Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

December 15, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. I suppose you would expect me to mention that this is Safe Driving Day, and I am really hoping for the very best.

I was notified there was a petition on the way to my desk, somewhere in the mailroom, from 20,000 people from one city offering their cooperation. I hope it is certainly effective, not only in that city but everywhere.

I should like just to mention briefly the great satisfaction that the administration and I take, and I am sure the whole American people, in the visit of the Shah to our country, with his lovely wife.

You know, a matter of a year and a half ago, how badly things were going in Iran, from the standpoint of the Western World. It looked like Iran was on the way to becoming another of the so-called satellites. So this meeting seems to have not only significance in itself, but as symbolizing a great contrast in the conditions, at least in that country, between a year and a half ago or 16 months ago, and today. It is a matter of great satisfaction to us.

That is all I have. We will go to questions.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, we have heard something of this from other sources, but we wonder if you could tell us about the reasons and your plans to ask Congress to postpone the corporation and excise tax reduction next year?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it is a very simple process.

As I have told you before, the financial affairs of the Government are really very complicated, and they have numbers of unknown factors. One of them is the expenditures, what they are going to be, which always have to be estimated in advance. Another is income. And the other, of course, is the deficit and its effect on the value of the dollar, which introduces, definitely a variable factor.

This administration has been very much in favor, as you know, of extending such things as social security coverage, unemployment coverage, and all that sort of thing. There are two reasons for that--there are three reasons: one, of course, is the humanitarian, giving to these people a feeling of security and confidence. Two, the added stability you get in times of recession; you keep up the income of the mass of people, and keep up their purchasing power. But, three, all of this falls by the board unless your money stays stable. A pension plan is worth nothing if you pay for it in dollars that are now worth a hundred cents, and finally you draw it down in terms of 2-cent dollars.

So, this whole business of the financial affairs of the country, you have to take all of these things into account simultaneously.

Now, to lower taxes, you first must lower expenditures; and we have cut expenditures as, I think you will see when the figures finally come out, to what we consider the safe minimum.

But if you still have a deficit that begins to loom up as having a real effect on the value of your dollar, then you must keep up your taxable income. That taxable income, as we see it now forecast, will require the continuation of the 5 percent extra on the corporations, and these excise taxes as they now stand. Of course, they were already reduced last year. That takes positive action on the part of the Congress, because they are due to expire--those two taxes--as you know, on April 1st I believe it is.

So it is merely a question of keeping all of these matters in balance, as we see it, to the good of the whole country.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, will you ask a i-year extension or 2 or 3 years' extension of these taxes?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't believe that the point has been discussed in detail. I had thought of it in terms of I year, but it may be that the Treasury Department has some other term in mind. I can't give you an exact answer because that particular point hasn't been discussed.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, in the past year the Secretary of Labor has come up with at least two major ideas: one, the raising of the minimum wage from the present 75-cent level, and, two, the opposition to the anti-union shop laws in States now permitted under the Taft-Hartley law. Does the Secretary of Labor

THE PRESIDENT. You are talking about the right-to-work laws of the States?

Q. Mr. Herling: Well, the proponents call them right-to-work laws, and the opponents don't; yes, sir.

Does the Secretary of Labor then have your support on the increase in the minimum wage and, second, do you yourself favor the position of the Secretary of Labor in regard to the so-called right-to.-work laws?

THE PRESIDENT. With regard to the first, the whole question of increase in minimum wages was discussed, as I recall, in the last Economic Report that I submitted to the Congress. This administration does stand in favor of the adjustments, I believe I said then, at the proper time; and the proper time is certainly an expanding period in the economy. This matter has been under discussion; not ready to make a final announcement, but it is a matter that is under intensive study at the moment.

Now, on this point of the right-to-work laws: I have heard it discussed ever since I have been in my present office, pro and con. Of course, labor unions are very much against it. But States, and many States even that don't have them, are very much for them because they say this represents the inalienable and constitutional rights of a State to act in certain fields.

So you have here, to my mind, a matter that sort of hoists you on the horns of a dilemma if you believe, as I do, very firmly in constitutional government.

I am not particularly certain in my own mind just where the right does lay here. Of course, the Supreme Court has held under the Interstate Commerce provisions that the Federal Government has a right to operate in all these areas and should assume responsibility. But also there is the provision in the Constitution of the reservation of certain rights to the States. I myself couldn't say that I have reached an irrevocable decision. It is one that has been argued in front of me. Until finally the revision of the Taft-Hartley Act is taken up seriously by Congress, and this thing exhaustively and completely argued out, I just don't know exactly what my decision will be.

