Herbert Hoover photo

The President's News Conference

April 01, 1932


THE PRESIDENT. The motor manufacturing companies have, all of them, now launched their spring models. There is nothing that contributes to employment so much as automobile construction. Everyone who contemplates buying an automobile during this year can make a contribution to employment if he will place his order now, no matter when he takes delivery.


I have had a great many communications from all over the country as to filling the vacancy of Mr. [Edward C.] Plummer on the Shipping Board. I do not propose to fill that vacancy, at least for the present. I am in hopes that Congress will pass the necessary legislation to reorganize the whole of the merchant marine activities in order that we may make a drastic reduction in expenditures during this session. If so, the situation as to membership on the Board would be very considerably altered.

I have pointed out in various messages and elsewhere for the last 3 years the importance of the reorganization of the whole of the merchant marine activities if we are to have real sound and necessary economy in those relationships to the Government. We are spending now a little over $100 million a year in aids to merchant marine in one direction or another, spread through many departments and in many agencies. We cannot remedy the situation without legislation.

The Shipping Board, in its present form at least, should be abolished. Its administrative functions should all be transferred to the other agencies of the Government. This is not a criticism of the Board, but it is a criticism of an altogether impossible and expensive form of organization and divided responsibility. The Board was designed originally for regulatory purposes. It was made entirely independent of the Executive. It has been subsequently given enormous administrative and financial functions. The President has no authority and had no authority over its activities. The regional basis of selection of membership, and its bipartisan basis, together with the extreme difficulty of any control function in purely administrative and executive matters, has built up a lack of cohesion in the Board that seems irremediable.

Moreover, the present authority in certain matters is divided with the Postmaster General. Under the law we are giving shipping subsidies through mail contracts. The Postmaster General necessarily looks at them as a matter of mail, and the Shipping Board as a matter of trade routes and methods for disposing of ships, and there can be no adequate coordination or direction of expenditures with all that division of control, even if there were no other multitude of merchant marine functions in the Government, scattered through other departments.

There is a function in connection with shipping that needs to be perpetuated, and that is the function of the regulation of rates, which ought to be extended in fact to inland water rates and intercoastal rates. That can be carried out with a comparatively [small] sum [per annum] and with a small organization, no doubt composed of the present members of the Board who have had large experience. With many of the merchant marine activities scattered throughout the Government, it is impossible to produce the necessary economies that the times demand unless we can have a drastic reorganization of the whole basis on which we give aid to the merchant marine. And that does not mean that we should give less aid, but more economy and to the point that produces real national service.

Other than that there is nothing today.

Note: President Hoover's two hundred and forty-first news conference was held in the White House at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 1, 1932.

On the same day, the White House issued texts of the President's statements on new car sales (see Item 107) and the United States Shipping Board (see Item 108).

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/207551

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