STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN
By RICHARD M. KLEBERG, Congressman from Texas
Broadcast over WABC from Corpus Christi, Tex.
(Undated, assigned January 1, 1944.)
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 266-269.
GOOD evening, fellow Americans: Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to thank the Columbia Broadcasting System for the time granted me tonight. I think it proper for you to know that I speak to you tonight as a Member of the Congress of the United States, a Member of the House of Representatives, and as one of those through whom your voice as the people and as individuals is heard in the halls of state.
Almost every day I read in the papers and hear on the floor of the House that the American people are not conscious of the fact that a great war is going on, that the American people don't know in the great majority of cases that the United States is at war, that the American people think that the war is about over, and that we can let down. Yes, I read and hear, as you do, this constant diatribe against both the intelligence and the patriotism of us Americans. I believe that I am at least reasonably sane. I don't believe these things that we read and hear are true.
There is another line too which is considerably harped upon and to which I call your attention. It appears both in the newspapers and in the statements of public men. It is constituted of the sort of back-handed attack upon this, that, and every other kind of American who does not perchance agree with those who use this line of attack. I hear everywhere charges that among us are many—too many Americans—who are unwilling to make sacrifices; that there are among us too many who would be profiteers. I don't believe smears along this line, either.
Not long ago some good friends of mine in government, men in positions of high public trust made strenuous and able appeals to the American people for unity.
They were not quite explicit enough as to just what kind of unity they meant. One of them requested that certain groups 'lay that pistol down." Another suggested that those who were in disagreement with certain regulations and directives desist in their opposition to them for unity's sake. It is about all of these things that I would talk to you tonight, in order to make things as clear as I can. I am calling upon the very best that is in me, and I only wish that my attainments were far greater than they are. This I know, that confusion has ever been the enemy of attainment. I know that as a Nation here on the home front we are in the midst of the greatest confusion that has ever beset us since our nativity. By tracing things to their origin we gain more rightful ideas of them and understand them better.
If a doctor or a surgeon can ascertain the cause of the malady of his patient—if not incurable—he may work a cure. However, if he treats that patient with cure-alls, panaceas, and other forms of treatment not adapted to the cause of the ailment and its correction, he can only effect a cure as a cowboy might put it—by the grace of God and green apples.
It seems to me that some of our problems on the home front are being attacked by this method of hit-or-miss treatment.
Now let us backtrack a little. First, we must know whether we on the home front are fighting this war with the same objective which fires our heroic sons—yes, and our daughters—on the real and far-flung battlefronts in this world conflict. In other words, what are we fighting for?
As a humble American Congressman, for my part, I believe young Americans everywhere are fighting to preserve our American way of life. They are fighting to preserve our country. They are fighting so that when this mass malignity which afflicts the whole world is over they may come home to an America which has been kept fit for them to live in—an America filled with the opportunities that only the American way has afforded to citizens of the United States; yes, since the Stars and Stripes first became the emblem of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
For my part here at home, if these be their objectives, I fight shoulder to shoulder with them—with the no-surrender sign up as long as God gives me life to strive to attain these ends.
Follow me just a moment. The forms into which governments that have prevailed throughout the history of the world may be divided are, first, governments which arise out of the people; second, governments which arise over the people. Mark this distinction well for the purpose of this discussion. Our Government belongs to this first class. So
let us subdivide again our form of government, one, by election and representation functioning as a democracy; second, governments by hereditary succession; and, third, those governments which have ever been spawned by defeatism, born of the idea that the "state is our salvation," such as fascism, socialism, nazi-ism, etc., are totalitarian and may only function under rigid dictatorships. The first of these, the republican, our form of government, arises out of the people deriving all of its just powers from the governed people and exercising these powers by and with their sanction. Our form of government is republican in form and democratic in character. Under our form and system, a constitution is a thing antecedent to government which is in fact the creature of such constitution.
