Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

May 12, 1949

THE PRESIDENT. [1.] Gentlemen, I have but one announcement to make. I have come to the conclusion that it will be necessary to sign a continuing resolution so that some fifteen thousand Government employees can get paid--

Q. How many, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Between 15,000 and 20,000. And I think that there will be no comment on that at the present time. I shall issue a statement at the time the resolution is signed, which will set out my position in the matter.

That's all the announcements I have to make.

[2.] Q. Mr. President, were you correctly quoted in regards to Senator Byrd the other day?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't see any reason for commenting on a confidential conversation.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, General Spaatz in the--retired, Air Force--in his column in Newsweek makes some very drastic and interesting suggestions about unification; and there are three or four suggestions, if you would allow me.

THE PRESIDENT. Go right ahead.

Q. He suggests abolishing the Secretaries of Army and Navy and Air Force, and taking their functions over into the Secretary of Defense and the Under Secretary; and to abolish the Joint Chiefs of Staff and create a general staff of the Armed Forces under a single chief, and make the commanders of the three services wholly responsible to the Secretary of Defense, and two or three other suggestions and recommendations. Are you aware of those--

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I am aware of them.

Q. Have you anything to say about them?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have no comment to make on those recommendations. You see, all those things have been thoroughly and completely gone into time and again by me when we were first asking for the legislation. Several amendments now pending before the Armed Services Committee in which all the--at which time all those things will be thrashed out; and it isn't proper for me to make comment on that now, because the Congress is expecting to act on some amendments to the Unification Act.

Q. I gather from what you said that you have seen the suggestions and have discussed them?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. Yes, I have. General Spaatz was a member of the Chiefs of Staff when all those matters were discussed, right here in this office.

[4.] Q. There were reports published, I believe, that you had chastised Senator Lucas for not getting your program through the Senate?

THE PRESIDENT. There isn't a word of truth in it.

Q. You didn't scold him?


Q. Have you heard that--also the report that Senator Lucas intends to resign as majority leader?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I heard the report but I didn't believe it.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, the President of Brazil, General Dutra, I believe, is coming May 18th, before your next press conference. I wonder if you would care to make any further comment as to the significance of his visit, or any special matters you might wish to discuss with him?

THE PRESIDENT. There is no special comment that I can make except that I hope that the people of the United States will give the President of Brazil the same cordial welcome that the Brazilians gave me when I was down there; and I am sure they will.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, can you tell us how your personal physician, Dr. Wallace Graham, feels about national health insurance?

THE PRESIDENT. Huh? [Laughter] Why don't you ask Dr. Graham? You should know how he feels, or he wouldn't be in his job. [More laughter]

[7.] Q. Mr. President, a Dr. William of Mississippi is quoted this morning as saying you have denied patronage to all of the Mississippi delegation in the House. Is that true?

THE PRESIDENT. I hadn't heard about it. That's the first I have heard about it.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, a confidential report supposed to have been given to you by your Council of Economic Advisers leaked badly. Is there anything you can tell us about it?

THE PRESIDENT. It is a confidential report, just as you named it, and there is no comment on it.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, some of the labor leaders seem to be in a mood for concessions. Are you?

THE PRESIDENT. I hadn't talked to the labor leaders on that subject, and I therefore can't answer the question. My position has been well set out in the messages to the Congress, and it hasn't changed.

Q. Mr. President, didn't Mr. Green and the other labor leaders discuss this with you?

THE PRESIDENT. No. No, I didn't discuss the phase or any other. I discussed nearly everything else with them.

[10.] Q. In spite of the fact that it is a confidential report, can you say whether the economic' report is optimistic or not?

THE PRESIDENT. It wasn't pessimistic. Those reports are made to me confidentially once a month, and I get reports from the Federal Reserve Board, I get reports from the Department of Commerce, I get reports from the Department of Labor, I get reports from the Secretary of the Treasury, I get reports from Dun and Bradstreet, and from every other agency which will contribute to an understanding of just what the economic situation is.

There isn't any reason in the world why those reports--confidential reports to should have leaked or should be made public, because it isn't necessary. Twice a year I make public the economic condition of the country in messages which I send to the Congress. That Economic Message is constructed as a result of all the information which is accumulated and put on my desk.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, in the light of this report, and in light of changing economic conditions in the country, do you feel that there is any alteration needed in--in your proposal for taxes in the budget?

THE PRESIDENT. In my message to the Congress my position has been very clearly stated.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, there is a group up on the Hill who have been clamoring for the dispatch of an Ambassador to General Franco's government in Madrid--

THE PRESIDENT. The Secretary of State answered that question very well to you yesterday,1 and called you by name. [Laughter]

1For Secretary Acheson's remarks at his news conference on May 11, see the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 20, p. 660).