But, in the meantime, I have upheld the right of Secretary Mitchell to express his own convictions, because he has always held them, and so notified me, even before I appointed him.

Q. Mr. Herling: Sir, may I ask whether--the Secretary of Labor is your chief labor adviser, is he not?

THE PRESIDENT. That is right; indeed, he is.

Q. Mr. Herling: May I ask would it be

THE PRESIDENT. But listen, I will make this clear: I have no adviser who can take over from me the responsibility for making a decision for my own action as final. I am the responsible one, no matter if I have advisers who are chief or even sole. I have finally to take the responsibility for my own actions.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: As I understand it, sir, the North Atlantic Council in Paris this week is going to discuss the question of the atomic defense of Western Europe. Would you give us the benefit of your thinking as to who has the power of decision in the event of an attack, the power of decision of using atomic weapons in Western Europe?

THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, you raised the very question that is under discussion this week; and I think it would be most unwise for me to give my own convictions publicly when my own representatives are engaged in the negotiations on this point.

In certain areas and in certain fields, of course, our own right to act as we see fit is unquestioned.

When you have allies, if you are going to treat them as partners, you have to take into consideration their beliefs, their convictions. If they differ from yours, there is often very good reasons for it; and, therefore, you have to negotiate it out and see where you come out.

I will probably be ready to say a little bit more about this after this meeting is over; but, as it is now, I think that is about all I should say.

Q. Daniel Schorr, CBS News: Mr. President, it has been reported that the administration is planning a further cut of a hundred thousand--

THE PRESIDENT. To do what?

Q. Mr. Schorr: --a further cut of 100,000 in Army strength in the next fiscal year, and the withdrawal of the 1st Marine Division from the Far East. If that is so, could you explain the thinking behind it?

THE PRESIDENT. Where was this reported?

Q. Mr. Schorr: On CBS, sir. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I guess I must accept that as authoritative. [Laughter]

The only reason I am a little hesitant about giving you my thinking on this matter is that a full exposition would require probably more time than we should like to give to it.

I can say this, and it is in an attempt to, you might say, almost epitomize my thinking: the United States, as a nation, never had any reason to be particularly fearful of direct attack upon itself until the advent of two things--one, the long-range bomber or a means of delivering weapons upon us; and, secondly, of very destructive weapons. This, then, points-as I say, I am really cutting corners--this fact points to this one great need on our part: ways of blunting any attack against us, and ways of trying to deter it, preventing it from ever occurring. Here is where comes in the philosophy, you know, of retaliation, to make certain that no one can ever attack us and hope to gain by that kind of attack. If you can prevent that, then, as has been traditionally the case, the economy, the great industrial power, of the United States can unquestionably be decisive again.

In the meantime, of course, with these modern conditions we have accepted, we have recognized new problems--the terrific importance to us of a centrally controlled dictatorship getting sway over such industrial complexes, such productive nations and regions as, let us say, Western Europe and Japan.

So we have, with our own particular interest centered on continental defense, and, let us say, this power of ours to deliver more severe blows than we would get, we have also that problem of preventing the fall of those areas into the hands of someone who could exploit them.

All of this means, as I see it, that our immediately active forces are donated largely to the first task.

Secondly, to prevent all of the disastrous occupations and attacks against these vital areas concerned, we must have a proper reserve system that will enable us, both from a material and manpower standpoint, to bring our power to bear as rapidly as possible.

We can never do this across the oceans in a hurried fashion. The transport of troops and all of these things must follow curves that are determined by the amount of shipping, the amount of escort vessels, the safety of the oceans, and many other factors; so it can't be done hurriedly. So we can depend there, and must depend largely, on a fine Reserve system; which means that when we are calculating where our greatest value that we get, greatest defense value, out of every dollar is concerned, we can cut back on personnel in the active forces as long as we keep our continental defense, our striking power, and our Reserve system operating at its maximum character.

So this means, as I see it, that we should be very concerned in keeping the minimum of people in other places in our defense forces during the time of peace, so we can get the greatest dollar value out of every dollar we spend.

