Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference

April 18, 1964

THE PRESIDENT [1.] I have seen a very inaccurate account of what I am going to say on Monday, so I thought I should tell you something you can rely upon.

My statement on Monday will be a very general statement of our foreign policy.1 I will be talking especially about our relations with the Soviet Union and about certain other important areas, like Cuba and China. I will talk about the responsibility of the candidates, and issues of war and peace, and policies toward Asia, especially Viet-Nam; the policy towards Latin America.

1 See Item 272.

I hope the speech will be interesting. But my advice to you is to wait for the speech itself, and not to put much stock in what you get second- or third-hand. I am still working on it and the report is very inaccurate.

[2.] I have today drafted and approved the plans for a very comprehensive study of the draft system and of related manpower policies submitted to me by the Secretary of Defense. This study will consider alternatives to the present draft selection system, including the possibility of meeting our requirements on an entirely voluntary basis in the next decade.

Last September the administration initiated a number of actions to determine immediate steps that could be taken to free young men from doubt about their draft status, and what improvements could be made in the administration of the draft law.2 This led to the decision which I announced early this year to conduct military service examination of draft registrations who have finished school at age 18 so that these young men then will be able to more intelligently plan their future in relation to their military service liability.3

2 See "Public Papers of the Presidents, John f. Kennedy 1963," Item 393.

3 See Item 89.

I now consider it most desirable to study some of the broader aspects of the military service system. As an original proponent of this act, I continue to be firmly convinced of the soundness of its basic principle, namely, that the obligations and privileges of service must be shared equally in accordance with a fair and just system. I am concerned, as I indicated yesterday in some of my remarks, with the recent indications that in application the system may have drifted from this concept. I pointed out to the Heart Committee that 49 percent of our boys were rejected for one reason or another.

It is clear that at the present time the obligation for military service is essential for meeting our military strength requirements. However, the present law has been in effect for more than 15 years, and a very comprehensive study of the system is now indicated. I have ordered that study immediately. It will be completed in 1 year. It will deal with the implications of trends in our population, in military manpower needs, and will be a most comprehensive study of the decade of the seventies.3a

3a See also Item 619 [3].

[3.] I have some economic news notes. Prices, very good news: total wholesale prices in March fell by one-tenth of a percent. This lowered the Index to 100.4, on the 1957-59; one-tenth percent above the end of '63, five-tenths percent above a year earlier. Industrial wholesale prices fell the same as the total Index, to a level lower than at the end of '63, or the cyclical trough in February 1961 but seven-tenths percent above '63 when this Index began to creep up.

Farm prices rose eight-tenths of a percent, reversing February's sharp decline, and staying within last year's range. Housing starts--this is nonfarm starts--rose almost 1 percent in March, giving us a new record of 1,600,000 units for the first quarter. The last similar quarter was 1,200,000, pointing toward further gains in home-building activity.

New car sales the first 10 days of April increased over March about as is normal this time of the year. It averaged 3.7 percent above the year earlier. GM executive Mr. Russell forecasts 1964 model-year sales of 8 million cars, which would mean a pickup, if anything, from the pace thus far.

Q. Mr. President, what was the rate for the first quarter on housing?

THE PRESIDENT. It was 3 record for the first quarter, a new record, and 1 percent increase in March.

I have another interesting figure, because of the efforts we are making to keep our employment down and to get a dollar's worth of value for a dollar spent, riding herd very closely on each budget. I want to call to your attention that the money that is being spent between now and June 30th is money that was appropriated last year and was in last year's budget, not in the new budget of 197.9. Some of our opposition has pointed out that we are spending more per day now than we spent per day at this time last year.

In view of the fact that Mr. Kennedy's budget last year was $5 billion more than the budget of the year before, it is natural that it would be more. We have reduced that some, however, and we can't confirm the figure they point to. The Budget can't find it and we don't know where they got it. But we have studied the last 6 months and the first 3 months of this year, January, February, and March. We spent a million dollars a day less than the last 3 months of last year.

