Daniel Patrick Moynihan Letters Ceremony Podcast
The following is a transcript of the program, which may also be listened to or downloaded as a podcast.
Heidi Hartmann: My name is Heidi Hartmann, I am the Chair of the Board of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, a wonderful honorary position which requires me to do very little except every now and then something wonderful like this, so thank you very much for coming tonight and joining us. Now I think we are getting to the heart of the program, the reason we are all here, to honor Daniel Patrick Moynihan and the person who composed the book, the person who inspired the book, Maura and her mother, and Steven Weisman, and I want to say a few words about why the American Academy of Political and Social Science has named a prize after Senator Moynihan. There have been three recipients of the prize so far, there will be another one this June. For us, the whole mission of the Academy is to bring social science research to bear on the important problems of the day, and there is really no one whose career more epitomizes that connection between research, knowledge, social science, and public policy as Senator Moynihan’s. In fact, we have found it so difficult not to give awards to many wonderful and deserving people, that is difficult to choose among them, but we readily realize that we would rarely find a person who did it all, who did both social science and public policy wrapped up in one person. So we have kind of had to have a rule of thumb that we are going to alternate every other year between academia and a more public policy-oriented person because it is difficult to find that in one person. However, I will say I think our first awardee, Alice Rivlin, and that dinner was here at the University of Pennsylvania, did a pretty good job of encapsulating that double career also. And then, since then we have been able to award the prize to David Ellwood at Harvard and to Robert Greenstein who runs the very well-respected Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. So for us, having a prize in the Senator’s honor is something that is just thrilling for us, really, to be able to bring all of you together to honor this really special man and to keep going that important, important connection between knowledge and public policy. Some days it does not seem like there is much of a connection, but other days you feel pretty good about it, you feel like maybe you are actually really doing something worthwhile and bringing ideas into action. The other thing I want to say is that one of the things I have learned about Senator Moynihan—and like many people in Washington I had a little bit of personal connection with him–I guess I have to get a chance to tell my story. One day, I was testifying in front of him, he was chairing the Senate Health Committee, I think I was probably talking about women and healthcare, and there was a very distinguished panel of other expert witnesses, and somehow in the question and answer period we started asking and answering questions among ourselves. And all of a sudden I am thinking, “Wait, wait, we are testifying, what is going on here?” And I looked up at the Senator and I said, “Senator, is this okay, what we are doing?” And he said, “Oh, of course. I always love a good seminar.” So that in itself was a wonderful experience.
So it is taking us tonight six experts from six different fields to even begin to encompass the areas of expertise that Senator Moynihan had. So it is my pleasure now to introduce the first one, whom you already know, Doug Massey, the President of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and our story that we are extracting from this wonderful collection of letters begins on May 20, 1965.
Letter from Daniel Patrick Moynihan to Harry McPherson, May 20, 1965
Douglas S. Massey (Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, Princeton University): Let me take you back to May 1965. Of course, in late 1964 Lyndon Johnson triumphed in passing the Civil Rights Act, which for the first time in American history outlawed discrimination in many markets—markets for goods and services, for accommodations, for labor—and this was his triumph. And if you read memoirs of Bill Moyers, he will say that (he was one of Johnson’s assistants at the time) he came into the Oval Office and all the headlines and all the newspapers were triumphing about the great achievement that Lyndon Johnson had achieved. The first, the massive civil rights, the most forward movement in the civil rights movement since reconstruction. But he was brooding and very dark, and Moyers said, “What is wrong?” And Johnson said, “Well, you know what I’ve done. I have given the South to the Republicans for another generation.” And of course he was absolutely right. He was no fool. And at this time, many people thought that we had reached the epitome of a liberal moment and that the problems of civil rights and racial justice had been solved because we had outlawed de jure segregation, we had outlawed discrimination in markets, but Senator Pat Moynihan, then Assistant Secretary in the Department of Labor in the Johnson Administration, knew better and knew that the road ahead was going to be much more difficult than anyone had imagined. And he was trying to, in a series of memos in the White House, trying to prime President Johnson to think more broadly, that it was not just about achieving formal equality, it was about achieving actual equality. And now that the discriminatory mechanisms had been eliminated, now that de jure segregation had been attacked, a new set of demands were going to come forth and that the administration had to be ready to respond to these. So let me read to you from a memo that he prepared to one of President Johnson’s top assistants at this time, in May 1965 on the eve of his celebrated address to Howard University, where he first introduced the concept of affirmative action.
