BY CLINTON W. GILBERT
AS these lines are written, the President of the United States has just signed a tax bill. It is a compromise between the revenue measure passed by the Senate and the one which was passed by the House two months earlier. Much more important, it represents a compromise between the national interest, which required that this democracy of ours should manifest a willingness to tax itself enough to pay its running expenses and the fixed charges on its borrowings, and various local interests, which sought to shift the burden of taxes to other shoulders.
Balancing the budget is a gesture of solvency; it is like the individual’s meeting the interest on his note at the bank. We are now on the way toward accomplishing that gesture, and for this Congress deserves, I suppose, a certain credit. But not very much, when one remembers that the United States is, after all, in spite of the hard times, a rich country, certainly the richest in the world. Spoiled child among the nations of the earth, which has never known hardship comparable to that which England, let us say, or Germany has undergone, America was able to make this gesture of solvency only after shedding bitter tears over the sacrifices it will entail.
Other nations, watching us in our somewhat shabby exhibition of weakness, and knowing from their own experience how democracies will borrow and borrow until bankruptcy overtakes them, did not believe we would tax ourselves sufficiently to maintain our credit. Forgetting the bookkeeping instinct which is deeply ingrained in the Anglo-Saxon race, they unloaded their American holdings; they withdrew the gold they had once sent here for safe-keeping; they sold the dollar down the river in the markets that deal in international exchange. In short, the rest of the world got rid of everything American that it owned — with the result that prices went down and down on American security markets, and panic became more and more acute in this country.
We have a proud saying, ‘Never sell the United States short.’ We do not always live up to it, and certainly we did not give a very convincing demonstration of it to the outside world when we let ourselves go to pieces at such a moment of crisis. The months that it took Congress to settle down in earnest to the work of balancing the budget — a generous phrase, for the Secretary of the Treasury did not have to ask for enough additional revenue actually to balance the budget — let us say, then, the months that it took us to accomplish this gesture toward solvency have been costly to us, in our loss of self-esteem, in our own psychological attitude toward the depression, in the shattering of confidence which foreign peoples had had in this country, hitherto regarded as economically impregnable.
Copyright 1932, by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
Let us set down these losses to the debit side of the accounts to which they are chargeable. In the first place, President Hoover was very slow to recognize the necessity of balancing the budget. Being a candidate for reëlection, he did not like to assume the responsibility of recommending an increase in taxes — always likely to cause the defeat of an administration. Up till just about the time Congress convened in December, the administration held out the hope that we could borrow our way through the depression. From this point on, the blame must be laid upon Congress, which came to Washington cheerfully expecting to make, with its usual lavish hand, the appropriations which buy votes. It did not want to be compelled to ask constituents for larger contributions toward the payment of Federal expenses. Like the President, Congress does not wish to levy taxes on the eve of an election; and the whole of the House, as well as a third of the Senate, will have to seek a vote of approval from the people in November.
Now that we have written down the red side of the account, let us say to their credit that, once President Hoover and Secretary Mills faced the fact that a gesture toward solvency was necessary, they never wavered in their insistence that it be made. And let us give credit to Speaker Garner of the House, who has a bookkeeping type of mind, and who, even before President Hoover and Secretary Mills, I think, began insisting that the budget must be balanced. He gradually won over the leading members of his party in both houses of Congress to the view that nothing short of ruin lay before a country which would not face its financial responsibilities. And to the credit of Congress let it be said that each house, after much squawking, did pass a tax bill, the Representatives one and the Senate another, each providing all the revenue that Secretary Mills dared ask for.
As for the final measure which has now become law, it is probably as bad as a tax bill could be. The best that one can say for it is that any taxes which accomplish a gesture toward solvency are better than a confession on the part of the American democracy that it will not make the effort to meet its obligations. The tax bill, then, is better than nothing — a good deal better than nothing.
What grieves the judicious — if there are any judicious in this hysterical moment of history — is the delay, the endless time Congress has taken, the sorry exhibition both houses have made of themselves. This session’s experiences have given rise to fundamental doubts concerning the very stability of our form of government — doubts which spring from Congress’s grudging recognition of the national interest and the prevalence of rapacious local interests (groups, blocs, minorities of all kinds) in this hour of the country’s trial. In a period of profligate prosperity, when waste was tolerable and pork was plentiful, and no one bothered to count the cost of either, we could look calmly upon legislation which proved that organized minorities could manage to rule at the expense of the majority. But at a time like the present even the indifferent must be shocked at the spectacle of these minorities all but succeeding in dictating their will to Congress, regardless of the effect upon the general welfare. And what if this depression is only the beginning of a new era, not the ‘New Era’ that was predicted in the intoxication of 1928 and 1929, but a new era in which life in this now grown-up country will be harder than it has been in the past, and the snarl of the minorities heard in this session of Congress will grow ever louder and more venomous?
According to theory, our government rests upon the consent of the governed. As a matter of actual practice, it does not. It rests upon the apathy of the governed, with aggressive, determined minorities taking advantage of that apathy to further their own ends. Every Representative and Senator knows this, and generally shows it by his record. The great majority of members in both houses depend for reëlection upon the apathy of all but a few of the voters in their districts. More than 90 per cent of these voters will normally cast their ballots for the sitting member because they are in the habit of voting for him, because they belong to his party, because he has written them letters, and calls them by their first names, or because some local politician asks them to do so. The Congressman may take all these voters for granted. He rarely has to consider them in taking a position on pending legislation.