The latest governmental figures are in. In February of this year, regular employment in the federal Government dropped 900 from February 1963. It is significant that it dropped at all, because it has generally been increasing. The total employment, which includes accelerated public works, is down 13,000 this February over February of a year ago. In other words, we have no accelerated public works now, and we had about 12,000 on accelerated public works, so we have 13,000 less employees in the federal Government at the end of February than we did a year ago. That figure, I know, will interest Senator Byrd and others.

Regular employment this year is 2,458, 000; regular employment last year was 2,459,000. Accelerated public works this year is none; accelerated public works last year was 12,156. The average expenditure per business day for the last 3 months--December through February--is more than $1 million lower than the average for the last 3 months--September through November--under President Kennedy.

We had a story yesterday that said that Mr. Johnson asked Congress for fiscal '65 appropriations larger than any total demanded or received by President Kennedy or any other President in any previous year. The facts are that President Kennedy's '64 budget requested appropriations of $107 billion 900 million. In the months following the submission of his '64 budget, he reduced it by $620 million, making it $107 billion 300 million.

We requested appropriations of $103.8 billion compared to $106.3 billion. In the months since we submitted the budget, we have reduced this request by a net of $39 million, and will make further reductions if and when it becomes possible.

Income tax withholding collections in the first quarter have increased 1900 million above the same quarter of a year ago, reflecting a broadly rising trend in salaries and wages. I don't know how that has affected all of you.

Collections in the first quarter of this year amounted to $10 billion 800 million, compared to 19 billion 900 million in the same quarter of a year ago, an increase of 9 percent in what we took in. The increase a year ago in the first quarter was up $600 million from the year before, and it is up 9 percent. The first quarter increase this year, then, is almost 50 percent above the increase for the same quarter of last year.

Because of the usual lag in the transfer of withheld taxes to the Treasury, the reduction of the withholding rate in March is not reflected in the first quarter collection figures. As I pointed out, we reduced it from 18 to 14, but it was 18 during January, February, and most of March.

Excise tax collections in the first quarter reflect rising economic activity. They are up $103 million, or 3.2 percent, over the first quarter of a year ago, despite a sharp drop in cigarette taxes.

Elsewhere, another plus sign is in the federal Reserve Board's industrial production index. It climbed to 128.2 last month, up 5½ percent over March 1963.

[4.] I am happy to announce the appointment of Eugene Patterson as a new and last member of the United States Civil Rights Commission. That fills the last vacancy. He replaces M. Robert Storey, former president of the American Bar Association and dean of the Southern Methodist University Law School in Dallas.

He will, I am confident, be a constructive and useful addition to the membership of the Commission. It is charged with heavy responsibilities, and I am proud and pleased Mr. Patterson has agreed to serve as a member of this important body. He is editor of the Atlanta Constitution, was born in Valdosta, Ga., on October 15, 1923. He is a

1943 graduate of the University of Georgia, with an A.B. in journalism.

He has had an extensive newspaper career, serving as a reporter in Texas, Georgia, New York City, and London, England. He has been editor of the Atlanta Constitution since 1960, and was executive editor from 1956 to 1960. Mr. Patterson's military service in the Army extended from 1943 to 1947. Entering as a private, he was discharged as a captain, receiving the Silver Star and the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster. Mr. Patterson is married to the former Mary S. Carter, and has one daughter. The family resides in Atlanta.

[5.] I intend this afternoon to see Dr. James Killian, Jr., to receive a report on the utilization of scientific and engineering talent in the United States. This is a most important study and will give us a lot to think about and a good deal to act upon. The study was initiated by President Kennedy, with the Science Advisory Committee and the National Academy of Sciences, to examine the Nation's specialized manpower resources.

The National Academy persuaded Dr. Killian to organize a committee of distinguished citizens to study these problems. After a year of hard work, they have completed the report.4 It will be transmitted to me this afternoon, and Mr. Reedy will make it available to you as soon as he can do it.

4 The report of the Committee on Utilization of Scientific and Engineering Manpower is entitled "Toward Better Utilization of Scientific and Engineering Talent, a Program for Action" (National Academy of Sciences, 1964, 153 pp.).

