Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

April 10, 1947

THE PRESIDENT. Gentlemen, I have no--and ladies--[ laughter ]--I have no special announcements to make to you this morning. If you have any questions you want to ask, I will try to answer them.

[1.] Q. Mr. President, can you tell us something about your economic survey with the Cabinet yesterday?

THE PRESIDENT. The meeting of the Cabinet on the quarterly review of the economic situation was a postponed meeting from the week before. There wasn't any special meeting for any special purpose. It was just simply a discussion of the situation, which is continuing.

[2.] Q. Mr. President, judging from your Saturday night speech,1 you are concerned about higher prices still ?

THE PRESIDENT. I have stated that emphatically here, I think--as emphatically as it can be said.

1 Item 68.

Q. Well, this reporter has been going around to some people who are a little afraid to reduce prices on their own as they want company against their competitors. After talking about the possibility of getting together a group of companies to reduce them, they are a little afraid of the antitrust laws, afraid they might be accused of combining for the purpose of reducing prices. Would the Department of Justice prosecute under the antitrust laws?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, the Department of Justice could. But I think, if the Department of Justice is consulted about the meeting, that it wouldn't.

Q. Have you received any news from other companies that.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. We have had telegrams from several companies, and I am very much gratified that they are making the attempt to reduce the high price structure.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, in that same speech you spoke about the budget being balanced this year.

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

Q. What are your figures on that?

THE PRESIDENT. The figures are not--the total figures are not available. We know that there will be a surplus, and I will announce the amount just as soon as I have the exact figures.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, that question on the Department of Justice and the meeting, what you are suggesting, as I understand it, is that if a group came in and obtained consent from the Attorney General, they could then take combined action to reduce prices?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that can be done.

Q. Mr. President, on higher prices again, Mr. Nourse said before his meeting with you, that he considered the situation serious and that the administration so considered it. Do you contemplate taking any action in addition to appeals by--any action on prices ?

THE PRESIDENT. We are surveying situation, to see whether there is any action possible. You see, the price control law was repealed on the 30th day of last June, and an impossible price control bill was passed on the 25th of July which was not workable, and which came out just exactly as the veto message explained that it would come out. We have no real authority now, although we may--we are going to try to do everything we possibly can to meet the situation. That's what the discussion is for.

Q. Mr. President, still on prices, would you favor an increase in the ceiling on the veterans on-the-job training?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't gone into that subject, but I think the veterans have been very liberally taken care of on that situation.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, what do you think of what John Hanes said yesterday, that there would be a surplus of 3 or 4 billion this fiscal year?

THE PRESIDENT. Is that the gentleman who had the center column in the New York Times this morning? [Laughter]

Q. I believe he was.

THE PRESIDENT. I wonder where he got his figures? It seems to me that he must have got his figures from the same place that Knutson got his $6 billion cut--I don't think from any reliable source.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, do you think that the Joint Committee on the Economic Report has any responsibility for any of the tensions we now are coming up to?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer that question. I don't know.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, may I ask you a local question?

THE PRESIDENT. Sure.

Q. Would you care to say anything about the visit of Commissioner Young to your office yesterday morning?

THE PRESIDENT. He just came in to discuss administrative matters in the District, which he does once in a while. We had a very pleasant conversation on the situation in the District.

Q. He says you asked him to come up here on something that you wanted to tell him? It might make news.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to tell you anything about the conversation we had. It will come out later all right.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, have you a successor named yet to District Attorney Woll of Chicago?

THE PRESIDENT. No, not that I know of. I don't think it has been handed to me as yet.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, going back to the last question on the Economic Report, your Economic Report went to Congress and was rather well ignored, I thought. I am wondering whether you think it would be constructive if Congress would pay some attention to your Economic Report ?

THE PRESIDENT. The reorganization bill in Congress was passed by it for that purpose.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, were you instructing the Department of Justice to entertain inquiries from American business on joint action cutting prices?

THE PRESIDENT. The matter is under discussion. I can give you an answer on that at a later date.

Q. Mr. President, what would be the safeguards against price fixing in that arrangement?

THE PRESIDENT. That is a matter that the smart legal boys will have to work out. There is one decision of the Supreme Court which places a restriction on a unanimous price cut, just the same as it does on a unanimous price rise, and that will have to be examined by the Attorney General before any decision can be made.

Q. Mr. President, did your economic experts find any evidence that prices are about to turn down?

THE PRESIDENT. They made some statements to the effect that some prices are likely to come down, and some have.

Q. Mr. President, are you in favor of reduction in the prices of foodstuffs as well as manufactured articles ?

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly.

