The Fireside Chats of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

History proves that dictatorships do not grow out of strong and
successful governments but out of weak and helpless governments. If
by democratic methods people get a government strong enough to
protect them from fear and starvation, their democracy succeeds,
but if they do not, they grow impatient. Therefore, the only sure
bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to
protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and
well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over its
government.

We are a rich Nation; we can afford to pay for security and
prosperity without having to sacrifice our liberties into the
bargain.

In the first century of our republic we were short of capital,
short of workers and short of industrial production; but we were
rich in free land, free timber and free mineral wealth. The federal
government rightly assumed the duty of promoting business and
relieving depression by giving subsidies of land and other
resources.

Thus, from our earliest days we have had a tradition of substantial
government help to our system of private enterprise. But today the
government no longer has vast tracts of rich land to give away and
we have discovered, too, that we must spend large sums of money to
conserve our land from further erosion and our forests from further
depletion. The situation is also very different from the old days,
because now we have plenty of capital, banks and insurance
companies loaded with idle money; plenty of industrial productive
capacity and many millions of workers looking for jobs. It is
following tradition as well as necessity, if government strives to
put idle money and idle men to work, to increase our public wealth
and to build up the health and strength of the people–and to help
our system of private enterprise to function.

It is going to cost something to get out of this recession this way
but the profit of getting out of it will pay for the cost several
times over. Lost working time is lost money. Every day that a
workman is unemployed, or a machine is unused, or a business
organization is marking time, it is a loss to the nation. Because
of idle men and idle machines this Nation lost one hundred billion
dollars between 1929 and the Spring of 1933, in less than four
years. This year you, the people of this country, are making about
twelve billion dollars less than last year.

If you think back to the experiences of the early years of this
administration you will remember the doubts and fears expressed
about the rising expenses of government. But to the surprise of the
doubters, as we proceeded to carry on the program which included
Public Works and Work Relief, the country grew richer instead of
poorer.

It is worthwhile to remember that the annual national people’s
income was thirty billion dollars more last year in 1937 than it
was in 1932. It is true that the national debt increased sixteen
billion dollars, but remember that in that increase must be
included several billion dollars worth of assets which eventually
will reduce that debt and that many billion dollars of permanent
public improvements–schools, roads, bridges, tunnels, public
buildings, parks and a host of other things–meet your eye in every
one of the thirty-one hundred counties in the United States.

No doubt you will be told that the government spending program of
the past five years did not cause the increase in our national
income. They will tell you that business revived because of private
spending and investment. That is true in part, for the government
spent only a small part of the total. But that government spending
acted as a trigger to set off private activity. That is why the
total addition to our national production and national income has
been so much greater than the contribution of the government
itself.

In pursuance of that thought I said to the Congress today:

“I want to make it clear that we do not believe that we can get an
adequate rise in national income merely by investing, and lending
or spending public funds. It is essential in our economy that
private funds must be put to work and all of us recognize that such
funds are entitled to a fair profit.”

As national income rises, “let us not forget that government
expenditures will go down and government tax receipts will go up.”

The government contribution of land that we once made to business
was the land of all the people. And the government contribution of
money which we now make to business ultimately comes out of the
labor of all the people. It is, therefore, only sound morality, as
well as a sound distribution of buying power, that the benefits of
the prosperity coming from this use of the money of all the people
ought to be distributed among all the people–at the bottom as well
as at the top. Consequently, I am again expressing my hope that the
Congress will enact at this session a wage and hour bill putting a
floor under industrial wages and a limit on working hours–to
ensure a better distribution of our prosperity, a better
distribution of available work, and a sounder distribution of
buying power.

You may get all kinds of impressions in regard to the total cost of
this new program, or in regard to the amount that will be added to
the net national debt.

It is a big program. Last autumn in a sincere effort to bring
government expenditures and government income into closer balance,
the Budget I worked out called for sharp decreases in government
spending.

In the light of present conditions those estimates were far too
low. This new program adds two billion and sixty-two million
dollars to direct treasury expenditures and another nine hundred
and fifty million dollars to government loans–the latter sum,
because they are loans, will come back to the treasury in the
future.

The net effect on the debt of the government is this–between now
and July 1, 1939–fifteen months away–the treasury will have to
raise less than a billion and a half dollars of new money.

Such an addition to the net debt of the United States need not give
concern to any citizen, for it will return to the people of the
United States many times over in increased buying power and
eventually in much greater government tax receipts because of the
increase in the citizen income.

What I said to the Congress in the close of my message I repeat to
you.

“Let us unanimously recognize the fact that the federal debt,
whether it be twenty-five billions or forty billions, can only be
paid if the nation obtains a vastly increased citizen income. I
repeat that if this citizen income can be raised to eighty billion
dollars a year the national government and the overwhelming
majority of state and local governments will be definitely ‘out of
the red.’ The higher the national income goes the faster will we be
able to reduce the total of federal and state and local debts.
Viewed from every angle, today’s purchasing power–the citizens’
income of today–is not at this time sufficient to drive the
economic system of America at higher speed. Responsibility of
government requires us at this time to supplement the normal
processes and in so supplementing them to make sure that the
addition is adequate. We must start again on a long steady upward
incline in national income.

“. . . And in that process, which I believe is ready to start, let
us avoid the pitfalls of the past–the overproduction, the
overspeculation, and indeed all the extremes which we did not
succeed in avoiding in 1929. In all of this, government cannot and
should not act alone. Business must help. And I am sure business
will help.

“We need more than the materials of recovery. We need a united
national will.

