Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Television Report to the American People by the President and Members of the Cabinet

June 03, 1953

[Broadcast at 9:30 p.m. from the Conference Room at the White House]

THE PRESIDENT. Good evening, everybody.

This evening some of the Cabinet members have gathered here with me to discuss points of interest--points of interest to your Government and to you.

Now, of course, everybody's first interest is the family, its security and its happiness. Now the security and the happiness of any family depends upon a number of things--the income, to see that the family is well fed and well clothed; that your loved ones are safe no matter where they may be; that the roof is not leaking, and the children are getting educated and that fences on the farm are mended. In short, what you are concerned about is that the house is in good order.

Now, everybody helps to do that--everybody in the family. The Government is no different. Everybody that's in the Government is here to help keep your governmental house in good order, so that you may live the kind of life that you want in this country.

Now, we are concerned, therefore, with the security of the Nation--externally and internally--its welfare. Now that security, remember, is not just military. It involves the prosperity of our farmers and the education of our children; it involves spending not more than we take in--live within our means like a family should.

It involves proper protection. Then when you have all of those things you have the Government house in order.

Now, in previous talks I have told you something about this job of protecting the national house from threats abroad--from the threat of communism, what it costs to protect; how we get the money; how we spend it--all of that sort of thing.

I'm going to refer to that no more except to say there is going to be no new Munich and at the same time there is going to be no risk of a general war because a modern war would be too horrible to contemplate.

We are going to keep our temper; we are going to build our strength. I am going over to Bermuda to meet with some of our friends and talk over these things.

But remember in these vast problems that affect every one of our lives, there is no thought that you can cut the knot, you must untie it, slowly and laboriously.

Now, tonight, the group that has gathered here to talk with me about this keeping of your Government house in order are four Cabinet members.

The first one is heading the newest department of Government. It has to do with the welfare and the education and the health of our people. And so as you would imagine it is headed by a woman because that's the woman's job in the home. This is a lady from Texas--Mrs. Hobby.

Next, we have a man whose job it is to keep the finances straightened out--and of course that's a real job. We have for that George Humphrey of Ohio.

Now the next thing we have is a farm problem--and for the Secretary of Agriculture we have a farmer. He is Ezra Benson of Utah.

Finally, we have here this evening to discuss with you some of our problems of internal security, keeping the internal house secure against the boring of subversives and that sort of thing--the head of the Justice Department, the Attorney General, Herbert Brownell. He is a Nebraska-born, New York lawyer. And that ought to make a good combination for that particular job.

Now, in order that we discuss what we know you are interested in, I will show you how we get our ideas.

Over here, in this corner, you see a basket of mail. This is a portion of one day's mail at the White House. We have been averaging over 3,000 letters a day in an average week--heavy weeks it's more. Now from this whole mass, I am going to read to you just parts of one letter, to show you what one citizen in our country is thinking about, and it's sort of a challenging letter.

"Dear Mr. President," this lady from Pawtucket, R.I., writes, "I am writing you to ask some questions that have me deeply worried. I am a housewife with four children, and though I don't know much about the budget you and your people have to worry about, I do know something about running my own family budget. That is why I have so many questions, when I read about all the money you have to spend for guns and planes, and all the problems that you must have when you try to balance our country's budget.

"The sums are so huge I really find it almost impossible to grasp them." And I might tell the lady, so do I. "I wonder how you even know where to begin. Won't you please explain to me, in words I can understand, just how you are going to have our money keep its value, and at the same time make our country strong and secure."

I chose that letter because it brings up this great problem of security, and the money that it costs. Now, it's a good starting point and I want to tell you, before Mr. Humphrey takes over to discuss something about finances, we must remember this: during 17 of the past 20 years we have gone in debt. Borrowing cheapens money. That's like water in your coffee--it just doesn't go very far and isn't worth much. Now higher prices mean your savings are worthless. So I have asked Mr. Humphrey and our Director of the Budget, Mr. Dodge, to get after this thing in order to keep spending under the amount we take in so that your dollar will still buy what it should buy. That's his job, and now he is going to tell you about it.

