Oral History Interview with
Dr. Grover W. Ensley
Fiscal analyst, U.S. Bureau of the Budget, 1941-47; technical adviser, Senator Ralph Flanders, 1947-49; executive director, Joint Economic Committee, U.S. Congress, 1949-57.
October 7, 1977
by James R. Fuchs
See also Grover W. Ensley Papers finding
See also Grover W. Ensley Oral History, by Richard A. Baker of the Senate Historial Office.
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate
the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened December, 1979
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
Dr. Grover W. Ensley
October 7, 1977
by James R. Fuchs
FUCHS: Mr. Ensley, to start would you give a short resume of your background;
when and where you were born, and your educational background, and how
your career went until you reached the Government part of it?
ENSLEY: All right. I was born on a wheat ranch in eastern Washington
-- that's Washington State -- in 1915. I rode a horse four miles to a
one-room elementary school. I went through high school in Colfax, Washington
and then worked my way through the University of Washington during the
depression 1933-38, receiving first a
bachelor of arts degree, a master of business administration degree, and
finally a five-year certificate in Government service. I was trained for
the public service. I went from Seattle to the University of Denver under
a Sloan scholarship and where I, in 18 months, received another master's
degree in Government management in 1940. It was at the University of Denver
that I met my future wife, Creta Mabie.
FUCHS: Government was more your major than economics, then?
ENSLEY: Yes. Upon completing my work at the University of Denver, I went
to Tax Foundation in New York City, where I worked on government budgeting
problems. I attended New York University, in evenings. I eventually received
my Ph.D. in economics, studying under Dr. Paul Studenski. The degree was
awarded in 1947. In the spring of 1941 I was invited to go to
Washington for an interview at the Treasury Department, Debt Management
Division. But while in Washington for the interview I went to see Donald
Stone at the Bureau of the Budget, who I had known earlier. He was Assistant
Director for Administrative Management. Knowing my academic background,
and experience, he sent me to see Weldon Jones who was Assistant Director
of the Fiscal Division of the Bureau. I was impressed with the Division
and its leadership and I accepted a position as a fiscal analyst.
These were the days before the Council of Economic Advisers and
other White House apparatus that has since been created to help coordinate
and assist the President in formulating economic policy. I worked at the
Budget Bureau until I went into the service late in the war.
I suppose my most interesting experience while at the Bureau of the Budget,
was in the spring of 1942. Roosevelt was the President,
of course, and we were experiencing substantial inflation with shortages
and rising income. There was no coordinated anti-inflation machinery or
program. I'll never forget, Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau went
to Congress and advocated a harness of direct controls -- price and wage
controls, rationing, and so forth. The next day, Leon Henderson, who was
in charge of war allocations, testified that the way to stop inflation
was to have tax increases. Well, that hit me as rather ironic, as a junior
So, that weekend I wrote a one and a half page memorandum on the need
for a coordinated stabilization program coming down from the very top,
from the President. I brought it in and circulated it to the senior people
at the Bureau of the Budget. The memorandum recommended that the President
appoint a committee to develop a comprehensive stabilization program.
In those days you didn't send President Roosevelt anything
longer than a page and a quarter memorandum. You could attach all you
wanted to it, but in terms of what you wanted him to read, a page and
a quarter was it. After some editing the memorandum was sent to the President
over the signature of Harold Smith, the Director of the Bureau of the
Budget. The very next day, the same memorandum came back with a handwritten
note: “Okay. Work fast. FDR."
It gave Smith the authority to call in Henry Wallace, who was then the
Vice President, and the other people that we had suggested to have on
this committee. Out of it came the appointment by Roosevelt of Jimmy Byrnes
who was brought off the Supreme Court to head this stabilization program.
I'm very proud of that memorandum.
FUCHS: You did that on your own?
ENSLEY: Yes, I initiated the memorandum. As a young, green economist
without knowing much about
protocol or anything else; I just wrote it and brought it in, and Gerhard
Colm and other colleagues of mine at the Budget Bureau brushed it up and
we worked pretty hard on it for one or two days before Harold Smith sent
it to Roosevelt. But it was just at the right time and it did bring about
a comprehensive stabilization program.
In 1944 I went. into the service as a naval officer. Just before I went
into the service, the Pabst Brewing Company was celebrating its hundredth
anniversary. During the war there was considerable discussion of the prospect
of postwar unemployment. There was a general feeling that once the war
was over we would revert back to the type of under-employment and under-utilization
of resources that we had all during the 1930s. The Pabst Brewing Company,
as an advertising gimmick in connection with their hundredth anniversary
created 17 prizes for the best postwar employment plans. The first prize
was $25,000, the second
prize was $15,000 and then 15 $1,000 prizes. I went home one evening and
wrote a brief essay on how we could achieve and maintain reasonably full
employment and stability after the war, and submitted it.
About a month later, I received a call from a public relations agency
wanting to take my picture. I found that about twelve other people in
Washington had also received calls, including Leon Keyserling, who later
became chairman of President Truman's Council of Economic Advisers; and
Herbert Stein who was with the War Production Board, and later became
Nixon's chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Out of the 17 potential
winners, about 12 were located in Washington. Of course, for about ten
days the big question was, who was going to win the $25,000 and who the
$15,000 and who the $1,000.
Well, to make a long story short, Herb
Stein won the $25,000, Leon Keyserling the $15,000 and the rest of us
received $1,000 prizes. A volume of the winning essays was published.
I mention this only because it indicated the intense interest on the
part of responsible Americans, during the war, to start planning then
for a better America after the war.
FUCHS: Do you recall the year of that contest?
ENSLEY: The spring of 1944.
FUCHS: What were your days like, as a fiscal analyst in the Bureau of
ENSLEY: My chief job in the Budget Bureau was to analyze trends in defense
expenditures and their impact upon the economy. We talked about and tried
to measure the inflationary gap that was developing as a result of rapidly
accelerating war expenditures. I thought at the time that we should have
had higher taxes to reduce inflationary
pressures. I'll come back to this World War II tax deficiency when we
get into the Korean war. Fiscal policies were much more intelligently
managed in the Korean war. I think that was, in part, because of President
Truman's experience as Chairman of the Senate Committee during World War
You'll recall, President Truman made his name in World War II when he
was Chairman of a special committee on defense expenditures. He watched
not just the waste that there might be -- and there was plenty as there
always are wastes in war -- but also the overall magnitudes and the implications
of those magnitudes for the economy.
As I mentioned earlier I went into the Navy and served on Guam during
the last days of the war. I came back with a doctoral dissertation nearly
written. It called for an effective national employment program. I was
pleased, when I returned in the spring of 1946, to find that
on February the 20th, President Truman had signed the Employment Act of
FUCHS: When did you say you returned?
ENSLEY: I came back to the Budget Bureau in April of 1946.
FUCHS: He called for this, I believe in his 21-point message to Congress.
ENSLEY: I believe in '45. Jumping ahead 20 years, on the occasion of
the 20th anniversary of the Employment Act, the Congress and the White
House made me Chairman of a special committee to commemorate the 20th
anniversary of the Act. We had three Presidents still living in 1966 --
Truman, Eisenhower, and of course, Johnson. I got a very nice letter from
Truman, who was not in a position to come to the big celebration that
we had in Washington.
FUCHS: How did that come about? You were no longer
with the Government then.
ENSLEY: No, I was with the savings bank industry in 1966, but Congressman
[Wright] Patman was Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee and he remembered
me from the days when I was with the Joint Economic Committee. I was rather
close to Gardner Ackley who was Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers
under [Lyndon Baines] Johnson. I wrote a letter to both of them, oh, a
year before and said, "Look, we should do something rather substantial
on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the signing of that act on
It ended up, as I say, with them making me chairman of a small committee
to put on that commemorative program. I think it was the first time in
history that a non-member of Congress presided over what were, in effect,
congressional proceedings. But that is getting ahead of our story.
When I returned to the Budget Bureau in the spring of 1946, it became
clear to me that the action in the Budget Bureau was not going to be as
interesting to me as it was in the past, because there had been created
a Council of Economic Advisers -- in the Executive Office under the Employment
Act of 1946 to take over much of the work of the old Fiscal Division of
FUCHS: Did you think that the Council of Economic Advisers, which of
course, was instituted by the Employment Act, was a good idea?
ENSLEY: Oh, absolutely. And its counterpart on the Hill was the Joint
Economic Committee, seven Congressmen and seven Senators. The Committee
didn't get organized in 1946. It wasn't organized till January of '47,
and in the election of '46, you will recall, the Republicans won.
