Newstalgia Reference Room featuring an address by President Harry S. Truman on the occasion of the final day of celebrations for the centennial of The Minnesota Territory. Highlights of this complete address include his views on the economy and what is probably the first public mention of the term "trickle-down theory".
February 14, 2011

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Harry Truman - never one to pull punches where reactionaries were concerned.


Digging around in history can often yield interesting results, particularly in the area of where certain phrases get their start. I assumed (as did everyone else I ran into) the phrase "trickle-down theory" was something coined by the Reagan Years*, that economic benchmark drummed into all our heads during the 80's. But, come to find out the phrase actually got started on November 3, 1949 during an address Truman made at the closing day of Centennial celebrations for Minnesota.

Pres. Truman: “Our economic frontiers can be expanded only if we follow sound public policies. We must rely as we have always relied upon the spirit of initiative and free enterprise. But we know that it is necessary for the Government to follow policies that will make it possible for initiative and free enterprise to succeed. At the same time there is wide disagreement on what specific measures the government should adopt and for who’s benefit. The reactionaries hold that government policies should be designed for the special benefit of small groups of people who occupy positions of wealth and influence. Their theory seems to be that if these groups are prosperous they will pass along some of their prosperity to the rest of us. This can be described as ’the trickle down theory'."

Fascinating. And sixty-two years later . . . .

*Note: The phrase has been variously attributed to Will Rogers who was reported to have said it during the Depression Years - but there seems to be no recording of it. So . . . .

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