Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

March 31, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. As you can suspect, ladies and gentlemen, from the picture-taking this morning, we are trying a little bit of an innovation.

There has been some slight interest shown in the tests recently conducted in the Pacific, and for this reason, I brought along with me this morning the expert in that field. After I take a certain share of the press conference time, I am going to turn the rest of it over to him. Of course, this will also give me a unique privilege of seeing someone else in this particular spot!1

1The President referred to the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Lewis L. Strauss. See note at end of this news conference.

One of the things that I should like to take a moment to talk about is the excise taxes.

The excise taxes, of course, have reduced revenues a very considerable amount more than I recommended. Nevertheless, from the ,beginning it was acknowledged that here was a field that was open to discussion. There is one school of thought that believes that cutting of excise taxes can have such a great effect in stimulating of business that the revenues will not be hurt as much as we estimate.

In any event, the bill, continuing certain needed excise taxes on beyond April 1st--that is tomorrow--is going to be signed. I will sign it today. I accept it wholeheartedly, and we are certainly hopeful that any damaging results will not be as great as might be.

I should like to call attention to this one fact: on figures furnished to me by the Treasury, this will be the greatest single tax reduction in dollars ever accomplished by the American Government, $7,400,000,000 reduced in one year in taxes. This includes, of course, the reduction in income taxes of January 1st, the abolition of the excess profits tax, and this excise tax. That will be a huge amount of money in the hands of private citizens to spend themselves; and, certainly, we have every reason to believe that it will be a stimulating factor in our economy.

Another point to discuss just briefly is housing. There has been a lot of different kinds of thinking on public housing. I think most of you are aware of the general provisions of the plan that I submitted to the Congress some couple of months ago, and I am informed that Mr. Wolcott's committee is bringing out that program largely in the same form as presented to him.

Now, in the public housing factor, there has been a very considerable struggle, but I am delighted that yesterday the leadership succeeded in getting the necessary appropriations so that approximately 35,000 public housing units can be constructed this year. And the authorization will certainly be accorded to go for a like amount or something of that order next year, in the authorization committee.

The other item that I wanted to mention was the Randall report, and my message to Congress on foreign trade. I think the report and the message largely speak for themselves, but I do want to make this one observation: in making this kind of an adjustment, in trying to move from an era in which our friends abroad had to depend so markedly on direct aid into an era where expanded trade will be of benefit to all of us, certain difficulties, even certain hardships can occur not only in our country but in others.

The Government is alert to that situation, will constantly be vigilant to see that any damage of that kind does not become one that is unjustified as you think of the welfare of the 160 million people, and will take such steps as are necessary to prevent them from becoming either widespread or severe. But that there will be some adjustments of that kind is, of course, inevitable.

I do believe that in this day and time, the free world must come more and more to realize that in an expanding, healthy, two-way trade lies our best insurance that the doctrines of statism cannot come in and overcome our whole idea of free government. Within our own country we don't feel that danger so intimately; the danger, in other words, is not in position, let us say, of breathing down our necks. But in some of the others it is, and we have got to take all of those things into consideration as we stand firmly for a principle which, in the long run, is for the good of all of us. It is going to take very great firmness because, as I say, there are bound to be some maladjustments and difficulties.

Now, that was my speech for the morning, ladies and gentlemen; and the rest of my time that I have allocated to myself, we will take up with questions.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: I wonder if you could explore for us, sir, or amplify on Secretary Dulles' speech the other night in which he spoke of our readiness to take united action in the Far East.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, the speech must stand by itself. I should say that I was over every word of it beforehand; Secretary Dulles and I, as usual, find ourselves in complete agreement.

I have forgotten the exact words that he used in respect to the question you raised, but he did point out that it is in united action of all nations and peoples and countries affected in that region that we can successfully oppose the encroachment of communism, and should be prepared to meet any kind of attack that would come in there. He pointed out the great value of the region to all the free world and what its loss would mean to us.

So, I think, aside from just the assertion that we are seeking that kind of united action among all our friends, that the speech otherwise must stand by itself.