The point of this memo is to suggest a somewhat new way of looking at the general subject of ethnic, racial, and religious issues in the world today. The subject came to my mind in the course of discussing the split in the civil rights movement, which many persons perceive but none can quite explain clearly. The SNCC (the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) and CORE (the Congress Of Racial Equality) are moving in a direction different from that of the NAACP or the Urban League. Or, rather, elements in all four seem to be diverging, etc. Saunders Redding put it that the SNCC is leading the civil rights movement. Whether this is so or not was discussed at length with no one much satisfied with our information or conclusions. I suggest a different way of looking at it. Not in terms of a split but rather in terms of a dualism in the movement. This dualism is characteristic not only of the civil rights movement but of American democracy itself. It has been with us from the beginning. American democracy is founded on the twin ideals of liberty and equality. Our education and general mindset does not much distinguish between these two ideals but the fact is they are distinct. If they are joined together in our common understanding they are not always joined in our basic discussion. The Declaration of Independence, for example, begins with a proposition about equality. But the subject is not mentioned in the Constitution until the Fourteenth Amendment, which is, of course, post-Civil War. One of the reasons for this, surely, is that at the time the Constitution was adopted one in five Americans was a slave. Nor, over the years, have the two ideals enjoyed the same acceptance. Liberty has been the American middle class ideal, par excellence. It has enjoyed the utmost social prestige. Not so equality. Men who would carelessly give their lives for liberty are appalled by equality. And there is also an opposite style to be seen; men who are passionately devoted to equality but they are troubled by liberty. More importantly, the great movements for equality in our history, the Jacksonian democracy movement through populism to the trade union movement have invariably faced fierce opposition. The civil rights movement was, in this sense, a duality. It is a movement for both liberty and equality. The march on Washington was for jobs and freedom. Until now, the two components have been running along together without any great tension. But this phase is coming to an end. Until now, the great American middle class has seen the Negro movement largely in terms of a movement for liberty, for the right to vote, to assemble, to petition. This is not really an issue in America. Any group that asserts its rights in this field and can show that its rights are infringed upon quickly receives the overwhelming support of the middle class and the legal institutions of the nation. In the South, where the Negro demands have almost exclusively been directed to the issue of liberty, the white middle class is increasingly allied with them in a political coalition against the white lower classes. Atlanta is a striking example of this political development. But in the North, Negroes have liberty and what they want is equality, which they do not have. Here, unfortunately, our ways of thinking are ill-equipped to cope. The New York Times, which is unflinchingly in support of the demand for the right to vote, that is liberty, is thunderstruck by the demand for special assistance, benign quotas, that is equality. We are not going to escape this confrontation. We must, therefore, learn more about it. Why and how people demand equality is not something we know much about or are very well-equipped to deal with. That is why our success in dealing with the demands of the Negro American revolution can be the bona fide achievement which we should strive to establish our true importance in the twentieth century. The supreme challenge of our age will be the quest for political stability, an elusive and ill-understood condition that we are hardly yet interested in as a political condition. The issue of our time will be how to attain equality with liberty, pluralism with unity, national purpose with local initiative. These things are not easily come by but probably more in evidence in the United States than in any other nation in the world, any way, an enormous nation. Is this not the true cultural and intellectual mission of the United States and the world? I very much fear that most of our cultural enterprises have their origin in their rather pathetic effort to prove to Europeans that we, indeed, have a soul. And a genteel, middle-class soul at that. Balls! What we have to say to the world about how to live with one another is much the most important fact of our lives and, in ways that they do not understand, of theirs. That this should not be clear to the world is hardly a manner for wonder but it troubles me that it does not seem to be clear to us, either. I think a specific theme in American policy in the world should be that liberty and equality are, in fact, things to go about and to put together. We probably know as much about how to do this is anyone, but no one knows very much. Religious, ethnic, and racial tensions are at the heart of so much of the demand for equality. They are legitimate demands. They must be accommodated but it is damn hard. The legitimacy of our claim to a world role in this area will be the success or failure of our Negro revolution at home.
This was 1965, and he foresaw the coming crisis of civil rights in the United States. When simple granting of basic civil liberties would not be enough and the demands for equality would come to the fore. Now, we all know historically that Moynihan had actually a plan of action, which he outlined to President Johnson in the infamous Moynihan Report. The Moynihan Report essentially called for a massive full-employment program, a massive investment of federal dollars into the American economy to provide full employment so that African-American males and African-American women (he was not so concerned about women in those days), but African-Americans could achieve full employment and avoid pitfalls of a poverty trap, which he so eloquently laid out in the report. And for this, of course, he was vilified. And it was a moment, a singular moment in American history, when a clear-thinking social scientist who understood the world better than most had laid out the fundamental problem of the age and actually tried to lay out a solution and the great irony; and the great tragedy of American life is that Lyndon Johnson was not able to follow up on the advice that Moynihan gave him, and rather than strive to create a full-employment economy went down the narrow, twisting path into the morass in Vietnam.
Heidi Hartmann: Thank you so much, Doug. Now it is my pleasure to introduce David Childs. He is the Chairman Emeritus of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, one of our most established and best-known architectural firms in the United States, and he will get to tell us about another area of Senator Moynihan’s interests and expertise, buildings. And he brings us up to August 24, 1987 (we skipped a couple decades there).
Letter from Daniel Patrick Moynihan to President Ronald Reagan, August 24, 1987
David Childs (Chairman Emeritus, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill): There are so many people at my table alone that could give this better than I, but I am happy to be here. Phyllis, thank you for all that you have done to create this evening. I am, indeed, an architect and one who is interested in large urban matters. So it was not at all surprising that I began my career by coming down to work for Pat Moynihan on his and Nat Owings’ Pennsylvania Avenue Plan many years ago and that I, in fact, am ending my career working on Pat’s and Liz’s and Maura’s Moynihan Station in New York. And in fact it is interesting that these two projects in a way, the grandest building enterprises that one can imagine, book-ended as well Pat’s own career in public service. His letters are proof that the extraordinary diversity of the man, his interests and talents, but I knew him and admired Pat most for his work and influence in the design of the public realm, which has been extraordinarily great, as you well know. The subset of the letters on planning, architecture, and preservation is quite thin within the volume of this very thick book, but I deeply believe they occupied a disproportionately large part of his heart. In fact, in one of the letters that he wrote to a president early in his public service in Washington, he said to that president, encouraging him to do this, he said, “The opportunity to influence public design should be one of the great rewards of office,” and he, in fact, took this for himself. And I think it was one of his very greatest rewards that would be achieved.
Now, the first rule an architect learns about submitting a design in a design competition or in speaking among a group of people like this is to break the rules. And so (and I warned Phyllis about this earlier) in fact I am going to read briefly from two letters, not one, but I will edit them further (excuse me, Steve) to keep us back on track. So each will involve one of the two projects that I mentioned, the first being on Pennsylvania Avenue. And in opening the letter, Steve writes, “Letter to President Reagan recounting the history of his involvement in the project to renovate Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wrote to Moynihan later in the year, “Twenty-five years is a long time to not give up on something. I think that the completed Pennsylvania Avenue will be a monument to your dedication. I hope that Americans realize that. I will be forever grateful, dear Pat, for your messages to me all along the way, for the spirit you brought to something Jack cared so deeply about, and for this happy ending.”
