JULY 31, 1948
HYDE PARK, Friday—It was brought to my attention the other day that motor travel in the East has fallen off about 30 percent this year, and that many restaurants, cabins, and road stands are noticing that people are not spending so much money on meals and knickknacks as they ordinarily have in the past. On short trips and day outings more people seem to be taking picnic lunches with them and eating them by the side of the road.
This is one of the results of inflation and high prices. It means that the cost of living is so high that an increasing number of people find costly vacations impossible. They must curtail their expenses.
It may well be, as some newspapers have pointed out, that President Truman had an eye to politics when he called the Congress in special session. The point is not, however, whether this accusation is true or not, for it is still true that Congress needed to be called into session and to finish some of its work. It must have taken courage for the President to appear before this Republican-dominated Congress in person. He cannot delude himself into thinking that its members are friendly toward him. So, it would seem that he really has a sense that certain things are of paramount importance—important enough to tell them to Congress face to face.
One newspaper stated that in his explanation of inflation the President had been superficial. I wonder if the people of the country need much more information on this subject. It has become something that affects their daily lives and they see the results of it every time they go to a store. I must say that some of the things the President said struck me as being very pertinent, such as, "High prices are not taking time off for the election. High prices are not waiting until the next session of the Congress."
The first two points Mr. Truman mentioned in his message—the imposing of an excess-profits tax and putting controls on consumer credit—may not be completely effective. They are, nevertheless, two things that have proved their value in the past.
It has been said that certain prices that have gone up, such as steel, have not gone up anywhere near as much as farm prices. I have not followed the rise carefully enough to be sure whether this is a correct statement. But I cannot help wondering whether the excessive rise in farm prices is because farm prices were so much below what they should have been and that they had further to go before they could be compared at all with industrial prices.
The whole question is a difficult and confusing one. Nevertheless, I cannot believe that the Congress cannot find a solution if it really would forget political advantage and look upon this as one of the essential problems to have behind us before again recessing.