Mr. Humphrey: Mr. President, I think the woman from Rhode Island was right. I think it is a lot harder, a lot tougher job to balance the national budget than it is your own home budget, because we owe so much money nationally, and we are spending so much money every single year.

Let me just take this chart that I have here and show you where all that money goes to. Seventy-three percent of the total money we spend goes for defense; 15 percent goes for fixed charges--that is, things like interest, and all sorts of things that the Congress has voted that we pay, like State aid and all that sort of thing. It only leaves 12 percent for the ordinary running of the Government.

Now then, our job is to balance this budget. Our job is to get our income even with our outgo. That can be done in two ways, either by raising more taxes or by cutting expenses. Well, of course we don't want to raise taxes--we want to reduce taxes--so the way left is to cut expenses.

And that involves two serious problems. The first problem is that we can't so cut our expenses that we interfere with security. As you have said we have got to maintain the security of this country. The second big problem is this--over the last year or two a great many materials, war materials and other materials, have been bought c.o.d. They are delivered now; as the deliveries come we have to pay for them in cash.

I would just like to show you another chart, here, that will illustrate to you the way in which our spending and our income are growing apart as planned for the next few years--the program that we found when we came. Here you will see this line going way up here is spending, and here you will see this line way down here is income.

In between the two is a widening difference, a widening spread which is a deficit. Now that deficit has got to be stopped. Unless it's stopped, we are going to be right back on the old merry-go-round of inflation.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, of course, George, we know we are going to stop it. But as an ex-soldier I have promised the American people two things: they are going to be secure, and, next, these expensive military establishments are going to be maintained in the most economical way possible. You are going to get one dollar's worth for every dollar we spend. And I am going to keep that promise.

Mr. Humphrey: That's just right, Mr. President. What we are going to do is to cut these expenses slowly. We are going to study every month what can be done. We have made a good start already, but we are going to continue every month as we go along and make further reductions in those expenses.

By that sort of process I think we will be well balanced out by June in 1954, provided we do not have a much worse condition in the world develop. Of course, something could happen in Russia that would upset our plans.

To accomplish that purpose we have set up a new tax bill. Now in that new tax bill, we ask for an extension of the excess profits tax for an additional 6 months to carry it from July, when it would expire, to the first of January. The reason we do that is because we believe that it is grossly unfair to relieve just a few-the relatively few corporations--who pay an excess profits tax and give them tax relief before we give relief to all the other corporations and to all of the people.

If the Congress will pass the bill that we have before them, the bill that we are recommending to them, with the savings that we have already made, with the savings that we are going to make in the next 14 months and with this tax money--this excess profits tax money that we can use to reduce the deficit--it will justify a reduction on the first day of January for taxes for all the people of the country--individual tax reductions.

That will mean that everyone will get a tax reduction at the same time. There will be no favorite few. It will help to balance the budget. It will help to stop inflation. It will help to keep sound money. It will help to keep business active, and more jobs, and it will provide better living for all.

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Secretary, I endorse every single word you say. And you could have added that all of us despise this excess profits tax. It's inequitable, it's unjust, it's clumsy, and it's awkward. But, as you say, it must not be taken off until we can reduce the individual income taxes as we should, as quickly as we can get at it.

Now, we know from the mail that we get here, that people are for a decent tax program, to get expenses and outgo in balance; and in those letters we are getting an 8 to 1 vote of confidence for that entire program.

Now, the next person that is going to talk to you is going to talk to the people, particularly, that are key men in our agriculture--the farmers. One out of nine of our wage-earners is a farmer, and when he is in trouble all the Nation is in trouble. We are going to get a firsthand picture from Mr. Benson, who, as I told you before, is a farmer himself.

