FDR - State of the Union in Wartime

The year would end much differently than when it began.

The year would end much differently than when it began.
The year would end much differently than when it began.

This January 6th we were still in the midst of a World War. The optimism which followed the Allied invasion of Europe in the Summer of 1944 was interrupted by a surprise German counterattack in Belgium and Luxembourg just before Christmas. It threatened to cut the allied advance in half. But the allies recovered and turned back the German offensive. But, as President Roosevelt cautioned during this State of The Union address, such desperate measures by the enemy would have to be expected until the war was finally over. Not only in Europe, but in the Pacific.

The State of Union in 1945 was strong and committed, but the sacrifices continued and the need for more trained nurses was acute. During his State of The Union, President Roosevelt asked the Selective Service Board to begin drafting trained nurses into the service, in order to fill a gap of some 20,000 desperately needed on the front lines.

Because the War Effort had reached the critical need stage, President Roosevelt stated his intention of re-introducing his National Service Act, which was initially introduced the previous year, but didn’t secure the adequate vote. This National Service Act required every U.S. citizen to engage in some aspect of war work. It would be used only to the extent absolutely required by military necessities.

But even in the midst of continued sacrifice, there was optimism peace was at hand. And plans continued for a postwar world and a postwar America.

Pres. Roosevelt: “After the war we must maintain full employment with Government performing its peacetime functions. This means that we must achieve a level of demand and purchasing power by private consumers- farmers, businessmen, workers, professional men, housewives- which is sufficiently high to replace wartime Government demands; and it means also that we must greatly increase our export trade above the prewar level.

Our policy is, of course, to rely as much as possible on private enterprise to provide jobs. But the American people will not accept mass unemployment or mere makeshift work. There will be need for the work of everyone willing and able to work—and that means close to 60,000,000 jobs.

Full employment means not only jobs- but productive jobs. Americans do not regard jobs that pay substandard wages as productive jobs.

We must make sure that private enterprise works as it is supposed to work- on the basis of initiative and vigorous competition, without the stifling presence of monopolies and cartels.

During the war we have guaranteed investment in enterprise essential to the war effort. We should also take appropriate measures in peacetime to secure opportunities for new small enterprises and for productive business expansion for which finance would otherwise be unavailable.

This necessary expansion of our peacetime productive capacity will require new facilities, new plants, and new equipment.

It will require large outlays of money which should be raised through normal investment channels. But while private capital should finance this expansion program, the Government should recognize its responsibility for sharing part of any special or abnormal risk of loss attached to such financing.

Our full-employment program requires the extensive development of our natural resources and other useful public works. The undeveloped resources of this continent are still vast. Our river-watershed projects will add new and fertile territories to the United States. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which was constructed at a cost of $750,000,000—the cost of waging this war for less than 4 days—was a bargain. We have similar opportunities in our other great river basins. By harnessing the resources of these river basins, as we have in the Tennessee Valley, we shall provide the same kind of stimulus to enterprise as was provided by the Louisiana Purchase and the new discoveries in the West during the nineteenth century.

If we are to avail ourselves fully of the benefits of civil aviation, and if we are to use the automobiles we can produce, it will be necessary to construct thousands of airports and to overhaul our entire national highway system.

The provision of a decent home for every family is a national necessity, if this country is to be worthy of its greatness—and that task will itself create great employment opportunities. Most of our cities need extensive rebuilding. Much of our farm plant is in a state of disrepair. To make a frontal attack on the problems of housing and urban reconstruction will require thoroughgoing cooperation between industry and labor, and the Federal, State, and local Governments.

An expanded social security program, and adequate health and education programs, must play essential roles in a program designed to support individual productivity and mass purchasing power. I shall communicate further with the Congress on these subjects at a later date.

The millions of productive jobs that a program of this nature could bring are jobs in private enterprise. They are jobs based on the expanded demand for the output of our economy for consumption and investment. Through a program of this character we can maintain a national income high enough to provide for an orderly retirement of the public debt along with reasonable tax reduction.

Our present tax system geared primarily to war requirements must be revised for peacetime so as to encourage private demand.

While no general revision of the tax structure can be made until the war ends on all fronts, the Congress should be prepared to provide tax modifications at the end of the war in Europe, designed to encourage capital to invest in new enterprises and to provide jobs. As an integral part of this program to maintain high employment, we must, after the war is over, reduce or eliminate taxes which bear too heavily on consumption.

The war will leave deep disturbances in the world economy, in our national economy, in many communities, in many families, and in many individuals. It will require determined effort and responsible action of all of us to find our way back to peacetime, and to help others to find their way back to peacetime- a peacetime that holds the values of the past and the promise of the future.

If we attack our problems with determination we shall succeed. And we must succeed. For freedom and peace cannot exist without security.

During the past year the American people, in a national election, reasserted their democratic faith.

In the course of that campaign various references were made to “strife” between this Administration and the Congress, with the implication, if not the direct assertion, that this Administration and the Congress could never work together harmoniously in the service of the Nation.

It cannot be denied that there have been disagreements between the legislative and executive branches—as there have been disagreements during the past century and a half.

I think we all realize too that there are some people in this Capital City whose task is in large part to stir up dissension, and to magnify normal healthy disagreements so that they appear to be irreconcilable conflicts.

But- I think that the over-all record in this respect is eloquent: The Government of the United States of America—all branches of it- has a good record of achievement in this war.

The Congress, the Executive, and the Judiciary have worked together for the common good.

I myself want to tell you, the Members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, how happy I am in our relationships and friendships. I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting some of the new Members in each House, but I hope that opportunity will offer itself in the near future.

We have a great many problems ahead of us and we must approach them with realism and courage.

This new year of 1945 can be the greatest year of achievement in human history.

Nineteen forty-five can see the final ending of the Nazi-Fascist reign of terror in Europe.

Nineteen forty-five can see the closing in of the forces of retribution about the center of the malignant power of imperialistic Japan.

Most important of all—1945 can and must see the substantial beginning of the organization of world peace. This organization must be the fulfillment of the promise for which men have fought and died in this war. It must be the justification of all the sacrifices that have been made- of all the dreadful misery that this world has endured.

We Americans of today, together with our allies, are making history- and I hope it will be better history than ever has been made before.

We pray that we may be worthy of the unlimited opportunities that God has given us.”

And that’s what this day sounded like; January 6th 1945.

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