Q. Martin Agronsky, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, I wondered if I could ask one more specific question along those lines. The united action has been interpreted generally as indicating, perhaps, intervention, direct intervention or direct use, more accurately, of American troops. Can you comment on that--if necessary?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have said time and again that I can conceive of no greater disadvantage to America than to be employing its own ground forces, and any other kind of forces, in great-numbers around the world, meeting each little situation as it arises.

What we are trying to do is to make our friends strong enough to take care of local situations by themselves, with the financial, the moral, the political and, certainly, only where our own vital interests demanded any military help.

But each of these cases is one that has its own degree, let us say, of interest for the United States, its own degree of risk and danger; consequently, each one must be met on its merits.

I couldn't possibly give you a general rule of what the United States would do in a situation, because no one could know all of the circumstances surrounding it. I think the best answer I ever heard in diplomacy was that given by France, I believe, to Germany in late August or late July of 1914• When Germany asked her her intentions, she said, "France will do that which her best interests dictate," and that is about the only answer I believe you can give, except in terms of very great generality.

Q. Garnett Horner, Washington Evening Star: Mr. President, reports from Europe indicate that the European Defense Community project is bogging down. That raises again the question of whether we have all our policy eggs in that EDC basket, or whether there is some alternative in mind if EDC fails. Could you comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I just say this. I have been threatened with defeat before, and I don't fight my second battle on the supposition that it is going to occur.

I am all out for the approval of EDC and establishing it as a factor that will insure Europe's safety. Until that question is definitely settled-and I still firmly believe in the affirmative--I am not going to comment on what else could happen.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, an explosive situation seems to be building up in the Middle East between the Arab States and Israel, which the Soviet Union seems to be exploiting, if not fomenting. I wondered if you favored bringing the Israel-Arab dispute before the U.N. Security Council, the whole dispute?

THE PRESIDENT. I couldn't comment on that at the moment. It would be, I think, speaking a little bit recklessly.

We have had a very definite program of our own that we have supported--when I say "of our own"I don't mean it quite that way--we have thoroughly approved the idea that is implicit in the U.N. plan that through some economic unity there we would achieve a better, let us say, psychological and political union; therefore, we have been very strongly supporting the plan of development, including water development and sharing, that we hoped would be effective.

There is, of course, so much emotionalism in the thing that you can't tell from day to day how it is going to come out. But I do say it is a case where both sides ought to restrain their partisans and their extremists, use a little bit of reason, and depend upon the judgments of outside people.

Q. Francis M. Stephenson, New York Daily News: I wonder, is the Federal Government planning to take any action in the New York waterfront strike?

THE PRESIDENT. The question is about the New York waterfront strike. I, of course, want to be careful that I don't pretend that I am going to get into a field where it is so technical that I couldn't possibly expect to know the answers; so I will talk a little bit in generalities but, I think, clearly enough to show intention and concern.

Any strike of this kind is of the utmost importance to the whole Nation and, therefore, to your Federal Government.

Whenever we touch this delicate transportation system of the United States and affect it seriously, we affect the economy, we affect the living, the welfare of many thousands; we affect even such things as health and sanitation, that sort of thing. So these things become serious instantly.

The second they occur, every department of Government that has any possible connection instantly keeps abreast of the situation: the Attorney General; the NLRB--largely independent--of course does so, and determines such things as elections and all that sort of thing; at the same time, Federal courts, an independent branch, take action. Finally it becomes necessary to make sure that their orders are obeyed.

There is also, of course, the understanding in America that everything is handled locally as long as it can be, and you don't bring down Federal agencies until it is necessary. There are city authorities, there are State authorities; they are doing their best, and again we have one of those cases where partnerships must be observed.

The Federal Government has certain grave responsibilities imposed by law, but there are also the police powers and that sort of thing in keeping order that reside in the local authorities. So it is a question of partnership. Our Attorney General, the NLRB, the Secretary of Labor, everybody, is keeping up with this as closely as possible, and to keep me informed as to the whole situation, so that if it does become the responsibility of the Federal Government to take more positive action, we are ready to move in accordance with law, the Constitution, and the merits of the case.