Mr. Benson: Thank you, Mr. President. When you called me to this very tough and difficult job back in December, you asked me if I would be willing to try and serve the American people by being a champion of the farmers. Your administration had already pledged itself to greater stability in agriculture, increasing the national income and the proportion that goes to farmers, and building a sound program in which the farmers would take part.

Now, I have traveled from one end of the Nation to the other in years past and since December, as this little chart will indicate; I have been into most of the agricultural areas, and we have held meetings with farmers; I have addressed them and conversed with them, learned of their problems and listened to their comments and their hopes, and their desires; and in order to get a broad picture of the situation in agriculture today we need to go back to 1947. In that year farmers were receiving good prices, and the relationship between their prices and the prices they had to pay for the things they purchased was favorable.

But since that time there has been a rather rapid decline in farm prices. For the last 2 years, as this chart will indicate, the trend of prices received by farmers has been downward, while their costs, represented here, have remained relatively high. That means that, as every farmer knows, he has been caught in a squeeze.

However, during the last few months prices have tended to stabilize, as you can see, and the costs have come down somewhat, reducing that squeeze. But during this 2-year period--1951 to 1952--farm prices declined 16 percent.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, one fellow that's been caught in that squeeze very badly is the cattle raiser, as you and I well know, and we have had many conferences with them.

Now, we must remove that squeeze. We are going to have stability in farm income, and we are going to do it with no farmer being taken over by the Government. We are not going to regiment the farmer.

Mr. Benson: There is another phase of this problem that pertains to our decline in exports, Mr. President. Normally, farmers export about 10 percent of their total production. That's a very important part. However, there has been a decline in exports in the last 2 or 3 years.

Two years ago, for example, we exported about half of our total wheat production. This last year alone there has been a decline of 15 percent in our exports abroad.

In order for agriculture to be prosperous, it must not only have good markets at home but big markets abroad. And of course this is a two-way road, this foreign trade, so if we sell abroad we must also permit them to sell here. That's why farmers are in favor of the extension of the reciprocal trade program.

Now, usually we think of businessmen and manufacturers as being primarily interested in foreign trade. But I presume the individual who is most deeply concerned with this matter of foreign trade is this man we call the American farmer.

THE PRESIDENT. Now, I think, Mr. Secretary, you should talk just a little bit about our surpluses. We hear a lot about them, and remember, from our viewpoint, it's not just dollars that's here involved--it's the moral values that are involved also.

Mr. Benson: That's very true, Mr. President. At the present time, and for some months, we have been purchasing, as you know, large quantities of products. These have been going into storage. They have been part of the present farm program. Of course, it's a very serious thing when we have large accumulations of burdensome surpluses of farm products.

And so we are beginning, now, to build programs from the grass roots that will prevent unreasonable supplies of these commodities which may result in spoilage and some products becoming rancid. We hope that we can prevent these surpluses and the high cost to the taxpayer resulting therefrom.

We can all remember a few years ago when we had the large surplus of potatoes, which were dyed blue in order to make them unsalable. The answer is not moving products into storage, but into stomachs.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, Mr. Secretary, we do know this: we do need some surpluses. We need surpluses to carry us over from one crop season to another. And we are talking only when these get too large. And here again, the most important part is not the money involved, but I refer again to this business of the moral value.

It's unthinkable, unconscionable, as I see it, that the United States should have wheat molding and crops spoiling, and people--friends of ours--should be starving in the world.

Right now, for example, Pakistan has had a 2-year drought, a drought that has been very, very serious. They need a million tons of wheat. And I have already sent to the Congress a measure recommending that we give it to them. And I hope it will be passed soon.

Mr. Benson: In building these farm programs from the grass roots, Mr. President, there are six important basic concepts that should be kept in mind.

In the first place, these programs should build markets and move products into use at fair prices to the farmers.

Secondly, they should permit adjustments in production and give the farmer some freedom in his operations.

