JANUARY 9, 1942
WASHINGTON, Thursday—This question of priorities and tire rationing is bringing the war home to a great many people in a serious way. For instance, in the naval ammunition base at Hingham, Mass., they have a thousand men at work. Because of poor housing facilities, many of them come from many miles away by car. They are already considering the possibility of traveling by train and bus, but it is not always an easy thing to work out.
One man I heard of in Alabama, had a prosperous small business which employed nine people only a short time ago. Today, no income is coming in and all his men are out of jobs. It is not as though they could just walk in to take a defense job. There are many men out of jobs in other industries in Alabama which are changing over to new types of work.
In the interim, the workers must perhaps retrain. Sometimes the communities have made no provision for free retraining programs for these workers. Unemployment compensation varies in different states, but it is really never adequate for all of a family's needs. Faced with the rising cost of living, it is totally inadequate. At the same time, the Byrd Committee in Congress advocates cutting down on WPA and NYA.
It is undoubtedly true that someday we shall have more men at work, and that there is a place for every skilled worker, who will eventually find that place when our production is at its peak. In the meantime, however, if we do not use the instruments which we have built up, like WPA and NYA, to bridge over temporary conditions which will last anywhere from six weeks to six months, we can not expect very good civilian morale. War or no war, people do not come home happily to a family of hungry children.
All of the economic theories in the world translate themselves eventually to what happens to people in communities. The sooner all of us understand this, the better it will be for production in the long run.
I had a few people at dinner last night to talk over certain problems and then worked late at my desk. This morning, I walked up to the Office of Civilian Defense, and the snow was clean and beautiful and the air really snappy. I spent the morning meeting with various people, went to speak to the ladies auxiliary of St. Thomas' Church at 11:45, and to see Mr. Norman Davis of the American Red Cross this afternoon. Otherwise my whole day has been spent at the Office of Civilian Defense.