Press Conference of President Kennedy's

 

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Press Conference by President Kennedy at June 14, 1962

 

THE PRESIDENT: I have an opening statement.

The welfare and economy of the public will be seriously damaged by the strike now being threatened by the Flight Engineers Union against three major airlines, TWA, Pan American and Eastern. This action would create and have a significant impact upon our economy, and we have made every effort during the past months to bring about a happy solution.

This dispute stems from the recommendations made last year by the Special Commission I established that flight crews on jet aircraft be reduced from four men to three men. No one has questioned either the wisdom or the necessity of that recommendation.

The Commission also recommended that all presently employed flight engineers are to be given prior job rights on the three man crews, and that any changes made in the transition would in no way prejudice their representational rights. The companies agreed to pay all costs of training the flight engineers to enable them to serve on three man crews.

The Air Line Pilots Association in a related dispute involving Pan American Airways agreed that arbitration was the responsible means of settling this matter, and the airline companies in this dispute have accepted my request made in accordance with the applicable provisions of the Railway Labor Act that all issues be voluntarily submitted to the final and binding judgment of a three man arbitration panel composed of outstanding public, labor and management leaders.

But the Flight Engineers Union has ignored this request. They are threatening to strike for still more job and representational security, wage increases of more than 20 per cent over a three year period, reduction in working hours from 85 hours a month to 75 hours a month, and other demands.

1800 men are threatening a strike which would cause the immediate layoff of some 60,000 employees, the immobilization of 40 per cent of the Nation's airline service, and the loss of over $1 million a day from international flights, which our balance of payments cannot afford.

We have been, under the Railway Labor Act procedures, seeking a settlement for 17 months, but the flight engineers have not accepted the decision of the National Mediation Board. They have rejected the report of the Special Presidential Commission on jet crews. They have refused to accept the careful recommendations of the three Presidential emergency boards. They have failed to cooperate with the long and thoughtful mediation efforts offered by the National Mediation Board, the Secretary of Labor, and the Special Mediation Panel. And this morning they rejected my request to submit these issues to arbitration.

A strike could have, as I have said, a significant impact on our economy at this time. I strongly urge the flight engineers to meet their public responsibilities, to reconsider their actions, and to either submit this case to arbitration or agree with the carriers on some other means of settling this dispute without any interruption of operation.

QUESTION: Mr. President, should the flight engineers not meet your request, would you then be prepared to go to Congress with a request for emergency seizure powers?

THE PRESIDENT: We would have to wait until-- I am hopeful that the flight engineers will heed my request and submit this matter, as I have said, to arbitration, or find some other satisfactory method of settling it peaceably. We have been working, as I have said, for more than a year, under the responsibilities placed upon us by the Railway Labor Act which covers the airlines, and I am very hopeful that the engineers will reconsider this matter. If they do not, of course, we then will have to consider what would be the proper action.

QUESTION: Mr. President, following your recent statements on the economy, particularly your speech at Yale the other day and the Solicitor General's yesterday, is it the Government's intention to play an active role in major labor and industry wage and price discussions and if so, how would this role be played?

THE PRESIDENT: No. I think-- I have not read the speech of the Solicitor. My speech at Yale, I think, was quite clear. It dealt mainly, chiefly, with another subject, which was that we should attempt to engage in a dialogue on the very intricate questions which are involved in the management of a very complicated economy such as ours, in order to maintain full employment, and keep our economy moving.

As far as-- we have attempted to indicate, of course, through the Council of Economic Advisors and by other means, our concern that we follow policies, particularly in those basic industries which affect our competitive position overseas, that we follow policies that permit us to continue to compete, and continue to keep our economy moving. But this is a free economy. In the final analysis, we have to attempt to work out the solutions on a voluntary basis.

QUESTION: Mr. President, India is reported leaning toward the purchase of MIG aircraft from the Soviet Union, and the equipment to manufacture such aircraft in their country. Does the United States have any alternative plan or offer to such an arrangement and what effect might this have on the tensions within the area?

THE PRESIDENT: This is a matter which is being considered in this Government, and also being considered with other governments. It is a matter-- Ambassador Galbraith is returning to India at the end of the week and will, I am sure, be reporting to us on the situation as well as giving our views. It would seem to me that we should keep it at that level at the present time.

