JULY 3, 1961
NEW YORK—In view of the letters that have been coming in, there is one point in the whole sad story of Tractors for Freedom that needs to be re-emphasized.
Premier Castro's original offer was made to the agricultural groups in Cuba. At that time he did not state the size of the tractors he wanted, but said he desired them to raise more food for the people and thereby raise their standard of living. This was the offer that the Committee responded to and got permission to negotiate on.
When the prisoners' committee came over, they stated that Premier Castro wanted 500 tractors only of the larger bulldozer and disc harrow type. This led to our sending four agricultural and machine experts to discuss what type of tractors would best raise food and build some farm-to-market roads. They approved of the package we had offered.
Because of the Logan Act, we had no right as a committee to negotiate on any other subject whatsoever. Mr. Castro, knowing about the Logan Act, must have known this was true. Therefore, no matter how much he says we broke off negotiations, I hope the world will understand that he, in refusing to accept the offer made, was the actual person who made it impossible for the men to get their freedom and for the people of Cuba to raise more food.
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It is encouraging to find that President Kennedy's program of legislation is slowly being enacted. Before leaving for the holiday weekend, the President signed an omnibus housing bill which is designed to help moderate income families, the elderly, and the poor to get good housing in decent neighborhoods. The mortgages will be very low and, as the President said, the provisions of this bill try to meet the needs of the nation's "forgotten families." These belong to the low middle-income group who are not eligible for public housing but are unable to afford the prices asked when houses are built by private enterprise.
One provision, for example, will aid about 3,000,000 potential home buyers in the $4,000-$6,000 income bracket. The Federal government will insure the mortgages for 35 years on homes costing up to $15,000, with a maximum down payment of $450, including costs, and a maximum monthly payment of $82.95.
This omnibus bill covers nearly all the housing and urban renewal programs requested by the Administration, plus some extras for urban transit relief, farm housing and community facilities. In the conference held when he signed the bill, President Kennedy paid special tribute to two absent Alabama Democrats who had worked hard to push the measure through the Senate and House. They were Senator John J. Sparkman and Rep. Albert Rains.
This housing bill fills a need which has been building up over a long period of time. In the interests of economy we have neglected to a great extent one of the most important elements affecting juvenile delinquency and every other bad home situation. Adequate housing is a basic need. When it is lacking and people must live under shocking conditions in poor neighborhoods, then one is apt to find an aggravation of all sorts of ills, from juvenile delinquency to heavier police, fire and hospital costs, as well as greater difficulty in the whole educational field.
Integration is not the only change that we have to make in our schools. We still have to understand that children who come from homes where misery and bad conditions exist will probably be badly nourished and therefore unable to take advantage of the education offered them. These are the kind of children who have trouble with their eyesight and hearing, because malnutrition affects every part of the child's body. We can bring in good psychiatrists and we can do a great many things to alleviate the situation. But unless we go back to the roots—which often lie in the housing conditions—we will not do much to remedy the situation.