Public Papers of Harry S. Truman, 1948

Author: Harry S Truman  | Date: October 14, 1948

Address in Madison at the University of Wisconsin.
October 14, 1948

Mr. Chairman and fellow Democrats of Wisconsin:

I am more than happy to have this opportunity to talk to the people of Wisconsin. My Secretary of the Interior, Julius Krug, is a native of this great city, and he is a magnificent public official.

I am especially glad to be in Madison which I remember was named by a national magazine as the perfect city to live in. Wisconsin is a State which gave us fighting Bob LaFollette; a State which has led all others in sound, progressive legislation; a State which has served as the model and the inspiration for all the other States in the country in the way in which its university has worked with the leaders of the State in pioneering a better way of life for all the people.

Wisconsin needs to regain her position inleadership in the cause of liberalism in the United States. Wisconsin about-faced a short time ago, and they ought to come back and get in step with the people that are going forward. You can do that by rallying all your liberal forces behind the common banner—the banner of the Democratic Party.

I am pleased that the followers of old Fighting Bob have recognized that the Democratic Party is the party which has their interests at heart. I am very pleased that a leader of the old Progressive Party of Wisconsin, Carl Thompson, is the Democratic candidate for Governor in this election. And I think you will do yourselves a favor, in this congressional district, if you send Horace Wilkie to the Congress. These men have joined the Democratic ranks because they know it is the only truly liberal party today.

What happened to the Republican Party in Wisconsin has been repeated on a national level. The 80th Congress was the tragic answer to all those who hoped that the elephant had acquired a "new look." That 80th Congress was controlled—a controlled Congress, where lobbyists pulled the strings and the people got stung.

An excellent example of how we got legislation by lobby, instead of laws to meet our needs is found in the story of the Taft-Ellender-Wagner housing bill. I would like to tell you a little about that bill.

It was sponsored by two Democrats and one Republican. It has been developed through 3 years of study. During this time, hundreds of thousands of words of testimony from every corner of the United States was collected. This study showed that the United States, the most powerful Nation on earth, had failed to provide decent housing for its citizens. Three million American families are living doubled up with other families. Five million families are living in housing that isn’t fit for an American. citizen to live in. Five million are living in slums that are rotting out the cores of our great cities. We are falling further behind every year as construction fails to keep up with our needs.

There is nothing more un-American than a city slum. Slums are the breeding spots of crime, sickness, and chaos in every large city in America.

Our farm housing is something that Americans don’t like to talk about, either. More than half our farm homes do not meet modern American standards.

The Democratic Party has placed at the top of its program an answer to the housing problem. But what do the Republicans say? They say that private builders can do the job. They say this in spite of the fact that private builders are not doing the job.

This year the real estate is crowing that more homes are being built than were built in the former peak year of 1926.

I ask you, what kind of hope is there when we brag about passing a mark set 22 years ago, when the needs, the job, and the problems were very much smaller?

But, the real estate lobby killed the Americans’ hopes for a Federal housing law to help meet our needs. Its instrument was the leadership of the Republican Party. When the lobby-controlled Republican Chairman of the Banking and Currency Committee stated at the end of the second session of the 80th Congress that he would not even allow the House of Representatives to vote on the bill, every single Democratic member of that committee turned against him and voted for the bill.

There is a powerful committee in the House of Representatives called the Rules Committee. That committee decides what bills the House may be allowed to consider. In the second session of the 80th Congress, every Democrat in the Rules Committeevoted to let the House of Representatives act on the housing bill. Every Republican on the Rules Committee voted against allowing the House to consider it. That is typical of the difference between the Democratic and the Republican attitudes towards the housing bill that we so badly need.

In the Senate, 70 percent of the Democrats voted for that housing bill; 70 percent of the Republicans in the Senate voted against the bill, and for a substitute phony housing bill sponsored by this same real estate lobby. They kept the housing bill from passing.