In the fall of 1946 President Truman appointed Senator [Warren Robinson]
Austin of Vermont, a great Senator, to be our first Ambassador to the
United Nations, creating a vacancy in the Senate from Vermont.
Senator [Ralph E.] Flanders, a Republican, was appointed by the Governor
of Vermont to fill out the remaining two months term of Senator Austin.
He was then elected to a full six year term in November of 1946. He didn't
know me from Adam but he did contact some people in Washington. He had
been active in the Committee for Economic Development, and he wanted a
young man that understood Washington to be his assistant. I was approached
by the Executive Director of the CED who arranged a visit with Flanders.
Economic Policy action appeared to be moving towards the Council of Economic
Advisers and to the Joint Economic Committee and since Flanders was being
appointed to the Joint Economic
Committee, I accepted the appointment offered me by Senator Flanders.
FUCHS: Who recommended you?
ENSLEY: Howard Myers, who was the Executive Director of the Committee
for Economic Development, recommended to Senator Flanders that I was the
person he should get. Well, I left the Budget Bureau just after completing
the budget at Christmastime in 1946, and was on hand when Congress met
in January of 1947.
Now, Truman was President. You know how you proceed on the Hill. You
have certain missions. One of my missions was to increase the pay of top
Government officials. I hadn't done a great deal of work on compensation
because that was handled in a different division of the Budget Bureau.
But when I moved to the Hill I found that Senator Flanders was equally
impressed with the necessity of breaking this
old $10,000 salary ceiling. Flanders was appointed to the Post Office
and Civil Service Committee in addition to the Joint Economic Committee
and the Banking Committee. Those were his three committees. I prevailed
upon Senator Flanders to interest himself in legislation the Budget Bureau
helped me draft to increase the pay of about 165 top agencies' people
in the Government. This was in the summer of 1947. Well, it didn't move.
There was not very much popular pressure, as you can imagine, back of
it; but we kept tugging away at it.
In the spring of 1948 the Congress was considering legislation carried
over from the 1947 session of the Congress. It was still the 80th Congress.
Governor Dewey was emerging as the likely next President. Dewey prevailed
upon Senator Flanders (this was in the summer of 1948) to push top pay
legislation. We were not optimistic that we could get this legislation
through the 80th Congress, but we wanted it to be sure to be ready to
introduce first thing in 1949, and enacted in time for Dewey to attract
better quality people into Government. We had the legislation all ready.
By that time it had expanded to about 250 top employees. The election
came in November, and Senator Flanders and I had an appointment to see
Dewey on the Friday following the election to put the final touches on
the bill. Well, you know that meeting never took place!
Everyone assumed that Flanders and the Republican committee would just
forget all about pay legislation. Flanders was chairman of the subcommittee
of the Post Office and Civil Service Committee. The other Republican member
was [Raymond E.] Baldwin of Connecticut -- a very fine man who later became
a judge. The third was [Herbert] O'Conor, the former Governor of Maryland,
a very likeable, agreeable man who appreciated the
importance of adequate pay for executives in Government.
To the surprise of almost everybody, Flanders had some more hearings
in the special session following the election and invited former President
Herbert Hoover in as a witness. I'll never forget going off with Hoover
and having him tell me how expensive it was to operate and live in the
White House as President.
He said, "Of course, I had outside income; it didn't bother me.
But for an ordinary man, such as President Truman, it's very difficult
for him to live as he ought to live in the White House and do the entertaining
and to cover the expenses."
He made a good impression on me. So Flanders called a meeting of his
subcommittee, two Republicans and one Democrat, in mid-November. They
proceeded to work on the bill with some 250 positions for which they were
propose an increase in pay.
FUCHS: These were not Civil Service positions?
ENSLEY: They were mostly political appointees.
FUCHS: Was Hoover testifying?
ENSLEY: He had testified at the hearings a little earlier.
When the subcommittee met after the election trying to decide what, if
anything, they should do with this bill they started going through it
line by line. I was Flanders' assistant so I went with Flanders to these
meetings. At one point I interrupted the committee and said, "You
know while you're doing this, I think you should also consider doing something
for the President. After all, under the constitution you can neither increase
nor decrease the President's salary during his four year term. So if something
is done for him in the next
four years, it's got to be done before next January 20th, and here it
is late November."
All three members of the subcommittee were agreeable to the idea so Chairman
Flanders said, "Well, while we go over these other positions you
go into the other room and draft an amendment to this bill to take care
of the President."
So I went out and wrote an amendment increasing the salary of the President
from $75,000 to $100,000. Then I remember Hoover's comment and I wrote
another provision that the President shall also receive $50,000 on which
he would not have to pay any taxes or give any accounting. It would be
used as he saw fit to carry on the duties of maintaining the White House.
I put those figures in just out of the air, but the subcommittee adopted
that amendment as written. They also increased modestly the pay of the
Speaker of the House and I think of the Vice President; but I didn't have
anything to do with
that. So that became the bill. A bill to increase the salaries of some
250 top Government officials, the President's as I have outlined, plus
something for the Speaker and the Vice President. President Truman had
called a special session after the election, but we could not get the
bill to the Senate floor. So, it wasn't until January of 49 when the new
Congress came in, the new Democratic Congress (Flanders was then in the
minority), that the pay bill was introduced and debated.
Well, the pay legislation passed the House and I forget just in what
form, but it came over to the Senate just a couple of days before January
20th. I was sitting with Flanders on the floor. He went to the Democratic
leadership and made a point that if this particular amendment, this one
little paragraph of a five or ten-page bill, is going to affect President
Truman, it would have to be passed and signed
by the President before midnight on January 19th.
Well, you know what they did? They amended the bill, deleting everything
except this amendment that I had written. They also included something
for the Speaker and the Vice President. It was that provision just as
I had written it, $100,000 in salary, and $50,000 expense account that
was sent to the President just hours before he was to begin his full term.
Of course, he signed it. That made him the highest paid President up to
that point. In fact it made him the highest paid until President Nixon.
Senator Wayne Morse -- you may remember him. He was kind of an obstreperous
man, even though he was a good person. Well, sometime in the next four
years, he got mad at Truman. So, when a bill came through the Senate,
he amended this Presidential pay provision, making that $50,000 taxable.
But it was pointed out in the legislative
history that you couldn't really reduce President Truman's pay in this
way under the Constitution. The legislative history was such that the
$50,000 was not taxable for Truman; but it would be taxable for his successor.
When Eisenhower became President he was paid $100,000 and the $50,000,
but both were taxable. So he took a reduction in take-home pay. It wasn't
until Nixon came in, years later, that there was a substantial increase
in pay. So I like to feel that I am partially responsible for President
Truman being the highest paid President in history up until Nixon.
The next Christmas Donald Dawson, Assistant to the President, sent me
the pen that Truman used in signing that pay bill.
FUCHS: Were you friends with Donald Dawson?
ENSLEY: Well, he was Assistant to the President, of course, on personnel
matters. During 1947, 1948
and 1949, particularly when I was with Flanders and Flanders was on the
Post Office and the Civil Service Committee, I was in fairly close touch
with Donald Dawson on anything dealing with personnel and pay matters.
I got to know Don pretty well in that connection.
FUCHS: Did you work with anyone else in the White House during the Truman
ENSLEY: In the White House, yes, I'll come to another assistant, Dave
Bell in a little bit.
FUCHS: When you were an analyst in the Bureau of the Budget, was J. Weldon
Jones your immediate superior?
ENSLEY: No, but I was in his division.
FUCHS: Gerhard Colm?
ENSLEY: Gerhard Colm and I shared the same office, and he was my immediate
FUCHS: Any others that you were fairly close to?
ENSLEY: Roy Blough was a close friend over in the Treasury. Bob Nathan
was another, over in the War Production Board. Also we had a little clan
of economists from the various Government agencies that met frequently
to study the impact of the war on economic stability. Coming from the
Budget Bureau, I was kind of a coordinator of that group because there
was no Council of Economic Advisers during World War II. Weldon Jones
had just recently come from the Philippines where he had been the head
of the accounting office. There had been a number of high commissioners,
[Paul V.] McNutt and others, and they were always coming and going. During
the intervals when there was a vacancy, Weldon would be the acting high
commissioner. So he'd had a lot of experience as an administrator. He
was a wonderful person. I took one look at him the first time I saw him
and decided if he'd hire me I'd work for him.
FUCHS: This memorandum that you have written on your own; that would have
ENSLEY: To Gerhard Colm. Then it went to Weldon Jones and from him to
the other Assistant Directors. Eventually it went to Smith who sent it
over to the White House.
FUCHS: Did you know Smith?