QUESTION: Mr. President, in a note to the Japanese Government today, Soviet Premier Khrushchev said that it is a criminal act that "a certain element is trying to prepare for a surprise attack on us, by trying to attain the upper hand in the application of nuclear weapons." Would you address yourself to that remark?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I haven't seen that statement. We are not preparing, if he is referring to us, and I don't know who else he might be referring to, but the United States quite obviously-- it has not been our policy and we made it clear what our policy is, which is to build for our own security and the United States has gone to great length as far as nuclear weapons to secure effective means of control over their testing, and the world knows the history of how this present series of tests began, and our great reluctance to commence them.

We have been engaged for many, many months in Geneva in the test ban discussions and also in the disarmament conference to secure some effective means of bringing an end to the arms race, including the nuclear areas race, and also bringing world tensions under control.

We are seeking to do so in Berlin and we have been seeking to do so in Southeast Asia. I am confident that if there is good will on both sides, there can be a lessening of tension, but there has to be good will on both sides.

QUESTION: Mr. President, this is a question, sir, about a recent report called "Does Overpopulation Mean Poverty?" It recommended expanded government research on fertility control and expanded technical assistance to under-developed countries seeking to solve problems of over-population. What is your attitude toward those recommendations?

THE PRESIDENT: I have not seen those recommendations. I have always said from the beginning that these were matters which every country must decide for itself. This is not a matter as it goes to basic national feelings, personal feelings. This is a matter which each individual, each family, each country must determine. It cannot be determined by the actions of another country.

QUESTION: Mr. President, in your Yale speech you spoke of deficits and not going necessarily inflationary or harmful. As you know, the attitude about deficits among the American people is largely an unfavorable one. I wonder in light of that if you can elaborate on why you think that deficits may not be bad or harmful.

THE PRESIDENT: It depends. As I tried to say at Yale, the key word is "necessarily". I think there has been a feeling that deficits bring inflation with them, and I attempted to make the point at Yale that we had surpluses in the three years after the war, rather large budget surpluses, and still had very sharp inflation. We had had deficits in 1958 and in 1962, and that there had been stable price levels. The largest deficit was in 1958, $12-1/2 billion. The point I am trying to make is that what we must be concerned about is trying to maintain the vitality of our economy, and that the administrative budget, which is the budget people talk about, is not wholly revealing of the amount of money that the government takes in. If the administrative budget were balanced, the Federal Government would be taking in about $4 billion more than it was spending on the cash budget side. These are all rather complicated subjects, because of the trust funds and all the rest. That has a deflationary impact on our economy.

Now, we have to realize that we had a recession in 1958 and a recession in 1960. We do not want to run through this country, which is -- on which so much depends, which is the source of strength for the Free World, we do not want to run into periods of recurrent recession. One of the ways which has been considered to avoid this is by following a budget policy which is related to the economy and not related to what I called rather formal traditional positions which may not be applicable to the present time. I thought the experience of Europe, which has had a decade of unequalled progress, partly because they have managed their economy with some skill, partly because of the Common Market, that it had some lessons for us. These are the matters that I said at Yale we should be talking about, how we can manage our economy, what should be our budget policy, what should be our fiscal policy, and the automatic response that a deficit necessarily produces inflation is not necessarily true.

QUESTION: Mr. President, sir, a lot of people seem to feel that the idea of a Democratic administration trying to win the confidence of business is something like the Republicans trying to win the confidence of labor unions. Do you feel, sir, that you are making headway in your efforts? Have you seen anything to indicate that business is coming around to your point of view on the economy, and that the confidence you asked for is being restored in the market place?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I said what is necessary is not really whether some business men may be Republicans-- most business men are Republicans, have been traditionally, have voted Republican in every presidential election. But that is not the important point, whether there is political agreement.

The important point is that they recognize and the Government recognizes, and every group recognizes, the necessity , as I said, of attempting to work out economic policy, which will maintain our economy at an adequate rate of growth. That is the great problem for us. They feel, as I said, that they would be happier if there were a Republican in the White House, but there was a Republican in the White House in 1958 and we had a recession and there was in 1960. So I think that what we have to realize is is that I could be away from the scene, which might make them happy and that they might have a Republican in the White House, but the economic problems would still be there. So what I hope is that we can address ourselves to those and not to a political matter because, after all, the presidential race isn't until 1964 and at that time it would seem to me to be the appropriate time to argue politics.

Right now we should be concerning ourselves with the real problems of our country, which are of interest to them, which are to labor, which are to all the people.

QUESTION: Mr. President, there is a feeling in some quarters, sir, that big business is using the stock market slump as a means of forcing you to come to terms with business. One reputable columnist, after talking to businessmen, obviously, reported this week their attitude is now we have you where we want you. Have you seen any reflection of this attitude?