[6.] I am appointing Mr. Harold Russell as Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped to succeed my old friend Mel Maas. There will be a biographical sketch on him. In February 1942 he entered the Army and volunteered for service with the paratroops. He qualified as a paratrooper instructor, attaining the rank of sergeant, and specialized in demolition and explosives. He made more than 50 jumps, until an explosion cost him his hands. He has received many awards, including the honor of being chosen by the Junior Chamber of Commerce as one of the "Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Year" in 1950.

[7.] We are very pleased with the progress that is being made on the appropriation bills and their schedule in the House of Representatives. We are very hopeful we can get the poverty bill reported at an early date, and we can make progress on the Medicare bill, as I said yesterday. Thus far, we have passed four appropriations bills.

Last year they cut HEW and Labor by 6 percent, this year by only 2.7, which indicates that we did have a tight budget. The cut would have been similar to last year. The D.C. appropriation bill last year was reduced by 4.7 percent; this year by seven-tenths. Interior and related agencies were reduced by 8.1 last year, and this year by 2.8. The Treasury-Post Office last year was 2.4, and this year by four-tenths of a percent.

We regret that there were some references made--which might be interpreted as critical--to our limited expenditures in Labor, and the Health, Education, and Welfare Department appropriations bills. I said to Mr. Cannon4a the other day I hope--I knew they wanted economy as much as we did--I hope they wouldn't be too critical of the tight budget we are trying to operate on, and to try to help us instead of criticizing us for not submitting enough.

4a "Representative Clarence Cannon of Missouri, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the House.

I think that is about all I have. I am ready to answer any questions that you may want to ask.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, to try to clarify something on the draft study, would you say this is looking toward the possibility of meeting all of our military manpower requirements on a voluntary basis in the next decade?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, sir. I don't predict that. I said it looks forward to that. We will have to see the results of the study.

Q. Who will make the study, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. The policy will be submitted by the Secretary of Defense, and will be made by them with other agencies of the Government, like the draft agency and the Labor Department and other related agencies that have interest in it.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, can you give us a progress report on the rail situation?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. They are meeting late at night. They are still negotiating in the traditional free enterprise manner. We are very proud of the conduct of both sides. There have been some statements issued by some people that were not connected with the negotiations, away from here. But almost without exception, they have been encouraging and hopeful ones.

I think we have had a very productive few days. I have commended the brotherhoods, the carriers, and I now commend the press for helping us try to settle this in our free enterprise system without burying collective bargaining. I believe it will be settled that way. I am looking for a report early in the week.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, at your news conference the other day, when you were asked about your job, you said you enjoyed it and would like to continue. That is about the closest you have come to declaring you are a candidate. When can we expect a formal answer?

THE PRESIDENT. I would go back and check what I said. I think you are a little bit off on what I said. But you might want to review that, if it interests you a great deal.5 When I have any announcement along that line, I will work out some way of getting it to you. Until I do, I don't want to see any party in this country be an opposition party just for the sake of opposition.

5 See Item 266 [15],

I believe it very damaging to the American Nation to have opposition for opposition's sake, and to have blind opposition. It grieves me when I see measures that are calculated to benefit all Americans opposed along party lines. It distresses me to see measures that came up under President Eisenhower's administration that passed with almost solid Republican votes, and the same measures come up with other administrations and they oppose the same measures as opposition votes. I try to keep as far away from partisanship and campaigning as I can.

I try to keep my political speeches restrained. I have tried to be President of all the people. I want to do it just as long as I can and stay out of the political arena as long as I can, until I get a program along and do what I think is best for all America; not just best for Democrats, but best for all Americans.

I am keeping my engagements down to practically those that President Kennedy had already made firm commitments on. I am trying to acknowledge whatever contributions the other party makes to the success of our program, even in those speeches. I want a pay raise for all the Congressmen, because I think they deserve it; not just for the Democratic Congressmen. I am going to try to stay out of the campaign field as long as possible. How long I will be able to do that, I don't know. But when I do decide, if you will give me your number, I will let you know.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, this morning Governor Romney assailed the Supreme Court decision on the separation of state and church, and said this is a sort of weakening of our moral and religious fiber in this country. Would you comment on the Supreme Court ruling?