ENSLEY: Oh, yes. I'll never forget as a potential junior analyst, Smith
personally interviewed me before the Bureau hired me. Then, later when
I got a Pabst award, he had me down to his office and was very complimentary.
He had heart trouble and died prematurely. He had a concept of the Budget
Bureau which was quite different from his predecessors. Smith thought
that the budget was more than just some statistical tables, but that it
was the plan of action for the Government. There were not only expenditure
controls by the Estimates Division, and the Fiscal Division
under Jones, but also a management division. Now, of course, the organization
is called the Office of Management and Budget. The roots of that broader
concept of the office go back to Smith.
He also had the concept of coordinating Government statistics, and so
he created the Statistical Division in the Budget Bureau headed by an
Assistant Director. Then, as I say, most important from my standpoint
was the role of the Fiscal Division, whose functions Smith believed were
of vital importance in the formulation of Federal economic policy. There
were five divisions in the Bureau.
FUCHS: Did you serve part of your time under Lawton?
ENSLEY: I came back from the service in March, I think it was, of 1946.
Harold Smith was just in the process of going over, as number two man,
to the newly created International World Bank. He went over as the operating
head of the
When he left, his successor was only temporary, somebody who then went
to chair the Federal Communications Commission. Then Fred Lawton moved
up to Director of the Budget Bureau. So I served under Fred Lawton, too.
But I stayed there only from March of '46 until December of '46 when I
went up to join Senator Flanders.
FUCHS: Would you have worked on any of the President's economic reports
that were required by the Employment Act?
ENSLEY: No. The first economic report was not transmitted to the Congress
until February 1947, after I had left the executive branch. The principal
thing I did when I came back to the Bureau in the spring of 1946 was to
represent the Budget Bureau and really the executive branch as liaison
with the Congress in its
consideration of and ultimate enactment of the Legislative Reorganization
Act of 1946. That was a substantial piece of legislation.
There is quite an interesting story about it even though President Truman
didn't have much to do with it. The staff work was done principally by
George Galloway who was with the Legislative Reference Service of the
Library of Congress. He was a political scientist who had spent a lifetime
studying how Congress should operate. So he worked with the House sponsor
of the bill who was Jerry Voorhis of California, and the Senate sponsor,
Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin.
The bill called for a coordinated national legislative budget, so we
in the Budget Bureau were interested in how that would work out. We were
enthusiastically in support of that provision because we'd always been
critical of the helter-skelter, piecemeal way in which the Congress approached
the budget. I was the
liaison between the Executive Office and George Galloway and LaFollette
Now, the interesting thing, as kind of a footnote on all this, is that
LaFollette and Voorhis worked their hearts out to get this legislation
through, and they successfully got it passed in late summer of 1946. But
it was at considerable personal sacrifice to both. Jerry Voorhis' opponent
in 1946 was Richard Nixon, and Jerry was here getting that legislation
passed when he should have been back home campaigning. LaFollette's opponent
in Wisconsin was Joseph McCarthy. Both Voorhis and LaFollette were defeated.
Sure it was a Republican sweep that year and they might have been swept
out anyway, although LaFollette was more of an independent or Republican
than he was a Democrat. There was a sweeping out of the "ins,"
and they could well have been defeated anyway. But they could have had
a much better chance.
I've often wondered what a different type of a political setup we'd have
experienced during the succeeding ten years if LaFollette and Voorhis
had come back to their seats.
FUCHS: I must admit there was a lot of anguish.
ENSLEY: That's right.
FUCHS: Was the Joint Economic Committee an outgrowth of this legislative
FUCHS: How did that come about?
ENSLEY: The Employment Act of 1946 had a strong declaration of the Government's
policy to do everything it could to maximize employment, production, and
purchasing power. It was a statement of goals. It created in the office
of the President, a Council of Economic Advisers to advise the President
on how to implement
this, and achieve these goals. It called for an annual economic report
to be sent to the Congress by the President.
In the Congress the Employment Act provided for a new Joint Economic
Committee, composed of members of the House and of the Senate, to receive
this report, to study it and analyze it, and to advise the Congress on
economic policy measures that would carry out the objectives of the Employment
Act. That was one of the things that prompted me to go up to work for
Senator Flanders, because [Senator Robert] Taft was made the first Chairman
of the Joint Economic Committee, in the 80th Congress, and Flanders was
a senior Republican on the committee. I went to the first organizational
meeting of the Joint Economic Committee created by the Employment Act,
in January, 1947.
The Congress had just completed the Reorganization Act which I referred
to a moment ago,
the LaFollette-Voorhis bill, which reduced the number of committees in
the Senate from around fifty to about fourteen. That meant that there
were a lot of vacant committee offices around. One of the prize offices
was right off the Senate Gallery, G-14. The story is that this was where
Vice President Garner had his office when he was Vice President. This
is where he drank his whiskey and played his poker. I don't know whether
that's true or not, but anyway it was a nice big office with an outer
office. It was one of the few suites in the Capitol that had a private
john. When Taft called the Joint Economic Committee together for an organization
meeting in January of 1947, he was pretty close to Senator [C. Wayland]
Brooks of Illinois who was Chairman of the Rules Committee. So Brooks
said, "Well, you can have your organization meeting in this G-14.
It used to be the old Industrial Committee which has been abolished, so
It was such a nice room, and so close to the Senate floor that Taft, after
the meeting, said, "I think we should try to get this permanently
assigned as the Joint Economic Committee office." So he and Flanders
went down to see Senator Brooks and, of course, Brooks agreed with Taft.
Taft was a powerful Senator in those days. Consequently, in January of
1947, that beautiful suite was assigned to the Joint Economic Committee.
I was with Flanders two years, and then I went with the Joint Economic
Committee as its Deputy Director. The part-time Director was Ted [Theodore
John] Kreps of Stanford University. He resigned after a couple of years
and I became the Executive Director until 1957 when I left the Government.
Every two years, with a new Congress, we would get a letter from the
chairman of the Senate Rules Committee saying that because of the
strategic location of our office suite, it was needed by the Senate Majority
Leader. The letter would give us until the next Friday to move to some
less desirable office in the Capitol basement!
I'll never forget when the first letter came. Taft immediately saw the
chairman of the Rules Committee and got the letter torn up, and that was
the last we heard of it. Then [Joseph C.] 0'Mahoney became chairman in
1949. He was fairly senior. He became chairman of the Joint Committee
about the time I went with the Committee. We got the same letter from
the chairman of the Rules Committee. I took it to O'Mahoney and he said,
"Don't worry about it." He went to see [Carl] Hayden who at
that time was chairman of the Rules Committee and they tore the letter
up, and we stayed. Then two years after that, when he was still chairman
of the committee, he got another letter and that was torn up. Well, that
went on from '47 until '55.
I couldn't really justify this suite. We were not a legislative committee;
we were a study committee. But nevertheless, you know how human nature
is, if you have something good you want to keep it.
It was a beautiful office and there was a fireplace in it. Every winter
morning when I'd come in, the fire would be ready to be lit. So in the
afternoon I'd light the fire. I'd sit there and work during the afternoon.
It was very comfortable and cozy. You'd look right out, down the mall
to the Lincoln Memorial and across the river to Arlington Cemetery. I
was very proud of that office. One evening in January 1955 just before
I left, in walked Lyndon Johnson. He'd been in the Senate for a few years,
and he had just been elected Majority Leader of the Senate. So he looked
around. He looked in the john. As he started to walk out, he said, "Well,
Grover, you know Paul Douglas
is going to make a great chairman of your committee -- with all that economic
background and so forth."
Before I could say anything, he left. But I knew he was mixed up because
Douglas was not the senior Democrat. The chairmanship rotated between
the House and the Senate, and it was the Senate's turn to have the chairman.
The senior Democrat, and hence I assumed the one to be next chairman of
the committee, was John Sparkman of Alabama.
The next day I got another letter from the Rules Committee saying that
Lyndon Johnson wanted this office. I didn't think anything about it. I
took it over to John Sparkman who I assumed was going to be our next chairman.
I told Senator Sparkman the long history of the suite. I told him I'd
appreciate it if he'd tell the chairman of the Rules Committee that we
just can't move.
Well, Sparkman -- he's a wonderful person and
a good personal friend of mine -- said, "Well, I don't know that
I can do that. You know, just yesterday the new Majority Leader, Senator
Johnson, took me off to one side and said, 'Look, there are five or six
hide-a-way cubicles in the Capitol, which are given to five or six of
the most senior members of the Congress.'" And Sparkman told me,
"Now Johnson said that I don't have enough seniority for one of these
rooms, but, nevertheless, he is going to give me one. But in doing so,
he said he didn't want any trouble with me and with Ensley when he took
the Joint Economic Committee suite for himself."
