The Little Man
HOW HE THINKS AND WHY
By RODNEY G. FREEMAN, President, Panama Pump Co.
Delivered before the Hattiesburg Rotary Club, Hattiesburg, Miss., January 25, 1944
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 313-316.
PRESIDENT LOWERY, Fellow Rotarians and Guests in my talk today I am going to assume the role of what was known as the forgotten man, the Farmer, the Laborer, the man across the tracks, the little man if you please. The man who, with the returning soldier, is going to have a great deal to say about HOW AND BY WHOM this country will be run during the next fifty years.
Gentlemen we are very glad to be here before you today. We want to apologize for more or less slipping in the side door or coming in disguise but it isn't the easiest thing in the world for one of us to get before a group of this kind and we have to grab every opportunity.
First we would like to give you a brief report of our activities since the beginning of the war and particularly
since Pearl Harbor. You have heard a great deal about the tremendous accomplishments in the way of production of Foodstuffs and Munitions and other Weapons of War. WE ARE THE MEN WHO DID AND ARE DOING THAT JOB. In making reports of their activities we notice the businessmen always measure their accomplishments in dollar value. We presume that it is fair for us to measure our accomplishments likewise.
In 1939 the income of we farmers was 4 billion 300 million dollars. By 1943 we had raised that to 13 billion dollars for an increase of more than 200%. We farmers have been asked to produce at a rate that seemed well nigh impossible but in spite of the fact that a great many of our men and women have joined the Armed Services and a still greater number have left the farms to go to the rescue of Industry in the Production of the Weapons of War we have, by and large. MET OR EXCEEDED all quotas assigned to us. As you know we have not been able to buy any new farm machinery, our old machinery is pretty well worn out but by working full 8 hours (that is 8 hours before dinner and 8 hours after dinner) seven days a week we have met the challenge of the President. We feel that wc have fully backed up our soldiers. Yes we are quite proud of what we have done. A closer analysis indicates that the farmers have done the outstanding job of the war. Bear in mind, please, production increased more than 200%.
While we laborers in the shops and factories haven't done as well as the farmers we still have made tremendous strides. In 1939 wages paid to labor amounted to 70 billion dollars. In 1943 this amount was 146 billion dollars, an increase of more than 100%. We have increased aircraft plant equipment 40 times; we have increased aluminum capacity 7 times; during 1943 we produced three times the volume of machine tools than were produced in all the ten prewar years put together; we are building 5 ocean going ships per day. Overall during 1943 our production has been a thundering 100% over 1939. England, under far greater pressure, was only able to increase her production 20%. When the President announced, shortly after Pearl Harbor, how many planes, tanks, ships, guns, etc, our Armed Forces and our Allies would need—and we would manufacture—our enemies had a good laugh as they firmly believed that it would be impossible for us to turn them out. There were also a good many pessimists in this country who said it couldn't be done but we in labor, having every confidence in the President and knowing that if he said we needed those things it was up to us to make them, went quietly to work. We didn't bother too much about what we would be paid because way back in 1932 Franklin Roosevelt promised the little people a New Deal and he gave us a New Deal so why shouldn't we "go to bat" for him. You know the results, perhaps best covered in a recent statement by Mr. Rob't P. Patterson, Under-secretary of State, as follows: "I KNOW OF NO PARALLEL TO THE JOB DONE IN THE WAR BY INDUSTRY AND LABOR." We laborers have no apologies to make, we are backing up our soldiers and while we haven't increased our production in the same proportion as the farmers we have produced what we have been asked to produce.
We think it is fair to make a comparison of what we have done as compared to what corporations have done, still using the dollar income as a yardstick. Net corporate profits in 1939 were 4 billion 200 million dollars. In 1943 they were 8 billion dollars, an increase of less than 100% as compared to more than 100% for Labor and more than 200% for the Farmers. We are not sure that it is entirely fair to use the dollar income as a yardstick but we are using it here today because it is your method of measuring and we want to make these observations as understandable to you as possible.