Q. Mr. President, are you in favor of a buyers' strike against high prices ?

THE PRESIDENT. No I am not. I think a buyers' strike wouldn't help the situation at all.

Q. Mr. President, would you tell us why that is? That buyers' strike is something that is very popular with people. I would like to hear from you--

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the buyers' strike is just like any other sort of strike. It stops the economic machinery from working and that always throws a monkey wrench into the machinery. You know--none of these strikes that we had last year helped anybody--hurt the whole economy of the country.

Q. Mr. President, the Government buys enough materials--if it curtailed its purchases, would it affect the economy?

THE PRESIDENT. NO, I don't think so. I think our purchases have been enormously curtailed. I know that is a fact.

Q. What about strikes this year, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I hope the strikes this year will not have the same effect they did last year; and I am hoping for settlement of the proposed strikes this year.

Q. Mr. President, if high prices bring on an inability to buy, does--

THE PRESIDENT. That's a different thing.

Q. Does it have the same effect?

THE PRESIDENT. It would have the same effect as when a man can't sell his merchandise at his own price, he has to put them out at a price at which he can sell. That is supply and demand, if I know anything about free economy.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, going back to the question of the antitrust laws in group price reductions, do you think it is possible to make such reductions?

THE PRESIDENT. I hope it is possible. We are trying to find a way so that it will be possible. The Attorney General is working on it now.

Q. Would that have to be done by the manufacturers themselves, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know anything about that. Have to go into the thing in detail. That is a matter for business itself to work out. Business wanted to be free of price control. They are free of price control. Now they will have to meet the situation.

Q. The Government itself, then, wouldn't have any machinery other than a moral request?

THE PRESIDENT. That's all. That's all.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, do you intend to make public the report of your Committee of Economic Advisers ?

THE PRESIDENT. NO. It isn't for publication.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, you specified receiving several telegrams from different companies. Would you care to specify what those companies were ?

THE PRESIDENT. There were half a dozen of them. Their names will be released later. I haven't them before me now.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, there has been some talk about you and Senator Taft going into a huddle on labor regulatory measures. Would you welcome such a conference ?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't been asked to go into such a conference.

[15.] Q. What about those telegrams? Are these from concerns that want to reduce prices? I didn't

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. They were from concerns who have reduced prices as a result of the statement that was made here in the press conference last week and before.

Q. Mr. President, at the present moment, until this investigation is completed, you are pretty limited to moral suasion, is that right?

THE PRESIDENT. That's right. That's right.

Q. What was that? We didn't hear.

THE PRESIDENT. He said I was limited to moral persuasion on this thing. He is correct.

Q. Mr. President, in line with moral suasion, have you any intention of calling in any great business leaders, presenting the situation to them personally?

THE PRESIDENT. I have talked to a great many of them already.

Q. Personally?

THE PRESIDENT. Personally, yes.

Q. Whom have you talked to?

THE PRESIDENT. Well--that is my business. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, has any group of representative manufacturers proposed to the Government that the antitrust laws be so adjusted so that they--

THE PRESIDENT, I think some questions have been asked of the Attorney General.

Q. Mr. President, in the meantime, as I understand it, the responsibility is now on business ?

THE PRESIDENT. What's that?

Q. Is the responsibility now on business?

THE PRESIDENT. Absolutely. Squarely on business. That is where they wanted it. They want free enterprise. They have got it. Now let's see if they will make it work.

Q. In your conversations with the business heads, did they make any request to cut prices, unless they have to stand wage boosts ? Do they bring that into the

THE PRESIDENT. No, that hasn't been brought into the subject--

Q. That is not tied Up--

THE PRESIDENT. --and the profits this year are, for the year 1947--have been very great.

Q. Mr. President, you made an interesting statement a moment ago, that responsibility is squarely on business. I wonder if we could put have that read back and put it in quotes, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I think you can handle it well enough without putting it in direct quotes. [Laughter] You ought to be able to handle that.

Q. Mr. President, you said 1947 profits. Do you mean 1947 or 19467

THE PRESIDENT. 1946, and the first-

Q. And the first quarter of 1947?

THE PRESIDENT. the first quarter of 1947, and the whole of 1946, except the first quarter of 1946.

Q. How did you describe that--very large?

THE PRESIDENT. Very great profits.

Q. Mr. President, in view of these high profits and high prices, would that soon justify wage increases if they are not brought down?

THE PRESIDENT, Yes.

Q. Mr. President, how do you fit labor into the picture ?

THE PRESIDENT. I have been trying to fit labor into the picture ever since 1945, when the war ended. You remember we called a labor-management conference to try to work these things out together. Didn't succeed very well. And we have been, ever since, trying to arrive at adjustments between labor and management so that everybody could have a fair deal. Everybody ought to have a fair deal on this situation. If we get a fair deal for everybody, why the country will be all right.