Well, I thought, that's one down and I've got three to go. So, I went
to see Paul Douglas, the second ranking Democrat on the Joint Economic
Committee. I told the story to Douglas and Douglas said, "Well, honestly,
I can't do anything about it, because under the new 'Johnson rule' which
just announced yesterday, I'm going to be chairman of the Joint Economic
I said, "What the hell is the new Johnson rule?"
He said, "Well, Lyndon Johnson has just come up with a rule -- that
no Senator can be chairman of more than one committee."
I said, "Well, what difference does that make; Sparkman would take
this committee wouldn't he?"
"Well, he can't because he's now chairman o£ the Small Business
Committee which is a Senate Committee and two years from now he'll still
be chairman of that committee. But under the rules of the Joint Committee
its chairman will rotate to the House, so that two years from now a House
member will become chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. So Sparkman
can't afford to give up one committee to take the Joint Committee when
it would be available to him for
only one term. So, he's got to stick with this Small Business Committee
even though he may prefer the Joint Economic Committee."
"Now, that means that under the 'Johnson rule' I'll be the new chairman
of the JEC. When Johnson told me about this he said, 'I don't want any
trouble from you now that you're going to be Chairman or from Ensley in
getting that suite -- the Joint Economic Committee suite.'"
Well, I thought to myself, this Lyndon Johnson is quite an operator,
isn't he? Then I thought, well, I'm going to my next ranking Democrat,
then a good Southern friend of Lyndon Johnson's. This was before Vietnam,
when William Fulbright and Johnson were good friends. I went to see Fulbright
and told him the story.
I said, "You can understand why Sparkman can't do anything. You
can understand why Douglas can't tell Johnson off. But, you can do it.
You've been in the Senate all these years and
you're senior to him. Just tell him we're not going to give up this suite."
But Fulbright indicated that Johnson had already spoken about his future
with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and that he wasn't in any
position to press Johnson on JEC space. Lyndon Johnson, according to the
press, later persuaded Senator Green to become chairman emeritus of the
Foreign Relations Committee, thus enabling Fulbright to become chairman.
So with Senator Fulbright immobilized I realized that I had just one
ace in the hole, and that was Senator Joseph O'Mahoney who had just been
elected to the Senate after being defeated in 1952. He was considered
a "freshman" member of the Senate. Among the committees he applied
the Joint Economic Committee. Well, there were about six Democrats ahead
of him, senior to him, that had applied for the one Democratic vacancy
on the Joint Economic Committee.
I went to O'Mahoney and said, "You've taken care of this on two
occasions before when you were chairman. Won't you please tell the chairman
of the Rules Committee that we just can't give up this suite?"
O'Mahoney said, "Grover, I'd like to do it, but you know when I
applied to come back to the committee, Johnson pointed out there were
five Democrats senior to me who were seeking to fill the vacancy. But
Johnson said, 'I'm going to give it to you O'Mahoney but I don't want
any trouble from you or from Ensley when I take that suite.'"
Now, here's a case of where Lyndon Johnson had meticulously covered every
possible Senate Democrat on the Committee. We moved the next day
to space in a separate building.
I had nothing but admiration for Johnson, the way he operated. He was
one of the greatest political legislative operators, in the best sense
of the term.
FUCHS: We're interested in these stories that don't dwell directly on
President Truman as long as they're related to the...
ENSLEY: It's related to the Employment Act.
FUCHS: …related to any problems.
ENSLEY: The Employment Act was Truman's. He had many landmark things
to point to. God knows very few Presidents can point to as many things
as Truman can, of accomplishments, really. But one of them certainly was
the Employment Act of 1946.
FUCHS: Who do you think was the architect of that?
ENSLEY: Well, [James E.] Murray from Montana was the original sponsor,
and [Wright] Patman was a co-sponsor. O'Mahoney was another co-sponsor;
in fact, there were several co-sponsors. Taft also played a very active
role in finally developing the compromise language that made it possible
to pass, to get the necessary Republican votes.
Well, now moving on a bit, I was over visiting Leon Keyserling, who was
then Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Gerhard Colm along
in November of 1950. Their office was on the third floor of the old Executive
Office Building right across the street from the Blair House. I was sitting
there right by Gerhard, talking, and I heard what I thought was a back-fire
of a car. I looked out the window as did Gerhard, and there was a policeman
lying prone in the middle of the street right in front of us. Then there
was a fellow lying, later found to be dead, right by the Blair door. The
when they were rebuilding the White House, would walk across the street
with three or four Secret Service people. He didn't drive across; he insisted
upon walking. He said he didn't see any point in having a great big entourage
and a bunch of limousines to take him across the street to lunch. I just
happened to see that assassination attempt by the fanatical Puerto Ricans.
They were rushing the front door, but there were Secret Service people
inside with machineguns, so they didn't have a chance.
FUCHS: You saw the policeman probably that was killed; Torresola, I believe
was the attacker who was killed, and Collazo went to jail.
ENSLEY: Then another interesting thing happened; this was in 1954, in
the summer I think. Eisenhower was President and the Republicans controlled
the Congress. I was still Director of the Joint Economic Committee. I
worked for both Republicans
and Democrats; I'm pretty nonpartisan. I was with Flanders, who was the
ranking man on the Senate side of the committee; Wolcott, who was the
Chairman of the Committee, was on the House side. Flanders and I had a
meeting scheduled with Wolcott over on the House floor. We started over
to the House floor, but before we did, earlier in the afternoon, John
Lehman, clerk of the Joint Economic Committee, and I took the elevator
from the ground floor up to our office which was still in this nice suite,
up two stories. In the elevator walked four people. There was a woman
among them; there were four in all, obviously Puerto Rican or something
similar. At the top they asked, "Which way is the Senate Gallery?"
Well, that was not an unusual request, so we pointed that you go down
this way and then you go that way; then you're in the Senate Gallery.
Actually it developed that those four
people, instead of finding the Senate Gallery which they were apparently
seeking, ended up in the House Gallery. They had taken a wrong turn.
That story's never really been told, but at any rate that's what happened.
So later Flanders and I were on the way across to the House to see Congressman
Wolcott. As we approached the House floor, there was bedlam, people running
out. We walked in, before the policemen arrived. There were several Congressmen
lying there stretched out. They'd been hit, you see, by these gunmen from
up in the Gallery.
The police soon took over and I went back to the office and turned on
the radio. The shooting was on the radio. It was reported that the police
had apprehended three people that had been up in the Gallery and had done
the shooting. We immediately got in touch with the police and said, "Look,
I don't know whether these are the same people who rode up on the elevator
with us, but there were four, not three."
So they put out an alarm and they got the fourth one at the bus depot.
They caught this fourth gunman simply because we had counted them and
observed that there were four instead of three.
FUCHS: You mentioned Senator Lehman before; was he in the elevator with
ENSLEY: I just don't remember about Senator Lehman. I don't think so.
There may have been others on the elevator, but I mentioned John Lehman,
clerk of the Joint Economic Committee.
FUCHS: Did that involve you in any way with the case?
ENSLEY: No. They had them all identified; there was no question about
identification. There was just this question about the fourth person who
they found at the depot. He immediately admitted that
he was one of them, I gather, so I never got further involved.
I'd like to talk a little bit about the Korean war, because President
Truman took some very bold action there and the Joint Economic Committee
had some part to play in it. You recall that it was late June when the
North Koreans invaded South Korea and Truman brilliantly got the United
Nations involved, and it became a United Nations operation. Of course,
being with the Joint Committee I was immediately concerned about the impact
of another war, or police action, on the economy. World War II was still
very much in our minds. It so happened that Senator O'Mahoney, in addition
to being chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, was also chairman of
the Military Appropriations Subcommittee of the Senate. This gave us a
wonderful entree because it meant that with O'Mahoney's backing, I had
weekly discussions with
McNeil, the comptroller of the Defense Department. We were able to trace
the acceleration of expenditures. We had constant discussions on what
the impact of these events was going to be on the economy.
A bill to reduce taxes had already started through the Congress, and
Truman, partly I think to stop that bill, said that the following January
would be time enough to consider whether we should have a tax bill. In
other words, he just suggested a kind of a status quo on taxes for six
We had a very competent staff at the Joint Economic Committee. We'd built
up, I think, one of the best economic staffs in town. There were five
professional nonpartisan people. We met night and day and decided that
if he wanted to avoid the horrendous inflation of World War II, we should
get busy and increase taxes immediately, and pay for the Korean war as
we went along.
