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Truman ‘Fair Deal’ Proposals
Sugar-coat Military Program

Calls for Universal Military Training,
Curb on Strikes and Power to Freeze Wages

(10 January 1949)

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 2, 10 January 1949, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Truman’s ‘State of the Union’ message to Congress on Jan. 5 is largely a restatement of various promises of limited social reforms he has made over the past three years. Some of them he now puts forth in watered-down form. Others he repeats in vague language. Together they amount to no more than crumbs in terms of the needs of the people and the vast potentialities of this nation to produce abundance and security for everyone.

But this “Fair Deal” program, as it is being described, is mere sugar-coating for. Truman’s basic program. That is the total militarization of the country. It is this program Truman emphasized when he called once more for the establishment of universal military training and the creation of the most costly and gigantic military machine ever known.

His administration, he stressed, would “hold resolutely” to its course of the “cold war,” creation and arming of a world-wide military alliance against the Soviet Union, intervention in other countries, bolstering of bankrupt capitalist regimes everywhere, financing the suppression of colonial revolts and working class uprisings, etc.

Its Real Meaning

Truman did not mention the veal, meaning of this program for the American people themselves. For instance, just before delivering his message, he held a White House conference with Democratic Congressional leaders at which it was agreed that Truman will propose the biggest peacetime federal budget in history – about $42 billion. Of this, not less than $25 billion will go for direct military expenditures and the conduct of the “cold war.”

This budget, represents one-fifth of the total annual national income. Taken together with the astronomical U.S. war debt of $252 billion, to which Truman made pointed reference in his message, this cost of militarism past and present is the chief force powering the inflation rocket.

Although Truman dwelt at length on the dangers of inflation, he did not dare to put his finger on the basic cause – the military program. Therefore he could not propose a continuation or repetition of feeble and inadequate measures. His principal proposal was for “stand-by” powers to put price ceilings on certain commodities. Tied to this was a demand for power'“to limitArt Preis Truman ‘Fair Deal’ Proposals Sugar-coat Military Program Calls for Universal Military Training, Curb on Strikes and Power to Freeze Wages (10 January 1949) unjustified wage adjustments” – that is, to freeze wages. It was under this same formula: that wages were frozen during the war, while, prices kept rising steadily.

In his references to his military program Truman was silent about the sinister invasion of. all spheres of American life by the military machine and its officer caste. He said nothing about the legislation being urged by his Defense Secretary James Forrest al to give the military agencies, without prior Congressional permission, blanket authority to send military forces anywhere in the world, and to provide military support to any country at war and, in the process, to clamp the vise of military control on the people at home.

It is against this background of wealth-devouring militarism and the extension of totalitarian Prussian-type military control that the reform proposals of Truman must be viewed. Then it can be seen now meager and temporary these proposed reforms are.

Housing Inadequacy

Nothing makes the contrast so clear as Truman’s specific program on the most acute and pressing social problem in America today – housing. Housing experts agree that we need, for the adequate housing of America’s growing population, not less than 25 million new housing units in the shortest possible time. Truman in his message proposed a government low-cost building program of – one million units in the next seven years! That wouldn’t even make up for the annual loss of housing due to deterioration, fire and flood. He himself said: “Five million families are still living in slums and firetraps. Three million families share their homes with others.”

He admitted the gross inadequacy of the social security system, in which a third of the workers are not covered, and which provides the starvation pittance of $25 a month on the average to the pauperized aged. Truman said the coverage should be extended and the sums increased – but he mentioned nothing specific. He was equally vague when it came to the details of his proposed health insurance bill, extension of unemployment insurance benefits, etc. Even if present benefits were doubled, remember, they would only be restored to their purchasing power of 1939. Moreover, this entire program is to be paid out of new payroll taxes on the workers.

On the most publicized promise of his campaign, to press for the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act Truman is openly hedging. He is not for unconditional repeal of the Taft-Hartley Law and restoration intact of the Wagner Act, as most of labor had demanded. He proposes to restore some of the worst features of the Taft-Hartley Act in the form of an “improved” Wagner Act which, he said, calls for “means for settling or preventing strikes in vital industries which affect the public interest.” His advisor: have spelled this out as injunctive powers, “cooling off” period: and “fact-finding” government boards – all key clauses of the Taft-Hartley Act.

Civil Rights

Truman, devoted just five sentences to his much - promised civil rights program – a key pledge of his campaign. He merely stated that he still stood on his program of last year, including an anti-poll tax law, anti-lynching law and a Fair Employment Practices Commission. It remains to be seen whether he will really fight for these things, or continue as in the past to merely repeat them for the record.

But we know that Truman is not doing anything to end conditions of racial discrimination and segregation where he can act right now. As Commander-in-Chief of all the armed forces he could end military segregation with a simple executive order – but he doesn’t do so. As Chief Executive he could end discrimination and segregation in the rest of the government departments and agencies – but he doesn’t do so.

Meanwhile, in spite of the protests of the CIO and other labor organizations, he is continuing and extending his Gestapo-like witch-hunt among government- employes and is victimizing individuals and organizations on the basis of his “subversive” political blacklist. He is sponsoring revision of the Espionage Act to legalize the present invasion of constitutional rights being perpetrated in his “loyalty” purge.

One thing Truman was most specific on – another $4 billion in taxes must be raised. He said these must be raised from the corporations “principally.” But he said not a word on the quickest and surest way to get these taxes – the restoration of the excess profits tax that the Democratic-controlled 79th Congress abolished. That’s the tax. above all, the corporations don’t want restored. And Truman indicated he’s respecting their wishes.

The Trumanite labor leaders have promptly hailed Truman’s message as a “Fair Deal.” On cold analysis it is a War Deal, with some sops for the people thrown in. It solves none of the basic problems now facing the masses. It promises new burdens when the full program of militarism is unfolded.

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