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Radio Address By Franklin D. Roosevelt, February 18, 1931
I believe it was announced that I was going to talk today on why it pays to do things for crippled children and, I might add to that, other kinds of cripples--grown-up cripples as well. I want to talk, of course, about the big human side of relieving distress and helping people to get on their feet, but at the same time I think there is another phase of the broad question of looking after cripples to which some people have never given much thought--the financial side. For instance, I am told that there are somewhere between three and four hundred thousand cripples in this country today--I mean cripples who are pretty thoroughly put out of business, who cannot get around, who cannot perform any useful task--people, in other words, most of them children, who have to be looked after by other people. Think of it, three or four hundred thousand people out of our total population. This is a tremendous percentage.
Now let us figure for a minute in simple terms. Suppose for the sake of argument that three hundred thousand people are out of useful work when they grow to be older and that each one of them, if he could work, could produce one thousand dollars' worth of new products every year. In other words, if the productive value were one thousand dollars a year apiece, three hundred thousand of them would mean three hundred million dollars added to the annual productive capacity of the United States. That is worth thinking about from the purely money end of things. If we could restore every cripple in this country to some kind of useful occupation it would do much to help the general wealth and well-being of the United States.
People know well that restoring one of us cripples--because as some of you know, I walk around with a cane and with the aid of somebody's arm myself--to useful occupation costs money. Being crippled is not like many other diseases, contagious and otherwise, where the cure can be made in a comparatively short time; not like the medical operation where one goes to the hospital and at the end of a few weeks goes out made over again and ready to resume life. People who are crippled take a long time to be put back on their feet--sometimes years, as we all know. Take it from that angle. Suppose for the sake of argument it costs one thousand dollars a year for a crippled child to be put back on his feet and that it takes five years to do it. The cost to the community--because it has to be community effort in most cases, for most families cannot afford it--is five thousand dollars to put that one individual back on his feet. Remember that most of the cripples can in some shape, manner or form be brought back to useful life. Suppose they are brought back so that at the time they are 20 or 21 they have before them the expectation of a long and useful life, perhaps at least 40 years more. During those 40 years each one of them ought to be able to earn one thousand dollars a year. There is forty thousand dollars added to the country's wealth, at a cost of only five thousand dollars. So the net saving or profit to the State or country as a whole is thirty-five thousand dollars. That shows it pays from the money point of view, if from no other.
At the present time in the United States, they tell me, there are about thirty thousand new cases every year of people who become crippled for one reason or another. The first thing we are trying to do everywhere is to cut down that number of new cases; and I have a letter from my old friend Daddy Allen, whom a great many people all over the United States know as the man who started the International Society for Crippled Children which has branches in every civilized country of the world. He tells me that work is going on in every State in this Union to prevent people from getting crippled, and he hopes that as a result, within a short time, instead of having thirty thousand cases, we shall be able to cut it down to 20,000. It would be a tremendous saving if by preventive measures we can keep ten thousand children every year from becoming crippled.
Of course, modern medical science is trying to prevent diseases and troubles of all kinds just as much as it is trying to make cures. This calls for better understanding on the part of the people, for better education on the part especially of the parents, for better conditions surrounding the birth of children, better care in the home, and, equally important, prevention of many unnecessary accidents of all kinds--automobile accidents, train accidents, and so on. So the first step is to work for the prevention of crippling. This covers the great advances that have been made in preventing industrial accidents-- unnecessary injuries that come to people who are at work not only in factories, but also in the field, in nearly every State of the Union. The United States now is working hard and spending much money to prevent these industrial accidents. They are far too common, but much has been accomplished and more will be accomplished in the years to come.