It was a popular war. It wasn't like Vietnam. Everyone agreed that Truman
did right. The United Nations had to go in and stop that sweep of North
Korea down into the South. So, we started a kind of a slogan in the Joint
Committee of "Let's pay for this as we go." I persuaded chairman
O'Mahoney and ranking minority member Taft that we should not wait till
January to increase taxes, but do so immediately.
We had a meeting of the Joint Committee in July, very soon after the
war -- the police action -- started. We had a brief resolution which the
Committee unanimously adopted, including all the Republicans and all the
Democrats, to immediately increase taxes. Hearings were started almost
immediately by the Ways and Means Committee. Taxes were increased that
fall and before the end of January or February of the next year, we had
passed three bills increasing taxes. We paid for the Korean war as we
Now you might ask, why did we have inflation? Well, there was the war-scare
buying. Everybody got frantic and went out and bought coffee and sugar
and tires and all that kind of stuff. You couldn't have done much about
that. A related problem at that particular time was the pegged interest
rates. We were not using monetary policy. Now Truman was a populist in
the sense he thought interest rates should be low, always low. Thus, you
shouldn't use monetary policy as a stabilization device. Back in World
War II, we pegged the Government bond market -- a short term rate of about
3/4 percent, and long-term Government bonds at 2-1/2 percent. That persisted
through the postwar period and well into the Korean war.
During the interval between World War II and the Korean war, the Joint
Economic Committee made two studies, one in 1949 and another one in 1950,
on the role that monetary policy and fluctuating
interest rates could have on economic stabilization. Paul Douglas headed
the first subcommittee, and it recommended more flexible monetary policies.
Truman, particularly, didn't like that. Then, Patman, who was a low-interest-rate
man made the second study. We staffed that study and it came out consistent
with Douglas' report favoring flexible interest rates as a stabilization
But the Treasury was adamant on this. The Secretary of the Treasury,
[John W.] Snyder, a close personal friend of President Truman, said, "No,
we're going to keep interest rates pegged at these low, low World War
This was along in late 1950 and early 1951, and it became a real crisis
within the Administration as to whether or not we should have a break
away from the old, rigid interest rates of the past. The Joint Committee
was for a flexible monetary policy.
It was in late February of 1951 that I got
a call from Dave Bell, who was an assistant to President Truman and who
I'd known for a number of years. We served in the Budget Bureau when we
were both pretty junior people years earlier.
As a little background, Douglas introduced a bill about this time unpegging
the Government bond market and calling for more flexible interest rates
to discourage credit in a period when we had to dampen down aggregate
demand in order to minimize inflation. Even though we had a good fiscal
policy, we had, in our judgment, lousy monetary policy. So Douglas introduced
this bill. He was a Democrat, a fairly leading one, and there was a lot
of discussion in the Congress on it. When Dave Bell called me from the
White House and said, "Grover, do you think if the Douglas bill comes
to vote on the Senate floor, will it pass?"
I told him, truthfully, I thought it would be a very close vote. But
I thought that in
this environment it would likely pass. Three or four days later, on March
4, 1951, there was the famous Treasury-Federal Reserve accord where Snyder
and [Thomas B.] McCabe, who was then the Chairman of the Federal Reserve,
agreed. I'm not sure how much Truman really was involved in it, other
than to know that the legislation probably would pass if the President
were to block the accord.
At any rate, they got together and they had this accord. Also, William
McChesney Martin, who was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, went over
to become the new Chairman of the Federal Reserve. It was at that point
that they started using monetary policy, flexible interest rates, to supplement
fiscal policies in the interest of economic stabilization. It was a rather
historic thing that I'm sure Truman didn't like; and I'm sure Snyder didn't
like, but I think that the handwriting was on the wall. I think it would
have passed the Congress, because it had the Joint Committee back of it,
and it had all the academicians back of it. Keyserling, Chairman of the
Council of Economic Advisers, wasn't back of it. But still, it was the
thing to have done, and it was a great step forward. I think even though
we had a lot of inflation between June of 1950, at the outbreak of the
Korean war, and March of '51 when the accord was signed, nevertheless,
from then on our inflation didn't proceed nearly at the speed that it
otherwise would have. You'll find differences of opinion, different schools
of thought on it, I'm sure, but that's my opinion.
FUCHS: What were your views of Secretary Snyder as the Treasury Secretary?
ENSLEY: He had good qualities. One of them was he was very loyal to the
President and that is always a good quality in a Cabinet officer. But
personally think we warranted a stronger man for Secretary of the Treasury.
I honestly think the times demanded a stronger man. He came up and testified
before our committee, and we'd ask him a question and he'd say, "Well,
there are arguments on both sides."
"Well, what are the arguments on your position?"
Well, he'd fumble a bit, but he didn't provide that dynamic leadership
that I felt was called for in the Secretary of the Treasury -- the type
of leadership that his successor, [Fred M.] Vinson exhibited.
FUCHS: You mean his predecessor?
ENSLEY: Oh, yes, his immediate predecessor before he went to the Supreme
Court. That's right. I would say the same thing about Henry Morgenthau.
I think we could have justified a stronger Secretary of the Treasury during
World War II than we had. But again, there was the question of a
very close personal friendship between the President and the Secretary.
I guess we'll always have that.
Can I talk a bit about the McCarthy and Flanders era?
FUCHS: Go right ahead. There's probably more questions, if I were more
knowledgeable about fiscal and monetary matters, that I should ask.
ENSLEY: Well, I'm sure some people will challenge some of my conclusions.
But that's what life's all about.
FUCHS: We are glad to have your viewpoint.
ENSLEY: Flanders came to the Senate in November, 1946, succeeding [Warren
R.] Austin who went into the United Nations on appointment from Truman.
But Flanders didn't really take his seat until January, 1947. The same
day that he took his seat, Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin took his
seat. That was
quite a story in itself because McCarthy for some reason tried to get
[Alexander] Wiley, his senior Republican colleague from Wisconsin, to
seat him ahead of everybody else -- I could never understand quite why.
Taft, who was to be the new Majority Leader, squelched it. But it left
kind of a bad impression upon everybody there in the Senate about McCarthy
and how pushy he was. He was put on the Banking [and Currency] Committee.
Not only was he put on the Banking Committee, but he was put on a subcommittee
that Senator Flanders was on, which concerned rationing. Flanders was
the chairman; [John W.] Bricker of Ohio was another Republican; McCarthy
was the third Republican. There were the three Republicans and I forget
who the two Democrats were.
At any rate, Truman sent up a message, saying that it was imperative
that we continue sugar rationing for a brief period of time. That request
was referred to Senator Flanders' subcommittee.
He had hearings on it and the Administration made their case and it was
a good case. Then Bricker and McCarthy and Flanders had a Republican caucus
to decide what they were going to do, and Flanders had me go to that caucus.
McCarthy said, "I ran on a platform last fall of decontrol. I'm
against one day's extension of sugar rationing, the hell with Truman."
Bricker was against extending control, too.
I'd been downtown before and all the previous years working for Truman,
and I had probably some loyalties there. Anyway, I articulated in the
best way I could the arguments for this temporary extension of sugar rationing.
We had all of the equipment in being; all the machinery was there, the
ration stamps, everything. It was just a question of extending the existing
program a few more weeks or months until balance could be restored. I
was carrying the
President's case or trying to. This was my first real across-the-table
encounter with McCarthy. This was in January or February of 1947. I could
see he was getting more irritated, and more irritated at me. Finally he
pounded on the table; he looked at Flanders and said, "Senator, I
want you to answer me this question, is Ensley a Republican or is he a
Democrat. I think he's a goddamned Democrat but I wouldn't want that in
Flanders pounded right back, and said, "I never asked Ensley when
I hired him what his politics were and I will not ask him now."
He spit right back at him, which made me feel pretty good. He said, "We're
here arguing the merits of the case; the hell with the politics."
Well, we did extend sugar rationing for a few months, not because of
that, but just because the Senate Banking Committee was controlled by
the Democrats plus two Republicans -- Charles Tobey
who was the Committee Chairman, and Flanders. So those two Republicans
plus all of the Democrats stuck together and persuaded the Republican-controlled
Congress to extend sugar rationing.
The second round that Flanders had with McCarthy was just a few weeks
later. The State of Wisconsin was celebrating its 100th year anniversary.