THE PRESIDENT: I can't believe I am where business, big business, wants me. I read that column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as a matter of fact, and Mr. Childs made the point that some, as I believe his phrase was, rich men were quoted as having said what you have said, Mr. Roberts. I can not believe that anybody thinks that in order to take some political, or gain some political benefit, it would be a source of pleasure to them to see the stock market go down or see the economy have difficulties. I don't believe that anyone who looks at our problems at home and abroad could possibly take that partisan an attitude. So I don't accept that view. I know that when things don't go well, they like to blame the presidents, and that is one of the things which presidents get paid for. But I think what we want to be concerned about, as I have said before, is not the personal dialogue, as much as it is a dialogue on the problem of what tax policies, and what budget policies, fiscal policies we should pursue, because if it were merely a matter of the party or personalities, we, would not have had our experience that we had in the late Fifties. So that shows it is something more substantive here. This is what concerns, I think, all of us, or should.

QUESTION: Mr. President, Senator Mansfield a few days ago suggested a review of Far Eastern policies because he said they seem to him either marking time, or at least on a collision course. Do you think such a review is necessary?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have been reviewing. As you know, we have been attempting in the case of Laos to work out a policy which would prevent either one of those situations. Whether we shall be successful or not, only time will tell.

I know that we have put large sums of money, and the situation there is still hazardous. What is true there of course is true all around the world. This is a period of great tension and change. But if the Unites States had not played a part in Southeast Asia for many years, I think the whole map of Southeast Asia would be different. I am delighted, as you know, I have the highest regard for Senator Mansfield, and I think that we should constantly review, and I think that he suggested we should make judgments between what is essential to our interest and what is marginal. We have been attempting with great difficulty to carry out a policy in Laos, which would permit a neutral and independent government there, and in Senator Mansfield's speech he used the examples of Burma and Cambodia. Those were the examples that were also used at the Vienna meeting by Chairman Khrushchev and myself in which we stated the kind of government that we both said we hoped would emerge in Laos. That is the commitment that was made by the Soviet Union, and by the United States.

Now we have moved to a different plateau, and we are going to see whether that commitment can be maintained. But on the other hand, I am sure and I know Senator Mansfield would not think we should withdraw, because withdrawal in the case of Viet Nam and in the case of Thailand might mean a collapse of the entire area.

QUESTION: Mr. President, the Senate passed a number of restrictive amendments on the foreign aid bill besides that limiting aid to Yugoslavia and Poland. Do you think this reflected a growing disenchantment in the Senate on the whole question of foreign aid and do you think that such actions as that contemplated by India in purchasing jets from the Soviet Union has anything to do with that disenchantment?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have carried it a long time and Senator Mansfield's speech showed the world is still with us, and still uncertain, and all of our effort and all of our sacrifice has not produced the new world. But it is not going to.

What we are attempting to do is to maintain our position. There have been a good many changes in the Communist bloc in the last ten years, and some of those have been-- should encourage friends of freedom. So what we want to do is maintain our position and that of our associated nations with us in this effort, and not to desist in 1962 because the race is not over and we have not been completely-- we have not come to home port. We are still at sea.

I think we ought to stay there and continue to do the best we can. There was, as has been revealed in the press, Ambassador Keenan has been very realistic in his appraisal of our relations with Yugoslavia and is extremely disturbed about what has happened. He feels and the story quoted him in the paper as saying this has been a great gift to the Kremlin at this particular time. Mr. Cabot, our Ambassador to Poland, both of these men are long experienced. Mr. Keenan probably the longest experience, almost, of any American in studies of the Soviet Union. Both of them regard this action as a major setback and as a great asset to Moscow. I don't think we should do those favors to them if we can help it.

QUESTION: Mr. President, in this same connection, you have had a great deal of trouble with the Democrats on other parts of your legislative program. Have you arrived at any new formula for persuading them to come along?

THE PRESIDENT: I think the Democrats, except for a few Democrats who have habitually voted with the Republicans, the Democrats have done pretty well today. For example, on the debt limitation, every year during, I think, President Eisenhower's administration, except 1953, he had to ask for a change in the debt limit. Every time I voted for it, to give him that power. Today, on a final roll call on a measure which instead of giving us our request of 308 would have rolled it back to 285 billion, which would, of course, have meant that every defense expenditure, space, agriculture, veterans, and every other commitment of the government, would have been in great difficulty and would have made it extremely difficult for us to meet our obligations. Every Republican in the House except nine voted against us. It passed, however, because the Democrats met their responsibility. They did in the House on the tax bill. They have on the trade bill. I think that we do expect, however, that all of these matters will not be made matters of party loyalty and we have to get some support from the Republican side and on occasions in the Senate we certainly have gotten it.

