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Dedication of Techwood Homes, Atlanta, Nov. 29, 1935
My Friends and Neighbors:
I am happy to be in Georgia. I am proud of
Georgia. Happy today especially because of this moving
reception which my friends, the Senators and all of the Representatives
in the Congress from this State, have tendered
me, and to which you, the good people of this State, have
responded with such warmth and hospitality. Happy
because I meet again so many old friends and
neighbors. Proud because I see signs on every hand that the overwhelming
majority of the
Eleven years ago I came to live at Warm Springs for the first time. That was a period of great so-called prosperity. But I would not go back to the conditions of 1924, and I do not believe that you people would want to go back to those conditions either.
Of that year and of the five years that followed, I have a dear recollection which you can verify for yourselves. In that orgy of "prosperity" a wild speculation was building speculative profits for the speculators and preparing the way for you, the public, to be left "holding the bag." In that orgy of "prosperity," banks, individually and by chains, were closing their doors at the expense of the depositors. In that orgy of "prosperity" the farmers of the South had become involuntary speculators themselves, never certain when they planted their cotton whether it would bring twenty-five cents or fifteen cents or a nickel. In that orgy of "prosperity" the poorest vied with the richest in throwing their earnings and their savings into a cauldron of land and stock speculation. In that orgy of "prosperity" slum conditions went unheeded, better education was neglected, usurious interest charges mounted, child labor continued, starvation wages were too often the rule instead of the exception. Yes, in those days Mammon ruled America. That is why we are not going back to them.
Those are the years for us to remember in the future -- those fool's paradise years before the crash came. Too much do we harp on the years that followed, when from 1929 to 1933 this whole Nation slipped spirally downward -- ever downward -- to the inevitable point when the mechanics of civilization came to a dead stop on March 3, 1933.
You and I need not rehearse the four years of disaster and gloom. We know the simple fact that at the end of those four years America acted before it was too late. America turned about, and by a supreme, well-nigh unanimous national effort, started on the upward path again.
You and I have reason to remember the past two and a half years that have gone by so quickly, reason to remember the fine Spirit of the average American citizen which made my task vastly lighter. Memory is short, but yours is not too short to recollect those great meetings of the representatives of the farmers, regionally and in Washington, in the spring and summer of 1933, when they agreed overwhelmingly that unfairly low prices for farm crops could never be raised to, and maintained at, a reasonable level until and unless the Government of the United States acted to help them to reduce the tremendous carryovers and surpluses which threatened us and the whole world.
You and I can well remember the overwhelming demand that the national Government come to the rescue of the home owners and farm owners of the Nation who were losing the roofs over their heads through inflated valuations and exorbitant rates of interest.
You and I still recollect the need for and the successful attainment of a banking policy which not only opened the closed banks but guaranteed the deposits of the depositors of the Nation.
You and I have not forgotten the enthusiastic support that succeeded in ending the labor of children in mills and factories, in seeking a fairer wage level for those on starvation pay, and in giving to the workers hope for the right collectively to bargain with their employers. That success, I am glad to say, in large part still persists.
You and I will not forget the long struggle to put an end to the indiscriminate distribution of "fly-by-night" securities, and to provide fair regulation of the stock exchanges and of the great interstate public utility companies of our country.
You and I -- yes, every individual and every family in the land -- are being brought close to that supreme achievement of this great Congress, the Social Security law which, in days to come, will provide the aged against distressing want, will set up a national system of insurance for the unemployed, and will extend well-merited care to sick and crippled children.
You and I are enlisted today in a great crusade in every part of the land to cooperate with Nature and not to fight her, to cooperate to stop destructive floods, to prevent dust storms, to prevent the washing away of our precious soils, to grow trees, to give thousands of farm families a chance to live, and to seek to provide more and better food for the city dwellers of the Nation.
In this connection it is, I think, of interest to point out that national surveys which have been conducted in the past year or two prove that the average of the citizenship of the United States lives today on what the doctors would call a third class diet. If the country lived on a second class diet instead of a third class diet, do you know what that would mean? It would mean we would need to put many more acres than we use today back into the production of foodstuffs for domestic consumption. If the Nation lived -- as I wish it did -- on a first class diet, we would have to put more acres than we have ever cultivated into the production of an additional supply of things for Americans to eat.
That raises a question:
Why -- to speak in broad terms in following up this particular illustration - why are we living on a third-class diet? Well, the best answer I know is this: The masses of the American people have not the purchasing power to eat more and better food.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that farm income in the United States has risen since 1932 a total of nearly three billion dollars. That is because wheat is selling at better than 50 cents instead of 32 cents; corn is selling at 50 cents instead of 12 cents; cotton is at 12 cents instead of 4 1/2 cents, and other crops are in proportion. I wonder what cotton would be selling at today if during these past three years we had continued to produce fifteen or sixteen or seventeen million bales each year, adding to our own surplus, adding to the world surplus, and driving the cotton farmers of the Southland into bankruptcy and starvation. What does this additional three billions of farmers' income mean to the country? What does it mean to the dwellers in the city? It has meant the rebirth of city business, the reopening of closed factories, the doubling of automobile production, the improvement of transportation and the giving of new employment to millions of Americans.
That brings us squarely face to face with the fact of the continued unemployment of many millions of people of whom approximately three and a half million are employables in need of relief. When some of the people of a great and wealthy country are suffering from starvation, I take it that no honest Government has a choice. Over three years ago, realizing in the beginning that we were not doing a perfect thing but that we were doing a necessary, saving and human thing, we appropriated money for direct relief. That was necessary, as you and I know, to ward off actual starvation. But, just as quickly as possible, we turned to the job of providing actual work for those in need.