So state leaders wanted to have a commemorative coin run off. Well, just
the year before, the Treasury correctly decided you couldn't be running
off commemorative coins for every occasion that came down the pike. Flanders
was chairman of a little subcommittee on commemorative coins of which
McCarthy was a member. Of course, McCarthy came from Wisconsin. Well,
he just raised hell on this. We licked him, and he never quite forgave
Flanders for that. So that was the second case where Flanders had it out
with McCarthy. This is long before he got into the
Communist issue. McCarthy just didn't handle himself very adroitly on
Well, the third occasion came in the summer of '47. A feeling developed
that there should be a joint committee on housing. There's a long history
back of that. Public housing and urban renewal were the big issues. So
it was decided that there would be a joint Senate-House committee to make
a year's study of Government housing programs. It was just assumed that
Senator Tobey, who was the ranking Republican on the Senate side, would
be the chairman of that committee. I went to the organization meeting.
McCarthy and [Ralph A.] Gamble, a Republican Congressman from New York
came, and they maneuvered to the point where they wouldn't permit any
proxies to be voted on the organization. Flanders couldn't be at that
meeting; he was in Europe on some mission. Because of lacking that one
vote, I guess, Tobey lost, and Gamble of New York was elected chairman.
He was a very "weak sister;" he was just a front man. McCarthy
was really the chairman of that joint committee on housing. He went out
with a lot of money that had been appropriated, and hired a big staff
and they worked on housing for nearly a year. They came up with a 600
or 700-page book as a proposed committee report. The sum and substance
of it was that the only people that were for public housing, or Government
housing, were Catholic priests and do-gooders.
Well, the true majority of that committee could not subscribe to that.
It was a rump session that organized that committee because they wouldn't
let the proxies vote. The absentees could not register their vote, so
you had the committee organized and staffed really by a minority, which
came up with this proposed report.
We were approaching the deadline for a report to be filed with the Senate
and the House.
Flanders was convinced we needed public housing programs, urban renewal,
just as Taft was. I went down to the housing agency; I didn't have either
the ability or the time to write a report. With the agency's help, however,
we got together a 40-page report, setting forth the reasons why President
Truman and his housing agency thought we should have a positive housing
program of slum clearance and public housing and so forth.
We had a final meeting of the Joint Committee. McCarthy came in with
Gamble and they sat down with their staff behind them. They argued unsuccessfully
for several hours, at which point Flanders brought out this little 40-page
report that we had earlier circulated to the majority -- to those that
we needed in order to make it the majority report. At the appropriate
time I passed this little report around and got their signatures. So the
minute I got the majority of the signatures, the Democrats and Tobey and
Flanders, who made the majority, got up and started leaving. I had in
my hand the report signed by the majority.
McCarthy said, "What are you going to do with that?"
I said, "Well, it's going to be filed with the Senate and the House
He said, "Well, the press is out there."
I said, "Well, that's up to Flanders and Tobey as to what they want
to do and they told me to give it to the press."
"Won't you wait at least an hour till I can have additional copies
of the minority report to be issued at the same time?" McCarthy requested.
So we waited. We honored his request. But this little 40-page report
became the majority report of the committee. Over the years Flanders
and McCarthy couldn't see eye-to-eye. So it wasn't surprising a couple
years later, in 1954 I guess it was, when Senator Flanders got up on the
Senate floor and made an eleven-minute speech introducing a censure resolution
directed at McCarthy. I was sitting next to Flanders. It was on the basis
of that censure resolution that a special committee was organized with
Senator [Arthur V.] Watkins of Utah as Chairman. He was a very judicious
and wonderful man. They brought back a verdict that Senator McCarthy should
be censured and the Senate did.
FUCHS: How was your average day with the Committee? How did you function
there? You say you had a staff of five professionals?
ENSLEY: In addition to myself, and I kind of rode herd over everything,
we had a man who served as clerk of the Committee, but he also was a statistician.
He was John Lehman. He understood Government statistical programs, so
he was the liaison with the Government agencies on statistics. We had
an economic-outlook man who
studied the economic outlook, the implications of this or that program
on inflation or deflation, employment, and unemployment, and so on. He
was James Knowles. We had a monetary-policy man, who studied and concentrated
on monetary policy. He was William Moore. Then we had a man who concentrated
on fiscal policy -- taxes and expenditures programs. His name was Norman
Ture. I was the fifth professional economist.
FUCHS: Did your staff remain pretty much the same or did you have much
ENSLEY: No turnover. We would, on occasion, bring in a temporary person
to do a special job. For example, when Senator Douglas had the monetary
policy study, which was a monumental study, we brought in Professor Lester
Chandler from Princeton who worked with us for six months. When Representative
Patman a year later had his study of monetary policy, we brought in
Henry Murphy who was with the International Monetary Fund, and who before
that had been with the Treasury. He came at the recommendation of Secretary
Snyder, one of the best things Snyder ever did for us. He told Patman
that Henry Murphy was a good man, and he was. We convinced Patman of that.
For a year, Patman saw the light on the need for a flexible monetary policy.
I'd been a very close personal friend of Patman all the time.
James Knowles who worked on economic outlook, had a group of Government
economists from the Council of Economic Advisers, from Agriculture, Commerce,
and Labor that he was constantly meeting with so we could tap those brains.
It was the same way with each of our specialists. And we had very close
liaison with the universities.
I think those were the golden years of the Joint Economic Committee,
if I may say so. In
the field of monetary policies we paved the way for the "accord,"
which was a monumental thing. We paved the way for responsible fiscal
policy during the Korean war, with this resolution I mentioned. Senators
Flanders and Sparkman made the first study, a whole series of studies,
on the need for doing something about the poor people. It really was a
prelude to the "war on poverty" that Kennedy later instituted.
We had the first hearings and the first study of automation ever made
by the Government. We made the first comprehensive study comparing Soviet
economic growth with American economic growth. We made one pioneering
study like that right after another. That was a very busy, active, influential
committee in those days. I think everyone would agree with that.
FUCHS: You made recommendations; how did the Committee forward its recommendations?
ENSLEY: In a variety of ways. We would use our influence downtown. If
we had an idea, we would try to work on the President or the Cabinet or
the executive agencies to get them to support a particular move and let
them take the initiative. Then we would work with the Congress in two
ways. We'd work informally. For example, O'Mahoney in addition to being
Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, was Chairman of the Military
Appropriations Subcommittee and he used to take me down to the Appropriations
Committee. McKeller was the Chairman way up into his eighties, in his
dotage. O'Mahoney would have me give a lecture to the full appropriations
committee on the meaning of the budget, in capsule form. He would take
me down and I would, in thirty minutes, just give the highlights of the
budget, in a way that I think would have some meaning to them. So we had
all this cross-ventilation through
committees. In addition, we would file formal reports with the Congress.
We used every technique that we could think of.
FUCHS: Did you ever come in personal touch with the President?
ENSLEY: Not with Truman. I regretted that. He and Flanders were close.
Here's a case where a freshman Republican Senator, Flanders, could see
Truman anytime he wanted to. He didn't abuse it. In the period when I
was working for Flanders, those first two years, he went over three times,
and I went over with him. But I did not get into those meetings. I would
drive Flanders over in my car.
Flanders had rapport with Truman. He liked Truman. They were about the
same age; they had a lot in common, I think. They were both self-made
men; neither of them had had a college education, even though both of
them had many
honorary degrees. But I must admit I never had the privilege of meeting
Truman. I have met every President since then, except Carter; I've not
met him. You know, Johnson made quite a point of bringing people in, and
Kennedy did, and Ford, and Nixon even.
A month before Nixon resigned, in 1974, he had me out to San Clemente
to talk about inflation and housing. I was up at my farm in Virginia,
and read in the paper that Nixon was having a conference of experts at
the White House to see what could be done about stimulating housing. Well,
he didn't have a housing man in the group; he didn't have a savings banker
there, or a savings and loan man there, or anyone who, in my judgment,
knew anything about housing. The more I thought about it the more concerned
I became, so I sent a telegram to the President, congratulating him on
his interest in inflation and housing. But I indicated that I thought
that he could do better
in selecting a group of people to advise him. The next day I got a call
from some assistant at the White House, saying that the President was
leaving for San Clemente but he'd like very much if I would stop in to
see him in San Clemente the next week. It so happened that the next week
I was to be on my way to bank meetings in Alaska. I had started two mutual
savings banks in Alaska. There was no problem in stopping in San Clemente.
I flew out a little early and had breakfast with Carol Kilpatrick who
was an old friend with the Washington Post. He briefed me on
how things operate there. That morning I went down to the President's
compound. I must say, for three and one-half hours President Nixon sat
at the end of the table without one interruption, without one distraction,
and talked about inflation and housing. He looked good. As I came out,
a reporter called me over to one side and said, what did I think about
I said that I was astounded at how well Nixon looked and how thoroughly
involved he got in the discussion and how little he was distracted. This
was just a month before he resigned.
