Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

April 09, 1958

THE PRESIDENT. Please sit down. Good morning. We'll go to questions right away.

Q. Dayton Moore, United Press: Mr. President, what is your thinking now about a tax cut in light of yesterday's unemployment figures and other current economic conditions?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think you have been informed by the Secretary of the Treasury that he has made an arrangement with the Speaker and with the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and with the Majority Leader in the Senate that there would be no tax cut proposed until after there had been full consultation between those people.

I see no figures that bring this thing to a critical point and require a decision at the moment; although I have, as you know, always admitted it's a subject that is under constant study in every conference. for example, only yesterday morning, a long conference on it. But the position is as I expressed it.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, many people find it strange that the cost of living has continued to go up in spite of the recession. Do you find that disturbing, and would you favor a pretty widespread reduction in prices?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Folliard, I certainly felt exactly the same way that you now feel, and I went into the history of these depressions. I find this is not an unusual phenomenon; that this has been more, you might say, the normal than the abnormal.

Now, in this case, we have had rises constantly on food prices and on services--by services, of course, meaning everything they do for you whether it's medical attention or cutting your hair or anything else; those are the two elements that have kept shoving prices up.

There have been a number of price reductions in other fields, but they have not been sufficient to overcome this tendency of the cost of living to go up a fraction except, I think, for one recent month.

So I think it is not an extraordinary phenomenon in this part of the business cycle, but it is a thing which you would hope would not be occurring.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, would you give us your estimate as to how long it might take before the economy is affected by the appropriations voted for road building and housing?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Sentner, I really can't give a prediction on those things. I do know that we have tried to push hard on those things that are already in progress, in the belief that acceleration of the project would be a better way of accelerating employment, getting more people busy, than to start new and untried projects.

I cannot say how much those expenditures will be helping, but they are, of course, considerable.

Q. Joseph R. Slevin, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, do you expect to make a decision on the need for a tax cut during this month?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't make any statement as to the exact time. I say when the conditions require that a decision one way or the other be made, and of course that could run right along until the end of the session. What I do repeat is: I see no need for emergency action now, and that would be the kind of thing you would be suggesting.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, a couple of recent surveys apparently show that there is no great clamor for a tax cut in the land. Does that check with your intelligence?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, in the same way that yours does. I have not had an official or exhaustive poll made of this thing, but my mail shows that; except a number of people come in and they have a particular excise tax, but it is always applying to the particular business in which they are engaged. That seems to be a favorite point in the correspondence that comes to me, but I notice this: it's that particular tax, and they want to show how we can keep all the others off the books.

Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Mr. President, speaking of your mail, do you find that the people are supporting your Pentagon plan more than the Congressmen on Capitol Hill are?

THE PRESIDENT. Let's don't make comparisons because we haven't made a poll down there.

You know, sometimes there is a lot of vociferous action around that is not necessarily so weighty. But in my own mail I have not seen or taken a sampling or a gauge on that particular mail.

Q. Mr. Roberts: Mr. President, Secretary Dulles disclosed to us yesterday some of the recommendations of the Killian group study on how to detect testing or control production if you had an agreement with the Russians. Will you make this study public so that there can be a general understanding of the problem involved?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it's scarcely a study, Mr. Roberts. I asked a question of scientific people, and I asked them to give me a schematic explanation of the system that they would advocate functionally and all the other ways.

When such a thing as that comes to me, it naturally doesn't come to my mind right away what parts of this are vitally outside the security realm and which are within it. So I would have to take a look as to what would be done.

I should think that the methods of detecting and the complete examination which goes on all the time--there was no cutoff date or anything else--this is just a study that goes on all the time. I think that the methods and some of the parts of it could very well be brought out by Mr. Killian just as he did in that introduction to outer space.

Q. Mr. Roberts: Sir, if I may follow that, the Secretary said specifically that the number of stations, inspection stations, which would be necessary in any country, that the estimate of that had gone up since the studies made by Mr. Stassen when he was here. This would appear to indicate that this problem has become more difficult in terms of negotiation, and that is the reason I was wondering if we could see it.

THE PRESIDENT. As you know, the Secretary of State did point out both in the letter and in his conference yesterday that one of the things we would like to do is to have a joint study of techniques, how you do this thing, that everybody could believe in.

I had not intended to talk anything about any specific, but I know that he did say that the number now suggested is larger than one that had been suggested some months back; that is true.

But I think for specifics on the thing we will have to wait and see when Dr. Killian comes back, and then we can talk to him about it.

Q. Alvin A. Spivak, International News Service: Mr. President, there has been some concern in Congress that your defense reorganization plan might make a czar of the Defense Secretary. Are you convinced that your plan contains adequate safeguards against that happening?