That is what happened to housing legislation in the 80th Congress. That is why we do not now have a Federal program for slum clearance, low-rent public housing, and for low-rent rural housing. I have been told that the real estate lobby is bragging that they licked the President of the United States. Well, let me tell you something-I’m not licked yet by any means.

I think I know what the American people want, and I promise you that I am trying to see that they get it.

I know that every veterans organization, the American Conference of Mayors, farm groups, women’s groups, church groups, and most of the American citizens endorse that housing bill that I tried to put through last session, and I am going to carry this message to every town and village in America.

If you want housing, you had better vote the Democratic ticket.

I remember about 20 years ago that a popular Republican slogan was, "Two cars in every garage." This year their slogan is, "Two families in every garage."

I wish I had time to tell you all about the other ways that 80th Congress failed the American people, how they failed to enact a health bill, or provide Federal aid for States to meet their acute problems in education, how they knocked the props out from under farm prosperity, and how they so greatly weakened the strength of organized labor.

When you learn the truth about all those issues, you will be as amazed as I was when the Republican candidate for President said that he was proud of the record of that 80th Congress. I just don’t know what he is proud of.

You people in Wisconsin are fortunate in having real progressives running for office this year on the Democratic ticket. You have men like Horace Wilkie, a World War II veteran, who has studied the housing problem carefully and was one of the leaders of the National Veterans Conference. Horace Wilkie can truly represent the liberals of Madison, and of course, you have men like Carl Thompson who will make one of the best Governors Wisconsin ever had.

These men believe, as I do, and as the whole Democratic Party does, that we must have firm and fair laws to bring down the cost of living, that we must have a housing bill, and a national health program, that we must insure a fair deal to farmers, to labor, to the small businessman, and to the white-collar worker.

They believe, as I believe, in government for the benefit of all the people, not in government for the benefit of special privilege.

Now, we are faced with a real problem-your problem. For the first time in history you are going to have a chance to decide whether you want a government run by the people or whether you want a government run by special interest. This country, in 1947, had the greatest national income in the history of the world—$217 billion. That income was reasonably fairly distributed, between the farmer, the laboringman, and the businessman—particularly the small businessman.

Now, the acts, and the effects of the acts of this 80th Congress are trying to upset that balanced program. They want special privilege, because the first thing they did wasto pass the rich man’s tax bill, and now they are soliciting all those rich men for campaign funds to put out a propaganda campaign against me and my administration.

That income tax bill would let a fellow who made $60 a week save about $1.50 a week—or $1.60 maybe—but a fellow who got $100,000 a year saves $16,000, and they are inviting him to turn half of that over to the Republican campaign committee. A lot of them will do it, too.

Now you people can vote for your own best interests by voting for yourselves on election day, or you can vote for this crowd that has made the policy of the Republican Party in the 80th Congress. I don’t believe you are going to do that. I think you are going to go to the polls and vote for the American way of life.

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:25 p.m. at the University of Wisconsin. His opening words "Mr. Chairman" referred to Carl Thompson, Democratic candidate for Governor of Wisconsin. He later referred to Julius A. Krug, Secretary of the Interior, Robert M. LaFollette, former Senator from Wisconsin, and Horace W. Wilkie, Democratic candidate for Representative from Wisconsin’s Second District.


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Chicago: Harry S Truman, "238 Address in Madison at the University of Wisconsin.," Public Papers of Harry S. Truman, 1948 in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Harry S Truman, 1948 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.968-971 785–787. Original Sources, accessed June 19, 2024,

MLA: Truman, Harry S. "238 Address in Madison at the University of Wisconsin." Public Papers of Harry S. Truman, 1948, in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Harry S Truman, 1948 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.968-971, pp. 785–787. Original Sources. 19 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: Truman, HS, '238 Address in Madison at the University of Wisconsin.' in Public Papers of Harry S. Truman, 1948. cited in , Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Harry S Truman, 1948 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.968-971, pp.785–787. Original Sources, retrieved 19 June 2024, from