“We need to recognize nationally that the demands of no group,
however just, can be satisfied unless that group is prepared to
share in finding a way to produce the income from which they and
all other groups can be paid. . . . You, as the Congress, I, as the
President, must by virtue of our offices, seek the national good by
preserving the balance between all groups and all sections.

“We have at our disposal the national resources, the money, the
skill of hand and head to raise our economic level–our citizens’
income. Our capacity is limited only by our ability to work
together. What is needed is the will.

“The time has come to bring that will into action with every
driving force at our command. And I am determined to do my share.

“. . . Certain positive requirements seem to me to accompany the
will–if we have that will.

“There is placed on all of us the duty of self-restraint. . . .
That is the discipline of a democracy. Every patriotic citizen must
say to himself or herself, that immoderate statement, appeals to
prejudice, the creation of unkindness, are offenses not against an
individual or individuals, but offenses against the whole
population of the United States. . . .

“Self-restraint implies restraint by articulate public opinion,
trained to distinguish fact from falsehood, trained to believe that
bitterness is never a useful instrument in public affairs. There
can be no dictatorship by an individual or by a group in this
Nation, save through division fostered by hate. Such division there
must never be.”

And finally I should like to say a personal word to you.

I never forget that I live in a house owned by all the American
people and that I have been given their trust.

I try always to remember that their deepest problems are human. I
constantly talk with those who come to tell me their own points of
view; with those who manage the great industries and financial
institutions of the country; with those who represent the farmer
and the worker; and often with average citizens without high
position who come to this house. And constantly I seek to look
beyond the doors of the White House, beyond the officialdom of the
national capital, into the hopes and fears of men and women in
their homes. I have travelled the country over many times. My
friends, my enemies, my daily mail bring to me reports of what you
are thinking and hoping. I want to be sure that neither battles nor
burdens of office shall ever blind me to an intimate knowledge of
the way the American people want to live and the simple purposes
for which they put me here.

In these great problems of government I try not to forget that what
really counts at the bottom of it all is that the men and women
willing to work can have a decent job to take care of themselves
and their homes and their children adequately; that the farmer, the
factory worker, the storekeeper, the gas station man, the
manufacturer, the merchant–big and small–the banker who takes
pride in the help that he can give to the building of his
community–that all of these can be sure of a reasonable profit and
safety for the savings they earn–not today nor tomorrow alone, but
as far ahead as they can see.

I can hear your unspoken wonder as to where we are headed in this
troubled world. I cannot expect all of the people to understand all
of the people’s problems; but it is my job to try to those
problems.

I always try to remember that reconciling differences cannot
satisfy everyone completely. Because I do not expect too much, I am
not disappointed. But I know that I must never give up–that I must
never let the greater interest of all the people down, merely
because that might be for the moment the easiest personal way out.

I believe that we have been right in the course we have charted. To
abandon our purpose of building a greater, a more stable and a more
tolerant America would be to miss the tide and perhaps to miss the
port. I propose to sail ahead. I feel sure that your hopes and your
help are with me. For to reach a port, we must sail–sail, not lie
at anchor, sail, not drift.

June 24, 1938.

Our government, happily, is a democracy. As part of the democratic
process, your President is again taking an opportunity to report on
the progress of national affairs, to report to the real rulers of
this country–the voting public.

The Seventy-Fifth Congress, elected in November, 1936, on a
platform uncompromisingly liberal, has adjourned. Barring
unforeseen events, there will be no session until the new Congress,
to be elected in November, assembles next January.

On the one hand, the Seventy-Fifth Congress has left many things
undone.

For example, it refused to provide more businesslike machinery for
running the Executive Branch of the government. The Congress also
failed to meet my suggestion that it take the far-reaching steps
necessary to put the railroads of the country back on their feet.

But, on the other hand, the Congress, striving to carry out the
platform on which most of its members were elected, achieved more
for the future good of the country than any Congress did between
the end of the World War and the spring of 1933.

I mention tonight only the more important of these achievements.

(1) It improved still further our agricultural laws to give the
farmer a fairer share of the national income, to preserve our soil,
to provide an all-weather granary, to help the farm tenant towards
independence, to find new uses for farm products, and to begin crop
insurance.

(2) After many requests on my part the Congress passed a Fair Labor
Standards Act, commonly called the Wages and Hours Bill. That act–
applying to products in interstate commerce–ends child labor, sets
a floor below wages and a ceiling over hours of labor.

Except perhaps for the Social Security Act, it is the most far-
reaching, the most far-sighted program for the benefit of workers
ever adopted here or in any other country. Without question it
starts us toward a better standard of living and increases
purchasing power to buy the products of farm and factory.

Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000
a day, who has been turning his employees over to the government
relief rolls in order to preserve his company’s undistributed
reserves, tell you–using his stockholders’ money to pay the
postage for his personal opinions–that a wage of $11 a week is
going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.
Fortunately for business as a whole, and therefore for the nation,
that type of executive is a rarity with whom most business
executives most heartily disagree.

(3) The Congress has provided a fact-finding Commission to find a
path through the jungle of contradictory theories about the wise
business practices–to find the necessary facts for any intelligent
legislation on monopoly, on price-fixing and on the relationship
between big business and medium-sized business and little business.
Different from a great part of the world, we in America persist in
our belief in individual enterprise and in the profit motive; but
we realize we must continually seek improved practices to insure
the continuance of reasonable profits, together with scientific
progress, individual initiative, opportunities for the little
fellow, fair prices, decent wages and continuing employment.

(4) The Congress has coordinated the supervision of commercial
aviation and air mail by establishing a new Civil Aeronautics
Authority; and it has placed all postmasters under the civil
service for the first time in our national history.

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