Q. Joseph C. Harsch, Christian Science Monitor: Two weeks ago you told us that you would look into the matter of whether there was anything in Ambassador Bohlen's report to you which you can pass on to us. Have you done so? Can you tell us anything?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, and I am sorry to tell you that the reports and advice that I get are not very encouraging on the side of talking in this way. Mr. Bohlen gave me his impressions very honestly and openly; the State Department pointed out that if I wanted to receive that kind of information always from the Ambassadors coming back, as they always do visit me, that I would just have to regard them as confidential because the man does not gauge his report to me in the terms of how it might be received in other quarters--I mean abroad. So it just seems to me that that must be governing in this case.

Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, may I ask two related questions? Growing out of the Monday conference with the Republican leaders, could you tell us the kind of support for your program you expect to get from your own party; and growing out of Tuesday's meeting, do you think that you observed a show of bipartisanship or do you feel there was substance and spirit behind the bipartisanship that appeared to be manifested?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will answer them in reverse order.

I think that yesterday the attitude toward all of these questions--we brought up not only foreign policy in its political or diplomatic sense, but foreign economic aid, mutual security programs, and the national security programs--I believe, in these, cooperation will be very real.

One reason I am encouraged in that regard is that numbers of times I have appeared before both Foreign Affairs and Foreign Relations Committees of the Congress, and before the security committees--now called the Armed Services Committee in the House and in the Senate--and in those cases I never yet found the matters that I was presenting treated or decided upon partisan grounds. In some of those committees they have almost a tradition, it seems to me, of dividing according to conviction and not necessarily according to party.

I am very hopeful, and had every reason to believe in the conference yesterday, that that is very real.

Now, as far as concerns the kind of support that I am going to get for the carrying out of the administration program in all other fields from the Republican side, the matter didn't come up in those terms, and so I cannot be expected to comment exactly in detail on it. But I was given no reason to believe that the support wasn't genuine.

There are, as we all know, some differences, very earnest differences of conviction as, for example, concerning the Randall report. I don't suppose that any kind of a meeting will completely eliminate those differences. But I'd say, by and large, I would expect a very maximum of cooperation from my own party.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, in answering the question a moment ago about the change in the size of our troop commitments, you referred to the philosophy of retaliation. Does that change in our troop commitment mean any change in our ability to fight the so-called little wars, especially nonatomic wars?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't think so. As a matter of fact, little wars as distinguished from big wars, I think you have a bit of an artificial distinction.

What you are trying to do is to conduct or develop a program that meets the overall national needs in the best way. I would rather improvise and resort to expediency in little wars than I would in big wars. I would rather cast and mold my security arrangements to, meet the great threats to the United States, and take the others, as far as I could, in my stride.

Q. Mr. Roberts: You don't, sir, do you, rule out the possibility that we might have a situation in which you had what has been referred to as a little or nonatomic war?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, if you had a little war, I would say this: if you can win a big one, you can certainly win a little one. That would be my general attitude.

In other words, I believe this: after you get so far in the expenditure of money for planes and tanks and guns and men in the services, you reach a point of very sharply diminishing returns. I believe it is far better from there on to devote whatever resources you must put into this thing, into getting a proper mobilization base in terms of productivity, where necessary stockpiling, and the training and organization of men for moving into this thing when they have to.

I just don't believe you can buy 100 percent security in .every little corner of the world where someone else wants to start trouble. I think you have to go ahead, taking certain calculated risks.

Here is the one crucial thing you must remember with respect to our Defense Establishment: it isn't one to meet a problem this year; we must be prepared from now on, as long as we have this kind of a threat in the world, which means that we have got to have one that is carried forward under a free enterprise system, with the full support of a population that knows it must bear the taxes to carry it on. It must be one that can be carried for 50 years, if necessary. I hope and pray that we are not going to carry it 50 years, but that is the way we must design it.

Consequently, you cannot be 100 percent ready to meet every little trouble that can arise, otherwise you would have to have troops stationed in every place in the world where trouble might arise, in advance. That would be your best protection.

You have to do it as it comes up, and I believe that the kind of system we are trying to develop is best developed, best molded, best devised for that kind of a theory.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register: Mr. President, it has been reported in the last week that Senator John Williams of Delaware had to enlist your personal support to get the Treasury to take action on some personnel cases involving persons linked with the Truman administration tax scandals. I wonder if you could tell us precisely what you did in that; whether it was a routine referral or there is some follow through, and what your policy is when these things come to your attention?

THE PRESIDENT. Frankly, I don't recall any specific report to me. I have talked to Senator Williams from time to time, starting before I was inaugurated. I always listened to whatever he has to report to me, and I passed it along, because I believe we have there a very honest, concerned individual. But I can tell you what the policy is without any question whatsoever.

