Breadcrumb

Address at the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner

February 16, 1950

Mr. Chairman, distinguished guests, and fellow Democrats:
This is the most remarkable dinner I have ever seen. And during my 30 years in politics, I have seen many a dinner. I have attended many Democratic meetings such as this, and I think this has been the grandest one of all.

This dinner and others like it throughout the land are evidence of the growing strength of the Democratic Party. They show that our party is determined, more than ever before, to carry its message to the voters of this country.

It is very significant that such great interest and enthusiasm are being shown in a congressional election year. We know that congressional elections are as important as presidential elections. We found that out in 1946. We found out just how much harm can be done to our country when a congressional election goes wrong. I am sure we are not going to let that happen again. We are not going to put ourselves in the position of electing another "do-nothing" 80th Congress.

These dinners carry forward a great tradition. The original Jefferson-Jackson dinner was held in this city in 1830, 120 years ago. It was given in memory of Thomas Jefferson, and its guest of honor was Andrew Jackson, President of the United States. At that first Jefferson-Jackson dinner, President Jackson gave his famous toast--"Our Federal Union, it must be preserved!"

Tonight, we meet again to think of our Federal Union, and to be thankful that it has been preserved, and find that it has grown in strength and in service to the people. As in Jackson's time, we meet to discuss some of the problems that our country faces.

We have some very serious problems today. We are living in a troubled period of the world's history. Our responsibilities, as a Nation, have never been so great, and the decisions we face have never been more difficult. We are confronted with serious questions of foreign policy. We have the problem of maintaining an adequate national defense. We have the task of maintaining prosperity and protecting our economy from depression. We have the question of handling the Nation's finances and the national debt.

My fellow Democrats, these are grave issues. And the Democratic Party is meeting them squarely. We do not believe in trifling with the people about these issues. We do not offer to solve them with vague generalities and worn-out slogans. We know that the solution of these problems requires all the wisdom and energy we possess as a Nation. We know that their solution requires heavy expenditures. The Democratic Party does not propose to deceive the people either about the problems we face or about the cost of solving them.

The Democratic Party has confidence that the United States will meet these great responsibilities. It knows that the United States is a dynamic, growing nation. We believe that this country will make as much progress in the next 50 years as it has made in the last 50 years.

But we cannot meet the responsibilities of today or the challenge of the future by following the outmoded concepts of 50 years ago. The promise of the 20th century cannot be fulfilled by those who would like to return to the days of President McKinley.

We must go forward with our programs for peace through defense and foreign aid. We must proceed with our domestic programs for health, education, social security, and economic stability. Both our foreign programs and our domestic programs are necessary to answer the demands which this critical period of history makes upon this great United States. We cannot have prosperity at home unless we play our full part in the defense and the revival of other free nations. We cannot have peace abroad unless we increase the strength and freedom, and the well-being of our people here at home.

There are some who would like to see us turn our backs upon the rest of the world and drop our efforts to strengthen our domestic economy. At the present time, they are spreading the mistaken idea that we can save money by going backward. They advocate slashing our expenditures for peace and for our domestic programs. These people are blind to the problems that confront us. They cannot see that a tax cut would only help their own pocketbooks temporarily. They fail to see that in the long run false economy would endanger not only their pocketbooks but their lives and the continuation of civilization itself.

It is true that our present expenditures are large. But the Democratic administration is working toward a balance in the Federal budget. I wish we could balance the budget immediately by the simple expedient of cutting expenses. My friends, that is out of the question. More than 70 percent of our Federal budget goes to pay for past wars and to work for peace in the future. Anyone who says that these expenditures are extravagant does not understand the kind of world we live in. Our other expenditures are less than one-third of the budget, and less in proportion to the national income than they were 10 years ago.

I would like to cut expenditures further, and I intend to cut them at every opportunity. But I do not propose to weaken the strength and security of this great country. I do not propose to place the peace of the world in jeopardy to satisfy the advocates of false economy.

