Huey P. Long

Radio Address: A Fair Deal for the Veterans

delivered 11 May 1935

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Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Congress of the United States by an overwhelming majority in both houses has voted to pay in full what is generally called the soldiers’ bonus, but what in reality is not a soldier's bonus at all but the adjusted service wages, and very poor wages at that, which the government allowed to the soldiers for the days that they served in the World War.

We have generally referred to this proposition as a "soldier's bonus," but here is what it was. When the boys came back from the war in 1918 and 1919 and some as late as 1920, the government said that since all common labor had been paid from three dollars to four dollars per day during the war without taking any chance of being shot down, or of having their legs shot off, or their eyes shot out, that they would pay the soldiers for the time that they worked, fought, and risked their lives and money -- the same amount per day as the commonest kind of laborer was paid for the same days worked during the war.

Now since they figured that the soldier had already been paid around 30 dollars to 40 dollars per month while he was in the war, they deducted the one dollar or dollar and a quarter per day and gave the soldier a certificate for the balance. So that when the certificate was paid, the soldier would receive as much money from the days that he stood in the trenches as a commonest kind of laborer received for the same day that he worked.

Now I think you or I or most any other person would say that as a general rule, the man who worked and fought, who slept in the trenches on the ground, in the rain, and in the mud, and who took a chance of never coming back, was entitled to get a little bit more money for that kind of service, than the man who lived in comfort in his home and took no such chance of being maimed or killed.

But we did not regard it that way when we gave the soldiers our certificates for service. We took the view that they were not entitled to any more money than the sorriest kind of field hand or workhand. And that is the certificate which they hold today and which is called the soldiers' bonus.

A few years ago Congress provided that the soldiers could borrow about half the money that was due on the certificates. Now what we have done here this week is to provide to pay them the balance, equal to the face value of the certificate issued by the government for their services.

Some people talk as though the soldiers had already been paid one bonus. That is not true at all. We have not paid the soldiers the bonus -- once or twice or anything of the kind. What we did was to issue a certificate to each man, giving him an allowance to be paid later. And we have allowed them to borrow on this certificate up to one-half the face value. But we have never paid the obligation at all. That is what we're trying to do now.

Now we proposed and it passed to law to pay the amount in full. The law which has been passed is known as the Patman Bill. It is the same bill that previously passed the House of Representatives. Last year I offered this bill as an amendment to another bill in the United States Senate. It failed to pass. But in this session of Congress, this same Patman Bill was voted in the House of Representatives by an overwhelming majority. It came to the Senate and it was voted there by a very large majority. It will become the law if the President will sign it. But even though the President vetoes the bill, it would still become the law if two-thirds of the United States senators will vote to override the President's veto.

We are very near to the mark of getting two-thirds of the senators to vote to override the veto in case the President vetoes. It is a shame to have a few votes doing this wrong to the men who fought our battles. That being the case, every person whether he has or has not written to the President, should immediately write or wire to his United States senators asking them to vote to override the veto on the soldiers’ bonus bill in case the President vetoes the bill.

We hear that the President is being urged to turn a deaf ear to the people's plea. Therefore, wire your senators. We hope that will not be necessary. We hope the President won't veto the bill. But for fear that he is going to do it, wire your United States senators asking them to vote to override the veto.

Now the President tells us that he was a veteran of the World War too, and that he understands it somewhat better than we may think. Well it is true that Mr. Roosevelt was a veteran of the World War, and an honorable veteran. He was Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He stayed up here on Pennsylvania Avenue in the daytime and in a very fine home during the nighttime and he drew 10 thousand dollars a year for his services and he was worth every cent of it. He was three thousand miles away from gunfire. Of course, he had an income besides that which made him say that he did not need the 10 thousand dollars, but we paid him the 10 thousand dollars anyway, and nobody's trying to take it away from him, and nobody says he wasn't worth the 10 thousand dollars.

But the man that he does not seem to have learned about is the man that did not stay on Pennsylvania Avenue and who did not stay in any luxurious home, but the man who scoured the seas, who walked and slept in the rain, who stood in the mud waist deep in the trenches, who went over the top and faced the German guns, who breathed the poisonous gases, and who not only went through 14 kinds of carnage worst than the fires of hell itself, but who, when he came back, found his occupation destroyed and the job which he had held gone.

But Mr. Roosevelt forgets that his pay of 10 thousand dollars per year was 10 to 20 times the amount which we're trying to get for the soldier who crossed the seas, who faced the enemy, and probably came back home not half fit to live.

Someone said to me that some soldiers they knew of ought not to be paid the bonus because they turned out to be bums. Who was it that made them bums? The government sent them into the fires of death, and I wonder that as many came out as well as they did. That's no argument against paying the bonus.

And Mr. Roosevelt forgets further that he got his 10 thousand dollars right on the barrel head for every day that he worked or did not work and enjoyed Washington's society to the full limit in the meantime. Whereas the soldier has now waited 17 years for his little day labor wages and they're still fighting to keep him from having it after they've made him wait 17 years.

I'm somewhat in the position of Mr. Roosevelt on the war and I can put myself in his place. He didn't go and I didn't go. The only difference is that I didn't get 10 thousand dollars a year not to go. If he wants to place me in his status all he has got to do is to send me a check for 5 thousand dollars for every year that the war lasted and we'll be fifty-fifty on the war. Neither of us ever heard a cap snap and both with five thousand dollars a year instead of him with the whole 10 thousand dollars by himself will put us on the same basis.

It is true that he advocated going into the war and I advocated not staying in the war. I think the circumstances have proved that I was nearer right about that than he was.