The Constitution of the United States was born as the result of the use of God-given and directed reason on the part of drafting forefathers. The quality of reason was again required on the part of the people in the various States in the exercise of the prerequisites of ratification by State legislatures or by the people assembled in State conventions. When these steps were accomplished, according to the Constitution itself, the United States of America was born, the seeds of the American way of life were planted and bore final fruit. This fruit is best exemplified as to its quality when with more than 8,000 years of the history of mankind behind us we find no single instance when any other nation was ever called upon by Almighty God to shoulder responsibilities comparable to those which the United States bears today.
I beg of you, with all the earnestness and emphasis which I can muster, to keep this brief analysis in mind; first, that our government of the people, for the people, and by the people is a government which arose out of and not over the people; second, that it was born of reason under God and with true and imperishable faith in Him; that this Government was born of the Constitution of the United States, and that because of this Government of ours the American way of life came into being—a way of life that is known to none of God's children under heaven save to us. I beg of you bend close your minds and your hearts that you may grasp the true significance of the oath of office of those who serve you in high positions of public trust in the halls of state.
The American way of life is founded on democratic ideals which in turn are supported irrevocably—and I pray eternally—by faith in the concept that reason in the long run controls Americans: second, faith in the American individual and his true worth, if left free to develop and do his part in the American way. As to No. 1, of course, man is impelled and motivated by a host of emotions and prejudices—desire, greed, lust, hate, envy, etc. But then, too, he is immobilized in his effective power by confusion, uncertainty, etc. But so long as we as Americans can feel a just pride in saying—each individual one of us—"I am an American," and as long as that truly means that each of us has high moral concepts and virtue in the long run, reason will prevail.
Again I repeat I refuse to tolerate the thought that Americans cannot be trusted to do the reasonable. Of all of the dangerous defeatist ideas that have been advanced, this one, in my opinion, brings more real danger to us than any other. It may be that those who utter this thought and who continually advance the need for more and more restrictions, regulations, directives, and "red tape" are overcautious, overtrained, and, I think, in many cases, too highly educated.
From these conditions come those graduates of the school of reformers who have, throughout all history, been responsible for the major human catastrophes and tragedies which mar and spoil the pages of the history of mankind.
Two things can bring us back into the cycle of recurrent evidences of major human catastrophes in history. One will be this continued lack of confidence in us, the people, that we will do the reasonable thing by those who man the oars of the ship of state. The other will be our evidencing a lack of militant, and intelligent vigilance in thwarting their designs. If these two combine, they will bring us to the most tragic page in the history of this world which will be read by generations of Americans who follow. And if this happens, it should haunt us through eternity into which we of this generation pass when we shuffle off this mortal coil.
Our republican democracy is the only form of government which accepts reason as the basis for man's right to freedom and liberty. It is a form of government which more nearly recognizes reason as the basic difference between man and animals which herd and are driven to toil and slaughter.
In speaking to you tonight and addressing you as fellow-Americans, I speak to you as individuals, as individual compatriots in this tragic hour, and I pray you will grant me a confidence like that which I grant you. Never was a truer saying than that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and that must be practiced in our case by upholding and defending the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. There must be some clarion cry which can be heard throughout the confines of this great land of ours—yes, heard and heeded. There must be something to this American way of life which even in the midst of the dark and confusion which surrounds us we can all see clearly, and here it is, I think—I join those friends of mine who ask for unity of purpose among all Americans. I do not mean servile unity, but American unity in support of the fountain from which the American way of life pours forth and in support and defense of the foundations of ours underlying and upholding this fountain, the Constitution of the United States properly interpreted and backed up by a united people.
