Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

June 07, 1951

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated.

[1.] I have got a statement here I want to read to you, which I think will obviate some questions, and then we will go on with the questions.

[Reading] "Since the threat of Communist aggression made it necessary for us to step up our defense efforts, we have been working to control inflation. We have known that uncontrolled inflation would weaken our defense effort, and impose terrible hardship upon millions of families. By applying a combination of measures, we have had considerable success in bringing inflationary forces under control.

"The Congress enacted two tax bills, which have so far kept our defense spending on a pay-as-you-go basis.

"The Government has tightened up on inflationary consumer credit and installment buying, and is moving to restrain inflationary bank credit.

"The Government has put price and wage controls into effect.

"These Government actions--together with voluntary action by consumers and businessmen--have stopped the upward rush of prices. Since early February, when the general ceiling price regulation went into effect, wholesale prices have increased less than 1 percent. During the last month they have actually declined. Consumer prices have leveled off, and food prices have come down a little.

"The recent price wars between department stores in certain cities are a good indication that our anti-inflation program is working. Without this program the scare buying, speculation, and excessive accumulation of inventories would almost certainly still be going on.

"Most of the legislation which has made it possible to hold inflation in check will expire at the end of this month. It is extremely important that the Defense Production Act be extended and strengthened if we are to keep the heavy pressures of the next few months from becoming an unmanageable torrent of inflation.

"The present situation is only a breathing spell. Inflationary pressures will grow rapidly later this year, and still more next year. That is true because our economy, now operating at a peak, with full employment, is going to feel the shock of greatly increasing defense expenditures.

"The annual rate of expenditures for national security is steadily going up. Before the middle of next year, it is scheduled to be twice as high as it is now. This represents an increase of well over $30 billion at an annual rate. The budgetary surplus of recent months will be replaced by a growing deficit, due to this rapid increase of defense expenditures. This is why it is necessary for us to increase taxes and to continue and strengthen our other control measures.

"If controls are not extended, this $30 billion increase in defense spending would, it is estimated, stimulate at least another $30 billion of spending by businessmen and consumers. This would not result in more goods being produced. It would only result in more money being spent for the same goods, thus driving prices and wages up in a terrific spiral.

"The American people are wondering whether the programs which have started to protect them from inflation are going to be continued and strengthened to meet this growing danger. Some of the special interest groups have come out for killing all wage and price controls."

They make no bones about it.

[Continuing reading] "This critical issue is now before the Congress.

"We must meet this issue head on

"The control of inflation is not a partisan issue; it is a national need. Everybody-every Member of Congress, every person in the executive branch, and every citizen-must work together to bring about the control of inflation." 1

Mimeographed copies of those will be handed to you as you go out.

1 On June 8, 1951, the White House released the text of a letter to the President, dated June 5, from the Council of Economic Advisers. The letter was in response to the President's request that the Council set forth an up-to-the-minute appraisal of the economic situation and give their opinion of the so-called "softening" of the economy.

The Council stated that inflationary pressures in the months and year ahead would be stronger than any since the initial Korean outbreak, and advised that an even stronger anti-inflationary program would be needed. The Council recommended tax increases, restraints upon inflationary credit, enlarged savings, reasonable restraints upon profits, wages, and other forms of income, and continuation and improvement of the production aids contained in the Defense Production Act. The letter concluded that the United States need not have inflation, but that inflation was likely "if we relax our efforts, or fail to strengthen the weak links in the chain of effective controls."

For the statement by the President upon signing the Defense Production Act Amendments, see Item 176.

[2.] Q. Mr. President, since the conference the other morning with former Governor Turner and Mr. Flynn of Kansas City,2 there are rumors afloat that there is talk of a compromise on the meat price--beef price rollback--

2 Former Governor Roy J. Turner of Oklahoma and Michael J. Flynn of Kansas City, Mo.

THE PRESIDENT. I know nothing about it.

Q. There is a 10 percent rollback that went into effect--

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer--I can't answer your question, because the conference was held after I had introduced the conferees to Mr. Wilson and Mr. DiSalle and Mr. Johnston,3 and I don't think any concrete conclusions have been reached. All these gentlemen wanted to do was put the facts before the control board--which they did. I don't know anything about any compromise, or anything else in connection with it. And I have no connection with it whatever.

3Charles E. Wilson, Director, Office of Defense Mobilization, and Chairman, Defense Mobilization Board, Michael V. DiSalle, Director of Price Stabilization, and Eric Johnston, Administrator, Economic Stabilization Agency.