August 24, 1987
Dear Mr. President,
May I express my great gratitude for your approving the Federal Triangle Development Act. This brings to a close a quarter-century’s effort on my part. On June 1, 1962, President Kennedy signed an order (which I had drafted) calling for the re-development of Pennsylvania Avenue. Our plan was ready a year later and as it happened the last instruction the President gave before leaving for Dallas was that on his return a coffee hour be arranged with the congressional leadership where he could introduce the plan. Well, of course, he never did return and so the task devolved on me. Block by block, project by project, if I may say president by president, we have put it together and now it is finished, thanks to you.
May I make one final point? In this age of what has been called the architecture of coercion, we set out to make Pennsylvania Avenue lively, friendly, and inviting as well as dignified and impressive. The result is cluttered and eclectic, but very much American and Americans should feel at home on the Avenue of the Presidents. This looks accidental; it was nothing such.
In the second letter about Pennsylvania Station, Steven opens it by saying, “The letter to Representative David Obey, asking for help in moving Pennsylvania Station to the old post office building in New York City, which he said, ‘is hugely important to me’ with an election that year.”
June 9, 1994
I need your help. As you surely know, some thirty years ago New York City allowed Pennsylvania Station to be torn down by the then private owners. Some good came of it, namely the preservation movement, but New Yorkers were left with a subway station where there had once been the Baths of Caracalla. Vincent Scully at Yale put it, “You used to enter New York City as a king, now you slither in like a rat.” However, in a miracle of sorts it turns out that the post office is leaving the Farley Building, which is directly across Eighth Avenue, built to the same proportions, by the same architects, and is sitting atop the exact same tracks. Amtrak has come up with a plan to turn the post office into a new Penn Station.
May I plead for your help? Almost one-half of the Amtrak passengers in the country arrive or depart from Penn Station, so it is important to the future of rail transportation. It is also hugely important to me in this election session.
I must say when architects today, while speaking of their involvement in public work, and I think Bob you would be the first to understand this, say things like we need another Pat Moynihan, I’ll say.
Heidi Hartmann: Thank you very much, David. Now we are going to continue, I think, in the infrastructure vein and we will next hear from Genie Birch, who is the Lawrence C. Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research and Education, University of Pennsylvania and a city planner, and she will read a letter from 1988.
Letter from Daniel Patrick Moynihan to Max Frankel, June 22, 1988
Eugenie Birch (Lawrence C. Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research and Education, University of Pennsylvania): This is at the end of the letter that I am going to read, and as I read it I would like to think about what a city planner is. To my mind, a city planner is someone who aims to build communities of lasting value and is someone who knows that to do so requires the vision and understanding of the various complex threads that weave together to create cities or places that are strong, beautiful, and function well. It requires knowledge of people, it requires knowledge of infrastructure, it requires knowledge of a place’s potential for beauty, it requires an understanding of natural resources, and at its very basis it requires understanding the politics of place. So let me read the letter and let us see if Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a city planner. This book, by the way, is wonderful. I hope you will all buy it. The editorial comments are superb and they draw you through Pat Moynihan’s life with such joy and interest and intelligence, so thank you.
This letter was sent to Max Frankel, who at that time was executive editor of the New York Times and Senator Moynihan was lamenting the lack of coverage of the plans for a courthouse and other buildings in downtown New York, an area called Foley Square.
Oh Lord, of course you had Cliff May’s fine story of our getting, or my getting if I may say, the Foley Square authorization and the continuing resolution down here. But your coverage stopped here. Subsequently, on December 30, 1987, I met with the mayor at City Hall and laid out the proposal. We had, I said, a vast opportunity. One-half billion dollars worth of building and a chance to design a great urban space at Foley Square, which is a wreck at the moment. Our situation, however, was urgent. The deal turned on a technique, lease-to-own, which had been thought of by the best GSA administrator in a generation, Terence Golden, who was leaving. He left March 18th. He and I had teamed up to build the Federal Triangle Building on Pennsylvania Avenue [which we just heard about]. Two-thirds of the floor space at the Pentagon [this is the size of the project of the Federal Triangle] and brilliantly conceived, all without a nickel of public money. On March 11th we had a big signing ceremony at City Hall. The deal done, save, as I say, the deal is never done unless the Times reports it. In fairness, the News and the Post gave us good stories, but this kind either is in the Times or the city does not feel committed. I spent the spring trying to interest the Times’ architecture critic, Paul Goldberger. No luck yet. Then I raised it at lunch with you all on May 4th. My point is this, the city doesn’t give a damn about these things, not really. The one exception is Esnard [this was the Deputy Mayor, Robert Esnard] who, it turns out, is an architect. Therefore, the city needs to know that other people do care. Especially about the redesign of Foley Square. That it is wholly an oral understanding that I reached in the mayor’s office just before the signing of memoranda of understanding. So there it is. I will not be happy until I see something like this morning’s front page. Granted we have no model, we’ll let Goldberger show his stuff, or I would settle for a street plan. I enclose a brochure put together by the local GSA whose head, Bill Diamond, is a peach. Foley Square – do you remember the good old fella, when he died it was said [this means Foley, I believe] they buried the brains of Tammany Hall. Federal courthouse, justice, decorum, design – I guess at heart I am a city planner. Like Glazer, I would hope that after Pennsylvania Avenue I would finish my years seeing the Westway through to a triumphant conclusion. That was obviously not to be. And so the only thing I will ever do for the city is this. And so I plead.