Third, programs should not price our products out of the world or domestic markets.

And fourth, they should not hold an umbrella over synthetics and competing products.

And fifth, basic to the whole program is this matter of research and speedy application of it.

And of course, encouragement of a self-help program for the farmers.

THE PRESIDENT. And the only thing that you did not mention that I want to say just a word about, is the research program in agriculture. It is very important. I visited Beltsville the other day, and I saw wonders in research that I wish every one of you could see. It will show you how the farmer is really getting new outlets for his crops.

Thank you very much, Mr. Benson.

Now, we are going to come to the department that deals with health, welfare, and education. It's the newest department of Government. You see we have had nine for a long time--nine departments. Now we have got a new one. This is one that Mrs. Hobby heads. I am going to ask her to tell you something about it now. Mrs. Hobby.

Mrs. Hobby: Well, Mr. President, there are so many different activities in our department that touch people, young and old, in public health, in education, pure food and drugs, Social Security, and Children's Bureau, and vocational rehabilitation, that it's difficult, sometimes, to say which problems are the most urgent.

But, in line with your suggestions, we have recently sent three pieces of legislation to the Congress. Two deal with the school situation in the United States. The other piece of legislation deals with the restoration of the right of factory inspection to the pure food and drug.

Shortly we shall send to the Congress a piece of legislation which will extend the coverage of old-age and survivors insurance benefits to millions not now covered. We have had a group of twelve experts studying this problem, and together with Treasury we are developing a simplified plan of tax collection. Our plan would extend coverage to farmers, certain State and local government employes, the self-employed, professional people, domestic workers, farm laborers, and others.

Now, we have two laws or two bills--which relate to the Office of Education. Of course, education is primarily the responsibility of the State and local communities. But there are certain communities in which the Federal Government has created a problem. This occurs in several different ways. One, by removing land from the school tax rolls, and two, by adding student population to the school rolls without taxable property.

This occurs when the parents either live on or work on Federal property. There are notable examples of this situation in Limestone, Maine; in Derby, Kansas; in Piketon, Ohio. Now, the Federal Government recognizes its responsibility and shortly the Congress will start hearings on two bills which will aid these overcrowded school districts--one for construction and the other for maintenance and operation.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, Mrs. Hobby, tell us something of that trouble we are having with the Food and Drug Act, will you please?

Mrs. Hobby: Well, Mr. President, that concerns me very much. We have sent to the Congress an amendment to the Pure Food and Drug law. We believe it is vital to the protection of the American people.

If it is adopted by the Congress, it will restore the right of the Pure Food and Drug to inspect the factories which produce and process food and drugs. Last fall, the Supreme Court held that the factory inspection language was contradictory, and that the inspectors could enter only when given consent. Fortunately, the great majority of the processors and producers of food and drugs gave consent. But we need the law for those who refuse consent, and refuse to let our inspectors observe their operations and their sanitary conditions.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think, Mrs. Hobby, that everybody will agree that you have about as complicated a task as there is in government. You run the biggest insurance business and you run a medical research center, and everything between. But there is one thing that must give you great satisfaction. You have the department that sort of epitomizes or symbolizes the warm feeling of government for all of our citizens.

And now, my friends, we come to this business of security inside our borders. It's a complicated job because, as we search out those people that are unfit to serve you, we must protect the innocent. That is what we are doing every day. We go after the weeds of disloyalty, but we don't want to uproot a single good plant. The man at the head of that, as I told you before, is Herbert Brownell. And he is going to tell you about it now, and what he is trying to do in this field.

Mr. Brownell: In the Department of Justice, Mr. President, we seek to protect the security of our homes--our internal security, through the use of four laws, or programs.

First, we prosecute and jail the leaders of the Communist Party in this country, and all those who seek to overthrow our Government by force and violence. We can do that largely because of the fine investigative work of the FBI arm of the Department of Justice under Director J. Edgar Hoover, and we are making good progress on that.