We would like to call your attention to the fact that we have not relied upon a Labor Magazine or a Farm Publication for the above figures. They were taken from the Jan. 10, 1944 Issue of TIME magazine, a publication that we feel sure most of you men read regularly.
We have given vou all this somewhat as a background; to tell you WHO WE ARE, WHAT WE HAVE BEEN DOING, and to say that WE ARE WAKING UP. We are also doing SOME THINKING. We try to find out what you think about. We hear quite a lot from men like yourselves about the return to the American Way of Life; the return to Private Free Enterprise; Keep America American; and Post War Plans Galore. Most of these thoughts, as we have said, come from Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, Lions Clubs, and other Luncheon Clubs and from Chambers of Commerce and men who are members of these various organizations. Just what do you mean by a return to the American Way of Life—a return to Free Private Enterprise? Does it mean a return to the way of life before the New Deal? We are not sure that we want to go back to that way of life. Wc have fared better during the past ten years than during any ten year period in history. We have worked fewer hours, we have had more money, we have been able to enjoy many of the luxuries that were formally enjoyed by only a few, more of us have been able to buy homes and farms than ever before. We have been able to have better medical and hospital services and to give our children better educations. We have had better clothes and better automobiles and more leisure to enjoy all these things. We have workmen's compensation and Old Age Security. We don't want to give these things up. We realize that they cost quite a lot of money but we think they are worth quite a lot.
In talking to you men individually about these matters you tell us that the cost will upset the economic stability of the Country. That doesn't mean much to us as we don't know what an economic stability looks like, we never saw one. You talk about Economic Security. We CERTAINLY don't know what that is. When misfortune overtakes us and we have to go to the Bank for funds to tide us over we hear a good deal about Security but that is security for the Bank, it isn't security for us.
Let's be realistic, Gentlemen we are here to tell you that the most important material thing to us is the amount of money we get for the farm products we have to sell or the amount of money in our pay envelope on payday. Isn't that the most important material thing to you also? Our observation is that whether he be a great industrialist or a common laborer each is trying to make just as much money as he possibly can. We want to retain all the good things that have come our way during the past ten or twelve years and WE EARNESTLY SOLICIT YOUR FULL COOPERATION IN HELPING US RETAIN THEM.
We occasionally see a reprint of an address someone has made before a Luncheon Club. Nearly all of them have something to say about Service to your fellowman, your community or your State or Nation but we fail to see where the little man is given much consideration. We wonder if you have a sympathetic understanding of our problems and hopes. As an illustration we would like to quote from a recent speech made by a prominent corporation lawyer, in speaking before a Rotary Club on the subject: "Effect of Good Management on Employer and Employee Relations." In the course of his talk he says that the Laborer's production is not due to his own skill and power but to the skill
and power of the machine he operates. In response to that we would like to invite this lawyer down to the Roundhouse where we have a lot of skillful machines and have him bore out a Locomotive cylinder and fit it with new rings and pistons or have him overhaul an air pump or come over to the aircraft plant where fits are made within a tolerance of one ten-thousandth of an inch and have him build a 2000 Horse Power Aeroplane motor. Does he also believe that we could come to his office where he has a complete set of powerful and skillful law books and hence become an outstanding attorney? But this lawyer isn't completely off base all the time. In a later address before a Kiwanis Club he had this to say, and to which we subscribe 100%, "We are never going to restore the American Way of Life in this Country until Employer and Employee stop sniping and start Co-operating." Gentlemen that is the kind of talk we like to hear. We fully realize that without Business and Capital we cannot maintain the way of life we like. But do you realize that you cannot maintain the way of life you like without the "little man"? You are as dependent on us as we are dependent on you. We are working toward a common objective which, stripped of all fancy words, is that each of us is trying to make as much money as we possibly can.