THE PRESIDENT. There is always great horror and alarm expressed about any reforms going to do something, whether it was the income tax in 1913, which all of us are still kicking about, but right on down.

After all, if we are going to talk about czars in this country, let us look at the built-in constitutional guards that there are.

For example, there is a Commander in Chief over the Secretary of Defense. The Secretary of Defense is certainly not going to be very effective if four Chiefs of Staff are .not supporting him very definitely. The Congress is there every day for making the money available or not making the money available. Then, you have the National Guard in all the parts of the United States. You have the Reserves.

How could anyone like the Secretary of Defense suddenly accumulate and concentrate in one corner or one spot the power to take over this Government and not have the most terrific reaction in this country that has ever happened?

And let's don't forget the spiritual strength and the traditions of America.

The idea of making a czar out of anybody--usually they have always tried to do it about a military man. Now, they found that wasn't very profitable, because, when they look back over history, they couldn't find a single military man in modern history, not to say American history, but in modern history, except in certain, largely, of the Latin American countries.

Hitler and Mussolini were not soldiers; and Bismarck, who was almost a dictator until Wilhelm II came along, was a civilian.

So they gave up that argument, and now they are talking about making a civilian a czar. I don't see any sense to it at all.

Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, when you announced your plan for reorganizing the Defense Department, it was said that you were going to stage a real hard fight to get it through Congress.

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

Q. Mr. McGaffin: Since then, some very powerful men in Congress on both sides of the aisle have announced their opposition to the plan. Could you tell us what you have in mind for getting it through Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't care how strong they are or how numerous they are. Here is something for the United States. Here is something that is necessary.

I would get onto the air as often as the television companies would let me on. I would keep it up until I would have the United States understanding that it is their pocketbook, first of all; more than that, it is their safety, it is their safety.

Now, these are two very great compelling reasons in my mind. I don't care who is against this thing. It just happens I have got a little bit more experience in military organization and the directing of unified forces than anyone else in the active list. There are others that possibly are more experienced, but they are no longer in the active scene.

The things I am trying to get over are the things that the United States needs.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, the General Services Administration keeps on letting these contracts for lease-purchase arrangements which are going to cost the Government a pile of money in interest rates; and there is a proposal in Congress now to cut off the money for the lease-purchase on the theory that it would be cheaper to build Government buildings with direct appropriations.

Couldn't you take some action to stop this lease-purchase contracting so that we could save a lot of money in that way?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't agree with your premise at all, because where you say here is some money and interest, when we borrow money, do you suppose we pay interest? Of course we do.

Now, this is a very difficult thing to do. The question comes when you have a great rehabilitation of your Post Office system, would you rather put a great big chunk of federal money out now and get some more borrowing and more deficit spending, or would you rather let private financial institutions bring it, and then you tax it?

I don't think the argument is on one side at all. I will admit it is arguable, but it certainly is not on one side.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: When the current or the future series of atomic tests, I think scheduled to take place next month. is completed, after that is completed, would you consider a suspension of atomic testing?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Wilson, I would say this: It would have to be under current conditions. We are not talking about other changes in conditions and a series of ifs and ands, except this one: the scientists would have to tell me what they thought it necessary to find out, and whether they had largely or almost completely found out the things they wanted to know.

In that case, I should think it would be perfectly proper for us, not as part of an agreement or anything else, but as a unilateral statement of our intentions, because I'm not going to say we will do this according to someone else's action when we have no ways of finding out for certain that they were doing it. But I may be mistaken. If we do find out all the necessary things, then I would, of course, consider such a statement.

Q. Mr. Wilson: Is it fair to state that there is a possibility of suspension of tests, provided the scientific reports to you are, let's say, satisfactory? I don't know what word to use in that connection.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. Well, certainly, I would consider it very seriously at that point.

Q. Rod MacLeish, Westinghouse Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, going back to this matter of relations with Congress and, particularly, in matters like the Defense reorganization, how far do you believe a President should go to persuade individual Congressmen to his point of view on a matter that you obviously feel as strongly about as this one, individual approach--just how far do you believe a President should go?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you do a great deal of that, of course, and most of it off the record, because frequently you are talking to people of the other party and you don't want to embarrass anybody.

The President, manifestly, can't get around the 531 people in this whole Congress. He has to confine himself largely to the people in the committees and in the leaderships.

But I would say this: I would not eliminate any effort that I thought would be productive, because I personally believe this thing will go swimmingly once people really understand it.

But there are so many built-in prejudices and misunderstandings that have been created by loose talk and by arguments.