THE PRESIDENT. I have not seen Romney's comments, and I would not want to evaluate them without seeing them.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, this morning from Saigon, sir, there are reports that perhaps another coup is imminent, and perhaps Secretary Rusk's life may have been threatened. Have you received any reports from the Secretary which you might pass on to us?

THE PRESIDENT, No. We have no such reports, no indication of such reports. A good many things come from Saigon through various routes, and I don't want to comment on the reliability or responsibility of them, if we find them unjustified. Secretary Rusk is one of our most cautious officers. He has admonished other Cabinet members from time to time to be extremely careful in their traveling. I have no doubt that he will follow my instructions and take care of himself, exercising every possible precaution. I would not think any good purpose would be served by trying to advertise the fact that he is in imminent danger, and I don't believe he is.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, sir, Senator Goldwater said he was leading the pack for the Republican nomination. Do you think he will be the Republican nominee?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't keep informed on the details of the Republican aspirants' gains or losses. A good many people talk to me about it and want to ask me a question during visits, to ask me something about it. One of the men I talked to yesterday, who is very knowledgeable in public affairs, told me that he thought if Senator Goldwater ' carried California and Illinois, as he has, if he carries Texas, as he expects to, without any question, and the other Southeastern States, probably having Arizona and some of the States like Montana and Wyoming, that potential was some 632 votes, without one or two other States that they considered could go his way.

It looked like a pretty solid figure, over 500, the way it was going now. I haven't checked it and I don't know anything about it. But when you take the Southeastern votes that have indicated they are for him and add to them Illinois, Texas, and California, what he might pick up in some of the other States, I think he will be up there pretty high.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, you reviewed your position yesterday with Russian Ambassador Dobrynin. Did you see any indication that there has been any progress?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't want to add anything to the statement that we made yesterday.6 It was a work meeting. We discussed thoroughly and comprehensively a good many of the problems that face our two nations. I think communication between us is important. I hope it will be helpful. I always want to maintain accessibility with everyone, including the press.

6 The statement announced that the President had asked Ambassador Dobrynin to come in for a general discussion of Soviet-American relations.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, sir, to what do you attribute this improved economic outlook?

THE PRESIDENT. first, we have less men out of work than we have had at any period. We have more capital being invested. They predict that as a result of the tax bill, investment will exceed, this year, 10 percent over last year, and will produce jobs. One company alone will produce 18,000 new opportunities. Some of that is already coming in.

I think the general business optimism in the country which has brought the Dow-Jones Averages from something over 700 to an all-time high of 820-odd, is encouraging people to go out and build plants that will make jobs; I think the responsibility of labor and management being able to work out their difficulties with so few strikes, and the stability of prices; I think the desire of the Government to live frugally and with a reduced budget; I think the passage of the tax bill.

Probably the freedom of the press helped some, because you reported all these things, and the fellows that have to create the jobs and provide the jobs have been optimistic and encouraged about it.

I have often said that this free enterprise system is made up of three parts: the man who has to invest the money, buy the machinery; the man that manages the men that work; and the men that work. All three of them have been pulling pretty good together.

We have talked to both groups and urged them to urge business to reduce prices wherever they could and, in some instances, it has foregone price increases. They have made reductions. We hope that the price line will hold and there can be some reductions in some fields. We are urging business to reduce prices wherever they can. We are urging labor to look at what they are doing now, and bear in mind that if we should have inflation, nobody would be hurt more than the workingman who had a frozen salary and had to pay increased prices for everything he consumes.

We had the Council of Economic Advisers maintain contact with both of them, and I have stayed in very close personal contact. As a matter of fact, I don't know whether it has been made public or not, but if it hasn't, you can check with George7 and get the date.

7 George Reedy, Press Secretary to the President.

I am having a good many people from the Committee on Economic Development, the Committee on Business Advisers, and the Council of Advisers, who I have had in before, and then some outstanding businessmen who have been helpful, to a dinner at the White House a little later this month, at which time we will give them a full briefing on foreign affairs,8 as we have done for every Member of Congress, in the House and the Senate--some 535 of them.