We will, briefly, give you some facts that we think will be interesting: In 1936 there were 6,270,000 families in the United States having a family income of $38 or more per week. It is estimated that, according to present trends, by 1945 there should be 18,300,000 families enjoying a family income of $38 or more per week. More than 11,000,000 families have had a substantial increase in their family income. This certainly represents at least 40,000,000 or more than a fourth of our population. A great percentage, if not all, are in the group which I am representing here today. We can't, willingly, go back to the old way of life. Why should we? We are getting along much better than ever before, we like the new way and would even like to improve it but gentlemen we don't want to go back.
Do we hear someone say, "What about the Labor Racketeers"? All right what is a Labor Racketeer? It seems that anyone who looks after the interests of labor is called a racketeer and gets pretty well paid. Yes Labor Leaders get pretty well paid for their work but to the individual worker the cost isn't too great a price to pay compared to the results obtained. If dues of $1 or $2 per week will increase the amount in our pay envelope from $28 to $38 per week it looks like a bargain. Would an investment of $2 per week that showed a return of $10 per week look good to you? We believe it would.
Now Mr. Businessman when you go out to get a contract, particularly in Washington, don't you find it advantageous to have a "Local Representative" and when you have employed this local representative don't things go much smoother for your interests? We hear that some local representatives are quite well paid inasmuch as they represent several concerns but the cost isn't too high to each individual concern as compared to results obtained. We learned from BIG BUSINESS that the way to get things accomplished was to present a united front and have an aggressive local representative looking after our interests. We don't know just when OR WHY his title was changed from "Local Representative" to "Labor Racketeer."
You may say what about John L. Lewis. Let's see wasn't be pretty much in the news about the time Jack & Heintz Co. of Cleveland were getting a lot of newspaper publicity or was it about the time the great Copper concern was indicted for defrauding the Government by furnishing inferior wire to the Army. You may say what about the threatened Railway Strike. That came along just a few days before a great New York Bank was indicted under the Trading with the Enemy Act wasn't it?
Maybe it isn't good taste to bring these matters out into the open. We certainly do not say that they are 100% perfect. We are not saying how things should be, we are being realistic, we are saying how things ore. We would like to see these things corrected. We don't think they conform to the American way of life as the returning soldier would like to find it. We want to retain all the good things of the past ten or twelve years and discard the no-good things. Do you have a plan, a plan in which our interests are given full and sympathetic consideration that will make our lot a better one? If you do then we will be glad to travel along with you as free and equal men. Yes men just as patriotic and just as much interested in the future welfare of this country as you are and at the same time interested in making money for ourselves as you are in making money for yourselves. We have had a "Raw Deal," a "New Deal," let's have a cooperative American "Clean Deal."
I am now going to return to the role of a smug and complacent luncheon club member, secure in the knowledge that the destiny of this country is in our very capable hands. We know that is true because we meet once a week and tell each other so. Yes my friends we great thinkers hold in our hands the solutions to all problems we think but do we, in all our grandiose plans, give full consideration to the interests of the little man. We believe that all we have to do is to name the game we are going to play, make a set of rules and everybody dances to our music.
My fellow Rotarians it isn't true and the quicker we wake up to the fact that we are being outsmarted by politicians smart enough to read and understand the fever .chart of the little man the quicker this terrible condition is going to be corrected.
I do not believe, or agree with, or subscribe to what our phantom speaker has said today but I give you my solemn assurance HE BELIEVES IT. I do not know that the poiitican he elects to Office agrees with him but you may be sure that the smart poiitican has his finger right on the pulse of the men who casts the votes that keep him in office. He knows how the little man thinks and WHY. He knows that when he talks about the price of cotton or corn or hogs or wheat or what is in the pay envelope he is talking a language the voter understands and if he advocates measures that will increase these amounts he will AND DOES have the support of that voter.