In this difficult world situation, some people are talking about general tax reductions. I regard this as rank political hypocrisy. We had one recent experience with an ill-timed, irresponsible tax cut. Much of our present financial difficulty is the result of the sweeping tax reduction which was enacted in 1948 over my veto--at a time when expenditures for defense and foreign policy were inevitably rising. I vetoed that tax bill three times, and I tried my best to explain to that "do-nothing" 80th Congress that they were ruining the financial state of the country. They thought they had a tremendous asset in that asinine tax cut, but it backfired on them. Now, we must not make the same mistake again.

In this election year, the Democratic Party will not play politics with the Federal budget. We will state the honest truth about the budget, just as we will about all other issues. We believe that the people are entitled to the plain facts about every issue, so that they can make up their own minds--just as they did in 1948.

The Democratic Party can afford to be frank and truthful, because it is working for the general welfare of all our citizens. It does not serve any narrow group or clique. This makes it easy for the Democratic Party to put its program before the country openly and completely. We have nothing to hide from the people. Our strength lies in explaining our program and our policies to the people. And the more thoroughly we explain to them what the Democratic Party is trying to do, the more certain we can be of their continued support.

There are many differences between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. But I think the greatest difference is that the Democratic Party is the party of affirmative action--it is for measures to achieve prosperity and progress. The Republican Party is the party of negative inaction--it is always against things.

You know, I think the principal thing the Republicans are against, of course, is the Democratic Party. They just can't win on that plank alone. They must try to find reasons for being against the Democratic Party. They must persuade the people to vote against the Democratic Party. And that is getting harder and harder to do year by year.

One of the reasons it's hard to do is that the Republican Party has no affirmative program of its own. It refuses to face the problems of our economy. It refuses to take thought and to make plans for the future. Instead of presenting a positive program of their own, the Republicans sit around waiting for us to make a proposal, and they react with an outburst of scare words. They are like the cuttlefish that squirts out a black cloud of ink whenever its slumber is disturbed. We have disturbed the Republican sleepers many times in the last 18 years.

Right now, the main problem of the Republican leaders seems to be to find some new scare words. They have not had much luck along that line, lately. They tried using the phrase "welfare state" as a scare word for a while, but they discovered that the people are in favor of a government that promotes their welfare. So they dropped that one as a scare slogan. Then they tried "statism." But my good friend Governor Lehman took care of that one in the New York election--and so they had to drop it, too.

Now, the Republican leaders have to go back to an old standby. Frankly, I don't think it's as good as some of the others, but it appears to be the best they can think of. Their current scare word is "socialism."

It's perfectly safe to be against "socialism." The difficult thing is to make the country believe that the Democratic Party stands for socialism. How in the world can the Republicans persuade people that all you Democrats at all these dinners are socialists? I just don't believe they can do it.

I know it can't be done. But the Republicans will try it just the same. That's what they've been trying to do ever since 1933. For the last 17 years they have called every new Democratic measure "socialism" or "communism," and they have made constant predictions of doom and disaster. The plans and proposals that we have advanced for improving the conditions of the people of this country have been greeted by these same old scare tactics during all these years. And I'm going to prove that to you.

Let us take it step by step. This is most interesting.
In 1933, this country faced some of the greatest problems in its history--the problems of providing food and work for millions of jobless persons and their families, of saving millions of farms and homes from foreclosure, of restoring a banking system that had collapsed, of placing the entire economy on the way to recovery.

The Democratic Party rolled up its sleeves and went to work. It took steps to provide relief and jobs, to save farms and homes, to restore banks and businesses. Bit by bit the economy responded to these vigorous measures. Income began to grow, confidence returned, business activity mounted. This was the response of the economy to our farm and labor and business programs-our programs for resource development and public works and the building of homes.

As this miracle of recovery unfolded, what was the attitude of the Republican Party?

In 1934--and I ran for the Senate in 1934, and I remember this well--the Republican National Committee issued a policy statement--a policy statement. And in that statement they said:

"American institutions and American civilization are in greater danger today than at any time since the foundation of the republic."

That sort of talk may have frightened the members of the Union League Club. But it didn't frighten the people who had been saved by the New Deal from breadlines and bankruptcy.