We have before the Congress a bill which is the center of one of the most vicious maelstroms in the sea of confusion which engulfs us. This bill generally is known as the antisubsidy bill. I supported it with all the earnestness of my being as an American. The Congress has come to no conclusion. Really, there is a temporary halt on the part of Congress by reason of recessing which required an extension of the life of the Commodity Credit Corporation for a temporary period. I supported the antisubsidy bill for two reasons in voicing my opposition to a wide-open subsidy program for the people of the United States. I cannot and never will believe that American business and the American people exclusively are dependent upon the Federal Government for their salvation. If this should happen—God forbid this should ever become true—it will only be because and when our Government is no longer a government which arises out of the people, but only when it becomes a government over the people. The very idea of dependence is utterly repulsive to my way of thinking because dependency begets subservience, and the men and women that I know and love that constitute the people of the United States of America will have to change immeasurably in form and stature to become the crawling, servile creatures of such a monster.
Again, too, to those who plead for unity, may I say to my way of thinking that if this unity require submission to the idea that Americans are mendicants, it would be just as easy for me to agree with the idea that we could stop this war by yielding in submissive unity to the ideas, ideals, and plans of Hitler and Tojo. Yes; this would stop the war. A great American oncesaid, and I quote: "We prefer war in all cases to tribute in any form and to any people whatsoever."
So, my friends, we had better stop, look, and listen concerning this subsidy program before we so avidly proclaim that we need it badly enough to charge "our grocery bills to those who are fighting this war in fact for us, and to their children and to coming generations. Such dependence begets subservience, and it will suffocate the very germs of American virtue, and if we fix the tentacles of this octopus upon our fair land we will have erected and put into operation the factories which will produce fit tools for the design of misguided ambition and vicious and harmful ideology.
Let us analyze this subsidy proposal briefly. Time will not permit more than a brief analysis. First, if the Congress permits the Commodity Credit Corporation to subsidize producers and distributors and so forth for the benefit of the consumers, it will mean that the Congress will have financed a means for the disintegration of the American way of life as we know it. Second, the Congress will have financed an already tested and tried-out confusion, which means that this confusion will continue. Everyone knows that we have had shortages in almost every commodity since the beginning of the operations of the present O. P. A., and these subsidies are required for the making of adjustments in the economic structure because of the maladjustments occasioned by ill-advised, and in some cases, illegal regulations issued by the O. P. A. together with Government or so-called Executive directives.
Third—and don't be surprised—but if Congress allows payment of blank-check funds to the Commodity Credit Corporation for the establishment of its far- and wide-flung subsidy program, this program will be put into effect by regulations and directives, and you will have no voice in it as the American people, because these directives and regulations with the force and effect of law will not be enacted or drafted by your representatives in Congress.
Fourth, one of these proposed plans to be effectuated by regulation, and, shall I say, and/or directives, is one which provides that the Commodity Credit Corporation shall purchase all of the products of certain needed commodities which it will then reallocate to be redistributed and sold through agencies of its selection.
Take, for instance, citrus fruit. Plans are already drawn to put this plan into operation. Think this over and see what it means. Your brains are just as good as mine. And while you are thinking, listen to this, as I read from article I, section 1, of the Constitution of the United States:
"All legislative power herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives."
Does the Congress defend and uphold the Constitution when it knows that the vast spending power involved in this proposed subsidy program means that it is to be administered under and by virtue and direction of regulations and directives with the full force and effect of law which are not drafted by the Congress—oh, no—but drafted and put into effect by individuals who were not elected by the people but who hold appointive office and who are, therefore, not responsible to the people, and that when any citizen shall be found in contravention of these regulations or directives, or both, that he will not be tried in a duly constituted court such as contemplated by the Constitution and before a jury of his peers, but he will be tried in an O. P. A. court from which he has no appeal? Can I, as a Representative of the American people, sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, tolerate this as being in accordance with my oath of office? I don't think so. And if you think that the American way of life is worth living and fighting for, I believe you think and agree with me.