I can realize that gentlemen in well-warmed
and well-stocked clubs will discourse on the expenses
of Government and the suffering that they are going through because
their Government is spending money for
work relief. I wish I could take some of these men out on
the battle-line of human necessity, and show them
the facts that we in the Government are facing.
If these more fortunate Americans will come with me, I will not
only show them the necessity for the expenditures
of this Government, but I will show them, as well, the definite
and beneficial results we have attained with the
dollars we have spent. Some of these same
Let me talk some more about money.
Last April I stated to the Congress what I have held to consistently ever since -- that it was the hope of the Administration that by some time in November of this year we would substantially end the dole, and offer in place of it employment to, by far, the greater part of the three and a half million employable persons we estimated were on relief rolls in the United States.
Week after week, from that time on, some individuals and some organizations and some groups, careless of the truth, regardless of scruple, have sought to make the American people believe that this program was a hopeless failure and that it could not possibly succeed.
Today is the twenty-ninth day of November. It gives me a certain satisfaction to be able to inform you, and through you the Nation, that on Wednesday, two days ago by actual figures, there were three million one hundred and twenty-five thousand persons at work on a great variety of useful projects in every State of the Union. The small remaining number have received orders to report to work on projects already under way or about to be started. That result, I believe you will agree with me, constitutes a substantial and successful national achievement.
Aside from the tremendous increase in morale through substituting work for a dole, there is the practical side of permanent material benefit. Within sight of us today, there stands a tribute to useful work under Government supervision -- the first slum clearance and low-rent housing project. Here, at the request of the citizens of Atlanta, we have cleaned out nine square blocks of antiquated squalid dwellings, for years a detriment to this community. Today those hopeless old houses are gone and in their place we see the bright cheerful buildings of the Techwood Housing Project.
Within a very short time, people who never before could get a decent roof over their heads will live here in reasonable comfort amid healthful, worthwhile surroundings; others will find similar homes in Atlanta's second slum clearance project, the University Project; and still others will find similar opportunity in nearly all of the older, overcrowded cities of the United States.
I take it that it has been equally worthwhile
to the Nation to give jobs to the unemployed in the construction of a vast network of highways, including
thousands of miles of farm-to-market roads;
in repairing great numbers of schools, and building hundreds of
new schools in city and country; in helping
cities to put in sewers and sewage disposal plants and water works;
Into the ears of many of you has been dinned
the cry that your Government is piling up an unconscionable
and back-breaking debt. Let me tell you a simple story: In the
spring of 1933, many of the great bankers
of the United States flocked to Washington. They were there to
get the help of their Government in saving
their banks from insolvency. To them I pointed out, in all
fairness, the simple fact that you could not make
bread without flour, the simple fact that the
But I did not stop there. In order to get their further judgment, I asked them what they thought the maximum national debt of the United States Government could rise to without serious danger to the national credit. Their answers -- remember this was in the spring of 1933 -- were that the country could safely stand a national debt of between fifty-five and seventy billion dollars. I told them that a rise in the national debt to any such figure was, in my judgment, wholly unnecessary, and that even if they, the bankers, were willing I could not and would not go along with them. I told them then that only a moderate increase in the debt for the next few years seemed likely and justified. That objective holds good today; but remember that at that time many bankers and big business men would have been willing to put the country far deeper into debt than I shall ever let it go.
And by way of parenthesis, if the bankers thought the country could stand a debt of fifty-five to seventy billion dollars in 1933, with values as they were then, I wonder what they would say the country could stand today, in the light of an enormous increase of values of property of all kinds all along the line since 1933.
Let us make one thing clear. Your Government says to you: "You cannot borrow your way out of debt; but you can invest your way into a sounder future."
As a matter of actual fact, the gross national
debt under the last Administration rose from a little
over seventeen billions to twenty-one billions. The day I came
into office I found that the national Treasury
contained only $158,000,000, or, at the rate of previously authorized
expenditures under the last Administration, I
found enough money in the Treasury to last less
As things stand today, in the light of a definite
and continuing economic improvement, we have passed
the peak of appropriations; revenues without the imposition of
new taxes are increasing, and we can look
forward with assurance to a decreasing deficit. The credit of
the Government is today higher than that
of any other great Nation in the world. It is higher in spite
of attacks on that credit made by those
few individuals and organizations which seek to dictate to the
Back in that same spring of 1933, if you and
I had made a national balance sheet -- I mean a balance
sheet based on what the individual people of the country owned
and owed -- we would have found that if
we had added up the values of all of the property of every kind
in the United States, the total of those
values, which you and I would call assets, would have been greatly
exceeded by the figure representing the total
of all the debts owed by the people of the United States. In other words, in March, 1933, our national
balance sheet, the wealth on the one side against
the debts of the American public, showed that we were in the red.
Today, two and a half years later, it is
a fact that the total of all the debts in the United States is
lower than it was then; and on the other
side of the picture, you and I know that the values of property
of all kinds -- farms, houses, automobiles,
securities and every other kind of property -- have increased
so greatly since 1933, that today we are
once more in the black. We were insolvent then. Today
In this fact, especially as we are gathered
here today at a time of national Thanksgiving, all of us can rightly find a deep satisfaction. But recovery
means something more than getting the country
back into the black. You and I do not want just to go back to
the past. We want to face the future in
the belief that human beings can enjoy more of the good things
of life, under better conditions, than
human beings ever enjoyed in the past. American life has improved
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