The United Nations was about to vote on a resolution relaxing a 1946 resolution against the sending of ambassadors to Spain by permitting each nation to exercise its own judgment in the matter. In announcing that the United States would abstain from voting, Secretary Acheson stated that "the policy of the American Government is one which I am quite sure is calculated to please neither group of extremists in the United States--either those who say that we must embrace Franco, or those who say that we must cast him into the outermost darkness."

[13.] Q. Mr. President, did the matter or question about your feelings regarding your recommendations on taxes and other matters include your request to the Congress in your State of the Union Message for economic controls? Do you still feel that those are necessary?

THE PRESIDENT. That message still stands until I send another one on another line to the Congress.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, could you tell us anything about the circumstances of Jonathan Daniel's inability to take the Navy job?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the best way to find that out would be to ask Mr. Daniels.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, are you thinking in terms of a purge about your opponents-about the opponents to your program on the Hill?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not interested in a purge. The people will take care of that.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, are you anywhere near announcing a new Secretary of the Navy, or of the Army?

THE PRESIDENT. I hope to be able to announce both in a few days,2 but I can't--

2On May 13 Francis P. Matthews was nominated as Secretary of the Navy. He was confirmed by the Senate on May 19 and was sworn in on May 25.

On June 7 Gordon Gray was nominated as Secretary of the Army. He was confirmed by the Senate on June 9 and was sworn in on June 20.

[17.] Q. Mr. President, are there any developments in regard to reclamation? I mean--


Q. On reclamation?

THE PRESIDENT. I included a statement on reclamation in the message to the Congress.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, have you any observations that you would care to make on the lifting of the blockade of Berlin?

THE PRESIDENT. As I said last week, I am happy that it has been lifted--happy that the blockade of Berlin has been lifted.

Q. Do you feel that it is a source of encouragement in the world situation?


[19.] Q. Mr. President, Chairman Doughton of the House Ways and Means Committee, after seeing you yesterday, said that he hoped higher taxes could be avoided. He also hoped that deficit financing could be avoided, but he was most enthusiastic in behalf of what he called rigid Government economies, in other words, he said, reducing appropriations from their present figure. I wonder how that squared with your policies?

THE PRESIDENT. The rigid economy part we are in complete agreement on, and I exercised the most rigid economy when I sent the budget to the Congress. I always do that, and shall continue to do that. The topic of conversation between Mr. Doughton and myself was the Social Security Act, and we are in agreement on the approach to that. That is what he came to see me about.

Q. Mr. President, just to clarify my thinking, sir, you still think there should be additional taxes, better than a deficit?

THE PRESIDENT. There should be no deficit in Government financing in a country that has got a national income somewhere in the neighborhood of $217 billion.

Q. Mr. President, do you feel that you can avoid a deficit without additional taxes?


Q. What does the deficit now look like by the end of this fiscal year?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer intelligently because I haven't the latest figures on it. They are getting them up now. I have to wait until I hear from the Treasury on the income for this last quarter.

Q. Are you still thinking in terms of 4 billion?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I never did think in terms of $4 billion.

Q. New taxes.

Q. I mean taxes.

THE PRESIDENT. Oh. We will work that out when we see what the shortage is likely to be.

Q. You mean it might be more?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't tell. No, not more than 4 billion.

Q. Could it be less, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. It will undoubtedly be less--much less.

Q. This is that 600 or 700 million, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. That was the estimate at the beginning of the year. As I tell you, I can't give you an intelligent estimate until after the Treasury collects the figures.

Q. Mr. President, I was running a question behind there. You said that you think undoubtedly it might well be considerably less than 4 billion in new taxes?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I didn't say that. I said I thought the deficit would be much less than 4 billion.

Q. To clarify that a little further, Mr. President, do you anticipate any change in the recommendations that you previously made for 4 billion in taxes?


Q. Mr. President, can you explain why the class of people who were most worried about a deficit a year ago are less worried about it now?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can't explain it now. It is a very interesting study in psychology, I think. Maybe some of you experts on that subject could go to work and write me an article.

Q. Mr. President, how much surplus do you think there should be for debt retirement?

THE PRESIDENT. I think we ought to retire some $2 to $5 billion on the debt every year.

Q. You said 2 to 5, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. 2 to 5 billion; that is, I did when I had the means to do it with. I retired more debt than any other President in the history of the United States.

Q. How much have you retired, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. About 26 billion. That was more than the national debt after the First World War.

Q. How much?

THE PRESIDENT. About 26 billion.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. You're welcome.

Note: President Truman's one hundred and eightysecond news conference was held in his office at the White House at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 12, 1949.

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/230281

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