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Franklin Roosevelt: On Labor, Wages, and Confidence
Published : September 01st, 2014
853 words - Reading time : 2 - 3 minutes
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Keywords :   Government | Purchasing Power |

"After many requests on my part the Congress passed a Fair Labor Standards Act, what we call the Wages and Hours Bill.   That Act --applying to products in interstate commerce -- ends child labor, sets a floor below wages, and a ceiling over hours of labor.

Except perhaps for the Social Security Act, it is the most far-reaching, the most far-sighted program for the benefit of workers ever adopted here or in any other country. Without question it starts us toward a better standard of living and increases purchasing power to buy the products of farm and factory.

Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000.00 a day, who has been turning his employees over to the Government relief rolls in order to preserve his company's undistributed reserves, tell you -- using his stockholders' money to pay the postage for his personal opinions -- tell you that a wage of $11.00 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.

Fortunately for business as a whole, and therefore for the Nation, that type of executive is a rarity with whom most business executives most heartily disagree...

Some of my opponents and some of my associates have considered that I have a mistakenly sentimental judgment as to the tenacity of purpose and the general level of intelligence of the American people.

I am still convinced that the American people, since 1932, continue to insist on two requisites of private enterprise, and the relationship of Government to it. The first is a complete honesty, a complete honesty at the top in looking after the use of other people's money, and in apportioning and paying individual and corporate taxes (according to) in accordance with ability to pay. And the second is sincere respect for the need of all people who are at the bottom, all people at the bottom who need to get work -- and through work to get a (really) fair share of the good things of life, and a chance to save and a chance to rise.

After the election of 1936 I was told, and the Congress was told, by an increasing number of politically -- and worldly-- wise people that I should coast along, enjoy an easy Presidency for four years, and not take the Democratic platform too seriously. They told me that people were getting weary of reform through political effort and would no longer oppose that small minority which, in spite of its own disastrous leadership in 1929, is always eager to resume its control over the Government of the United States.

Never in our lifetime has such a concerted campaign of defeatism been thrown at the heads of the President and the Senators and Congressmen as in the case of this Seventy-Fifth Congress. Never before have we had so many Copperheads among us -- and you will remember that it was the Copperheads who, in the days of the Civil War, the War between the States, tried their best to make President Lincoln and his Congress give up the fight in the middle of the fight, to let the Nation remain split in two and return to peace -- yes, peace at any price.

This Congress has ended on the side of the people. My faith in the American people -- and their faith in themselves -- have been justified. I congratulate the Congress and the leadership thereof and I congratulate the American people on their own staying power...

You will remember that from March 4, 1933 down to date, not a single week has passed without a cry from the opposition, a small opposition, a cry 'to do something, to say something, to restore confidence.' There is a very articulate group of people in this country, with plenty of ability to procure publicity for their views, who have consistently refused to cooperate with the mass of the people, whether things were going well or going badly, on the ground that they required more concessions to their point of view before they would admit having what they called "confidence."

These people demanded 'restoration of confidence' when the banks were closed -- and demanded it again when the banks were reopened.

They demanded 'restoration of confidence' when hungry people were thronging (the) our streets -- and demanded it again now when the hungry people were fed and put to work.

They demanded 'restoration of confidence' when droughts hit the country -- and demanded it again now when our fields are laden with bounteous yields and excessive crops.

They demanded 'restoration of confidence' last year when the automobile industry was running three shifts day and night, turning out more cars than the country could buy -- and they are demanding it again this year when the industry is trying to get rid of an automobile surplus and has shut down its factories as a result.

But, my friends, it is my belief that many of these people who have been crying aloud for 'confidence' are beginning today to realize that that hand has been overplayed..."

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fireside Chat June 24, 1937



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