SEPTEMBER 24, 1951
HYDE PARK, Sunday—A correspondent has sent me two magazine clippings containing stories about waste in government spending. One relates a mistake whereby an Army engineering depot in Korea was being deluged with a continuous supply of steel bolts, 18 inches long and 3/4 of an inch in diameter. These are used, it seems, in the construction of timber trestle bridges, but I suppose there is a limit to what they need in Korea, and my correspondent, a woman, said she was shedding tears over the waste that was going on.
The other item recorded that the State Department had asked Congress for $24,875 to cover 175 luncheons to be given to visiting foreign leaders and others under the educational exchange program. It was noted in the article that the average cost per plate would be $8.88, and my lady correspondent said that this is another example of horrible waste.
It seems to me that items like these are not the really important ones, since the commanding officer at the engineering depot can stop the flow of bolts by sending a telegram, and it is not at all certain that the luncheons scheduled will actually cost the sum of money put into the appropriation. What bothers me much more, and really is worthy of tears being shed, is the fact that there seems to be enough pressure in this country to keep our officials both in Congress and in the administration from putting on proper economic controls. The President has asked for higher taxes. This seems to me an unending procedure. We will always need more money until the proper controls are put on. Our whole defense budget has cost us billions more than it would have if we had actually gone at the business of controlling inflation with determined fearlessness at the start and ignored the pleas of those with special interests. Some people would be hurt, but the whole economy would not suffer in the same way. Had our defense budget covered what it was originally intended to cover, we need not have been asking for more taxes and we would have had ample money to carry out the absolutely essential economic program in the areas of the world where this program is needed.
I hope that the United Nations has a global plan on economic aid and that we will cooperate with the U.N. and not try to carry through our Point Four program as though it were just a United States program. In the struggle against Communism this program is as important as our military program, but the more it costs us to carry out our military program the more difficult it is to put through the economic aid.
I am fully aware of the pressures that are always brought to bear on government officials when anything drastic has to be done. But until the rise in the cost of living stops and prices go down and not up, it is going to be impossible to ask labor to stabilize wages; and people who are living on fixed incomes, such as pensions and annuities, are going to find themselves living at a distinctly lower standard. That is not the aim of government in this country. We want to preserve our standard of living. We can not do this unless we do an overall job against inflation, and we cannot really win against Communism if we continue to let inflation cripple us financially.