Now, I think he is doing himself a lot of injustice when he said that was the only thing he had done for the city. And what I want to do is just go through how I think he became a city planner and maybe you will agree with me. So, the city planner is born …he comes from Tulsa…and then at age six he moves to Hell’s Kitchen, there is an image of it at the top. He goes to Benjamin Franklin High School in Harlem, where he graduates first in his class. He does not quite go to college yet; he becomes a longshoreman and sees that part of city life. He then spends a year at CCNY, the free university of New York, the working class manna. After a year he decides to join the U.S. Navy, after the Navy he goes to Tufts, earns his degrees, and he spends a year…many years in London but he has a Fulbright from 1950 to 1951. So he was exposed to all sorts of parts of cities, from the worst in Hell’s Kitchen to the gritty working-class of the longshoremen, to the Boston Brahmins to London and so forth. So he loved cities. Then he began to develop his interests and we can track some of these interests, and the broadness and the breadth of his interests. And I think that is the point I want to make, that yes, he understood aesthetics but he also understood all the other elements that made a city planner. In 1960 he is writing an article about new roads and urban chaos, and the whole point of this article, or many parts of the point of the article, is to show how these highways were destroying cities. And wouldn’t it be good, he said, if we gave the cities this money and let them choose how to spend it. This is in 1960 – remember that because Jack is going to tell you something about this later. And then Nat Glazer – he was introduced to Nat Glazer by Bill Kristol, who invites him to be part of a project. The New York Post decided they wanted a series of articles on ethnic groups and Nat’s plan was to invite people who knew…who came from different ethnic groups, to write about them. But he could not find anyone who satisfied him, except for Pat Moynihan and so he invited him to do the Irish chapter, which is just brilliant, absolutely brilliant. And at the time he is doing it he is also working on the Harriman Papers and he is working on democratic politics, so he really understands the importance of the Irish population in New York City and it is a very, very fine chapter. As we heard from Doug Massey he goes to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Policy Research, the Moynihan Report, at that time he works on guidelines for federal architecture. He is also very concerned with road safety because he has invited Ralph Nader to come work in that area as well. So the breadth of his understanding is growing.
And then, this book that Nate Glazer…or the articles that were commissioned, brought with them a small grant. And so Nate being a friend of Martin Meyerson, who you see in that image right there, Marjorie, takes the grant to MIT Joint Center for Urban Studies. And this grant then yields this book, which is Beyond the Melting Pot, and it becomes a great seller. He matures. He ultimately becomes the director of the MIT Joint Center. He becomes an advisor to Nixon on urban policy. He does the Pennsylvania Avenue plan, and he does this enormous book called Door to National Urban Policy, where he lays it all out, all the things we need to know, ten points right there about what urban policy should be about. And then, as a Senator he sets policy. As a member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, he is involved in infrastructure as you will hear, clean water, clean air, and so forth. So when he says, “I guess at heart I am a city planner, that after Pennsylvania Avenue I would finish my years seeing the Westway through to a triumphant conclusion. And so the only thing I will ever do for the city is this,” he is not telling the truth. He did a lot more for the city than just that.
Heidi Hartmann: Thank you so much, Genie. I will say that when I said infrastructure before, I did mean it in the broadest possible way, the built environment and also how important we saw in your discussion the human aspects of that built environment are.
Now, we are going to turn to perhaps what some people think of as a narrower aspect of infrastructure, and that would be transportation. So it is my pleasure to introduce Jack Wells, Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Transportation, who will read a letter from 1991 also supplemented by another document.
Letter from Daniel Patrick Moynihan to Max Frankel, December 7, 1991
Jack Wells (Chief Economist, U.S. Department of Transportation): United States Senators serve two constituencies: their nation and their state. Daniel Patrick Moynihan served both constituencies superbly well. He stood up for America and he stood up for New York. Where have I heard that line before? I want to read two excerpts that speak to his focus on those two constituencies. And the first is also a letter to Max Frankel at the New York Times in which he addresses a matter of great importance to the State of New York.
There must be days when you wish that the Times was not the newspaper of record. But it is, thank Heaven, and I need your help. The Transportation Bill, passed last week, which the President will probably sign the week after next, provides for New York to receive five billion dollars as reimbursement for having contributed the thruway, that is the New York State Thruway, to the interstate system back in 1956. Specifically, three-hundred and thirty-seven million dollars per year for fifteen years, starting in FY1996. The first two annual installments are in the current bill. It has taken me thirty-five years to bring this off. I was in the governor’s office in Albany in 1956 when the interstate got started. I thought it was madness of New York not to insist on payment then and there, settling instead for a vague understanding in the 1956 legislation that levied the gas tax and established a trust fund, a tax we would pay to build freeways elsewhere. We have since lost one-third of our congressional delegation. Anyway, my moment came this year and I shall soon have it in statute. But for obvious reasons, I cannot make a big deal of it on the floor, and neither did the Times. At least I cannot find any reference and, believe me, I have searched. This means there is no record of this event. This is real money, trust fund money. But New Yorkers will never get it if New Yorkers don’t know about it. Nor those in New Jersey and Connecticut, who are also included. Think what we could do with an annuity of a third of a billion dollars a year for fifteen years. One of our two wonderful undertakings, to startle the world as did the Futurama exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair where the interstate idea was born. But there needs to be a record.
I do not know if he ever got his article in the New York Times or not. The second excerpt I want to read is not from one of the letters, which are a little thin on transportation topics, no problem with that. It is from a document written a few months earlier. The report of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works whose subcommittee on surface transportation Senator Moynihan chaired, reporting ISTEA – the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 – reporting ISTEA to the Senate floor. The report was unusual in that it contained a thirteen-page introductory statement; most of these reports are, of course, written by congressional staff. This introductory statement, as will become obvious, I think, was actually written by Senator Moynihan himself. He starts out:
The first federal highway program was signed into law by Thomas Jefferson on March 29, 1806, 2 Stat 357.
He then goes on to outline the history of federal transportation policy, ending with the construction of the interstate highway system.
The plain fact is that traffic congestion has grown during this period of massive highway construction. We have to face the fact that even if we had greater resources than we do, adding to highway capacity does not any longer seem a promising road to increased highway efficiency. In city after city we heard about horrendous congestion problems, yet this was a problem the interstate system was meant to resolve. This is the oldest of urban problems. Rome struggled with it until the Goths arrived. We have done the same. And I am tempted to say our Goths have arrived too.