Everybody in this Government who has a position of responsibility is instructed if there is anything that comes to his attention that looks like it is off-color or there is someone that has been criminally negligent or is otherwise to blame for anything that goes wrong in Government, it is to be immediately reported to the proper, authorities, and the prosecution to the limit.

Now, there are no exceptions to it.

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: Have you had any indication, either from Senator Williams or from any other Cabinet members, of his dissatisfaction since his meeting with you last April? At a press conference on April 29, you did confirm that you had talked with Senator Williams with regard to a bad situation in the Internal Revenue Service.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't had another word about it that I know of; so far as I can remember, not a one.

Q. Garnett D. Homer, Washington Star: Mr. President, if I can change the subject rather drastically, recent news reports indicate that some European governments are investigating quite seriously the flying saucer problem. And not too long ago there was a book published in this country that purported to show that our Air Force thought that some of these flying objects, at least might come to be of extraterrestrial origin. I wonder if you could tell us if our authorities really do suspect something of that kind or, if not, what is the form of the things?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, with regard to these recent reports, nothing has come to me at all, either verbally or in written form. And I must say, when I go back far enough, the last time that I heard this talked to. me, a man whom I trust from the Air Forces said that it was, as far as he knew, completely inaccurate to believe that they came from any outside planet or otherwise.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, have you worked out the mechanics of consultation with the Democratic leaders step by step?

THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, I don't know, Mr. Brandt, whether it will just conform to any pattern.

I made this one statement yesterday, and it probably was published: I invited them at any time that they saw fit--responsible officials on the Hill--that they saw anything in this whole field we covered yesterday, that they believed would need my attention, to bring it up.

But beyond that, I am preparing a draft now, asking each of the Cabinet officers that deal with these subjects, any time that they are proposing a new plan, before it is crystallized, before it is presented to Congress, themselves to confer with the security committees, the foreign committees, and so on.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, your able Press Secretary, Mr. Hagerty, made some news the other night. He was on a radio program, and he was asked this question: "Mr. Hagerty, would it be foolhardy for the Republican Party to approach the 1956 election with any other idea than to draft President Eisenhower as a candidate?" Mr. Hagerty gave it as his personal opinion that it would be foolhardy.

Mr. President, is there any point in asking you to comment? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would like to say this: Mr. Hagerty is included as one of those staff officers, I have told you before, to whom I accord the great privilege of having his own opinion; and, as a matter of fact, as long as he expresses it, and there has .been no established administration policy, why, I support his right as Voltaire did to say what he thinks. [Laughter]

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine Papers: Mr. President, some time ago Secretary Humphrey said on a television program that he approved of the elimination of all restriction on earned income by social security pensioners. Do you approve of that elimination and will it be in the next budget?

THE PRESIDENT. That particular point hasn't been suggested to me as one of the eliminations.

I think it is probably a little bit too serious just to start shooting wildly on. My impression, my instincts are, yes. When you have gotten to that point, it seems to me that income tax has once been paid on that. Now, I am not going to commit myself irrevocably.

Q. Mrs. Craig: Well, sir, you are aware that people who get unearned income, the pensioners, who get unearned income, do not lose because they have unearned outside income, but those who do earn now over more than a certain amount outside of their pension, do lose their pensions.

THE PRESIDENT. After they get a certain amount.

Q. Mrs. Craig: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes; that is right. Well, now, I will tell you, I will have a talk with the Secretary of State [Secretary of the Treasury]. But you are getting into a very technical question, and I would not want to answer it carelessly here.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, some of the congressional leaders, after their meeting with you yesterday, talked about a new military manpower reserve program which Senator Lyndon Johnson said would be a modification of UMT. Could you tell us anything about the nature of the plan?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it is really a far cry from UMT; in other words, it is rather drastic. But I think, if I am not mistaken, that Secretary Wilson and his manpower secretary, Mr. Burgess, are going to have a press conference on the details of this plan very soon. [Confers with Mr. Hagerty]

It is on Friday, and I think it would be better to take these specific questions to that press conference.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo Evening News: Mr. President, in your discussions with the Republican leaders was anything said or done about a renewed debate on the so-called Bricker amendment?

THE PRESIDENT. No, it wasn't mentioned.

Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's fifty-sixth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:35 to 11:03 o'clock on Wednesday morning, December 15, 1954. In attendance: 152.

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/233470

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