We now have a farm bill upcoming next year. That farm bill can save $1 billion a year to the taxpayers of this country, over a period of four years, $4 billion. This is a vote, which is in the best interests of American agriculture and in the best interest of the country and in the best interest of the economy of the United States. I hope that this will not be made, as indicated, a party issue on which every Republican will then vote against us and we will find ourselves with a very close vote on a matter which has the first chance of bringing some order out of what is a very chaotic situation.

If we fall and our farm bill is defeated, we go back to the program which is in permanent legislation, the Benson program, which has—so—called--which has brought us tremendous surplus and expenditures of over six and a half billion dollars by the Government every year. Here is a very good chance, and I think that we have a right to expect that on these matters of great national import, at least we will receive some help from across the aisle, because on other occasions many of us voted to give assistance to the President of the United States when he was a member of the opposite party.

On the question of the aid to Poland and Yugoslavia matter, I voted twice to give President Eisenhower the flexibility he felt he needed in order to conduct foreign policy. He bears a great responsibility and the Congress does, also, but I thought he should have that power, if the situation required it. I would hope that those who are on the opposite side would also, at a time particularly when there are so many things which are encouraging in the world to us, would be willing to sustain us in giving us a similar power.

QUESTION: Mr. President, sir, on the farm bill, you have said, and others in the Administration have said repeatedly, that the present programs, because of their expense, cannot go on indefinitely. If Congress should refuse to enact your current program, would you feel required to request the Congress to repeal the existing price support program without controls?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the choice, it seems to me, is very clearly that the satisfactory provision is the one that we have suggested. Now, if we fail there, of course, then we have, as you have said, the permanent legislation in which we have price supports and no controls, which of course will pile our surpluses up bigger and I think depress our farm income. We would then have to consider what appropriate legislation would be asked for, but the bill we have sent is the one we need. We don't want a bill which has no support for the farmers and we don't want to go to the Congress and say, "Now that you have refused to permit us to have a balance between supply and demand of the kind you have in tobacco and cotton, now we are going to pull out and have no support for the farmers."

So this is the best solution, the one we have before the House next week, and which has already passed the Senate.

QUESTION: Mr. President, in regard to the Hong Kong refugee problem, yesterday the Colonial Secretary said that food and clothing relief would not resolve the colony's problems, nor would immigration, but that Hong Kong would welcome the assistance of other governments in building hospitals, schools, and clinics and so forth. Is the Administration considering this type of assistance?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have contributed very heavily, as you know, toward food. I am not aware that any request has been made for additional assistance, but we will certainly be prepared to consider it, and along with other governments.

QUESTION: Mr. President, proposals for a Senior Service Corps, patterned after the Peace Corps, for the older members of our population, have been discussed by your Council on Aging at its first meeting. How do you view this?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that the Council on Aging, that is one of these things they are looking at, and I think they are going to make a report to me very shortly, and I think that they will give recommendations on it.

QUESTION: Mr. President, do you feel that the Latin American countries are making the contribution that they should within the problems they

face on the Alliance for Progress?

THE PRESIDENT: Some countries are making a major effort, and in some countries the effort is slower. As you know, in nearly every country they are dealing with staggering problems, including exchange problems, which are partly induced by the decline in the price, of raw materials, they are getting. And so Latin America faces in many of the countries, they are making a real effort, but they face great problems, and I am hopeful that the United States would be persistent in supporting the Alliance for Progress, and not expect that suddenly the problems of Latin America which have been with us and with them for so many years can suddenly be solved overnight merely in a period of a few months. It will take a long time. At least in some countries they are making progress.


QUESTION: Mr. President, in reference to your exchange of letters with Chairman Khrushchev on Laos, with both of you suggesting that this might lead to settlement of other international problems, could you comment on two aspects of that: One, is the Laotian formula in any way applicable to divided Berlin, or divided Germany, and secondly, if it is not, is there still a hope perhaps that this might be a another Summit Meeting for settling outstanding problems?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't see a parallel. The situation is different in Berlin than it is in Laos, quite obviously. Obviously, if we can solve by peaceful means and not only get an agreement, but make it work, and both parties demonstrate a sincere commitment to a solution of what has been a difficult problem over a period of time, then it would encourage us to believe that there has been a change in atmosphere, and that other problems also could be subjected to reason and solution. That is why I regard the Laos matter as so important. We have to wait now and see whether we can make this agreement, which has been signed, make it work. If we can, then it will be an encouraging step forward to more amicable relations between the Soviet Union and the United States, and we can discuss other problems. There is nothing on a Summit as yet.