The next day the paper said, "A prominent Democrat who was at the
meeting said that he was surprised how well Nixon looked, and how articulate
he was in the discussion."
FUCHS: Didn't include your name?
ENSLEY: No, he didn't put my name down.
FUCHS: Truman, it is said, was quite knowledgeable and interested in
the budget. I don't know if you had a chance to observe that, but did
you get that impression?
ENSLEY: He got his spurs perhaps back in the days when he was with county
government out in Missouri. Really, of course, he made his name, I think,
as Chairman of that "watch dog" committee on military
expenditures [Truman Committee]. When I was at the Budget Bureau I used
to dig out things for him, although I'd never see him personally. This
is when he was still in the Senate, in the early days of the war. I was
very impressed with the questions; he asked the right questions. He got
at the right issues. He obviously had a good staff. But still you have
to give him the credit.
Truman became President in April 1945 when I was in the naval service
overseas. I returned to the Bureau in March of 1946. I remained in the
Budget Bureau only until the following December, and I was still pretty
junior, so I didn't have much opportunity to see him in action on the
Budget. I was working most of the time, too, as liaison with the Legislative
Reorganization Act group -- with George Galloway, LaFollette and Voorhis.
FUCHS: You were, to quote, a "technical adviser" to
Senator Flanders, primarily in the economic area?
ENSLEY: Yes, legislation. I'd never been in Vermont. Flanders handled
that. He had a Secretary that handled the Vermont mail. Of course, he
didn't get much mail from Vermont because you know, the people up there
are pretty quiet. I don't know how it is today, but in those days, it
was a pretty easy job handling Vermont problems. The Senator could concentrate
on major national issues which he liked to do, on major economic issues,
pay legislation and things like that.
FUCHS: Why did you leave the Joint Economic Committee?
ENSLEY: Well, I left in 1957, and there were two reasons. First, Washington
was not as stimulating to me then as it had been earlier. I was an admirer
of Eisenhower. In fact, some of my relatives claim we were sixth cousins.
I don't know. My mother is Swiss and his mother came from a Swiss background.
Perhaps we were
distant relatives. But there wasn't the stimulating environment in Washington
in the mid-fifties that I craved. Then I had four children soon to be
in college. I had been offered jobs with private enterprise. Having been
trained for public service, I felt that I couldn't make that philosophical
adjustment easily, from a non-profit situation to a profit situation.
I'd been invited by an automobile company, for example, just to come and
work up a rationale for their bigness. I'd been invited by a petroleum
company to come and do nothing but rationalize their depletion allowance.
Those were lucrative offers, but I just philosophically couldn't bring
myself to that. Then all of a sudden, out of the blue came an offer from
the National Association of Mutual Savings Banks. They'd never had a strong
executive head. They did have a secretary. They'd had a study made by
Booz, Allen, and Hamilton of what needed to
be done, and the leading recommendation was that they hire a strong, dynamic,
"go-go" type of executive head.
So, they approached me and I was quite impressed with the mutual concept.
These are non-profit institutions; they go back 160 years. They involve
people getting together and forming a group of trustees and hiring somebody
to run this non-profit institution for the benefit of the depositors and
the customers -- the borrowers. That impressed me; and the pay and fringe
benefits were good. There are savings banks in 60 countries. So I went
with them, and as time went on I got more involved in savings banking
all over the world.
Two years ago I was elected president of the International Savings Bank
Institute in Bogata, Columbia. My first job was to preside over that Bogata
savings bank Congress. I introduced the President of Columbia in his own
parliament building there. Now, I'll preside over the Congress in Madrid
next April where I'll introduce the King of Spain. He's going to open
our Congress. I just came from the Soviet Union and from Japan and from
Poland where I was an official guest. Those banks, of course, are government
institutions. But there's something non-political about it. I don't care
whether you're a Socialist or Communist government or a democratic-capitalistic
system like we have, there's one thing in common -- they both understand
the necessity of savings and of capital formation and improving the quality
of your capital and making it more productive for the benefit of mankind.
I sat down for three days with the head of the State Bank in Russia.
We talked the same language. He was using the carrot to encourage the
people to save in Russia, so they'd have more capital to build better
steel mills, more
housing, better railroads, probably more armament, I don't know -- I didn't
get into that aspect of it. But there's a certain common denominator here
among all systems, whether it's a dictatorship or a democracy, or whether
it's a socialistic or Communist, or democratic capitalism. The only way
you're going to have progress is to consume less than you produce. You
take that savings and plow it back into capital goods and equipment that
will manufacture things for you. So I found the last 20 years a great
satisfaction and something that didn't call for a philosophical adjustment
for me to move from government into this area.
FUCHS: This is a very interesting career.
ENSLEY: So, now I'm retired at 62. One of the first things I did at the
National Association of Savings Banks was to put in a mandatory retirement
age at 62 because I think in a trade association,
you've got to be young and dynamic and forceful and work hard at it. At
62 I could have stayed on another ten years if I would have wanted to.
I had enough political grassroot strength in the business that I could
have coasted along nicely for another decade probably. But it would have
been at the expense of a dynamic savings bank industry which I think is
When I was working for the U.S. Congress here in Washington 23 years
ago I bought one of these bends in the Shenandoah River. I don't know
if you're familiar with western Virginia or not.
FUCHS: I used to wade in parts of the Shenandoah and fish.
FUCHS: I love that part of the country. I haven't been there in 20 years.
ENSLEY: From Woodstock to Strasburg is 11 miles, as the crow flies. That
river goes 51 miles and there are seven bends, and they're legendary.
Well, 20-some years ago I bought one of these bends for $5,000 -- 250
acres. We have no adjoining private neighbors. The river is our front
and side neighbor, and the George Washington National Forest lies behind
me. I had to have a bridge built across the river to get in and out of
here. It's the most fantastic place in the world. Ever since then I had
looked forward to retiring here, where I have now retired. Still this
year I'm traveling more than half the time to carry out my responsibility
as president of the International Savings Banks Institute.
FUCHS: Well, I hope you enjoy yourself.
ENSLEY: At 62 I still feel I have a few things in me. If just the right
thing came along in the Government -- I don't want anything in budget
any high-pressure job. But if I could become an ambassador or something
like that, that's my real goal. I'd like to be an ambassador for about
three or four years. I have lots of friends all over the world by reason
of the savings bank movement. Senator Sparkman and others are working
on it. Sparkman is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
FUCHS: It would be very nice.
ENSLEY: I don't think I have much of a chance of becoming an ambassador,
because it's a very personal thing for the President. There are two categories
of ambassador. There are those that are career people, that go to these
sensitive places where you've got to have a wealth of background. There
are these others that are less important in terms of the political sensitivities,
and the President has, naturally, a very personal relationship there.
I'm too nonpartisan
I guess. So I don't have any expectations of ever achieving it. But I
do have a few people that have been pushing me.
FUCHS: I had difficulty finding out where Toms Brook was.
ENSLEY: It's about half way between Strasburg and Woodstock. Just a wide
place in the road.
FUCHS: I used to go down there; seems to me I went through Middleburg
and Strasburg. I fished for trout in Cedar Creek; do you know where Cedar
ENSLEY: Yes. But the Shenandoah River is a little bit too warm for trout.
We get bass, and brim; once in a while, a catfish.
FUCHS: Do you fish?
ENSLEY: Oh, yes. I've got a fish pond there too, and if I'd known you
were coming I'd have brought
a few pictures. I caught a 3-1/2 pound bass in my fish pond just a few
FUCHS: That's beautiful country.
ENSLEY: It really is. We built a new house just last fall, and I was
the architect. I didn't hire an architect but I have a lot of architect
friends, so I would carry my plans with me and whenever I would get one
who would give me the time of day, I'd show him my plans and benefit from
his comments. We have a most unusual house.
FUCHS: I'll bet it is. I remember I used to run into those hunt-club
groups with packs of hounds.
ENSLEY: That's down more in Middleburg.
FUCHS: Yes, Middleburg.
ENSLEY: That's down in the horsey country, just
a little this side. We're beyond that. That's fancy country, where Elizabeth
Taylor Warren and the Mellons and the Firestones reside. I'm not in that
FUCHS: That's really interesting; they just cover the road with those
little beagle dogs. I always thought the Shenandoah Valley was just beautiful.
I hated to leave here. It's sure a nice place to retire to.
ENSLEY: Yes, it's just wonderful.
FUCHS: On the first Council of Economic Advisers I believe there was
John D. Clark and Keyserling and Nourse. Do you feel they were all...