Now, there is very little more you can say, I think, on that matter.

Q. Otto Leichter, Arbeiter-Zeitung, Vienna, Austria, and Swiss and West German Newspapers: Mr. President, do you consider or contemplate any new initiative to obtain an Austrian independence treaty or the withdrawal of all occupation forces, or at least to ease the occupation of Austria?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not sure that I understood every single implication of your question; but, generally, it was, do we have any new approach now to secure a general approval of the Austrian treaty.

About the only observation I could make on it is this: for now, I think it is, 6 or 7 years, we have stood firmly for the early completion of the Austrian treaty, believing it to be wholly unjust and unnecessary to continue the occupation of that country, in view particularly of the facts that early in the war it was agreed that Austria had been occupied country and not an instigator of the war. So I know of no reason that we shouldn't continue to stand on that belief; as a matter of fact, I know we do, and we will certainly be alert to every possible way of easing the situation. But when you come down to asking me to predict success or what could be a brand new approach, I could not comment.

Q. George E. Herman, CBS Radio: Mr. President, the last few weeks the Soviet Union has broken a considerable amount of precedent by publishing the details of nuclear and thermonuclear explosions. Could you tell us what your feelings are on their policies and intentions in making public these facts lately?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't really know.

We have had many discussions on them--I would say inconclusive; but there are some who believe that it is indicating a slight change in public policy that might indicate a greater readiness to negotiate earnestly and honestly.

We are trying to keep ourselves in position so that, at any sign of negotiating honestly, we can do so with confidence, on the plan that I suggested last December--which would be merely a beginning. All things like that, we would certainly welcome in view of the situation in the world today.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, the last couple of weeks several members of your team have announced they are returning to private life: C. D. Jackson, Mr. Kyes, and Mr. Dodge. Could you discuss with us the problem of inducing such men to stay in Government?

THE PRESIDENT. Today, I think it is perfectly clear to all of us, with the family responsibilities that men have, with the tax situation that they have, children to educate, and all of that sort of thing, it is only natural that they think this kind of public duty should be shared.

Now, each of the three men you name promised to stay a year. In each case, because of certain changes in the program and the need for having very intelligent expositions before the committees of the House and the Senate, they have agreed to stay a little longer.

They are difficult to replace, but in at least two instances I am sure we have two very able and capable men to take their places.

I believe that any government such as this is not wholly damaged by some rotation of people, bringing fresh people in from the outside as long as they are capable in themselves and dedicated.

The three men that are going, that you just named, I couldn't speak of them in terms of too great praise. I think they have done a remarkable job. I am indebted to them, and I think the people are indebted to them. So it is not easy for any people to fill their shoes, but when you can do it, a certain amount of that rotation is good rather than bad.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register and Tribune: Mr. President, several weeks ago I had asked if the White House had given up its efforts to obtain the resignation of Chairman Johnson of the ICC, and at that time you stated that you had no knowledge of that, and I wondered if you had an opportunity to acquaint yourself with the ICC problem of personnel.

THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact I forgot about that question. Will you make a note, and I will. [Confers with Mr. Hagerty]

As a matter of fact, Mr. Hagerty says that I make an answer that is very, very unusual for me, because he says "No comment." I don't know anything about it, but I will try again to look it up. [Laughter]

That is my last question, and now Mr. Strauss is going to take over. I didn't realize that time had gone.

Note: During the remainder of the news conference the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Lewis L. Strauss, read from a prepared statement making public those portions of his report to the President of March 30, 1954, as could be released without compromising the national security. The Chairman described his visit to the AEC proving grounds in the Marshall Islands where he witnessed the second part of the thermonuclear weapons tests for which Bikini and Eniwetok served as bases of operations. After reading from his statement Mr. Strauss answered queries from members of the press.

The statement was released by the White House. Excerpts of the statement were published in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 30, p. 548).

President Eisenhower's thirty-third news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 11:09 o'clock on Wednesday morning, March 31, 1954. 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/233640

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