The committee approached its task in the context of three realities. First, the United States has entered a period of general dis-investment in infrastructure [sound familiar?]. Second, the level of federal investment in infrastructure generally is not likely to rise at any time soon. Third, if we will learn from the past and think about the future, we must get more for our money. Given that investment is declining and that it is not likely to rise anytime soon, it follows that the surpassing theme of the post-interstate period must be efficiency. Hence, the Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1990. The heart of the matter is productivity. In the manufacturing sector of the American economy, productivity growth has been robust. As, for example, in durable goods where productivity has been growing at the astounding rate of 6.0 percent per year. But everything that is manufactured must be transported and productivity growth in transportation has been flat to the point of being nonexistent. In April, the Honorable Michael J. Boskin, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, advised the committee, “Output per hour in the transportation sector, broadly defined, rose at only 0.2 percent annually from 1979 to 1988.” The contrast is incredible. A growth rate of six percent per year means that productivity will double in twelve years. If the whole of the economy were to grow at such a rate, living standards would increase five-fold in the course of a single generation. By contrast, if the economy were to grow at the rate of only 0.2 percent per year, it would take twelve generations for living standards to double. Jordan, that is Philip Jordan, in his book The National Road, reports that the immigrant Irish laborers who did much of the pick and shovel work on the national road were paid six dollars per month. A 0.2 percent productivity growth rate since that time would have brought their monthly wages up to nine dollars a month now, or one-hundred eight dollars per year. Now clearly this would not seem a satisfactory growth rate to most of us. But that is our growth rate in transportation. Just as clearly it is not something that we can blame on foreign competition, not, mind, that some won’t try. But the committee feels there ought to be a more constructive outlet for dissatisfaction, namely to think harder and to do better. No one seems to know just why productivity in transportation is so low. For one thing, there is a stunning absence of data, facts. Transportation economics is clearly held back by the paucity of reliable information. It is for this reason that the Act proposes to establish a Bureau of Transportation Statistics in the Department of Transportation.
And he then goes on to discuss the need to boost productivity in transportation by spending more on technological innovation in transportation such as high-speed rail and intelligent transportation systems. And then he discusses some of the shortcomings of planning that Genie adverted to:
The interstate system map made you think of great ribbons of concrete, crossing Kansas to the horizon. This was true so far as the prairies were concerned, and these great cross-continental routes have been a brilliant success. But this was only half of the story, or rather less than half. From the beginning, most interstate system funds were scheduled to be used in cities. The roads as planned were simply too big for most cities as they then existed. Instead they would smash through, wrecking and dividing and segregating as they went, moving jobs out and leaving the jobless behind in what has become a permanent mismatch. I argued [in the same 1960 article that Genie mentioned] that the character of American cities would be changed beyond recognition and redemption. Our legislation requires large metropolitan areas to begin serious, formal transportation planning. Had this been specified in the legislation providing for the interstate system, we possibly would have had a more efficient transportation network today. But that was then, now is now.
And there you are. Thank you.
Heidi Hartmann: Thank you very much, Jack. Now I think we are going to turn again, perhaps, to family and demographic issues. We will hear from Samuel Preston, Frederick J. Warren Professor of Demography at the University of Pennsylvania. We are updating ourselves to August 24, 1992.
Letter from Daniel Patrick Moynihan to Hillary Rodham Clinton, August 24, 1992
Samuel Preston (Frederick J. Warren Professor of Demography, University of Pennsylvania): The letter is prefaced in this wonderful volume in the following way, “Letter to Hillary Rodham Clinton. Governor Bill Clinton, the Democratic Presidential nominee had joined with his wife and Senator Al Gore and Mrs. Gore in a campaign appearance in Chautauqua in upstate New York. Moynihan was just beginning to forge a relationship with her on family and health issues. The date is August 24, 1992.”
Dear Mrs. Clinton,
Liz and I want you to know how moved we were by your address yesterday at Chautauqua. It must surely have been the first occasion in American history to candidates for President and Vice President, joined by their spouses, devoted an entire campaign event to the subject of family stability, or as near as makes no matter, and did so with sensitivity, information, and a clear aversion to understandable untruth. Some while ago, Samuel Preston, in a presidential address to the Population Association of America, spoke of the earthquake that shuddered through the American family since the early 1960s. It continues; it will be the most important issue of social policy in the generation to come and thanks to such as you may now be addressed. I picked out the earlier tremors and have followed the subject for thirty years now but haven’t the faintest notion as to what realistically can be done.
So this is an interesting letter, I think, for several reasons. Of course the main reason is that Pat refers to my research; more precisely he cites a phrase that I used in 1984 to summarize a large body of data that I reviewed on family changes occurring between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s. Pat was unusually smitten by this earthquake phrase. Among other places, he cited it on the front page of the New York Times, in a Senate speech, and in the opening paragraph of his bookFamily and Nation. It had staying power; his letter to Hillary was written eight years after I had used it and the Senate speech was eleven years later. James Patterson says in his new and excellent biography of Pat – in case you have not seen it I recommend it, Freedom Is Not Enough – he says that Pat had a fondness for overwrought language and maybe this is just an example of this fondness. But he did also cite data and analysis from this paper and from several others of mine and of course from other researchers as well. Pat was very data-oriented. He used social data very effectively, both in his scholarly writing and in his policy pieces. He once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” His citation of facts, including those contained in the Moynihan Report, has been basically unchallenged. He clearly learned from data, did not simply use it to support a position. The paper of mine that he cites here was called Children and the Elderly: Divergent Paths for America’s Dependence. The paper showed that on several dimensions—economic social, psychological—older people in America had been doing much better over time and children had been doing much worse. Older people had benefited from social policies in ways that children had not. And clearly some of the economic disadvantages that children were facing, especially the increase in child poverty, were a result of what I called a disappearing act by fathers. That was easily documented through huge increases in out of wedlock births, in marital disruption, and in the enormous discrepancy between poverty rates in one-parent families and two-parent families. These are much the same factors that Pat had drawn attention to in black families in the 1965 Moynihan Report. I think he was gratified to hear echoes of that report in my work and to have somebody else taking family change very seriously.