In 1936, the Republicans thought the danger was worse. That was when President Roosevelt was running for his second term. In that year, the Republican platform cried out:

"America is in peril. The welfare of American men and women and the future of our youth are at stake .... The New Deal administration"--this is from the 1936 Republican platform--"The New Deal administration has bred fear and hesitation in commerce and industry, thus discouraging new enterprises, preventing employment, and prolonging the depression."

People weren't scared by that one either. They knew it just didn't make sense, because the national income had risen more than 50 percent in the previous 4 years, and it was still rising.

In 1940, the Republicans tried to scare us again. This time their platform said:

"The Administration has imposed upon us a regime of regimentation which has deprived the individual of his freedom and has made of America a shackled giant .... The New Deal administration has failed America."

That's what the Republicans said, but the America that the New Deal had saved--the economy that the New Deal had freed and made productive again became the arsenal of democracy that overwhelmed the forces of totalitarian aggression.

But that still didn't teach the Republicans anything. In 1944, when we stood at the peak of our wartime production--the economic bulwark of the free world--the Republican Party platform proclaimed: "The fact remains that under the New Deal, American economic life is being destroyed." That's what they said in 1944--"American economic life is being destroyed."

Apparently, they never learn anything. Today, when we have a national output of over $250 billion a year and a higher standard of living than ever before in the history of the world, the Republican Party still cannot see anything good about the situation. In their policy statement issued 10 days ago, the Republican National Committee declared: "The major domestic issue today is liberty against socialism: . . . Basic American principles"--they said--"are threatened by the administration's program . . ."

It's the same old story--the same old words, the same old music--the same empty and futile attempt to scare the American people--in complete contradiction of the plain facts that are visible to every citizen in his daily life to see. The country is not going to let them get away with it. Don't worry about it.

For the past 17 years, the same outcry has greeted every proposal advanced by the Democratic Party--whether it has been for better housing, social security, rural electrification, farm price supports, minimum wages, or any other program for the general welfare of the people.

They have been against all these proposals, but now they are for all of them. But, are they? Are they? I think they showed you conclusively what they would do if they had control of the Government when they had the 80th Congress.

In 1944, Representative Joseph W. Martin, Jr.--who was the Republican leader in the House, and who is the minority leader now--summarized the Republican attitude toward all these progressive steps in one brief paragraph when he said:

"For 11 years we have been steadily drifting into a regimented nation, with absolute control vested in a power-mad group of bureaucrats and social planners. Unless there is a change in government this year we can be reconciled to some kind of totalitarian government." That was in 1944.

That is what the Republicans said about our program in 1944. That is the way they talked about our programs in 1948. That is what they are saying about them now.

Today we are proposing further development of our resources, further strengthening of our economy, new measures for the welfare of the people. And what do we hear? The same old story. It is all repeated in that latest statement of the Republican National Committee:

"This program"--they said, and they were talking about the program of the Democratic Party--not their own, for they haven't one-"This program is dictated by a small but powerful group of persons who believe in socialism, who have no concept of the true foundation of American progress, whose proposals are wholly out of accord with the true interests and the real wishes of the workers, farmers, and businessmen." That is a quotation from their very solemn policy statement.

Well, let's look at the record. What is our program? Where did it come from? Our program is the platform adopted by the Democratic Party at its Convention in 1948. And it has been voted on by the people of this country, including the workers, farmers, and businessmen.

If our program was dictated, as the Republicans say, it was dictated at the polls in November 1948. And it was dictated by a "small but powerful group" of 24 million voters.

And I think they knew more than the Republican National Committee about the real wishes of the workers, farmers, and businessmen. What do you think?

Now, of course, this program is not socialism. It is based upon a firm faith in the strength of free enterprise. It is designed to strengthen the markets of free enterprise and to expand the investments of free enterprise. It will make our citizens economically secure, well educated, and confident of the future. Only in a nation of such citizens can free enterprise grow and expand and reach its full possibilities.

The program of the Democratic Party is aimed to promote the prosperity and welfare of all the American people. It is aimed to increase the freedom of all the American people.

Freedom is not an abstraction. Freedom is a reality in our daily lives. The programs of our party have freed workers from the economic subjection of their employers. These programs have freed farmers from the fear of bankruptcy. These programs have released farm wives from bondage and ceaseless drudgery. These programs have freed older peop