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The President's News Conference

April 22, 1932


THE PRESIDENT. I haven't anything for quotation today. I have one or two points on the background of this question of a straight cut in pay for Federal employees versus the plan which we have suggested that there seems to be some confusion about.

The straight pay cut would produce an economy of something like $67 million, but fails to take account of the other problems which lie in the administration. So far as the financial part of it is concerned, it is not so prolific of saving as the plan which we projected, which is worth about $82 million. But we have the problem under the cuts which will be made in appropriations arising out of the passage of any economy bill-that is, a bill which gives authority to rearrange or reduce departmental activities, et cetera--of dismissal of Federal employees.

Now, throughout this depression private industry and business have shown a great deal of sense of social responsibility toward the people whom they employ, and they have endeavored in an extraordinary fashion to distribute employment so as to give some income at least to all of their regular employees, or as many of them as they could assist. As you know, the staggering of employment has become almost universal in industry. I know of one corporation that employed 123,000 people at the height of its production and has 121,000 on its payroll today, although it is only working 2 days a week. But no employee of that corporation has been thrown upon public charity or upon municipal or State aid. And it seemed to me that the Government has a social obligation and social responsibility of leadership even greater than that of private industry and that, therefore, any plan of this character must include a provision for maintaining the normal employees of the Government in living; that any other project than that would be inhumane, and it is unfair to the country as a whole that the Government should be responsible for throwing 50,000 or 75,000 employees into the pool of unemployment, putting these people in a state of great privation, when it could at least follow the social instinct that private business has shown.

Therefore, we proposed that due justice be done in other quarters by way of providing a staggering form of employment, and we arrived at that by the institution of the 5-day week and a corresponding arrangement in salaried positions. The effect of all of which would be that instead of the Government placing anyone on the street and in the unemployed list we would probably need to absorb 25,000 to 50,000 more people in order to make it effective. So that we would make an actual contribution to unemployment instead of exaggerating it. The financial results of what we are doing are even better, the employees being called on for a larger sacrifice than they would be the other way. The operation of it does not propose that we would give 30 days straight leave without pay to our salaried employees, but 2 weeks or a week or whatever was necessary at odd times in order to make up the total during the year and save the interruption in Government activities. So that it has not only those advantages from the point of view of the employees and the sense of responsibility that a government ought to have, but it also takes a stand by the Government on the question of shorter hours of work, a matter with which we are faced for some time to come. So that altogether I feel very strongly that the plan which we have proposed is essential.

Now, this becomes particularly important in view of the rather uncoordinated action of the Senate in its work on economy, because when it comes to making straight and flat cuts in appropriations, 1 there is. The Senate had adopted a policy of reducing all appropriations by 10 percent. no way in the world to represent those cuts in expenditure except sheer dismissals. There is no other way to do it unless we have the authority to do these things that we have proposed under this plan. The cuts of the Interior Department, I understand, will make it necessary as the matter stands today, unless this plan is adopted, for the Interior to drop somewhere from 800 to 1,000 employees.

Q. Mr. President, is that right in Washington or throughout the country?

THE PRESIDENT. Throughout the country.

And incidentally, they are to go on with their expenditures on park roads and trails, and under normal calculations they would be giving employment to about 1,300 to 1,500 people; so that we are taking people who have given their careers and their lives to Government service-and these are civil service employees that we are talking about, not political appointments--dismissals of one group on one hand and taking another group on on the other.

One has this to bear in mind about Government employees, that they are just as much of a profession, most of them, as any other profession. When they enter the civil service and make it their lifework, they are no more able to find occupation at large than any other dismissed groups because of the shortage of work in their particular profession. They have no other government to turn to. And certainly when people are trained in a special profession for a certain purpose there is a responsibility to look after them--a moral responsibility.

So that I just wanted to emphasize for your own information and perhaps your assistance to us, that when [which] we have proposed here is something that is constructive, helpful, and above all, it is humane, and it expresses the moral and social responsibility of any employer, in which the Federal Government should not fall short of the private employers of the country, but on the other hand should in fact lead in the establishment of both moral and social standards.

That is all I have got for today.

Note: President Hoover's two hundred and forty-fifth news conference was held in the White House at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 22, 1932.

Herbert Hoover, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/207704

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