JUNE 4, 1945
HYDE PARK, Sunday—I have a letter in my mail which I think shows a bit of short-sightedness that we should take note of and explain very promptly. The writer, evidently someone with boys in the service, feels that people who have worked in war plants—where before the war they were farmers, or household workers, or perhaps mothers of families who stayed at home—should all be urged to return to their original employment and should not receive unemployment compensation.
I don't believe that men or women will have to be urged to return to their former work, for I think one predominant trait of the American people is that they prefer to work than to sit idle. By and large, we do not like receiving money and sitting in idleness unless we are ill, tired out or cannot find work. In this last case, unemployment insurance is not only a godsend to the unemployed, but a godsend to the economy of the country as a whole.
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That is the point I want to bring out today. Unemployment insurance is not a plan just for the benefit of the people who happen to be out of work—or who do not want to work, as certain people seem to feel may happen. It is a plan to keep our whole economy from starting on a downward spiral. If many people stop buying, there is no market for anyone's goods.
I think mothers will go back to their homes and, where they have small children, it will be better for the children. Many people went to work for patriotic reasons or because they had debts they wanted to pay off—perhaps a mortgage on the farm—and they wanted to meet the post-war period in a stable financial condition. That was the reason why many farmers went to work in shipyards or in war plants. In the days when they couldn't sell what they grew, they had to incur debts and mortgage their farms. War work gave them an opportunity to get out of the red, and they took it, as they should. But often they put in long hours at home, after the war work was done, to keep the farm going, and even the younger children helped.
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To deny unemployment insurance to war workers, however, would be a very unwise move. Every citizen of the country, including our returning servicemen, depends for a livelihood on factories, farms and businesses going at full tilt. Our servicemen must find work to do. Unless people are able to buy food and clothing and goods of all kinds, the reconversion period will be a very bad period indeed, and may even start us on a new depression. Anyone who went through the early 'thirties can hardly wish to see those conditions return.
President Truman has done a wise thing, from the economic standpoint of the country as a whole, in advocating more generous unemployment insurance.