JULY 12, 1948
HYDE PARK, Sunday—It is interesting to find that we have reached a peak of employment in this country which many people once thought unreasonable and even impossible to suggest as a goal. In fact, we are over the figure of 60,000,000 employed which was set as the desired number to give us steady prosperity. This achievement should give us greater confidence in our ability, under a democratic order, to accomplish the things we really want—namely, full employment that will enable all of our citizens to maintain a decent standard of living, free from the fear of not being able to utilize their full manpower.
This does not mean, of course, that we have found a way for everyone to labor successfully at the particular work he aspires to do, although that may someday be possible, too. Neither does it mean that we have yet understood our distribution problem well enough so that at all times we have a proper balance everywhere of supply and demand for labor, and can furnish the workers with the information they need to keep themselves always fully employed. It means that the amount of work available is so great at present that, with very little real scientific management, all of these people have nevertheless been able to find jobs. It also means that the capitalistic system still works for the benefit of the great majority of people in the United States.
There is another aspect of the situation, however, which we have not yet faced. Despite this full employment and the higher wages now prevalent, a great many people are not able to live as well as when the cost of living was less. We are desperately afraid of any kind of controls, yet it is quite obvious that in one way or another prices must be controlled. Wages cannot continue to go up in order to give the majority of our people a decent standard of living in the face of constantly soaring prices.
One hears little about this from the candidates for office, but I have a feeling that it is one of the things which the people of this country would like to hear discussed. They do not want just full employment and high wages. They want wages that represent a higher standard of living. That is something we have not yet achieved.
According to present forecasts, the Republican party apparently hopes to gain 25 seats in the House. Whichever party has a majority in the House will be carefully watched to see what it does on this particular question of the cost of living. Practically none of the Republicans, however, have yet given any clear statements as to their position or any clear indication that they are anxious to have these questions studied.
For this reason I hope there will be great emphasis during the campaign on the election of members of Congress. I hope that the economic questions affecting our standards of living at home are going to be widely discussed in every possible meeting where citizens have an opportunity to ask questions of their representatives.