I read with considerable interest the "Bill Smith" letters gotten out by a local Industrialist, a man whom we all know to be of deep and sober thought. I think the letters appeal to men of deep thought but is the little man, the "Bill Smiths," a deep thinker? I rather think not. If he was I do not believe that he could be misled by a scheming poiitican whose sole purpose is to get elected back to his Office in the Drawing Room aboard the Gravy Train.
To go out before the little man and assail the New Deal in its entirety is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. The new deal period has been the best period of his life and he is jealous of it. He knows there are some rotten potatoes in the New Deal bag but he knows, and we should know and ADMIT, that there are also some pretty nice potatoes in that bag. We may not care for any of the New Deal potatoes but if we are going to be honest we have got to admit that, from the little man's point of view, he has fared better during the past ten years. And above all else let's forget the NewDeal. In speaking of the last ten or twelve years let's say the last ten or twelve years. The word New Deal has gotten to be a fighting word. Why even the President wants to for get it, he has disowned his oldest and most favorite brain child. Let's give him 100% backing on this.
Does the most rugged individualist think for one moment; that this country will ever go back to the long hours in the shops and factories, does he think that we will ever again allow 10 and 12 year old children to work in factories, or that we will be without Social Security or that we will discard Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. If he does then he had better go out and feel the pulse of the man who is going to cast the vote. Let's be realistic and freely admit the forward steps that have been made during the past decade. They probably would have been made, New Deal or no New Deal, but the smart politician has successfully managed to tie them all together.
When you have agreed with the passionate New Dealer that there are many good things born of the New Deal period then you are in a much more favorable position to speak of the bad features. I don't believe that anyone likes Bureaucracy, High Taxes, Killing off little pigs, ploughing under every other row, Boondoggling, and paying people not to raise foodstuffs.
We must first win the confidence of the Laborer, the Farmer, the returning soldier, the men who are going to have so much to say about the operation of this government of ours during the next half century, and learn to sympathetically understand his problems of the past and the present and his hopes and aspirations of the future. If we can win his confidence and friendship then I feel sure that we can count on his full and hearty cooperation. I think we can explain to and convince him that in many instances all we have been doing is piling up debt that has got to be paid, that the honeymoon is over and it is time to settle down to some of the hard facts of life. That the quicker we stop sending $10 in taxes to Washington to get back $5 in benefits the sooner we will be out of this mess.
I am greatly impressed by a comment in the most recent "Bill Smith" letter. The point was made that the National Debt of 270 billion dollars represents a $10,000 mortgage on every home and farm in America. This is certainly something to think about and the man whose dearest material possession is his home will give it serious thought if it is brought to his attention in the right MAN TO MAN way.
Politicians like to pass and put into force what are known as "hidden taxes." These taxes begin accumulating on the raw materials and build up at each step along the way to the consumer. By the time they get to the customer they have miraculously changed from taxes to EXORBITANT PROFITS by the manufacturer and merchant. If we could have a direct tax separate from the cost of the article being purchased (Bill Old Boy the price of this pair of shoes is $4.50 but you know it costs a lot to maintain the Bureaucrats in Washington who regulate our lives. This money has to be raised by Taxation. The accumulated tax on this pair of shoes is $3.75 for a total of $8.25—here you are $1.75 out of ten) if the consumer was reminded in this way each time he had to buy something we would, in a very short time, have an elected Congress PLEDGED AND INSTRUCTED to reduce the cost of Government to the minimum.
The way to stop Bureaucracy and the many Government Agencies in AND OUT of Washington is to take away their money. Cut their water off and see how soon they will wither and die. For their noble experiments they must have money, lots of money, somebody else's, not their own because they don't have any, they don't even know how money is made and accumulated.
I suppose that all I have said could be summed up in one paragraph about as follows: We are all vitally interested and feel a great responsibility toward the future of this Country. We think that the future of Democracy is hanging in the balance. But until we get closer to and have a common and unselfish understanding with the little man and unite with him in a full spirit of cooperation and effort we will not be able to accomplish a return to the Democratic American Way of Life and Free Private Enterprise.