Now the government of the United States has issued its certificates for this money to everyone of these soldiers. It is due in the year 1945, 10 years from now. What we have done in Congress and in the United States Senate by the Patman Bill is to provide that the soldier can put up this government certificate and get the government currency, our government money, for an amount that is equal to the face value of the service certificate, just like they allow bankers to draw face value in money on obligations to the government which they hold.

In other words let us say that the soldier holds a service certificate for 500 hundred dollars. Under our bill he could put up that certificate and the government would pay him 500 hundred dollars in change. That's the bill we're trying to get the President to sign or if he don't sign to override his veto. There is nothing new about that. Everybody else that holds a government bond or certificate can put it up and get the government money on it.

Right today a bank can take any bond or obligation that it has of the United States and put that bond up and draw the money in cash on the bond and that doesn't half tell the story. Nearly every member in Congress and nearly every member of the United States Senate has voted at least three times within the last three years to allow the bankers to take the bonds and obligations of the United States government and put them up with the Treasury Department and secure as much money on the bonds as the face value of the bonds represents. And then the bonds stood there in their name and they could draw the interest until the maturity date and never pay out a cent of their money in the meantime.

But they're not willing to do that good buy to soldiers. All that the soldiers [are] asking to do under the Patman Bonus Bill is to put up his adjusted service certificate, and if it is for 500 hundred dollars, that he be given 500 hundred dollars of Treasury notes, which is the same kind of paper money that you have in your pocket today, if you have any. The soldier would not get any interest on his service certificate like the banks do on the bonds and obligations that they put up to get money.

And the only thing today that we have to decide is, will we say to the soldier with the 500 hundred dollar bond, "No we won't let you have the 500 hundred dollars in money" and then turn around to the bankers who have a million dollars worth of bonds and say, "We will not only give you the million dollars in paper money for your million dollars of bonds, but we will also pay you four percent interest on the bonds until the date of their payment arrives."

Now what's the justification in these senators who have voted to let the bankers put up the bonds and get 100 cents on the dollar and draw the interest just the same and yet turn around here and not let the soldier put up his bond and draw the money without drawing the interest? I want somebody to tell me how they make fish out of one and fowl out of another.

Why on March the 9th, 1933 -- five days after Mr. Franklin Delano Roosevelt took the office as President of the United States -- we had another one of these bills up and we passed it, allowing all banks to put up the bonds to the government and to get circulating money, dollar for dollar, and allowing them to draw their interest just the same while they had the money. Mr. Roosevelt signed that bill. Why didn't Mr. Roosevelt veto that, if he was against that policy? Is he going to wait until the soldier comes up to invoke some threat against that kind of a policy?

Now the argument has been made, that to issue these soldiers this money is opening up a printing press, to print money. This is a very flimsy pretense, particularly when Mr. Roosevelt had signed two bills to print all the money that the bankers wanted issued for their bonds. There's nine billions of dollars of gold in the Treasury. We only have five and a half billion dollars worth of money outstanding. And if you issue the 2 billion dollars of solders' bonus, you'll still only have seven and a half billions of dollars in money circulating, and you'll have nine billions of dollars in gold in the United States Treasury to cover it. And that's one dollar and 20 cents in gold for every dollar in money, whereas we're only supposed to have 40 cents in gold for a dollar in money.

I want to ask the big bankers of this country, whose banking houses and whose fortunes have been saved by these soldiers, how they justify their opposition to this bonus being paid at this time? If it had not been for the soldiers, these financial lords not only would not have collected the millions of dollars they loaned to Europe and the money that they made out of the war, but they might not have had a bank left, but for those boys.

Oh yeah, they sounded the drum. They played the bands and said everything would be good when the boys came back home. Now these very same men, who made millions out of the flesh and blood of the men who fought their battles, are the very men who are fighting against these men being paid the bonus after 17 years.

The soldier is entitled to be paid this bonus. He has done his work. He has made his fight. He has taken his chance. He has made the sacrifice. He's kept the faith. And he is the only man, the only one who never was paid the daily wage for the days he worked during the war.

No one has been more badly treated than the average man who risked his life in the service of this country to be paid the lowest wages of all on the chance of losing his life and then wait 17 years and still not have the low wages he was promised.

It is hard to understand how the President could have framed himself into a mind to oppose us paying this obligation which the government owes to these soldiers. The other night in his speech over the radio, he said that because he could not find out the touch of the American people, he sometimes went out fishing on the Nourmahal yacht of Vincent Astor, so as to get a better conception of the feeling of the American people.

Well he's getting some letters now from the American people, and I hope he'll pay as much attention to the letters that he's getting from the American people as he is to those impressions that he got while he was out on that five million dollar yacht. I hope that he would pay attention to the letters and telegrams and judge that as being nearer the impression of the American people, rather than the views of the high aristocracy with which he has surrounded himself upon this late, pleasant cruise into the British waters.

My friends, I am asking you to wire your United States senators now! Or if you haven't got the money to wire, write them. If you can possibly do it, go wire them now. Ask them to put their shoulders to the wheel, to help override the veto of the President, in case he vetoes the bonus.

Do not take any chances. Ask them to do the same justice by the soldiers they've done by the captains of finance. Great good would be done to this country if we paid this two and a quarter billions of dollars into the channels of our commerce. It would stimulate business everywhere. It would do the people more good than it would do the soldiers. In truth and in fact, we're simply asking that the soldier now be paid after 17 years of waiting the commonest kind of wages which others were paid during the time when he fought in the trenches.

Wire your senator! Wire your senator! Wire your senator to override the veto, if a veto comes. Wire your senators, ladies and gentlemen! Wire them now! Wire them to stand by the soldier, do justice by the soldier, and override this veto.

I thank you.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

Research Note: Transcription by Diane Wiegand

Copyright Status: Text = Uncertain. Image = Public domain.






















































































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