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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Jesse Helms, March 8, 1974. Interview A-0124. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Belief in fiscal responsibility and eliminating social programs

Asked to summarize the Republican political philosophy in just two sentences, Helms emphasizes the importance of fiscal responsibility. He wants to eliminate restrictions on free market enterprise, including minimum wage laws and the welfare system. He hopes that private organizations will help the needy.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Jesse Helms, March 8, 1974. Interview A-0124. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

If you had to encompass your basic philosophy, as you see it, applying to the Republican party. If you had to summarize it, say, in one or two sentences, how would you summarize it?
Well, I couldn't do it, and no man alive could. But . . . and that's the trouble, trying to get a short cliche that'll fit. I think you've got to go on this . . . you've got to go, for example, with the absolute that this government cannot survive if it continues this fiscal irresponsibility, that has been practiced for a generation now. We have got to balance the budget. We have got to reduce government spending. We have got to remove the federal government from the lives of the people. The federal government was never envisioned to be a provider, a welfare organization. The constitution very clearly tells us what the purpose of the federal government, the government was intended to be. And so, to . . . in the broadest possible sense, I think we've got to look at the historic fundamentals of this country. And to realize what government can do successfully, and should do. And what it cannot do. Now, that encompasses ten thousand things. The question is evident in practically every roll call vote we have. Price controls. The Republican party ought to be against them, because they won't work, and the free market system is the only thing that is going to work. In gasoline or beef or anything else. Wage . . . minimum wages. This is a purely political device. Anybody who is honest with himself knows that every time you raise the minimum wage, either on the state level or on the federal level, you do nothing but lop off thousands upon thousands of jobs and put those people out of work. The free market must prevail, and the Republican party, if it's going to mean anything, has got to take that position.
Now, what does the . . . When the constitution refers to one of the roles of the federal government, to promote the general welfare, what does that mean to you?
It has nothing to do with the welfare system. Implicit, or perhaps explicit, in your question is the fact that you realize that. It would never envision that we'd have welfare payments, doles and handouts. I do think that the truly needy and worthy of society ought to be taken care of. I try to practice that in my private life as well as in my public life. But . . .
When you say "taken care of," do you mean by government or by private . . .
Well, I would hope privately. And there was a time in this country when the brotherhood of man was important to most people. The churches were not so politically involved, and they did that sort of work. And other organizations. But even government's role, I would accept, on the basis that aid was limited to those who truly needed it and deserve it. As a matter of fact, I think the truly needy and the truly worthy are being short changed by the existing welfare system. I could give you countless examples from our files where people who have no political clout, they don't belong to these pressure groups, they have difficulty in getting what they are entitled to under the law. And this is common to all federal programs. They are born of iniquity, and therefore iniquities will exist.