QUESTION: Mr. President, President Chiari of Panama said at his press conference this morning that the bi-national commission which will be set up to consider points of difference between Panama and the United States would have the power to consider re-negotiation of the Panama Canal Treaty. I was wondering if this was your attitude also, or what your attitude is towards this interpretation of your talks?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I haven't seen-- I would rather not comment on the statement until I have seen President Chiari's statement in toto. I think the communique describes quite clearly the responsibilities of the commission, and it is going to get to work right away. I would have to look at his statement and read it in detail before I could tell about his interpretation.

QUESTION: Mr. President, about a year ago you sent to the Congress a greatly expended space program, and I was wondering if you could give us your own assessment of how we stand technologically, how you think the American people as a whole have responded to the space effort, and whether you plan any major realignment such as a bigger military role?

THE PRESIDENT: Such as a what?

QUESTION: Such as a bigger role for the military.

THE PRESIDENT: Starting at the end, the military have an important and significant role, though the primary responsibility is held by NASA, and it is primarily peace, and I think the proportion or that mix should continue. I think the American people have supported the effort in space, realizing its significance, and also that it involves a great many possibilities in the future which are still almost unknown to us and just coming over the horizon. As far as where we are, I don't think that the United States is first yet in space, but I think a major effort is being made which will produce important results in the coming months and years.

QUESTION: Mr. President, in view of the Common Market retaliation, would you perhaps be prepared to concede that it was an error to raise the duties recently on carpets and glass?

THE PRESIDENT: No.

QUESTION: Do you have any intention of rescinding it, or will it stand?

THE PRESIDENT: No, it is going to stand. Carpets and glass were a unanimous recommendation of the Tariff Commission. They were very hard hit. We were quite aware of the fact that action would be taken by the Europeans. If we had had passage of the Trade Act, we could have then offered an alternate package which I think would have prevented retaliation . Retaliation is not the most satisfactory device, but as you know we were limited under present law, and, therefore, not able to be as forthcoming as we might have hoped. But there was a particularly drastic situation facing us in carpets and glass, and the Tariff Commission found unanimously that relief should be granted and we went ahead and granted it, and I would not change it.

QUESTION: Mr. President, sir, I wonder if you think the Congressmen yesterday were justified who said that there had been pressure put on them to get them to vote for the rise in the debt limit and that this pressure had come from the Defense Department to people in districts with large defense contracts. They were told that these defense contracts under negotiation might not be completed if they did not vote for the debt limit.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think-- I am sure, I hope, that it was explained to every one what the effect would be if we did not-- if we had to have a stretch-out, not able to pay our bills, and that would have been the situation. I recall very clearly in the fall of 1957, in my own State of Massachusetts, when there was a stretch-out and the contractors and others had to pay their own bills. It not only had a very drastic effect on them, but according to the Brookings Institute and a good many other studies, it was one of the factors which helped lead to the 1958 recession. This would have taken, in effect, in a period of four months, two billion dollars out of our economy at a time when we need money flowing into our economy. So they were only being informed of what was a fact, which was that we could not pay the bills in some of these areas if we were not given the kind of flexibility which had been requested of the Congress. It was the same flexibility, as I have said, that President Eisenhower requested and which he received and which we have now received.

QUESTION : Mr. President, while most of business certainly doesn't oppose your income tax reduction plan, many businessmen have said if you really want to give business and the economy a shot in the arm, that you should give them a better break on depreciation, tax write-offs, and so forth. I know that a new schedule is coming out, I think within the month, but in addition to that, do you contemplate anything in this area that will help?

THE PRESIDENT: We are going to, as I said before, by the 6th of July, come forward with quicker depreciation write-offs under schedule F for $1.2 billion. That could have been done any time in the last 15 to 20 years. We have been working on it now for a year. That is going to be important.

In addition, under the tax bill itself, it provides very important assistance to business, if we are able to secure its passage by the Senate, and, of course, the third provision of the tax bill is the standby tax authorities in case unemployment begins to move up, which would permit us to have a temporary tax reduction in many brackets. All those I regard as very important.

(Merriman Smith, UPI) Thank you, Mr. President.

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