JANUARY 21, 1949
NEW YORK, Thursday—As I was going to the Pennsylvania station early one morning last week I was shocked to see a long line of men slowly approaching a church. It looked in miniature like the lines I used to see in the early days of the depression. As I looked more closely, however, I saw that these were, for the most part, old men who had fallen on evil days and my taxi driver told me that the church gave them coffee and bread in the mornings.
I could not get the picture quite out of my mind and a few days later I overheard a conversation on a street corner that recalled it again.
A man's voice behind me said: "I was told to call in my salesmen and dismiss half of them. We have the country divided into 18 regions, but I was told to double up on every one and let the others go."
The other man asked: "What's happened, has business fallen off?"
"Oh, no," said the first voice, "business is good. Almost anything will sell itself, so the company figures they don't need the men and they can make a little more money."
That day I also read in the newspapers that the number of unemployed had suddenly jumped, and I wondered again whether our businessmen had completely forgotten, in their search for higher profits, that if you take away the consumers' buying power you make no profits at all.
The consumer is not just some vague person. He is your salesman, who you think you might dismiss in order to make a little more money. The search for big profits sometimes is disastrous.
I have never believed that men should be employed if you have no specific job for them to do, as has actually happened in some of the Italian industries since the war. When there really is no market for goods, then is the time for using public works. But the market at present is good for all kinds of goods and the needs of people are very great, but if we start the downward spiral by creating unemployment, we are sure to run into another depression.
I am convinced that at present the need here and all over the world for goods is so great that there is no need for unemployment anywhere in the world. And to prevent another slump we must have an understanding and a willingness on the part of our great industrial leaders and economists to cooperate and prevent a repetition of old mistakes.
I was amused by one editorial not long ago which complained bitterly that Governor Dewey in New York State was taking a leaf out of the Democratic President's book and planning to run the finances of this state in the same ruinous manner that is being suggested for the whole United States. The writer of the editorial quoted, from the Governor's past speeches, but what he didn't do was to look at the years that have gone by and realize that some of the economies of the past were unwise economies. Now that there is not the steady year-by-year improvement there should have been, there is a sudden need for a great deal all at once.
All over the state the evidences of the need have reached a point where they can no longer be ignored. A little more each year would have been easier perhaps, but we were making a record for economy and now the day of reckoning has come!