Q. You couldn't say whether there is anything that might have--


Q. It's in the hands of Mr.--

THE PRESIDENT. It's in the hands of Mr. Wilson and his control board.

Q. Well, Mr. President, may we phrase that another way? So far as you are concerned, the rollbacks will go into effect as scheduled?

THE PRESIDENT. No, there's nothing to phrase, because I don't know whether they will or not. Those people have it under consideration. When they get ready to announce it, why you can get the information from them. Mike DiSalle will tell you what he intends to do without wasting any words. No pressure has been put on him to do anything, by the President or anybody else. All these people want to do is to place the facts before the people in charge of the controls. They started out their statement by saying that they want to cooperate in every way, and they had no kick on what had been done.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, do you wish to comment on the visit of the President of Ecuador, Galo Plaza,4 coming later this month ?

4 See Items 129, 130, 134, 136.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, he is paying the customary visit of a President of a South American Republic, and we are very glad to have him come.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, I wonder if I could clear up a little confusion in my mind here? One 10 percent rollback has gone into effect, sir. One again is scheduled for August 1st and one for October 1st.

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct.

Q. Is there any chance they will not go into effect now?

THE PRESIDENT. I Can't answer the question. You will have to wait and get the answer from Mike DiSalle, after he has digested the information which has been furnished him. No interference has been made with any of the rollbacks so far as that is concerned.

Q. I wonder if I could ask you a further point? In Chicago yesterday, the regional head of the OPS said that the meat producers are holding back stock for market in an effort to force Congress to eliminate meat controls. Would you care to comment--

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think that is correct. The feed lots couldn't--they can't hold them back. When the cattle are ready to go, they have to leave the feed lots. I wish you could have heard the conversation that took place the other day on how to create a pound of beef. It is quite interesting.

Q. Mr. President, do you think that this talk of meat prices is exaggerated ?

THE PRESIDENT. Very much so. I don't think there is any intention on the part of the feeders to do anything that will prevent people from getting meat.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, on the inflation, I have often been asked as to how it prevents inflation by the curtailment of house buying of individuals through increase in debentures, and limitation of mortgage credit, at the same time the encouragement of spending on behalf of Government housing?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think you phrased that exactly right. The idea was to put a ceiling on the sale of mortgages for construction, because that inflated the credit of the country; and the Government housing that is contemplated is generally in defense areas, where housing is short and where nobody will build for commercial purposes.

Q. But isn't it true that--

THE PRESIDENT. For instance, in Alaska the men and the officers and everybody else who are living in tents and shacks, where it sometimes goes 60 below zero, nobody will go up there and build commercial housing. That is one of our principal defense points in the perimeter around the United States.

Q. What I had particularly in mind was the increase in the number of units in the bill passed by the House, which went to the Senate.5

5 See Item 111.

THE PRESIDENT. The bill passed by the House was a ridiculous one--strictly ridiculous. The Senate put the 50,000 back that were asked for, so that we can save something. If you will analyze the thing, it, I think, authorized 135,000 units. I requested the Congress to authorize construction of 50,000 units which were badly needed for the purpose that I am telling you about, and the House cut it to 5,000. There is no use for all that--might as well wipe it out.

Q. I didn't know that was defense housing, I thought that was--

THE PRESIDENT. Principally defense housing. It is not all defense housing, but it is principally defense housing.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, I don't know whether you received this letter, but five Federal judges in Chicago have sent you a letter--they sent copies to their Senators--pointing out that three vacancies have existed out there--Federal judgeship vacancies--for almost a year, and they asked you to fill the vacancies to help break up the logjam. Do you have any comment?

THE PRESIDENT. It was just mighty nice of them. I appreciate it. But I have had it under consideration for a year, and it is still under consideration. I don't like people giving letters to the press. I would like to have that letter from the five judges sent me individually, then I could answer it.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, I have got a couple of political questions.

THE PRESIDENT. Fire away. [Laughter] That's my field.

Q. Tony Vaccaro6 had a piece back awhile ago about Bill Boyle7 urging you not to take this trip. I wonder if.--

6 Ernest B. Vaccaro of the Associated Press.

7 William M. Boyle, Jr., Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

THE PRESIDENT. Well now, Mr. Boyle and I discussed the matter after he came back from Denver. The matter is still under consideration. There are arguments on both sides of the question. I had no intention of going out until we find out whether our program is coming through the Congress or not, and I can't come to that conclusion until Congress adjourns.

Q. Sort of later in the summer?

THE PRESIDENT. You are as good a prophet as I am. I can't tell you when they will adjourn.

What was the other question?

