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Speech by Senator John F. Kennedy, Scranton, PA - (Advance Release Text)

October 28, 1960

Since this campaign began, I have spoken in areas of heavy and prolonged unemployment in at least a dozen States. And I can tell you that those of you who live in this area are not alone in having thousands of citizens who want to work, who are able to work, but who have gone for months and even years without finding work.

For the problem of America's depressed areas is not a local problem. It is a national problem, and one of great magnitude. There are now 159 areas of substantial unemployment, places officially classified as areas of "substantial labor surplus." America cannot afford areas of "substantial labor surplus." It needs full employment and full production in northeastern Pennsylvania and in every area if the entire Nation is to be prosperous.

A quarter of a million people, one out of every four, have already left this region to seek better opportunities. I don't think that makes sense. I don't want to see young people moving out of these valleys, families broken up, whole communities withering away.

It makes far better sense to move jobs into northeast Pennsylvania than to move people out to find jobs.

In 1956 I was the floor manager of the first area redevelopment bill ever to pass the Senate, a bill to provide long-term loans to new industry, to create new jobs for our distressed areas. It was killed by Republican opposition in the House.

Two years later we tried again. I joined in sponsoring a similar bill, the Flood-Douglas-Clark bill. The Democratic Congress passed it, but it was killed by a Republican veto.

This year we tried a third time, and again we succeeded in the Congress. But again our bill was struck down by a Republican veto.

The Republicans are around now claiming concern to depressed areas. But if they had only supported our bill in 1956, this city, and dozens of others, would have been receiving substantial help for the last 4 years. If they had only supported our bill in 1958, this city, and dozens of others, would have been adding new jobs and new industries for the last 2 years. And if they had only supported our bill this spring, this city, and dozens of others, would by this time find help on the way.

But the Republicans would not help this city in 1956 or 1958 or in the spring of 1960, and this city, in the fall of 1960, is not going to help the Republicans.

I assure you help will be on its way next year if you put a Democratic administration in office. There will be a new bill, and that bill will be signed.

The Republican candidate for President came to this very hall last month to apologize for those two Republican vetoes, and to make some new promises. I do not come to apologize; the Democratic Party comes with a record of performance. And I advise you not to trade performance for promises.

The Republican bills on this subject were pale shadows of the Democratic bills. They were limited in scope, they omitted essential provision - they would not have done the job.

When Mr. Nixon was here he claimed that the Republican bill would have brought more aid to Scranton and Wilkes-Barre than the Democratic bill.

But the fact is that these figures had absolutely no basis in fact. His bill did not specify any amount for any city in the United States, including Wilkes-Barre and Scranton.

Moreover, Mr. Nixon was talking about a Republican bill that was not even before the Congress when area redevelopment legislation was being considered. The bill he based his mythical figures on was introduced after the Democratic bill was vetoed, after the damage was done and Republican opposition had destroyed all prospect of passing any bill at all.

The fact is that our bill contained five times as much loan and grant money as the Republican bill. It contained provisions for vital public facilities and for aiding rural areas that their bill omitted altogether. The Republican bill did not provide the aid necessary to start sagging economies moving forward and the Republicans knew it.

It all boils down to this: The Democrats gave you three bills. The Republicans gave you two vetoes.

The Democrats gave you action. The Republicans gave you a lot of fancy arithmetic. And you can't put people to work with arithmetic. A bill along the lines of the Flood-Douglas-Clark bill, to provide investment capital for new industries and retraining for workers, is the first point in a new and sweeping attack on the problem of distressed areas.

Secondly, we need some mechanism - such as that provided for by legislation now before the Congress - to provide an agency to whom your industrial development corporations and lending institutions can sell the mortgages on the industrial buildings which you have rented through your own enterprise. Under this FNMA-type assistance, the money which you have raised locally and which is now tied up in these buildings could be released and invested in additional new buildings to attract new industry.

Third, we need to press forward vigorously with research into new uses of coal. If anthracite can be used for building highways, for example, let's develop the necessary technology and start using it.

Fourth, as President, I will direct all agencies of Government to give priority, in all regular programs, to the needs to depressed areas. That includes in particular the Defense Department and other procurement agencies who have ignored the waste of idle workers and idle facilities in allocating contracts. It includes the agencies concerned with transportation, with flood control, with urban renewal, with conservation. The Youth Conservation Corps, which I have supported as a means to provide employment for idle young men, can carry on conservation projects and assist in the reforestation and rehabilitation of areas disfigured by abandoned mining operations.

Of special importance to this area, the Federal Government should participate fully with the State of Pennsylvania in studies and action to eliminate the threat to life and property from the flooding and the subsidence of abandoned mines underneath our cities.

But let us be frank about this: None of these measures will do any real and lasting good for northeast Pennsylvania, unless our whole national economy is put back on the track.

Since 1953, our economy, which has been restrained by Republican policies, has had the lowest rate of growth of any major industrial nation in the world.

When the economy is not growing, few businesses are looking for new sites in which to locate plants. And when 159 areas of substantial unemployment are competing for the few new plants that are being built, no single area like Scranton can do much on its own.

And, what is worse, most economists now agree that another recession is underway.

The Vice President has denied this, of course, but the figures speak for themselves. The gross national product has fallen. Business is at a lower level than 6 months ago. Steel is at barely half capacity, homebuilding at two-thirds. Unemployment has been at recession levels for months, and the hours of work and take-home pay of factory workers has fallen.

I am sure that the people of Scranton and of Pennsylvania do not want to trust their economic future to a political party which now threatens its third recession in just 6 years.

The unconcern of the Republican candidate about all this is not surprising. Last May he said "Unless unemployment goes over 4.5 million, it doesn't become a significant issue in the minds of a great many people." In June, he said, "I recognize that in a free economy you can't have full employment."

Mr. Nixon says you can't have full employment. I say, we must have full employment.

I want an America that provides opportunity for young people to work and to work in the towns and cities where they grow up. I want an America that provides security for those who are employed.

The Republican Party and its candidate offer neither. The next administration is pledged to both.

Finally, and most important, all this relates to our position in the world, and our hopes for peace.

If our country is strong at home, we will be respected abroad.

If we solve the pressing problems of our own people, then we will be looked to for guidance by the new and emerging peoples of the world. But if we fail to solve our problems, then those nations will look for leadership to the Soviet Union and to Communist China.

Let us get America moving forward once again. Let us bring into our Government new vision and new vigor, to tackle and to solve the problems which our Nation faces wherever they may be - in Latin America, in Asia, in Africa, in Europe - and right here in Scranton, Pa.

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

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