As a matter of fact, I have known in my time, when I was a fairly junior officer, of commercial companies coming in and stating that they could operate better with such and such a service than with another one.

You have got all sorts of built-in lobbying in this kind of thing, and the only thing that will bring it around is understanding on the part of the American people and their representatives.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: You sent a letter yesterday to Premier Khrushchev in which you suggested that the United States and the Soviet Union get their technicians together to study the technical problems involved in inspecting any arms agreement. Would you consider the start of such discussions essential before you would go to a Summit meeting?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't make that a necessary condition at all. If there was preparatory work of another kind that was effective and was satisfactory, why, certainly, I wouldn't put that as a separate condition.

Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, this session of Congress is about half over. Would you care to evaluate its operations to date?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, we had for the first month Sputnik and then, as the economic activity lessened, why, it changed the emphasis.

There have been quite a number of things done, but I think that some of the--particularly the things that I think are very important have not yet been tackled: the critical appropriation bills, the reorganization or, rather, the modernization, I would like to call it, of the Defense establishment; the Reciprocal Trade Act; and the mutual security. Those things, to my mind, are vital to the welfare of the country. Now, so far, we have obviously not made a great deal of difference.

Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: In connection with reciprocal trade, the Secretary of Commerce was notified yesterday by his own Under Secretary in Japan that there is unanimous great concern there about U. S. foreign trade policy.

Now, Japan apparently is worried about what Congress will do with your reciprocal trade program and, at the same time, has now ratified or approved of a trade agreement with Red China, which involves political conditions as well as commercial conditions. Would you please comment on this?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I point this out: here are--I think I have made this little talk before; if I repeat myself, I am sorry--here are 95 million people on a piece of ground, arable ground, about that of the extent of California. The question is: how are they going to make a living? They have no natural resources of any moment. They were getting them before World War II from Manchuria and North China, a great many of them: iron ore and coking coal.

Now they have to go some place else. They can make a living only in one way, and that is to get materials, manufacture them and sell them to somebody. In other words, they are performing services for certain peoples in the world that need them.

It happens in our case we are not very needful, although there are some things that, of course, we import very advantageously to ourselves and to our people. But we do have to make a very widespread effort to see that they are given the opportunity to make a living. I personally think that certain wise and necessary trade with the continent of Asia on their part is necessary, and that goes on--that is, the lands in the Southwest Pacific, India, and so on, and some has to be with us.

Now, very naturally, any country that is in the position Japan is, will be concerned with our Reciprocal Trade Act, and they will watch any development that looks like we are trying to raise our walls and to retire into isolation; they will see that this means a desertion of leadership in the world and a great danger for all of us, and they will have to go much more fully into other directions than in the one I just expressed.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Richmond Times Dispatch: Sir, you have several times recommended to Congress the creation of about 40 additional federal judgeships to clean up the congestion in the dockets of the courts. Both your Attorneys General have recommended it. The House Judiciary Committee has not even had hearings on it. Do you plan to use your influence with Congress to get such a bill through this year?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the only thing that would do that would be to keep pegging away at those things. It is not one that you just go out and make a great speech to the Nation on. You keep pegging away and you send your people down and you get your Attorney General, you get to talk to the Chairman informally. But I don't know exactly why the opposition is so strong, because we have been doing this ever since 1953.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, George Meany of the AFL-CIO interprets the latest unemployment figures as meaning a deepening of the recession rather than a slowing of the decline. Do you care to comment on his view of the situation?

THE PRESIDENT. I think not. He is entitled to his opinion. I have pointed out that, not professing to be a great expert in these things, I have only one recourse; that is to get the very finest opinions from bankers, businessmen, and everybody I can think of, and I have had the labor group in to give me their views. I think it is just a question where we have to do what we believe best.

Q. Henry N. Taylor, Scripps-Howard: Sir, you were speaking of your mail earlier. Has your mail or information from Congressmen about their mail indicated to you that there is a great grass roots urging in this country for you to meet at the Summit with the Russians? And have your political advisers said anything to you about whether this would be a useful thing in the light of the coming political campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think I have heard anyone talk about the Summit in connection with a coming political campaign.

I have seen only one or two polls, State polls. Under the conditions in which the questions were asked, the opinion about the Summit meeting was negative, but the questions did, in each case, state "under properly prepared," or "where there is something to be considered," or something of that kind that might be worthwhile. There were about, I believe, 30 percent in two States that I saw recently that didn't know, don't know. That is the kind of thing you get in many of those.

