Commentary: A 1949 Harry Truman speech that rings true today

The San Luis Obispo TribuneJanuary 26, 2012 

In the interest of sharing something that I ran across while looking for something else, I found a speech that President Harry Truman delivered on Nov. 3, 1949, in St. Paul, Minn.

I offer it under the rubric: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

“We know that there will be more prosperity for all if all groups have a fair share of the wealth of the country. We know that the country will achieve economic stability and progress only if the benefits of our production are widely distributed among its citizens.

“We believe that it is the federal government’s obligation, under the Constitution, to promote the general welfare of all our people — and not just a privileged few.

“The policies we advocate are based on these convictions.

“We maintain that farmers, like businessmen, should receive a fair price for the products they sell.

“We maintain that workers are entitled to good wages and to equality of bargaining power with their employers.

“We believe that cooperatives and small business should have a fair opportunity to achieve success, and should not be smothered by monopolies.

“We hold that our great natural resources should be protected and developed for the benefit of all our people, and not exploited for private greed.

“We believe that old people and the disabled should have an assured income to keep them from being dependent on charity.

“We believe that families should have protection against loss of income resulting from accident, illness or unemployment.

“We hold that our citizens should have decent housing at prices they can afford to pay.

“We believe in assuring educational opportunities for all our young people in order that we may have an enlightened citizenry.

“We believe in better health and medical care for everyone — not for just a few.

“We hold that all Americans are entitled to equal rights and equal opportunities under the law, and to equal participation in our national life, free from fear and discrimination.

“Now, my friends, these are the policies that spell the progress for all our people.”

• • •

The following day, the New York Daily News countered with a headline “Ode to the Welfare State” and said: “Mr. Truman’s St. Paul, Minn., pie-for-everybody speech last night reminded us that, at the tail-end of the recent session of Congress, Representative Clarence J. Brown (R-Ohio) jammed into the Congressional Record the following poem, describing its author only as ‘a prominent Democrat from the state of Georgia’ ”: “Democratic Dialogue”

Father, must I go to work? No, my lucky son We’re living on Easy Street On dough from Washington.

We’ve left it up to Uncle Sam, So don’t get exercised Nobody has to give a damn — We’ve all been subsidized.

But if Sam treats us all so well And feeds us milk and honey Please, daddy, tell me what the hell He’s going to use for money. Don’t worry, bub, there’s not a hitch In this here noble plan — He simply soaks the filthy rich And helps the common man.

But father, won’t there come a time When they run out of cash And we have left them not a dime When things will go to smash?

My faith in you is shrinking, son, You nosy little brat; You do too damn much thinking, son To be a Democrat.”

Sounds vaguely familiar, eh?

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