The Fireside Chats of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

As it turned back on its homeward journey a running fight between
the bomber and the eighteen Japanese pursuit planes continued for
75 miles. Four pursuit planes of the Japs attacked simultaneously
at each side. Four were shot down with the side guns. During this
fight, the bomber’s radio operator was killed, the engineer’s right
hand was shot off, and one gunner was crippled, leaving only one
man available to operate both side guns. Although wounded in one
hand, this gunner alternately manned both side guns, bringing down
three more Japanese “Zero” planes. While this was going on, one
engine on the American bomber was shot out, one gas tank was hit,
the radio was shot off, and the oxygen system was entirely
destroyed. Out of eleven control cables all but four were shot
away. The rear landing wheel was blown off entirely, and the two
front wheels were both shot flat.

The fight continued until the remaining Japanese pursuit ships
exhausted their ammunition and turned back. With two engines gone
and the plane practically out of control, the American bomber
returned to its base after dark and made an emergency landing. The
mission had been accomplished.

The name of that pilot is Captain Hewitt T. Wheless, of the United
States Army. He comes from a place called Menard, Texas–with a
population 2,375. He has been awarded the Distinguished Service
Cross. And I hope that he is listening.

These stories I have told you are not exceptional. They are typical
examples of individual heroism and skill.

As we here at home contemplate our own duties, our own
responsibilities, let us think and think hard of the example which
is being set for us by our fighting men.

Our soldiers and sailors are members of well disciplined units. But
they are still and forever individuals–free individuals. They are
farmers, and workers, businessmen, professional men, artists,
clerks.

They are the United States of America.

That is why they fight.

We too are the United States of America.

That is why we must work and sacrifice.

It is for them. It is for us. It is for victory.

September 7, 1942.

My Friends:

I wish that all the Americans people could read all the citations
for various medals recommended for our soldiers and sailors and
marines. I am picking out one of these citations which tells of the
accomplishments of Lieutenant John James Powers, United States
Navy, during three days of the battles with Japanese forces in the
Coral Sea.

During the first two days, Lieutenant Powers, flying a dive-bomber
in the face of blasting enemy anti-aircraft fire, demolished one
large enemy gunboat, put another gunboat out of commission,
severely damaged an aircraft tender and a twenty-thousand-ton
transport, and scored a direct hit on an aircraft carrier which
burst into flames and sank soon after.

The official citation then describes the morning of the third day
of battle. As the pilots of his squadron left the ready room to man
their planes, Lieutenant Powers said to them, “Remember, the folks
back home are counting on us. I am going to get a hit if I have to
lay it on their flight deck.

He led his section down to the target from an altitude of 18,000
feet, through a wall of bursting anti-aircraft shells and swarms of
enemy planes. He dived almost to the very deck of the enemy
carrier, and did not release his bomb until he was sure of a direct
hit. He was last seen attempting recovery from his dive at the
extremely low altitude of two hundred feet, amid a terrific barrage
of shell and bomb fragments, and smoke and flame and debris from
the stricken vessel. His own plane was destroyed by the explosion
of his own bomb. But he had made good his promise to “lay it on
their flight deck.”

I have received a recommendation from the Secretary of the Navy
that Lieutenant John James Powers of New York City, missing in
action, be awarded the Medal of Honor. I hereby and now make this
award.

You and I are “the folks back home” for whose protection Lieutenant
Powers fought and repeatedly risked his life. He said that we
counted on him and his men. We did not count in vain. But have not
those men a right to be counting on us? How are we playing our part
“back home” in winning this war?

The answer is that we are not doing enough.

Today I sent a message to the Congress, pointing out the
overwhelming urgency of the serious domestic economic crisis with
which we are threatened. Some call it “inflation,” which is a vague
sort of term, and others call it a “rise in the cost of living,”
which is much more easily understood by most families.

That phrase, “the cost of living,” means essentially what a dollar
can buy.

From January 1, 1941, to May of this year, nearly a year and a
half, the cost of living went up about 15 percent. And at that
point last May we undertook to freeze the cost of living. But we
could not do a complete job of it, because the Congressional
authority at the time exempted a large part of farm products used
for food and for making clothing, although several weeks before, I
had asked the Congress for legislation to stabilize all farm
prices.

At that time I had told the Congress that there were seven elements
in our national economy, all of which had to be controlled; and
that if any one essential element remained exempt, the cost of
living could not be held down.

On only two of these points–both of them vital however–did I call
for Congressional action. These two vital points were: First,
taxation; and, second, the stabilization of all farm prices at
parity.

“Parity” is a standard for the maintenance of good farm prices. It
was established as our national policy way back in 1933. It means
that the farmer and the city worker are on the same relative ratio
with each other in purchasing power as they were during a period
some thirty years before–at a time then the farmer had a
satisfactory purchasing power. One hundred percent of parity,
therefore, has been accepted by farmers as the fair standard for
the prices they receive.

Last January, however, the Congress passed a law forbidding
ceilings on farm prices below 110 percent of parity on some
commodities. And on other commodities the ceiling was even higher,
so that the average possible ceiling is now about 116 percent of
parity for agricultural products as a whole.

This act of favoritism for one particular group in the community
increased the cost of food to everybody–not only to the workers in
the city or in the munitions plants, and their families, but also
to the families of the farmers themselves.

Since last May, ceilings have been set on nearly all commodities,
rents services, except the exempted farm products. Installment
buying, for example, has been effectively controlled.

Wages in certain key industries have been stabilized on the basis
of the present cost of living.

But it is obvious to all of us that if the cost of food continues
to go up, as it is doing at present, the wage earner, particularly
in the lower brackets, will have a right to an increase in his
wages. I think that would be essential justice and a practical
necessity.