8 See Item 299.

We will later have a meeting of the labor leaders, as we have done in the past, and we will review with them the signs that we see ahead, and the desirability of lowering prices and maintaining stability, avoiding inflation, trying to balance our budget, reduce our deficit.

Q. Mr. President, could you be a little more specific about lowering prices in terms of which industries? For example, is one of them automobiles?

THE PRESIDENT. No. We are making it a general proposition as a result of the tax bill. We hope that wherever profits will permit, every businessman will realize he has an obligation to help us control inflation, and it is to his interest to do so, that he will give us the best mousetrap at the lowest price. We don't have controls and the Government cannot force them to do these things. But we are trying to provide leadership and persuasion.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, in regard to this manpower study, could you say that we look forward in the decade of the seventies to a reduced military force?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't want to anticipate the results of that study before it was begun, but we are going to look into the future. Of course, it is the hope of everyone that tensions in the world can ease, that we can bring about disarmament, that we can take part of the resources that are now going into military production and protection, taking these resources and spend them on a better society and a greater society, as I talked of yesterday.

I didn't have all the time I wanted, but I would urge you, if you haven't got the 18 minutes it takes to read all that speech,8a to read the first two or three pages and the last two or three pages, and you will see what I am thinking about on our obligations.

8a Item 270.

I hope during my administration, however long it may be, that I can leave some imprint on having done more for humanity and preserving it, making a better society for all, not only just here, but in the entire world.

[17.] Q. Mr. President, in view of the damaging effect that the rail strike would have on the economy, if collective bargaining fails to work--

THE PRESIDENT. That is an "iffy" question, and you know I don't want to admit it is about to fail to work or predict it wouldn't work. I assume it will work. When it does not work, you come back in here and I will have a good visit with you on what we are going to do. But until then, I don't know myself.

I am not trying to be secretive. But if you were in my place and I were in your place, and I asked you the same question, you would try to answer it the same way I have.

I honestly don't know. I believe and I have faith in this operation. I was told that I could follow one of two courses. I could call these people over here and appeal to them to continue to negotiate what has been going on for 4 years, or I could do nothing and let the strike go on.

I looked at what it would cost us--7 million jobs, a 15 percent drop in the gross national product, higher prices all across the board, health hazards--and I decided that I would do what I did do.

Some of them said, or indicated, that the President didn't do it the right way, or he should not have done it, or something. But I was very pleased and proud of the patriotism of both groups having asserted itself, and that they have worked diligently, as has Dr. Taylor and Mr. Kheel, both of them having made sacrifices. One of them left a wife that had just been operated on that day. He has been sitting here around the clock, almost.

I believe that if it works out, the Presidency will be--maybe somebody will reevaluate it and have a little different approach to it. If it doesn't, most of them would be very sad because, as I said, they never made these statements, never heard of them. If it doesn't work out, all of us will feel that we tried and did our best and failed. I have done that in the past.

Q. Mr. President, I wondered, sir--

THE PRESIDENT. Did you want to finish that? Go ahead.

Q. No, I just wondered why you called for a report on Monday.

THE PRESIDENT. Like I called for a report earlier this week. I like to keep up with the progress. I drop in on them occasionally. I like to see what is going on and make any contributions I can within the freedom of collective bargaining. We may get one on Tuesday. I hope I will get one on Monday. I hope it is final. There is nothing magic to that dateline.9

9 See Item 284.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, without looking ahead to your Monday's speech,10 could you zero in one part of this story today that you referred to? They talked about 45 percent cutback.

THE PRESIDENT. I did zero in on that in opening my statement, and I think that is all I want to refer to. I just say it is totally inaccurate. If you can just keep your blood pressure in good shape until Monday, I will give you a very full, accurate, and detailed thing of what we have in mind. It does involve a good many things. Decisions are still being made. Every now and then you have people that jump the gun, as we say down there.

Alvin A. Spivak, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.

10 See Item 272.

Note: President Johnson's fourteenth news conference was held in the President's office at the White House at 12:48 p.m. on Saturday, April 18, 1964.

Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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