Q. Mr. President, did you say that wage increases--further wage increases would be justified if prices didn't come down?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, your budget for the fiscal year 1948 would include an item of $160 million for keeping up the prices of foodstuffs on farm commodities ?

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct. On a parity basis, that is.

Q. Is there any proposal to amend that?

THE PRESIDENT. It has been under consideration.

[17.] Q. Mr. President, are you also studying the matter of taxing away abnormal profits ?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, if you remember, the excess profits tax was repealed, with the idea that it would help business, and it was repealed for that purpose. It did help business, and therefore I am inclined to think that business appreciates that help and will make every effort to meet this situation. At least, I hope so.

Q. I understand some show an increase up to 300 percent in profits.

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't seen the exact figures.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, can we take that to mean, sir, that you are suggesting you have under consideration amending the price support on agricultural commodities ? Would that go to cotton, too, and wool?

THE PRESIDENT. The situation is being considered by the Congress. I don't know what action they are going to take on it, and I can't make any prophecies as to what action they will take. Your guess is as good as mine on that.

Q. Mr. President, would it be desirable for Congress to remove these supporting subsidies?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we can't answer that. We can't answer that question until we find out what the world crop situation will be in the coming year. Depends altogether on what that situation is. If there are tremendous farm surpluses, we would be faced with the same conditions that we were in the past on that subject.

Q. Mr. President, wasn't the Government committed to support of farm prices for 2 years ?

THE PRESIDENT. The Government is committed for 2 years after the war. That is, 2 years from the 31st day of last December.

Q. What you are talking about then now is, in answer to these questions, would it mean going back on that?

THE PRESIDENT. No. No. Can't go back on that commitment.

[19.] Q. Mr. President, a few weeks ago you said you didn't believe for a minute that there was going to be a recession. Do you still feel that way?

THE PRESIDENT. I feel that there is no necessity for a recession.

[20.] Q. Mr. President, all these questions show how concerned everybody is about high prices, and I wonder if--

THE PRESIDENT. That is true.

Q. there is any way you could say whether you, as President, have any concrete program-

THE PRESIDENT. The only concrete program I have has been put up to you right here. And we are surveying the situation now to find out just exactly what is in prospect, and then see what can be done about it. The repeal of price controls ended all control of the Government over prices.

Q. Mr. President, am I right to assume that you would like to restore price controls?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I have no desire to restore price controls. Not be feasible at the present time, because what we are trying to do now is get prices to come down to a reasonable point.

Q. Yes. If there was another way--somebody may rush forward with a price control act--proposal.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think--I don't think you would have

Q. I was thinking, sir, that is what you were leading up to. Maybe I'm wrong.

THE PRESIDENT. No. No, no. I am not at all.

Q. How long would it take you to set up machinery, if you reinstituted price control s ?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think it is practicable to reinstitute price controls. I think people want to get away from controls. We want free enterprise in this country, but everybody has got to work at it, if we are going to have it.

[21.] Q. Mr. President, to get away from this subject for a moment, do you find the Senate's action on Lilienthal1 very gratifying?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes indeed. I thought it was very satisfactory. I am sorry they delayed so long in taking it.

1 On the previous day the Senate had confirmed David E. Lilienthal as Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.

[22.] Q. Mr. President, if moral suasion doesn't work, then would you say that the Government will take some sort of action?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not ready to answer that question yet.

Q. Mr. President, the Government has some fiscal controls they could exert, doesn't it?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. We are investigating that situation now.

Q. Do you contemplate a message to Congress on this situation ?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I do not, at the present time. Congress is getting plenty of messages from the general public, I think!

[23.] Q. Mr. President, I notice Senator Pepper was on the list last Saturday night. Would you care to comment on the status of Senator Pepper and Wallace as members in good standing of the Democratic Party?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Pepper was at the Democratic dinner the other night, and I received him very cordially. I have no desire to read anybody out of the Democratic Party.

Q. Does that go for Mr. Wallace too, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly.

Q. Would you like to have him campaign on the Democratic ticket next year, Mr. President ?

THE PRESIDENT. We will take care of that situation when it arises. I think they will probably campaign for the Democratic ticket.

[24.] Q. Any news, Mr. President, on Mr. Hannegan's possible retirement ?

THE PRESIDENT. No.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. You're welcome.

Note: President Truman's one hundred and second news conference was held in his office at the White House at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 10, 1947.

Harry S. Truman, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232878

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