After two decades of very rapid family change, white families by 1984 looked very much like black families had in 1965 and by now, 2010, all of the indicators that Pat labeled pathological in the Moynihan Report are much worse for whites than they were for blacks when he wrote. Social scientists have not done a good job, I think, of explaining these trends. But one factor is consistent. Between black families of 1965 and black and white families of today, economically women are doing better and better relative to men, a circumstance that emerged earlier among blacks. I do not think there is much doubt that this factor has produced marriages that are more tentative, more vulnerable, but that may not be as problematic as it appeared twenty to forty years ago. One reason that marriages are more tentative is simply that women have more alternatives. They are not forced to live with some of the bad bargains of the past and I do not think anybody would wish those bargains back upon them. The result of family change, however, in the U.S. is that over half of American children will not live with both parents throughout their childhoods. Have children suffered from these changes? I think the evidence is pretty clear that on average, children enjoy somewhat better outcomes in two-parent families than in one-parent families. Differences in school performance and psychological profiles are not large; most kids seem pretty resilient to family setbacks and the economic disadvantages of female-headed households for children do not seem as large as they once did now that studies have found that women direct a higher fraction of their resources to children in a household than typically men do. Nevertheless, as it did to Pat, the departure of fathers from children’s households seemed both damaging socially and unjust with children as innocent victims. So what is to be done? The Moynihan Report was criticized at the time for not offering any recommendations. I think it is noteworthy that Pat’s letter to Hillary Clinton almost three decades later ends by saying, “I picked out the earlier tremors and have followed the subject for thirty years now, but haven’t the faintest notion as to what realistically can be done.” And certainly neither do I. What we have accomplished, I think, as a society without being very explicit about it is that change, the tradeoff between adult well-being and child well-being. This is made, I think, pretty clear in a recent round of the General Social Survey, which asked for a response to the following question: “When there are children in the family, parents should stay together even if they don’t get along.” Only sixteen percent of adults agreed with this statement, twenty percent of men and twelve percent of women. Given a choice, and most have a choice, neither men nor women are willing to accept that the core of their lives, an intimate relationship that is not working, and they are not hypocritical enough to ask others to accept it – that battle seems to be over for better or worse. Now, the demographer in me points out that we spend eighteen years of our lives as a child and about sixty years as an adult, so maybe this revision in life cycle well-being has a little bit of demographic logic. In any event, the idea that we could make marginal changes in tax laws or marital entrance or exit requirements that would turn this ship around and create more stable marriages seems a bit fanciful. I think instead of encouraging greater marital stability, an indirect approach to improving conditions of children, we should focus on direct approaches by improving social institutions that serve children, above all schools, childcare facilities, health facilities, and child welfare services. Obviously we should be grateful to and supportive of the mothers and fathers who are investing enormous resources to raise the next generation of Americans, but we can surely give them more help without forcing ill-matched people to grin and bear it.
Heidi Hartmann: I think a very realistic perspective that the Senator would have welcomed. Thank you very much, Sam. The last letter we are reading tonight is a letter to Arthur Sulzberger, you can imagine what that is about. It is from November 3, 2000. I think it is fitting that we, perhaps, are going to be having a letter read about communications by a communications expert, Kathleen Jamieson, Director of this wonderful center, Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Letter from Daniel Patrick Moynihan to Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr. November 3, 2000
Kathleen Hall Jamieson (Director, Annenberg Public Policy Center): Thank you, Heidi. When Brooks Jackson and I put together factcheck.org and were looking for an identifying tag, we went to Senator Moynihan and picked the statement that Sam just cited, “People are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts.” I have selected as my letter a letter telling us a tale of unrequited love by a man wronged, wronged by a news outlet that got its facts wrong.
Why would the Times magazine publish such a nasty cover story – “Who was Pat Moynihan?” Here I am, three years shy of a half-century of government and politics, leaving quietly and peaceably. I have begged off all manner of interview requests, yet I felt an obligation to the Times. And look what it got me. It is no great matter to be called a “Shakespearean fool” or to be described going about London as a “English dandy, sporting a monocle.” But it is not true. A monocle? Any fact checker could have called me – still no matter. But to read that I “declined to hold Finance Committee hearings” on the Clinton Healthcare Bill is outrageous (page 51). I held seven months of hearings, one of which is described in the very next paragraph (page 52).
Now, the editor of this excellent volume does not then indicate how the letter closed. I suspect because there was some censorship of language involved, but had factcheck.org been around at this time, Maura, we would have fact-checked this and, Steven, we would have sided with the Senator.
Questions and Answers
Maura Moynihan and Steven R. Weisman
Heidi Hartmann: It is my pleasure to introduce both of you together. Steven Weisman is a writer, a journalist for the New York Times, now at a fellow think tank, the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and I think it is also my privilege to introduce Maura as a writer, this is the way she described her father. It is just delightful to have both of you tonight and to celebrate this great work and I think you will hear that Maura and her mom were just as much originators of this book as Steven, so thank you so much for being with us this evening.
Maura Moynihan: Well, first I want to thank Doug and Phyllis and Heidi, everyone for making this happen. This is actually the first official book party forDaniel Patrick Moynihan: A Portrait in Letters of an American Visionary. And I see lots of friends here, people who worked with dad and people who knew him from his long career in academia and his association with academics. And I came up with the idea of this book when dad was dying seven years ago. I vowed that I would do two things to carry on his legacy. One was to create a book to honor his life. The second was to build Moynihan Station. But now it seems highly likely that Tibet will be free before they build Moynihan Station. So at least we can celebrate this as the pub week of the book. And it went through many twists and turns before we came on the idea of letters. And there is nothing I could have written that would ever have equalled his command of the English language or could have described his life better, and Steve was a very dear old family friend, not just from New York but from India, because he was the New York Times Bureau Chief in New Delhi in the 1980s. At one point I stayed with Steve and Liz in their house in New Delhi and he had taken early retirement from the Times, which is great for us – maybe not so great for the Times – and he was also willing to toil in the stacks of the Library of Congress, where the Moynihan Letters reside, which you should tell all your students because dad donated his papers to the Library of Congress and John Haynes, who curates the Moynihan collection said that they…is curate the right word? No, I work at a museum in New York so I am always using the word curate.