ENSLEY: I liked all three of them personally very much, but the three
of them had very divergent views. Nourse took a very straight-line position,
a very stiff attitude. His attitude was that he and the Council should
be kind of a supreme
Court and give the President their advice, but, never go out and explain
it to anybody else. So there I was with the Joint Committee, trying to
get Nourse to come up and give us some of the rationale behind the president's
program. But he wouldn't come; he wouldn't talk. He'd come up and have
a little informal lunch with me, or with a member, but in terms of meeting
with the committee, he just wouldn't do it.
Now, Leon Keyserling was the other extreme. Leon would talk at the drop
of the hat, and was an extremely aggressive advocate. Perhaps he was a
little too much so, in the sense that when Truman left the White House
and Eisenhower came in, the staff of the Council was under suspicion and
Flanders and Taft had a difficult job in perpetuating the Council of Economic
Advisers. I think in part it was due perhaps to Leon's excessive zeal
for being an advocate.
Keyserling was succeeded in the Eisenhower administration by Arthur Burns
who took, again,
a protective attitude as Nourse had done. I couldn't get him to come up.
He would come up, as long as a tape would not be made. I would tell Burns
that Senator so and so is very anxious to come, but he's got three other
committee meetings, and if there's no transcript he can't get caught up.
Burns was very rigid on that. Of course, Burns left after the Eisenhower
era and went back to New York. I'd become very friendly with Arthur Burns,
and I think very highly of him. He's changed his mind on this. He's admitted
to me that he was too rigid in those days. As you know now, when he came
back to the White House and then more particularly over to the Fed [Federal
Reserve System], he's up testifying all the time. He's a very excellent
witness. He's one of the best witnesses I've ever seen, whether I agree
with him or not. I don't agree with him on some issues. But believe me,
he can hold his own about as
effectively as anybody I know in arguing
economics with any opponent. He's grown with the job and I think he's
come to appreciate the role of the Congress -- the necessity of the Congress
understanding economic policies and understanding the rationale back of
the Federal Reserve policy or the rationale back of the President's policies.
So, there's been an evolution there.
I think it's settled now into a pretty good pattern. The chairman of
the Council [of Economic Advisers] does testify. Both Chairman Charles
Schultz and his Republican predecessors have testified. But it got off
to a bad start. Edwin Nourse had a purist approach. He would advise only
the President, without offering his rationale to anybody else. He was
followed by Keyserling who took the opposite point of view. Actually the
ideal is in between.
FUCHS: That's very interesting. You have a great
deal to contribute. Too bad I can't spend more time with you.
ENSLEY: Well, come up to the farm and spend a few days with me sometime.
FUCHS: It would be interesting.
ENSLEY: Sometime when you find yourself coming this way again, let me
know. I've been in New York the past week. I went up last Thursday and
got back night before last. I have a general manager of the International
Savings Banks Institute in Geneva; our office is there. We have a 25 member
staff. Our general manager was at this meeting in New York and came down
to the farm with Mrs. Ensley and me. I brought him and his wife in and
dropped them off at the airport on my way in to meet with you. I've been
really exhausted the last few days going to meetings and entertaining
Sometime when you come east and have a day or two extra, get in touch
with me. I might be in town or I might not be around. If I'm not I'll
tell you. But if I am I could come down to pick you up at Dulles Airport.
I live just on the other side of Dulles about 75 miles. I'm pledged to
go through my documents this winter or next. In fact, I have a file on
Senator Benton; he was on my committee, a file on O'Mahoney; a file on
Dick Bolling, a file on all members of the Joint Economic Committee. Rather
than just send those out raw, I'd like to thumb through and see what's
in them, you know. A lot of it is chaff that wouldn't be worth anyone
even looking at.
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
List of Subjects Discussed
Ackley, Gardner, 11
Austin, Warren R., 13, 57
Baldwin, Raymond E., 16
Bell, David E., 23, 53
Blair House, 43-44
Blough, Roy, 24
Bricker, John W., 58, 59
Brooks, C. Wayland, 32-33
Budget, U.S. Bureau of, Fiscal Division, 3-9, 12-14,
Burns, Arthur, 87-89
Byrnes, James F., 5
Chandler, Lester, 67
Colfax, Washington, 1
Colm, Gerhard, 6, 23, 25,
Committee for Economic Development, 13-14
Council of Economic Advisors, 11, 12,
13, 30-31, 43,
Dawson, Donald S., 22-23
Defense expenditures, WW II, 8-9
Dewey, Thomas E., 15-16
Douglas, Paul H., 35-36, 37-39,
52, 53, 67
Economic stabilization, WW II, 4-6
Eisenhower, Dwight D., 22, 44, 76
Employment Act of, 1946, 10, 11,
Employment, U.S. goal for full, post WW II, 6-8, 10
Ensley, Grover W., background, 1-3
Flanders, Ralph E., 13-20, 23,
31, 33, 45, 46,
57-62, 64-66, 69,
Fulbright, J. William, 39-40
Gamble, Ralph A., 62-63, 64
Galloway, George, 28, 29
Garner, John Nance, 32
Government officials, U.S., legislation to raise salaries, 14-22
Green, Theodore F., 40
Hayden, Carl, 34
Henderson, Leon, 4
Hoover, Herbert, 17, 18, 19
House of Representatives, U.S., Puerto Rican terrorists attack, 1954,
Housing, Joint Congressional Committee report on, 1947, 62-65
Inflation, U.S. Government program to reduce, WW II, 4-6,
Interest rates, post WW II, 51-54
International savings banks, 78-79
Johnson, Lyndon B., 35-42
Joint Economic Committee of Congress, 11-13, 15,
30-42, 44-45, 47-56,
66-71., 76, 91
Jones, J. Weldon, 3, 23, 24,
Juan Carlos, King of Spain, 79
Keyserling, Leon, 7-8, 43, 55,
Kilpatrick, Carol, 73
Knowles, James, 67, 68
Korean War, economic aspects of, 48-55
Kreps, Theodore J., 33
LaFollette, Robert M., Jr., 28, 29-30
Lawton, Frederick J., 26-27
Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, 28-29, 31-32
Lehman, John, 45, 47, 66
McCabe, Thomas B., 54
McCarthy, Joseph R., 29, 57-66
McKellar, Kenneth, 70
McNeil, Wilfred J., 49
Martin, William McChesney, 54
Middleburg, Virginia, 84, 85-86
Military Appropriations Committee, U.S. Senate, 48,
Moore, William, 67
Morgenthau, Henry, 4, 56
Morse, Wayne, 21
Murphy, Henry, 68
Murray, James E., 43
Myers, Howard, 14
Nathan, Robert, 24
National Association of Mutual Savings Banks, 77-80
New York University, 2
Nixon, Richard M., 21, 22, 72-74
Nourse, Edwin G., 86-87, 89
O'Conor, Herbert, 16-17
O'Mahoney, Joseph C., 34, 40-41,
43, 48, 50, 70,
Pabst Brewing Company, 6
Patman, Wright, 11, 43, 67-68
Post Office -- Civil Service Committee, U.S. Senate, 15,
President of the U.S., compensation of increased, 1949, 18-19
Roosevelt, Franklin D., 3, 4-5
Rules Committee, U.S. Senate, 32, 33-34,
San Clemente, California, 72-73
Shenandoah River, Virginia, 81-82, 84
Smith, Harold, 5, 6, 25-26
Snyder, John W., 52, 54, 55-56,
Soviet Union, State Bank of the, 79-80
Sparkman, John J., 36-39, 69, 83
Stein, Herbert, 7-8
Stone, Donald, 3
Studenski, Paul, 2
Sugar rationing, extension of, post WW 11, 58-61
Taft, Robert A., 31, 32-33, 34,
43, 50, 58; 64
Tax Foundation, New York City, 2
Tobey, Charles W., 60-61, 62, 64-65
Truman Committee, 9, 74-75
Truman, Harry S.:
assassination attempt on, 1950, 43-44
Ture, Norman, 67
Austin, Warren R., appointment to UN post, 13, 57
budget, U.S., knowledge of, 74-75
Employment Act of 1946, and, 42
Employment Act of 1946, re celebration of 20th anniversary, 10
Flanders, Ralph E., rapport with, 70
salary as President raised, 1949, 19-22
taxes and interest rates, Korean War, stand on, 49,
Truman Committee, as chairman of the, 9, 74-75
Austin, Warren R., appointed U.S. ambassador to, 13,
University of Denver, 2
Korean War, role, 48, 50
University of Washington, 1-2
Vinson, Fred M., 56
Voorhis, Jerry, 28, 29-30
Wallace, Henry A., 5
Watkins, Arthur V., 66
Wiley, Alexander, 58
Wolcott, Jesse, 45, 46
World Bank, 26
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