Then, second, we seek to enforce the law which requires agents of foreign governments who are in this country to register and to disclose their finances, and to label their propaganda that they send around to the American people. We are meeting resistance on this, but we intend to pursue it vigorously.

Then, third, under the immigration laws, we are making fine progress on the program of denaturalizing and deporting racketeers and subversives who violated the hospitality of our country, or who got here, in the first place, by false affidavits.

And then, finally, our fourth special tool to protect our internal security, is the employee security program that you spoke about as being a matter of good housekeeping, of weeding out from the Federal payrolls themselves persons who are not good security risks. It went into effect just a few days ago, to replace the old loyalty program which was ineffective.

And it's based on two ideas--one is, that working for the Federal Government is a privilege and not an absolute right, so that the Government is entitled to maintain high standards of trustworthiness in its employees. And the other idea is that there is a great difference between disloyalty and being a security risk; for many of the employees could be a security risk and still not be disloyal or have any traitorous thoughts, but it may be that their personal habits are such that they might be subject to blackmail by people who seek to destroy the safety of our country.

Or they may associate themselves with known subversives. Now you and I, in our private affairs, certainly would not trust our secrets to people that we could not confide in. And the same thing with the National Government. We believe that the tremendously important secrets of our national security should be entrusted only to employees who can guard those secrets in the best interests of the country.

Now, as I say, this program has just gone into effect. But we believe that without fanfare and steadily over the course of the next few months, we will be able to weed out from the Federal payroll every security risk.

THE PRESIDENT. There is one other phase of this thing I wish you would speak about for just a minute, Herb. It is this business of governmental action in this field going on behind closed doors--what we are doing to bring things out in the open, so that people will know what is going on.

Mr. Brownell: Well, that is an important function there in the Department of Justice. We have abolished the closed-door policy that we found there. For example, first in the matter of tax settlements. We now disclose those to the public the minute that they are made so that there will be no temptation for skulduggery or behind-the-closed-doors attitude on the part of the lawyers there in the department.

And second, when it comes to these fraud cases, where people used to come into the department and claim that they were too sick to face the music--that was done behind closed doors. But now we take them into court, and let the judges appoint an impartial doctor to see whether or not they should stand trial for these frauds.

And finally, in the matter of Presidential pardons, we also have abolished the closed-door policy. And when a Presidential pardon is granted to anybody who has violated our laws and is incarcerated in our Federal penitentiaries, we disclose that, make it a matter of public record along with the list of sponsors for that pardon.

Now I know you have said to us, and we thoroughly believe there in the department, that one of the most important responsibilities of your administration is the impartial administration of justice without favoritism. And so we are making that a keystone of the department.

THE PRESIDENT. And I hope, my friends, that you agree that our internal security is in very good hands. And let me make one observation about that before we go further. And it is this: the great mass of your Federal employees are a wonderful, dedicated group of men and women, and whose jobs are going to be protected. He was talking only about those few that damage them.

Now, I know we have not answered your problems this evening, ladies and gentlemen, but I hope you see some of the factors in those problems, and how we are approaching their solution. I hope you will realize that since government is just people, you have seen the kind of people that are trying to solve these things for you.

We have done something, and are doing things to repair the holes in the roof, and keep the fences mended, and keep the industries flourishing, employment high, and the farms productive.

Now, on the defense program, just a word: it is very large, but it is logical. We are not going to cripple this Nation, and we are going specifically to keep up its air power. Right now, sixty cents of every dollar that goes into the defense business is in some form of air power or air defense.

Now, we are going to keep reviewing these plans. We are going to report to you from time to time with these, or with other people with me, so that you know what is going on. Because our effort is to secure peace, and prosperity in peace.

My friends, thank you for being with us. Good night. God bless you.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Television Report to the American People by the President and Members of the Cabinet Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231897

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