The Fireside Chats of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

I shall ask this special session to consider immediately certain
important legislation which my recent trip through the nation
convinces me the American people immediately need. This does not
mean that other legislation, to which I am not referring tonight,
is not important for our national well-being. But other legislation
can be more readily discussed at the regular session.

Anyone charged with proposing or judging national policies should
have first-hand knowledge of the nation as a whole.

That is why again this year I have taken trips to all parts of the
country. Last spring I visited the Southwest. This summer I made
several trips in the East. Now I am just back from a trip from a
trip all the way across the continent, and later this autumn I hope
to pay my annual visit to the Southeast.

For a President especially it is a duty to think in national terms.

He must think not only of this year but of future years, when
someone else will be President.

He must look beyond the average of the prosperity and well-being of
the country, for averages easily cover up danger spots of poverty
and instability.

He must not let the country be deceived by a merely temporary
prosperity which depends on wasteful exploitation of resources
which cannot last.

He must think not only of keeping us out of war today, but also of
keeping us out of war in generations to come.

The kind of prosperity we want is the sound and permanent kind
which is not built up temporarily at the expense of any section or
any group. And the kind of peace we want is the sound and permanent
kind, which is built on the cooperative search for peace by all the
nations which want peace.

The other day I was asked to state my outstanding impression gained
on this recent trip. I said that it seemed to me to be the general
understanding on the part of the average citizen of the broad
objectives and policies which I have just outlined.

Five years of fierce discussion and debate–five years of
information through the radio and the moving picture–have taken
the whole nation to school in the nation’s business. Even those who
have most attacked our objectives have, by their very criticism,
encouraged the mass of our citizens to think about and understand
the issues involved, and, understanding, to approve.

Out of that process, we have learned to think as a nation. And out
of that process we have learned to feel ourselves a nation. As
never before in our history, each section of America says to every
other section, “Thy people shall be my people.”

For most of the country this has been a good year–better in
dollars and cents than for many years–far better in the soundness
of its prosperity. And everywhere I went I found particular
optimism about the good effect on business which is expected from
the steady spending by farmers of the largest farm income in many
years.

But we have not yet done all that must be done to make this
prosperity stable. The people of the United States were checked in
their efforts to prevent future piling up of huge agricultural
surpluses and the tumbling prices which inevitably follow them.
They were checked in their efforts to secure reasonable minimum
wages and maximum hours and the end of child labor. And because
they were checked, many groups in many parts of the country still
have less purchasing power and a lower standard of living than the
nation as a whole can permanently allow.

Americans realize these facts. That is why they ask government not
to stop governing simply because prosperity has come back a long
way.

They do not look on government as an interloper in their affairs.
On the contrary, they regard it as the most effective form of
organized self-help.

Sometimes I get bored sitting in Washington hearing certain people
talk and talk about all that government ought _not_ do–people who
got all _they_ wanted from government back in the days when the
financial institutions and the railroads were being bailed out by
the government in 1933. It is refreshing to go out through the
country and feel the common wisdom that the time to repair the roof
is when the sun is shining.

They want the financial budget balanced. But they want the human
budget balanced as well. They want to set up a national economy
which balances itself with as little government subsidy as
possible, for they realize that persistent subsidies ultimately
bankrupt their government.

They are less concerned that every detail be immediately right than
they are that the direction be right. They know that just so long
as we are traveling on the right road, it does not make much
difference if occasionally we hit a “Thank you marm.”

The overwhelming majority of our citizens who live by agriculture
are thinking very clearly how they want government to help them in
connection with the production of crops. They want government help
in two ways: first, in the control of surpluses, and, second, in
the proper use of land.

The other day a reporter told me that he had never been able to
understand why the government seeks to curtail crop production and,
at the same time, to open up new irrigated acres.

He was confusing two totally separate objectives.

Crop surplus control relates to the total amount of any major crop
grown in the whole nation on all cultivated land–good or bad–
control by the cooperation of the crop growers and with the help of
the government. Land use, on the other hand, is a policy of
providing each farmer with the best quality and type of land we
have, or can make available, for his part in that total production.
Adding good new land for diversified crops is offset by abandoning
poor land now uneconomically farmed.

The total amount of production largely determines the price of the
crop, and, therefore, the difference between comfort and misery for
the farmer.

If we Americans were foolish enough to run every shoe factory
twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, we would soon have more
shoes than the nation could possibly buy–a surplus of shoes so
great that it would have to be destroyed, or given away, or sold at
prices far below the cost of production. That simple law of supply
and demand equally affects the price of all our major crops.

You and I have heard big manufacturers talk about control of
production by the farmer as an indefensible “economy of scarcity.”
And yet these same manufacturers never hesitate to shut down their
own huge plants, throw men out of work, and cut down the purchasing
power of whole communities whenever they think that they must
adjust their production to an oversupply of the goods they make.
When it is their baby who has the measles, they call it not “an
economy of scarcity” but “sound business judgment.”

Of course, speaking seriously, what you and I want is such
governmental rules of the game that labor and agriculture and
industry will all produce a balanced abundance without waste.

So we intend this winter to find a way to prevent four-and-a-half
cent cotton, nine cent corn and thirty cent wheat–with all the
disaster those prices mean for all of us–to prevent those prices
from ever coming back again. To do that, the farmers themselves
want to cooperate to build an all-weather farm program so that in
the long run prices will be more stable. They believe this can be
done, and the national budget kept out of the red.

And when we have found that way to protect the farmers’ prices from
the effects of alternating crop surpluses and crop scarcities, we
shall also have found the way to protect the nation’s food supply
from the effects of the same fluctuation. We ought always to have
enough food at prices within the reach of the consuming public. For
the consumers in the cities of America, we must find a way to help
the farmers to store up in years of plenty enough to avoid hardship
in the years of scarcity.