[8.] Q. The other question I had, on the border of politics, is the recommendation of Senator Douglas that in the event you do not run next year, that both parties--"for the sake of national unity," I think was the phrase--would nominate General Eisenhower?

THE PRESIDENT. With Senator Douglas as Vice President? [Laughter]

[9.] Q. Mr. President, about a week ago the Government manpower committee that works with Mr. Wilson recommended that going on a 40-hour week must not be set aside during this defense mobilization. Do you share that view?

THE PRESIDENT. I think if you will read the Executive order I signed this morning you will find out what my views are. 8

8 Executive Order 10251 "Suspension of the Eight-Hour Law as to Laborers and Mechanics Employed by the Department of Defense on Public Work Essential to the National Defense" (3 CFR, 1949-1953 Comp., p. 757).

Q. Well, may we have that pleasure, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. You will find it, I think, in the Federal Register--I think tomorrow.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, is Mr. Harriman going to be appointed head of the National Security Resources Board?

THE PRESIDENT. I have it under consideration.

[11.] Mr. President, do you see any improvement in the Iranian oil situation? 9

THE PRESIDENT. I can't comment on that. I have no comment on it at all. I hope there is improvement. I hope the thing will be settled to the satisfaction of both parties, and in an equitable manner for both parties. That is all I can hope. I have expressed my views, I think, in two messages on it.

9U.K.-Iranian dispute over the nationalization of the oil industry in Iran. See Items 140 [4, 19], 150, 155, 200 [2].

[12.] Q. Mr. President, you recently characterized the 80th Congress as a "do-nothing" Congress. How do you characterize this one?

THE PRESIDENT. Well now, you can't characterize a Congress until it finishes its work. Another thing, the session isn't over yet, and it still has another session on the 3d of January. I will comment on it when they adjourn in July of next year.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, I wonder, now that Secretary of State Acheson has testified for some days before the Senate committee, if you can give any comment on his testimony, whether you think he has done a good job? 10

THE PRESIDENT. Why certainly, he has done an excellent job. He has told the truth, and the truth needs to be told these days, as it is very seldom done politically--particularly by the opposition.

10From June 1-9, 1951, Secretary of State Dean Acheson testified at Senate committee hearings on the dismissal of General MacArthur from his command in the Far East. His testimony is printed in "Hearings Before the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, on the Military Situation in the Far East, Part 3" (Government Printing Office, 1951, Parts 1-5, 3691 pp.).

Does that answer your question, Tony? [Laughter]

Q. A little faster than I had anticipated! [More laughter]

[14.] Q. Mr. President, there was a report in the afternoon papers that you might review, or an administrative officer of the Government might delay, an act of Congress which suggested that no economic help be given to nations which were trading with the Iron Curtain countries. Do you care to comment ?

THE PRESIDENT. You are talking about the Kem amendment, I think? 11

11Foreign aid amendment to the Third Supplemental Appropriation Act, introduced in the Senate by Senator James P. Kem of Missouri, among others. See also Item 117.

Q. Yes sir.

THE PRESIDENT. I think I commented on that in a paper which has been released to the press. Everything that needs to be said on that was said in that comment I made.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, I have another question, sir. You mentioned the price war in the prepared statement. Do you consider that unfavorable, or favorable?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it is very favorable. I think all these people loaded up with inventories in the scare buying, and they have come to see that these inventories were foolishly acquired, and now they are trying to get rid of them. That is all it amounts to. It is just a merchandise program--movement of merchandise program, let's put it.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, you have done this several times, but just to bring it up to date, do you have any intention of Mr. Acheson leaving the Cabinet at this time?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, serious objection. He is not going to leave. [Laughter]

Q. What was that question, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. You asked your question backwards, and I answered it backwards. [More laughter] What was your question back there?

Q. Couldn't hear the last question, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. Ask your question again, so that they can hear.

Q. I just wanted to bring it up to date-you have no intention of letting Mr. Acheson leave ?

THE PRESIDENT, That is not the way you asked it, but I would say none whatever.

Q. That is what I meant to ask.

Q. Anything else, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Not a thing.

Q. Hold it!

[17.] Joseph H. Short, Secretary to the President [addressing the President]: Do you want to talk to them any more about that Executive order-overtime for mechanics and labor employed by the Defense Department ?

THE PRESIDENT. Let the order speak for itself -let the order speak for itself.

He just wanted me to elaborate on the Executive order, but you read it. It will tell you all about it.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. It's all right.

Note: President Truman's two hundred and sixty-sixth news conference was held in the Indian Treaty Room (Room 474) in the Executive Office Building at 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 7, 1951.

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/231141

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