Our experience with the control of other prices during the past few
months has brought out one important fact–the rising cost of
living can be controlled, providing that all elements making up the
cost of living are controlled at the same time. I think that also
is an essential justice and a practical necessity. We know that
parity prices for farm products not now controlled will not put up
the cost of living more than a very small amount; but we also know
that if we must go up to an average of 116 percent of parity for
food and other farm products–which is necessary at present under
the Emergency Price Control Act before we can control all farm
prices–the cost of living will get well out of hand. We are face
to face with this danger today. Let us meet it and remove it.

I realize that it may seem out of proportion to you to be over-
stressing these economic problems at a time like this, when we are
all deeply concerned about the news from far distant fields of
battle. But I give you the solemn assurance that failure to solve
this problem here at home–and to solve it now–will make more
difficult the winning of this war.

If the vicious spiral of inflation ever gets under way, the whole
economic system will stagger. Prices and wages will go up so
rapidly that the entire production program will be endangered. The
cost of the war, paid by taxpayers, will jump beyond all present
calculations. It will mean an uncontrollable rise in prices and in
wages, which can result in raising the overall cost of living as
high as another 20 percent soon. That would mean that the
purchasing power of every dollar that you have in your pay
envelope, or in the bank, or included in your insurance policy or
your pension, would be reduced to about eighty cents٠worth. I need
not tell you that this would have a demoralizing effect on our
people, soldiers and civilians alike.

Overall stabilization of prices, and salaries, wages and profits is
necessary to the continued increasing production of planes and
tanks and ships and guns.

In my message to Congress today, I have said that this must be done
quickly. If we wait for two or three or four or six months it may
well be too late.

I have told the Congress that the administration cannot hold the
actual cost of food and clothing down to the present level beyond
October first.

Therefore, I have asked the Congress to pass legislation under
which the President would be specifically authorized to stabilize
the cost of living, including the price of all farm commodities.
The purpose should be to hold farm prices at parity, or at levels
of a recent date, whichever is higher. The purpose should also be
to keep wages at a point stabilized with today’s cost of living.
Both must be regulated at the same time; and neither one of them
can or should be regulated without the other.

At the same time that farm prices are stabilized, I will stabilize
wages.

That is plain justice–and plain common sense.

And so I have asked the Congress to take this action by the first
of October. We must now act with the dispatch which the stern
necessities of war require.

I have told the Congress that inaction on their part by that date
will leave me with an inescapable responsibility, a responsibility
to the people of this country to see to it that the war effort is
no longer imperiled by the threat of economic chaos.

As I said in my message to the Congress:

In the event that the Congress should fail to act, and act
adequately, I shall accept the responsibility, and I will act.

The President has the powers, under the Constitution and under
Congressional Acts, to take measures necessary to avert a disaster
which would interfere with the winning of the war.

I have given the most careful and thoughtful consideration to
meeting this issue without further reference to the Congress. I
have determined, however, on this vital matter to consult with the
Congress.

There may be those who will say that, if the situation is as grave
as I have stated it to be, I should use my powers and act now. I
can only say that I have approached this problem from every angle,
and that I have decided that the course of conduct which I am
following in this case is consistent with my sense of
responsibility as President in time of war, and with my deep and
unalterable devotion to the processes of democracy.

The responsibilities of the President in wartime to protect the
nation are very grave. This total war, with our fighting fronts all
over the world, makes the use of the executive power far more
essential than in any previous war.

If we were invaded, the people of this country would expect the
President to use any and all means to repel the invader.

Now the revolution and the war between the states were fought on
our own soil, but today this war will be won or lost on other
continents and in remote seas. I cannot tell what powers may have
to be exercised in order to win this war.

The American people can be sure that I will use my powers with a
full sense of responsibility to the Constitution and to my country.
The American people can also be sure that I shall not hesitate to
use every power vested in me to accomplish the defeat of our
enemies in any part of the world where our own safety demands such
defeat.

And when the war is over, the powers under which I act will
automatically revert to the people of the United States–to the
people to whom those powers belong.

I think I know the American farmers. I know they are as
wholehearted in their patriotism as any other group. They have
suffered from the constant fluctuations of farm prices–
occasionally too high, more often too low. Nobody knows better than
farmers the disastrous effects of wartime inflationary booms, and
postwar deflationary panics.

So I have also suggested today that the Congress make our
agricultural economy more stable. I have recommended that in
addition to putting ceilings on all farm products now, we also
place a definite floor under those prices for a period beginning
now, continuing through the war, and for as long as necessary after
the war. In this way we will be able to avoid the collapse of farm
prices that happened after the last war. The farmers must be
assured of a fair minimum price during the readjustment period
which will follow the great, excessive world food demands which now
prevail.

We must have some floor under farm prices, as we must have under
wages, if we are to avoid the dangers of a postwar inflation on the
one hand, or the catastrophe of a crash in farm prices and wages on
the other.

Today I have also advised the Congress of the importance of
speeding up the passage of the tax bill. The federal treasury is
losing millions of dollars each and every day because the bill has
not yet been passed. Taxation is the only practical way of
preventing the incomes and profits of individuals and corporations
from getting too high.

I have told the Congress once more that all net individual incomes,
after payment of all taxes, should be limited effectively by
further taxation to a maximum net income of $25,000 a year. And it
is equally important that corporate profits should not exceed a
reasonable amount in any case.

The nation must have more money to run the war. People must stop
spending for luxuries. Our country needs a far greater share of our
incomes.

For this is a global war, and it will cost this nation nearly one
hundred billion dollars in 1943.

In that global war there are now four main areas of combat; and I
should like to speak briefly of them, not in the order of their
importance, for all of them are vital and all of them are
interrelated.

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