Steven Weisman: Curate, is it a verb you mean?
Maura Moynihan: Yes, well it is in the museum world. But anyway, he is the director of the archives. The Moynihan archive is the largest collection the Library of Congress has ever received. It is three times higher than the Washington Monument. And so I went…before this project came together I went all by myself to visit the Moynihan papers and walked by Benjamin Franklin’s letters and Alexander Hamilton’s and then you pass the Roosevelt letters and Truman letters and came to the Moynihan stacks and they loomed like canyons, they just went on and on and on forever. And I went outside and I sobbed, I sobbed in front of the Library of Congress, I said, “I can’t possibly do this alone.” And so Steve and his team from the Maxwell School came together to put this book together and I think that it will stand for many years as a great document about American history and politics in the second half of the twentieth century. Because of email there will not be any great epistolary collections anymore, and this may be it. What do you think, Steve?
Steven Weisman: Well, I cannot predict that but I wanted to say first of all how honored I am to be here. This is easily the most distinguished and intimidating group I have ever spoken to. The greatest collection of intellectuals here to dine with, one is tempted to say, except maybe for dining with Pat Moynihan alone. In the spirit of the great…I think one of Kennedy’s comments. Kathleen, do you really think there needed to be more in here of letters to the New York Times? I journeyed through a journalism career and worked at the New York Times, ladies and gentlemen, for forty years. As I said when I left the Times two years ago, that is as long as the Jews were wandering in the desert. And when I was pondering what to do with my life, this project materialized before me in the form of the publisher Peter Osnos calling and asking me for ideas of who might do this. And it was completely intimidating to me, the idea of doing something like this project. All of you are experienced in archival research and taking care to read through vast amounts of material and winnow it down. I am a journalist by training and it was not until I figured out how to do it with students and graduate students that it began to come into view how this might happen. And as Maura said we went to a wonderful institution, the Maxwell School, where Pat Moynihan had his first teaching job after working for Averell Harriman in the late 1950s, and his last teaching job, as many of you know, when he was a visiting professor there. And about a dozen students received credit for the work they did in Washington. Syracuse has a very nice campus, or it is a building up on Calvert Street in Washington, and the folks at Syracuse helped me pick the…they were very enthusiastic about this. They knew that it would be a learning process for the kids and for all of you who work with students, you would not be surprised but I was kind of blown away by…I mean not all of them knew very much about Pat Moynihan; since they were at school in New York they knew who he was, there was the Moynihan Professorship and the Moynihan Globalization Center at Syracuse. But they engaged in this material with great enthusiasm and we, they, used digital cameras to photograph all of the letters that we could find. The Library of Congress staff, not just John Haynes who Maura mentioned, but Connie Cartledge especially who oversaw the cataloging of the papers when Pat left them to the Library, helped us define which of the three thousand boxes would contain the letters and it took…we photographed them and then put them on hard copy through PDFs and we had them on GoogleDocs, and then I had to print them out because I had to edit them on paper to…because there is not any good software yet on word recognition to convert a document like that into a Word document that can do it without flaws. So this process took a year and a half or so or two…it began two years ago, starting with the initial going up to Syracuse University, and I would love to hear, to have a conversation if any of you have any questions, but I have been talking with a number of you in the reception and a lot of you have been asking me how we went about this, so I thought I would focus my comments a little bit on the logistics and how we went about it.
This project could not have been done, of course…it was Maura’s idea, it could not have been done without Liz, who helped to encourage Syracuse University to put up the money. Bob Katzmann here was a great friend of this project from the beginning in advising me on how to, who to deal with at Syracuse to persuade them to be involved. But I have to tell you that to speak before you tonight is incredibly moving to me. I am…forgive me for just being a little emotional, but when you go through a project like this for a couple of years, all of you know, everybody in this room knows, how lonely this kind of work can be. And there I was surrounded by, Maura has seen them, she saw the three thousand boxes, but in my offices are these shelves of folders and trying to organize them and sitting there at night or on weekends or during the day, reading through the raw material and trying to figure out how long does this book want to be and how should I organize it, chronologically? I had originally an idea to organize it around subject matter, I thought that might be more interesting. I realized a couple of things. One, that it needed to be a narrative, that it did need to be like a novel and that the connective material that I had to write had to make it into a narrative that was not only the unfolding of Pat’s life, but also the unfolding of the history of the last forty or fifty years. The second decision was to mix the trivial and the silly with the majestic and the serious and the long expository essays. And I think that has worked out to the great pleasure of a lot of readers who have told me that they love reading about his complaints to Brooks Brothers about holes in his socks in between discussions of family policy. So it became a book that I knew was going to be something that people would dip in and out of, which many of you told me that is what you do. But, finally, here I am before you tonight and you have presented this beautiful program of reading from the letters. I cannot tell you how touched I am that this book, which kind of came together in this series of accidental decisions and, “Well, what if we do it this way,” and “what if we do it that way?” Talking with Maura, talking with Liz, talking with my great editors at Public Affairs Books, and here it is that has…and you have organized this beautiful evening around it. It is just something that I cannot imagine, I never imagined that this would happen. So I thank you from the bottom of my heart for honoring this book and certainly for honoring me. Thank you.
So you really want to know what I left out, a lot of people said, “What did you leave out?” I told, aside from some of the same complaints to the New York Times that were written to me, I left those out, I left out a lot about India because as Maura said I lived in India in the 1980s, ten years after Pat was ambassador, and I loved those letters but I could not…there is more from India than…so anyway, we will talk.
Heidi Hartmann: Don’t go away because now we have ten or fifteen minutes or so for questions and answers and Bob Katzmann has already been mentioned. Would you like to say a couple of words? I want to say that the letter to you caught my attention; I thought it was rather cryptic. Were you defending your dissertation or something like that and he sent you the telegram?
