AUGUST 16, 1945
NEW YORK, Wednesday—With the war over at last, we can now begin to think about our first duties to the peace. Above everything else, I believe we would like to ask our leaders to look upon this period as a crisis requiring the same kind of courage, vision and great conception as did the period of our entry into the war.
Already, for example, there have been predictions that in the course of the next few months we must have anywhere from five to ten million unemployed. Realistically examined, this means a great slump in the confidence of the people in their government. They are going to say quite naturally that if we could plan for war, why can we not plan for peace?
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I hope we will not be afraid to raise money and to loan it to big and little industries, on the condition that they will immediately employ men to their full capacity. It may be objected that this is not a question of merely having the money: that it takes time to install new machinery and retrain men.
Very well, then, don't let us call those men unemployed. Let us keep them in their jobs while they are retraining, at a living wage. Let us employ as many men as we can in the actual reconversion work. Let us, both in private industry and through our government, take up some particular objective—such as housing, which can be readily adapted to the skills of many people, and which will require materials that can quickly be made available. We need a great deal of government-financed housing if we hope to destroy our slum areas and come out of the war a nation living in healthful and decent homes. We have spent tremendous sums on the war, most of it for destruction. Even a minute percentage of that sum spent now for constructive purposes would keep us from having mass unemployment. If at the same time we raise the standard of home environment, we will be doing something of double value to the nation.
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As I watched the crowds in New York celebrating victory, there were many sober faces—primarily those of women, since their men were doubtless still in far-off places. One cannot help wondering whether the "cease fire" order will reach the Burma jungle or an island in the Pacific in time to prevent that last bullet which may mean the life or death of the man you love.
Hope was predominant, however, in everybody's heart and in everybody's eyes. That hope our leaders must justify. The military occupation that must go on in both the European and Pacific areas for some time to come should not keep any man too long from his home shores, since, even on a voluntary basis, we can doubtless raise enough men to rotate them at fairly frequent intervals. This will require shipping, but until our reconversion in industry is complete we would not be needing that shipping for trade purposes. Our markets overseas must be built up before our ships can be completely used in carrying our goods to other lands.