by its governments. We do not lack faith; we do not believe in intervention which stifles and retards. Rather we seek to liberate our economy and our people, to free them to do what they want to do and what they have the strength to do. If we can succeed in this then the horizons of the future are limitless.

John F. Kennedy, Speech by Senator John F. Kennedy, Fair Grounds, Saginaw, MI - (Advance Release Text) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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