Q. John R. Gibson, Wall Street Journal: Sir, the Russians have been raising a lot of propaganda noise lately about the United States recession. Do you or your advisers see any danger to the United States political position abroad as a result of the recession?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that if we would have to look forward to just a continuance, decline, of course there would be political disadvantages throughout the world, but we don't look toward that thing.

After all, there are still 62 million people working in this country; there is still a tremendous purchasing power; there is a tremendous sum of money that is in our savings banks that I believe is at an all-time level; the actions of the federal Reserve Board in making money cheaper and more plentiful. I think there are real grounds to hope that we will, one of these days--I'm not going to try to predict--that we're on the upgrade; and then I think these apprehensions will be stilled.

Of course, they voice them. They say, "Well, we hope nothing desperate happens to you," but, most of them have confidence that it is not going to be desperate.

Q. Arthur B. Dunbar, Newark News: Sir, Senator Case of New Jersey is proposing in a speech today that the United States declare to the world that it will test only clean, defensive, nuclear weapons; and it should invite international monitoring of this, and suggests to the Soviet Union that they join the same sort of restriction. Would you comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there are so many specific suggestions made about these things.

We must understand one thing, in all honesty. We call them clean weapons. There is still a percentage of what you would call a dirty residual, and that has some effect; but, as compared to the size of the weapon, these great advances have been made, so I don't think you could just start off by saying, "You can test only clean weapons."

The real purpose of these tests, in large part, is: how can we make them cleaner, getting nearer to perfection.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, I would like to ask you a question about what people should do to make the recession recede.

THE PRESIDENT. Buy.

Q. Mr. Spivack: Buy what?

THE PRESIDENT. Anything.

Q. Mr. Spivack: Well, that is just what I was going to ask you. [Laughter.] On March 26th you said at the press conference here they should buy now, but the other day Secretary of the Treasury Anderson in New York, when he was launching the Savings Bond campaign, said they should be thrifty and put their money in bonds. [Laughter.]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't say you should buy carelessly. I said to you the other day, let's be selective in our buying; let's take things we need.

Look here, once America just buys the things it wants, our people, our manufacturers, will be busy making those things.

I personally think our people are just being a little bit disenchanted about a few items that have been chucked down their throats, they are getting tired of them; and I think it will be a very good thing when the manufacturers wake up--I am not going to name names--and begin to give the things we want instead of the things they think we want. That is what I think.

Q. Andrew F. Tully, Jr., Scripps-Howard: It seems to me that in the last few months people have been jumping on you with more regularity. I wonder, sir, you never seem to hit back. Don't you ever feel like taking a retaliatory poke at these people?

THE PRESIDENT. Look, I did a great deal of boxing as a young fellow, and that would probably be my natural reaction.

I believe that there is a very great responsibility resting on a man in this office to preserve the dignity of the office.

I believe that it is a good practice, at least for me, to avoid calling of names. People are mistaken or they are bitter or they are guided by emotion or prejudice, and they tear after you. I don't think it is very seemly for me to just take that part of the thing.

So far as the things I believe in, I started in 1953; I have preached them, I have talked them, I have believed in them, and I have never waivered. Actually, in some of them, of course, there has been some success we have gotten over. But it is just, I believe, not a good business for me to begin to get up and call people some of the names they call me.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Mr. President, would you care to assess the Republican chances in the '58 campaign as of now?

THE PRESIDENT. No. [Laughter] I would say this: they can win if they will work hard and intelligently. Q. Edwin L. Dale, Jr., New York Times: Mr. President, the additional measures that have been discussed for use, if necessary, to halt the recession would involve a very large increase in the budget deficit, easily to as much as 10 billion or even more. Do you believe this is a legitimate price to pay, if necessary, to halt the slump?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will tell you, I think now you are beginning to talk about things that are getting rather of an emergency character, because when you get very large deficits then you have to go into deficit financing, then the money supply gets much more plentiful, and the prices of everything, Mr. Folliard remarked awhile ago, begin to go up.

So your national income goes up, but the prices that you are going to pay--and I think the possibility of an inflation under such a practice would be very greatly increased. I don't think any of us want any real inflation.

I was interested when I had, oh, my last German friend, the finance Officer, Erhard--he came to my office and he said this: "It is a strange thing," he said, "you people, as a people, are always worried about a recession, even a minor recession, going into a big depression. But," he said, "in our country, with our experience, there is only one thing we are concerned about, and that is inflation."

And he said, "So we have the worries exactly on the opposite side of this balance that you people do." And he was very emphatic in the way he remarked about it.

Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and thirty-first news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:07 to 10:59 o'clock on Wednesday morning, April 9, 1958. In attendance: 235.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234665

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