Washington Memo


Washington Memo


Washington Memo


ALMOST every word or action by the new President is interpreted by one commentator or another as a sign that he is moving to the “right” or “left.” But, in the opinion of this observer, Mr. Truman has not deviated from any of the major lines of policy projected by the late Franklin D. Roosevelt.

At his first press conference he urged congressional ratification of the Bretton Woods monetary agreements without alteration. He has put his full weight back of renewal of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, with authority for the reduction of tariffs below the bottomTevel fixed by the original Act and its previous renewals. He has backed renewal for another year of (he wartime Price Control Act. He slapped down the powerful farm bloc in Congress by vetoing a blanket exemption from military service for farm workers. The message was briefer than Mr. Roosevelt would have written but just as strong.

So his record has run, day after day. Roosevelt’s policies have not been abandoned or diluted on either the home or the international front. In a way some

of them have been re-energized. Preoccupied with the war and the organization of the peace as he was in recent years, Mr. Roosevelt tended to leave the home front to others. Mr. Truman is giving domestic problems relatively more consideration. He did not inherit the personal grievances and animosities which hampered Mr. Roosevelt, especially in dealing with Congress. And his own close ties with the legislative branch, established during his years in the Senate, are proving helpful in softening opposition.

Mr. Truman is also improving the relations between the Executive and Congress by his reorganj ization of the Cabinet. Every one of his first four Cabinet appointments was heartily applauded in I Congress. The four persons who are leaving had few political assets—and two of them had become decidedly unpopular among the regular Democrats, not to mention the Republicans.

New Appointees

FRANCES PERKINS, the retiring Secretary of Labor, is an estimable woman with many fine achievements to her record, including the formulation of the original social insurance legislation for the United States and the

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i national Minimum Wage and Maxi| mum Hours Act. But many of the j leading union leaders disliked her, or at ! least disliked dealing with a woman,

; and she lost nearly all of the friends she once had on the Hill. Roosevelt ! himself would have accepted her resignation, as she began urging him to do as far back as 1940, if he could have found a suitable successor. But he i could find no union leader who was j acceptable to both the CIO and the AF of L, and his efforts to persuade i various nonunion persons of stature to I take the job failed repeatedly.

Truman appealed to one of his former ! Senate colleagues, now a federal judge, Lewis B. Schwellenbach. Schwellenbach finally consented to take the Labor portfolio. Neither the CIO nor the AF of L could take exception to it, since Schwellenbach, while in the ! Senate, had voted for all the labor and social legislation of the New Deal, while remaining aloof from controversies between them.

The new Secretary of Agriculture, Clinton P. Anderson of New Mexico, likewise has generally favored legislation favorable to agriculture, but does not belong to any of the major farm organizations. Before coming to the House of Representatives he was a newspaper editor and an insurance salesman. However, he owns and operates a dairy farm and is chairman of a special House Committee which has been investigating the food situation. When he takes over his Cabinet post he will absorb also the duties of the War Food Administrator. In total political outlook Anderson is probably more progressive than either of the two men he will replace.

At the Department of Justice young Tom C. Clark, a regular Democrat from Texas, replaces Francis P. Biddle, New Dealer. Clark has served under Biddle for several years, but will hand out more patronage to the Democratic politicians. Whether he will also soft-pedal or reverse such established New Deal policies as firm ; enforcement of the untitrust laws remains to be seen. Many of the New Dealers fear that he will.

Clark was chosen by President Truman’s chief political partner, j Robert Hannegan, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who will now enter the Cabinet as postmaster general. Truman and Hannegan are from the same state, Missouri. Hannegan was very largely responsible for the shelving of Henry Wallace as

vice-president in favor of Truman at the Democratic National Convention last summer.

Hannegan is a decidedly practical politician, who believes in party patronage and party responsibility. He is setting out to reconstruct the Democratic party organization, which was immensely powerful during Roosevelt’s first six years but began to go to pieces in 1938, partly as a result of the fight for control between the New Dealers and the conservative Democrats, partly because extensions of the civil service system reduced the number of jobs open for party appointments, and partly because, as the war came on, large sectors of the Government were put under Republican or nonpartisan control.

Hannegan is looking forward to the nomination and election of Truman in 1948. He is to Truman what James A. Farley was to Roosevelt before the Roosevelt-Farley split, which began in 1938, and his ideas of the way to build a party machine* are similar to Farley’s. Farley gradually lined up ideologically with the conservative Democrats. But when he first came to Washington he was 100% behind Roosevelt’s policies. Hannegan likewLse was a 100% Roosevelt man when Roosevelt chose him last year to manage his fourth presidential campaign. He still talks like a thorough supporter of Roosevelt policies.

Hannegan opposed the renomination of Wallace because he thought it would injure Roosevelt’s chances of re-election. But he is eager to keep Wallace in Truman’s Cabinet as Secretary of Commerce, because Wallace has a personal political following which amounts to a good many votes. He is also a firm supporter of Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., who was a purely personal appointee of Roosevelt’s and who is opposed by many of the conservative Democrats. Hannegan himself served briefly under Morgenthau as Commissioner of Internal Revenue, the office which collects most of the federal taxes. But he is against some Roosevelt appointees who are less liberal than Morgenthau, because they pay so little attention to recommendations of party leaders when they have jobs to fill.

Thus Truman and Hannegan are both trying to pull the Democratic party together—Truman by diplomacy, personal contacts and the appointment of Cabinet members with practical political experience, and Hannegan by patronage. But both know that the Democrats cannot win national elections without the support of a majority of organized labor and miscellaneous liberal groups, as well as of the Sout'h-

ern conservatives. Therefore, I do not expect to see any sharp turn to the “right,” although Truman is likely to be more cautious than Roosevelt would have been in approaching postwar economic and social problems.

Small Demobilization

The end of the war against Germany has not made much difference in U. S. internal economy. Some types of war production are being cut back, others are being increased. Total war production for the rest of this year is supposed to be at therate of $54 billions annually, which is approximately the rate of 1943 and more than nine tenths that of 1944, the peak year

The Army, including the Air Forces, is only being cut from 8,300,000 to

6.970.000. The Navy will remain at its present strength of approximately

3.250.000. So far as any one can see now, the U. S. A. will have more than

10.000. 000 men under arms until Japan has surrendered.

Both the labor and the facilities are available, however, for a small increase in production for civilian use. Most of the raw materials also are available. But shortages of special items here and there promise to retard conversion and cause some temporary unemployment. Unemployment, which is now about

800.000, is expected to rise to nearly

2.000. 000 before it is relieved again in the autumn by converted production.

Housewives have been promised more pots and pans and miscellaneous gadgets. The automobile industry hopes to turn out 300,000 passenger cars by the end of the year. The basic gasoline ration is being increased by 50%—but perhaps only temporarily, as consumption by the armed forces will rise again as the Army and Air Forces are redeployed in the Pacific.

The Government authorities have not yet decided how completely reconversion should be steered from Washington. One school holds that control should be held to minimum; that factories released from war production should be free to make whatever they wish, or can, with the labor and materials they can procure. The other contends that, they should be allowed to make only the more essential civilian items—that otherwise the trend will be toward the manufacture of high-priced luxury goods instead of the things which most people need. In most specific tests up to the present, the new Director of War Mobilization and Reconversion, Fred Vinson, has backed the second school. But an over-all program has not yet been adopted.