Harry S. Truman: The Man from Independence

By William F. Levantrosser | Go to book overview

ECONOMIC POLICY UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMAN

One official from the Truman administration who participated extensively in this conference and wrote a brief paper on the Truman Presidency was Leon H. Keyserling, the former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. This section begins with that paper because it deals principally with his role in economic policy-making during that period. The spirit and rationale of that time is reflected very clearly in this personal statement.

The work of the Council of Economic Advisers is also appraised in a study which features a policy dispute between the first chairman of the Council, Edwin Nourse, and Mr. Keyserling, its vice-chairman at the time. The essence of the dispute centered on the role of government planning in the economic system and how to provide for both domestic and defense requirements. The outcome foreshadowed some of the present-day problems in this policy area.

A major economic policy decision faced by Harry Truman twice in his presidency dealt with wage and price controls. His experience in ending controls in 1946 is compared here with his action to reinstitute them during the Korean conflict. For President Truman the second time around proved more successful and probably reflected how he benefited from his time in office and a closer acquaintance with the process.

A determined side of Harry Truman emanates from his reaction to strike action by the miners and railroad workers in the immediate post-World War II period. Although generally sympathetic to labor Truman kept the public interest in mind as he strongly opposed the demands of these two strong labor groups blocking his attempts to bring about economic stabilization. The chapter on strikes also provides some insight into the Truman personality stimulated by demands which he felt were excessively narrow in self-interest.

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