Bob Katzmann: The genesis of this is that I was a teaching assistant to Senator Moynihan, Professor Moynihan in his course Social Science and Social Policy, which was a course that tried to look at the uses and limits of social policy, social science and social policy. And at the end of the semester we had a dinner with the teaching assistants and we went back to Frances Avenue and somehow we got into this game of stump the professor. And I knew that Senator Moynihan, Professor Moynihan who had just been elected to the Senate, was a great Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers fan, as Maura well knows. And I could not really think of a question to ask him as all of these, my colleagues, were asking very erudite questions. So I said, “Who said to whom ‘chance is the fool’s name for fate’?” And I said, “You have until tomorrow morning,” which was the last class, “to find out the answer.” And the next morning on the bulletin board in Seaver Hall was, in his…he wrote on the blackboard, “Providence is the sobriquet for fate. – Sébastien de Chamfort” And he said to me, “Bob, you got it wrong.” And I said, “No, it is what Fred said to Ginger in the Gay Divorcee,” and he paused and he said, “I rather like that, I prefer that.” And so our sign off to each other in our writings and in our communications was usually “Chance is the fool’s name for fate.” And so on the day of my PhD defense, which he had learned about, and he sent me a telegram saying, “Chance is the fool’s name for fate.” And I think our last conversation, it ended with “Chance is the fool’s name for fate.” And so that is an example, I think, of his relationship with his friends and his colleagues, that traditions were the ties that bind. And you read that and you wonder, “Well, what is that?” It is more than just a sentence, it bespeaks a way that he had with connecting with people for over a generation. And that is one of the great things about the Weisman volume, is that you really see these people who are in his life for a very long time, and they pop in, they pop out, and there is always that affection in relationship. So thank you both for your tremendous contribution.
Heidi Hartmann: Thank you very much for explaining that, because when I saw that I thought, “Huh, if I was about to have my defense, would I have thought that meant good luck or…I would have wondered what my fate was, to pass or fail, I do not know.” Any other person who would like to ask a question or a comment? We have a good ten to twelve minutes. Great, Linda?
Linda Aiken: So I think that Senator Moynihan’s perspective is quite missing on health reform in our current health reform. You may have seen Peter Orszag trying to convince us all that we can pay to insure thirty million people if we could get Miami to reduce its healthcare expenditures to the level of Minnesota, and the paper article in the New Yorker by Atul Gawande about McClellan, Texas, pointing out that they are spending two and a half times per capita Medicare costs than, again, the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis. And I say this because liberals have really switched sides in a very peculiar way on this whole debate that is very antithetical to Senator Moynihan’s general positions, in that if you really use data and you examine the demography of these high-cost areas like Miami and McClellan, Texas and even Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, you find that the driving explanation behind variation in healthcare expenditures, high expenditures associated with poor outcomes, has everything to do with poverty and little to do with clinical variation in what providers are doing. But, yet we are all so angry at our doctors and our hospitals and we know they are ripping us off and we really want to blame them. But all the liberals have all of a sudden sort of abandoned the idea that it is poverty that is driving the health expenditures and the poor outcomes. Poor people use a lot of healthcare and they have poor outcomes. And so next time you see this idea that is so pervasive in all of healthcare reform, think back to Moynihan’s research and we really do not have that voice sort of setting us straight.
Steven Weisman: I would like to…I was hoping actually that there would be more in the letters about healthcare and I put in the book as much as there was, almost. The Clintons and Pat Moynihan were like ships passing in the night in that period. Obviously Pat Moynihan did not like the process and the Clintons later understood the mistakes they made. But as Chairman of the Finance Committee, Pat did hold hearings, as he said in the letter to the New York Times, and the New York Times was very churlish in the correction that it finally ran on that article, but he also tried to have it both ways, I think, in saying – maybe Maura can comment on this – that he was a big supporter of the Clinton health program, because as the letters show and as you suggest, he was not. He had a very thoughtful critique, first that it was coercive in his view and he wrote that to people like Meg Greenfield, I think, at the Washington Post and others, that he thought the cost controls that were being contemplated were coercive and that they would punish the teaching hospitals in New York, which he knew were one of the crown jewels of New York State and its economy and its productive life and of course even in the last iteration there was this tension over cost controls and how they are going to affect hospitals. And Kathleen and I were just talking about this tension is going to play itself out in the new Congress and over the coming years. So Pat was always trying to get the Clintons to focus on issues of poverty and family and welfare reform, as it was then called, and the Clintons, like President Obama, for their own reasons decided to make healthcare their priority. The relationship was poisoned, as many of you remember, by some journalism and there was an article that quoted someone at the White House as saying, “Well, Moynihan isn’t that important to us, we will roll over him if we have to,” and this was they were speaking of the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Clinton was livid; he apologized to Pat. Those apologies are run through the letters. Pat obviously never really…the wound, I do not think ever really healed, although certainly he supported Mrs. Clinton for Senate to succeed him, and that was an awfully generous thing to do and probably she might not have won without that, and she understood that and so did Bill Clinton. And in the end, Hillary Clinton wrote to Pat, “If I had listened to you on healthcare, I would be better off and so would the whole country.” That letter is also quoted in the book. And just as a coda, out of perhaps a mixture of mischief and curiosity, I made sure to send a copy of this book to Secretary Clinton and actually just last week she sent me a lovely note, lovely personal note, saying how she looked forward to reading it and that how “impressive it was that you did this project and I wish you all the success in the publication of it.” And I thought that was very…I was very touched by that.
Heidi Hartmann: I think we have had about the most wonderful evening any of us can imagine, and I do want to say, Steven, that although you say you were awed by this group I can assure you that I have a pretty good acquaintance with academia, even though I have chosen to spend my life in public policy, and I am pretty certain that no single academic I know could have produced this book of letters in two years. So congratulations to you, we are surely in awe of you. So thank you.
Moynihan Letters Ceremony Part 1
Moynihan Letters Ceremony Part 2
Moynihan Letters Ceremony Q&A with Maura Moynihan and Steven Weisman