Our land use policy is a different thing. I have just visited much
of the work that the national government is doing to stop soil
erosion, to save our forests, to prevent floods, to produce
electric power for more general use, and to give people a chance to
move from poor land on to better land by irrigating thousands of
acres that need only water to provide an opportunity to make a good
living.

I saw bare and burned hillsides where only a few years ago great
forests were growing. They are now being planted to young trees,
not only to stop erosion, but to provide a lumber supply for the
future.

I saw C.C.C. boys and W.P.A. workers building check-dams and small
ponds and terraces to raise the water table and make it possible
for farms and villages to remain in safety where they now are. I
saw the harnessing of the turbulent Missouri, muddy with the
topsoil of many states. And I saw barges on new channels carrying
produce and freight athwart the nation.

Let me give you two simple illustrations of why government projects
of this type have a national importance for the whole country.

In the Boise Valley in Idaho I saw a district which had been
recently irrigated to enormous fertility so that a family can now
make a pretty good living from forty acres of its land. Many of the
families, who are making good in that valley today, moved there
from a thousand miles away. They came from the dust strip that runs
through the middle of the nation all the way from the Canadian
border to Mexico, a strip which includes large portions of ten
states. That valley in western Idaho, therefore, assumes at once a
national importance as a second chance for willing farmers. And,
year by year, we propose to add more valleys to take care of
thousands of other families who need the same kind of second chance
in new green pastures.

The other illustration was at the Grand Coulee Dam in the state of
Washington. The engineer in charge told me that almost half of the
whole cost of that dam to date had been spent for materials that
were manufactured east of the Mississippi River, giving employment
and wages to thousands of industrial workers in the eastern third
of the nation, two thousand miles away.

All of this work needs, of course, a more businesslike system of
planning and greater foresight than we use today.

That is why I recommended to the last session of the Congress the
creation of seven planning regions, in which local people will
originate and coordinate recommendations as to the kind of this
work of this kind to be done in their particular regions. The
Congress will, of course, determine the projects to be selected
within the budget limits.

To carry out any twentieth century program, we must give the
Executive branch of the government twentieth century machinery to
work with. I recognize that democratic processes are necessarily
and rightly slower than dictatorial processes. But I refuse to
believe that democratic processes need be dangerously slow.

For many years we have all known that the Executive and
Administrative departments of the government in Washington are a
higgledy-piggledy patchwork of duplicate responsibilities and
overlapping powers. The reorganization of this vast government
machinery which I proposed to the Congress last winter does not
conflict with the principle of the democratic process, as some
people say. It only makes that process work more efficiently.

On my recent trip many people have talked to me about the millions
of men and women and children who still work at insufficient wages
and overlong hours.

American industry has searched the outside world to find new
markets–but it can create on its very doorstep the biggest and
most permanent market it has ever had. It needs the reduction of
trade barriers to improve its foreign markets, but it should not
overlook the chance to reduce the domestic trade barrier right
here–right away–without waiting for any treaty. A few more
dollars a week in wages, a better distribution of jobs with a
shorter working day will almost overnight make millions of our
lowest-paid workers actual buyers of billions of dollars of
industrial and farm products. That increased volume of sales ought
to lessen other cost of production so much that even a considerable
increase in labor costs can be absorbed without imposing higher
prices on the consumer.

I am a firm believer in fully adequate pay for all labor. But right
now I am most greatly concerned in increasing the pay of the
lowest-paid labor–those who are our most numerous consuming group
but who today do not make enough to maintain a decent standard of
living or to buy the food, and the clothes and the other articles
necessary to keep our factories and farms fully running.

Farsighted businessmen already understand and agree with this
policy. They agree also that no one section of the country can
permanently benefit itself, or the rest of the country, by
maintaining standards of wages and hours far inferior to other
sections of the country.

Most businessmen, big and little, know that their government
neither wants to put them out of business nor to prevent them from
earning a decent profit. In spite of the alarms of a few who seek
to regain control of American life, most businessmen, big and
little, know that their government is trying to make property more
secure than ever before by giving every family a real chance to
have a property stake in the nation.

Whatever danger there may be to the property and profits of the
many, if there be any danger, comes not from government’s attitude
toward business but from restraints now imposed upon business by
private monopolies and financial oligarchies. The average
businessman knows that a high cost of living is a great deterrent
to business and that business prosperity depends much upon a low
price policy which encourages the widest possible consumption. As
one of the country’s leading economists recently said, “The
continuance of business recovery in the United States depends far
more upon business policies, business pricing policies, than it
does on anything that may be done, or not done, in Washington.”

Our competitive system is, of course, not altogether competitive.
Anybody who buys any large quantity of manufactured goods knows
this, whether it be the government or an individual buyer. We have
anti-trust laws, to be sure, but they have not been adequate to
check the growth of many monopolies. Whether or not they might have
been adequate originally, interpretation by the courts and the
difficulties and delays of legal procedure have now definitely
limited their effectiveness.

We are already studying how to strengthen our anti-trust laws in
order to end monopoly–not to hurt but to free legitimate business.

I have touched briefly on these important subjects, which, taken
together, make a program for the immediate future. To attain it,
legislation is necessary.

As we plan today for the creation of ever higher standards of
living for the people of the United States, we are aware that our
plans may be most seriously affected by events in the world outside
our borders.

By a series of trade agreements, we have been attempting to
recreate the trade of the world which plays so important a part in
our domestic prosperity; but we know that if the world outside our
borders falls into the chaos of war, world trade will be completely
disrupted.

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