Now, let us go a little further in this subsidy thing. Those who advance the subsidy theory say, for instance, that it is either subsidies or a general increase in the cost of living. This fantastic allegation may sound plausible unless one considers the alternative to subsidies. Simply stated, it is controlled adjustment of demand and supply based upon flexibility in pricing. Under such a plan, as demand increases prices would increase. As price increases induced production demand is overtaken by supply and then prices decrease. That has been always the American way. As a matter of fact, subsidies continued long would mean an inevitable increase in the cost of living as they inevitably mean an increase in the real dangers of inflation. First, subsidies of the kind contemplated do nothing to induce production, but in fact discourage it. Ask any beef cattleman or any farmer. And as a result, if subsidies are inflicted, supply soon may be expected to decrease, and as a consequence of more persons with more purchasing power bidding more money for less goods, the pressure for price increases resulting from subsidies would be greater and persist longer than in the case of the natural alternative.
The argument that it is either subsidies or a general increase in the cost of living rests on no other foundation than the age-old strategy employed by those who brought Socialist states into being, that your opponent is doing what you know you are doing and thus attempts to divert your attention from your own guilt.
Another charge, it is consumer subsidies or inflation. This charge almost answers itself in the American forum of reason. First, any price increase does not mean inflation. There was a general increase in the price level during the last World War that was much greater than anything that has taken place during a corresponding period in this war, yet there was no inflation. This charge is also as fantastic as it is untrue, because it attempts to delude the American people into believing that consumer subsidies are not inflationary where they have a much greater and more fundamental inflationary effect upon conditions than any price increases that might reasonably be expected or anticipated. Again, guilt cannot long be concealed by charging that opponents are doing the same thing. It is not a choice between consumer subsidies and inflation. It is a case of consumer subsidies and much more and quicker inflation than otherwise.
Another one: The proponents say an increase in the cost of living means that there must be wage increases. This is like the old moot question, "Which came first, the hen or the egg?" When the Price Control Act of 1942 became law in January of that year, it never touched the main factor in a price structure—wages and earnings. A mad rush had already taken place on the part of labor leaders to get every possible advantage before the expected amendment to the Price Act took place. This came in October 1942, following a period of almost unprecedented political wage gyrations. So far as those most vociferous for concealed subsidies are concerned, it must be pointed out that they had already got their wage increases. That was the cause of the price increase which was made inevitable and which has since only partly run out, the inescapable course to which all were automatically committed once these wage increases were put into effect.
And then they say opponents of subsidies have no alternative to propose—which, of course, is sheer bunk. The entire cattle industry, for instance, offered a plan, which was accepted by Chester Davis, then War Food Administrator; Prentiss M. Brown, then O. P. A. Administrator; and by General Gregory, Quartermaster General of the United States Army, but this plan was not put into effect because the subsidy boys would have been out of court.
In the last World War, controlled prices worked quite successfully in the United States. Similar and clear-cut measures should be taken in this country now, before the almost criminal impotence which has been evidenced condemns this Nation to something far worse than German inflation, the Mississippi Bubble, etc.
The alternative to subsidies, and I will give you one now, is the creation of a proper price-control agency given necessary discretionary power to act. The paper shortage of this Nation could be much helped by doing this and then putting to use the countless volumes of embalmed printed regulations and red tape now dragging this Nation toward starvation. There are all kinds and more of the same class of argument for these subsidies, but my imagination is not fertile enough to cope with the factory of foreign ideology which spawned this theory. They never run out of ammunition and paper. And an American who hews to the line can't go so far afield from fact and shoot fancy in his gun. When somebody suggests, "Lay that pistol down," I hope that suggestion is heard and heeded by those who are shooting at our constitutional form of republican democracy based on reason and a faith in God.
I have never believed that there could be two war fronts as far as the United States was concerned. The home front and the World War front must be identical in both objective and patriotic backing if what we are fighting for, the continuity of the American way of life and of our system of government, is the goal. I cannot make an argument upon an appeal which is based upon more or less rash assumptions, but I can and do present this plea for American unity to preserve on the home front those priceless attributes which make up the source of that pride which you feel when they ask you where you are from and you say, "I am an American."
The very soul of the American people is made up of their faith, and I propose this challenge from the Book of the God in whom we trust: "For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul."