Yes, what about housing for all the people of American?

Or better, homes to live in? Housing has an impersonal sound. It suggests cattle sheds. However, I suppose I shall have to use the word, although I hope you will think in terms of homes for human beings in America, built on the continent we have resolved to saved.

Forget the humanitarian slant for a while. Think of housing as a business proposition that affects everyone.

Over a third of the housing in America is below a fairly decent standard, and much of that third is intolerable. This housing is dangerous, unsanitary, and injuriously affects the health and well-being of the other two-thirds.

Therefore, for the sake of the health, happiness and living standards of all the people, we need a nation-wide housing operation.

Much of our medium-class and even better-class housing is antiquated and sadly in need of repair and improvement, but such housing is palatial compared to the millions of slums.

Slums are by no means limited to a few large industrial cities of the North. Every small town and village has its slum and its ramshackle shanties. Throughout the nation are what amount to ghettos of the worst sort—slum areas in which a racial minority is crowded together in poverty, isolated by its limited means and by its particular race or language. Countless Negro slums exist not only throughout the South, but in the big cities of the North. In my own city of San Antonio is a grand and glorious and terrifying slum inhabited by Mexican-Americans.

I once spoke to a friend of mine in a great southern city about slums. He said his town had none. I pointed out the enormous Negro slum in his city. "Oh, you mean those nigger shacks," he said. Many people in northern cities have the same attitude.

While the United States of America is the wealthiest nation on earth with the highest living standard, there are many millions in America whose housing and living standards are lower than the lowest of Europe—lower even than that of the notorious slums and poverty of Poland and Bulgaria. And if we compare our general standards of housing, conservation, and cooperative endeavor with those of the Scandinavian countries, we come off a rather poor second. In these matters we are probably second to some other European countries as well.

People in our country have talked a good deal about housing, but have accomplished comparatively little. Whenever we have begun a building boom, prices of building materials have jumped to the mmon, and labor troubles have appeared.

But various departments of the government have made a beginning and now possess the accumulated experience for a real job on a big scale whenever the American people decide to go ahead. The PWA did many well-constructed big jobs in cities. Rural Resettlement built three "Greenbelt Towns"—near Washington, Cincinnati, Milwaukee—and set up numerous rural projects all over the country. The Federal Housing Authority has aided private building.

The United States Housing Authority now has the power to operate in the low-cost, or slum-clearance field, if communities help. But its operations are too slow and too dependent upon local cooperation ever to succeed on a large scale.

The government is ready to go ahead. But the bankers, the builders, the contractors, the building-material merchants and the local governments are very emphatically opposed. They have succeeded in winning many of the people themselves to the opposition. Witness their successful organizing of great mass meetings of people to protest slum clearance.

Businessmen in general apparently believe that a program either paid for or subsidized by the government wil hurt them. Hence, no big building program. Instead, little fits and spurts of programs that always fizzle out.

Less than a hundred years ago, many intelligent and wealthy people, many great political leaders, opposed any extensive public road building. They insisted that roads be toll roads, built and operated for private profit. They argued that public toll corporations would go broke, that the state would lose taxes, that slaves would escape, that free roads would be filled with lazy and trifling people.

This prejudice against road building was widespread. It lasted until a few years ago.

But now the building of roads and highways and bridges with federal as well as state money is accepted and welcomed by all. Billions have been spent by the federal government, and everybody, conservative and liberal alike, approves. Our roads, national and state, are worth thirty or forty billion dollars.

Highways were built rapidly after the automobiles came in. The automobile manufacturers promoted good roads with a deep zest—an almost holy zest. So did the cement, steel, rock, and other sellers of materials. It looked profitable to them—and naturally constitutional.

Well, you know what happened. The government entered the highway business. The people got automobiles to ride in, and roads to ride on. The automobiles became cheaper and better, and the roads safer and better. And how was it done? The government subsidized the automobile business. It thereby made it possible for Ford, Chrysler, Olds and dozens of others to become multimillionaires. But that was all right; because millions got jobs, not just in building roads and automobiles, but in working in nearly every industry in America.

The American people need housing, much more than they needed roads. Yet even more than they need housing, they need jobs—jobs which a new industry would provide.

In the days of President Hoover, when conditions were rapidly getting worse, Alfred P. Sloan, king-bee of the General Motors Corporation, said: "What capital and labor both need at this pass is the birth of a new industry which, like the automobile industry of twenty-five years ago, will grow swiftly into large production with direct beneficial effect on wages, investment values and living conditions. . . . One new industry that seems to meet the requirements is the manufacture and assembly of machine-made homes."

Whether the homes should be machine-made or not, I do not know; I do know that prefabrication will necessarily be a large part of the program. The idea is to get going in housing, as the nation did in automobiles. There are now twenty-five million automobiles as compared to the fifteen thousand when roads were bad. And there was but one thing which could have produced this great advance:

Federal subsidy.

Federal subsidy and the vitality, the integrity, skill, and unity of purpose of the Government of the United States of America.

Then why not subsidize housing on a grand scale? The only reason is that we still have a log-cabin psychology, even though we have abandoned our country road complex and think in continental terms, of concrete four-lane highways, and of driving in our own car from Maine to Texas and California and back home on the northern route without even hitting a mudhole, a bump, or crack, or being inconvenienced by blizzard, rain or storm.

If housing is ever to start, the same great national idea must be in the minds of the people before there can be any success.

If the government can start housing going, numerous industries will get back on their feet. Millions will go to work throughout the whole fabric of our society. And millions will get real homes in which to live.

Billions of dollars in housing—billions and billions are needed. Not tens or hundreds of millions. Billions. Therefore, the government subsidy might run a billion or two dollars a year, or even more. Government expenditures for relief and other purposes have not been wasted in recent years, but far more of a substantial, constructive nature can be accomplished by a housing program. It will be money well spent—an investment that will pay for itself.

Opposition to this program can be expected from finance groups. They can be offered the opportunity to finance the operations; if they do not, the government should do it. However in England, when the government started a big campaign, business and capital entered the scene and offered to do the financing.

One thing is sure. The great industries would be the first to benefit. Production would boom.

The new building industry would be like the automobile industry. It would be started by a subsidy and, for all I know, partially kept by a subsidy as the automobile industry is kept, but it would put people in homes, give work to millions, and start business rolling merrily along.