The Peril of Inflation



Over combined Radio Stations, from Washington, D. C., March 9, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 322-323.

NO one can think back over the last nine years without coming to the conclusion that the most significant single fact in recent American history is the ability of the American people to face a tough situation and to take orderly and united action in their own behalf and in behalf of the things in which they believe.

There has been a considerable amount of discussion lately about the alleged complacency of the American people. Newspaper editors and commentators have been telling us that the American people are complacent—that they are apathetic.

I think I know the American people pretty well. A lot of them write to me. A lot of them send me messages of one sort or another. They talk to me pretty frankly. If there is one single thing of which I am certain, it is that the American people are not now, and have not been, complacent.

On the contrary, they are keenly aware of the situation in which they find themselves, and they are whole-heartedly and entirely committed to action. Now, as a decade ago, they are facing up to the job they have to do, and they propose to see to it that the job is done.

Americans are preparing with all possible speed to take their places on the battlefronts.

Workers in the mills and mines are laboring long hours, under great pressure, to turn out the weapons and equipment without which the war cannot be won. Men and women in thousands of communities are giving their time and energy in the work of civilian defense. And out in the country farmers are straining every effort to produce the food which, like the tanks and planes, is absolutely indispensable to victory.

The members of each of these various groups know the extent to which they themselves are responding. But they do not always know what is being done by the others. And that gives an opportunity to the enemy to get in some deadly blows. That gives an opportunity to the enemy to spread malicious words.

Labor, says the evil whisper, is sabotaging the war pro-

gram with strikes and slowdowns and demands for higher wages. Business, it says, is gouging the country with unconscionable profits. And the farmer, according to this treacherous voice, is using the war to grab all he can.

Now it happens that, as a result of the war program, the incomes of all three groups, on the average, are substantially increased. Of course, there are instances where a few businessmen or a few workers or a few farmers are demanding and getting more than they ought.

But, in general, the increase to the different groups has been kept fairly well in balance, and there has been only a moderate rise in the cost of living in city and country.

It seems to me that we ought to feel proud of the undoubted fact that we are getting cooperation and a reasonably fair balance among 90 per cent of our population and that if less than 10 per cent of the population is chiseling, we still have a pretty good national record.

But if all prices keep on going up, we shall have inflation of a very dangerous kind—we shall have such a steep rise in prices and the cost of living that the entire nation will be hurt.

That would greatly increase the cost of the war and the national debt, hamper the drive for victory, and inevitably plunge every one, city workers and farm workers alike, into ruinous deflation later on.

I wish some one would invent a better word than "inflation." What we really mean is that, even though we may not realize it at the moment, it is not a good thing for the country to upset all the old standards if the cost of living goes up through the roof and wages go up through the roof.

Actually, in such a case, we are no better off than we were before as individuals or heads of families, and it comes close to being true that that which goes up has to come down.

This fight against inflation is not fought with bullets of with bombs, but it is equally vital.

It calls for cooperation and restraint on the part of every group. It calls for mutual good will and a willingness to

believe in the other fellow's good faith. It calls for unflagging vigilance and effective action by the government to prevent profiteering and unfair returns, alike for services and for goods.

So, on this ninth anniversary of the founding of the national farm program, we can all rededicate ourselves to the spirit with which this common effort by the farmers

came to birth. Never before in our history has there been as much need for unstinting service to the country.

Hard, trying, difficult days are ahead. How hard and how bitter they will be depends on how well we can keep our eyes, our thoughts and our efforts directed toward the only thing that matters now for every one of us in the United Nations—winning the war.

Ever Greater Production


By DONALD M. NELSON, Chairman of the War Production Board

Over the Blue Network, from Washington, D. C, March 2, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 323-3

MY fellow Americans: I have come to this microphone tonight to talk about one thing, particularly to the managers and the workers of American industry. It is deadly serious. I want to ask you a question I have been asking myself:

Are you doing everything within your power today to put more weapons into the hands of our fighting men?

I emphasize today because the arms we produce tomorrow, next month or next year are not going to the men who need them today, and they need them desperately today.

Let us look at the other side of the picture for a minute. In Germany, in Japan, in the conquered countries, millions of men are bound to their tasks under threat of death, under threat of concentration camps, under the whip and the goad of the secret police.

We are not fighting enemies whose production is free. We are fighting enemies where management is force and where labor is forced. Both, upon pain of death, must do exactly what they are told and exactly as much as they are told. They are actually slaves. That is what we are up against— a Germany and a Japan whose production is at its peak.

So I ask you, all of you free men and free women, can we beat it? The answer is to be found particularly in what you men in the war production plants—management and labor—what you do about it now—today.

I have talked to men who blame labor for lack of production. I have talked to labor leaders who blame management for lack of production. I have talked to managers who blame their suppliers. I have talked to suppliers who blame scarcity of materials. And I have talked to a lot of people who blame Washington.

My answer to each of these people has been: What have YOU done about it yourself? To the businessmen who blame labor, I say: What have you done to settle the problem forthrightly instead of merely complaining? Have you really tried to remove the causes of just complaints against working conditions in your plant? To the representatives of labor, I say: Have you really gone to the limit to adjust your differences without stopping production?

To those who whine that Washington hasn't done enough for them, I say:

Where is your initiative? Where is your enterprise? You are always talking about preserving free enterprise. What is it? Do you usually get business by waiting for the customer to call you and ask you to take an order? Have you made a thorough study of what the customer wants? Are you prepared to convert your machinery to those needs? Can you show us what you can do? There isn't time for the

Army and Navy to determine what every plant can make. There must be initiative and enterprise at the other end of the transaction.

If you can show the Army and the Navy what you can do and are prepared to do it, most of the problem is solved.

Almost without exception, every one of these people I have talked to feels the urge to do more. The trouble is not with their intentions. The trouble is rather too strong a tendency to pass the buck—to blame the other fellow. Work is slowed down, production is lost and the men in the foxholes with MacArthur, the men in the Indies, our boys on land and sea and in the air are the first to suffer, and suffer death.

So I ask industry; I ask the men in the plants; I ask all of you who can contribute so much to ever greater production : Look into your hearts, look into your minds, be honest with yourselves individually and answer my question:

Are you doing today every single thing within your individual power to see that the planes, the tanks, the guns and ships, the ammunition and equipment those boys need desperately is getting into their hands faster and in ever-increasing quantity?

I'm not talking tonight merely to hear the sound of my own voice. Nor am I appealing to you. I am telling you that unless we can answer that question with a loud, positive yes, we are, in reality, helping the Axis win this war.

It is the production line that supplies the battle line. But it is on the battle line that freedom is being defended— where your right to free enterprise; your right to collective bargaining; your right to criticize; your right to worship as you please—it is on the battle line that those things you hold more precious than all else are being defended.

It is on the battle line that men—fathers, sons, brothers, boys you know, have pledged their lives to this thing for their country, for you and for me. And their success in this heroic undertaking depends entirely upon what we—you and I here at home, you and I on the production line—do to give them the stuff they need to destroy the enemy.

Let's put it another way. Have you clinched your fists, impatient to get at the Japanese for what they did at Pearl Harbor? How many MacArthurs does it take to make you mad? Doesn't your blood run faster as you read of the undersea raiders operating within a torpedo's length of our own shores?

If these things have left you indifferent; if these things have not brought you to your feet alert and mad, determined that they shall stop and that those who inflict this bloodshed upon us shall be destroyed, then you are not worthy to be called American.

But I know that most of you are mad. So, I ask you