There is an economic theory that prices are determined by what is called the ‘marginal utility’ of the commodity: in the case of wheat, let us say, by the bushels that exceed the consumptive power of a community. Now the voters who do not belong to the apathetic mass of regulars have great marginal utility to a member. These make up the active, menacing, organized minorities — the organized veterans, the organized Drys or Wets, the organized farmers, the organized business interests that demand tariffs or other special favors, the people who are temporarily organized to get a post office, a veterans’ hospital, or a deepened creek. The organizing of minorities has proceeded upon a large scale in the last twenty years. It has been discovered that the way to control legislation is to organize that marginal element in a Congressional district or state which a member must win to secure his renomination in the primary or his victory on election day. The member gives 90 per cent of his thought to keeping the good will of these groups, which have a large nuisance value because they control the balance of power. If he can ordinarily take 90 per cent of his supporters for granted, and if that 90 per cent is not enough to make him secure, he will jump through hoops to gain the favor of the marginal 10 per cent.
The boast of a member is that he represents his state or district. He never thinks of himself as representing the nation, and, actually, he is too busy representing the minorities among his constituents to justify the claim that he represents even the small geographical unit that elects him. When the interests of the nation conflict with the interests of a minority, the will of the minority is certain to prevail unless the issue concerns the very life of the nation. All this because of the minority’s marginal utility to the member.
Only a handful of Senators and Representatives are mindful of the national well-being. In fact, almost any member who habitually prefers the general interest to the special interests of minorities and localities invites defeat. Finis Garrett, who preceded Speaker Garner as floor leader of the Democrats in the House, an exceptionally able man, was one of those stern and unbending persons who would not vote against his convictions at the behest of organized groups in his Tennessee district. In the end he incurred the enmity of the war veterans and the farmers, and could no longer be reëlected from his district. He tried for a Senatorship from Tennessee, and, failing to be nominated, dropped out of Congress into a Federal judgeship.
The list of the victims of the organized Drys is a long one. The victims of the organized Wets will be equally numerous. The original bonus bill, providing a cash payment of $1,000,000,000 to the ex-soldiers several years ago, the present pressure for a new cash payment of $2,400,000,000, the annual appropriation of $1,000,000,000 for the Veterans Bureau, are evidence enough of the power which this minority, with its nation-wide organization, wields over Congress. With its demands for constant doles from the public treasury, it threatens to bankrupt the country unless the country again becomes so rich that it can stand the drain. At the moment of writing, it appears that the $2,400,000,000 now demanded of Congress will not be granted at this session; but it is practically certain to be voted next year or the year after, and when it is, no one can doubt that it will finally become law over the President’s veto.
The steadily rising appropriations for the Department of Agriculture and the half billion or so that has been spent on the futile Farm Board demonstrate the ability of the organized farmers to control the votes of Congress. Indeed, they rank next to the veterans in their power to get pork out of the legislative branch of our government.
The elementary fact to bear in mind in this connection is that Congress is the greatest vote-buying organization in the world. The individual members and their friends do not, of course, make a practice of directly corrupting the electorate by handing out twodollar bills on election day. They buy the votes out of the public treasury, with appropriations. The proposed cash payment of $2,400,000,000 to the veterans chiefly interests the members as a means of purchasing the good will of that powerful minority. Even members who think that such a huge appropriation would be dangerous to the country in the present state of the Federal finances will not dare to put themselves on record against it. Their state of mind is pretty clearly shown in the following summary of the situation by a House leader: ‘Two thirds of the members hope that the cash payment will not come up for action. If it does come up, four fifths of the members will vote for it.’ That estimate indicates how many members are more concerned about buying votes than about the national welfare.
What a nose Congress has for pork was shown in the developments with regard to unemployment relief. As at first proposed by Owen D. Young, Bernard Baruch, and ex-Governor Alfred E. Smith, this relief was to take the form of a $2,000,000,000 loan by the Federal Government to states and cities for public works of a self-liquidating character: that is to say, public works, such as toll bridges, that would earn their own way. The Senate at once decided to apply a quarter of the total sum to Federal public works, which would not be self-liquidating. The House, which had been eager for a pork barrel, — one of the good old-fashioned sort, — went the Senate several better. It allotted more than half of the proposed appropriation to Federal public works — to post-office buildings, court buildings, and rivers and harbors.
I admit that there is something to be said for the House scheme of erecting post offices in communities of 1200 or 1500 population. There is unemployment in small towns as well as large, and the House bill would have the effect of giving unemployment aid a wide distribution. But this is not enough to account for the enthusiasm of the House members for this bill. Much more important than the relief it would afford is the fact that the plan would give the members appropriations for their districts which would help them to be reëlected.
In recent years, because of the billiona-year service on the debts that the war left with us and the billion-a-year cost of the veterans, to say nothing of the heavy additional doles to veterans and to agriculture, the old-fashioned pork barrel has had more salt in it than pork. There had not been a billiondollar pork-barrel bill in a long time. Here, at last, with some color of national justification, was the real thing. I was not born with a caul, so I shall refrain from prophecy about the fate of the measure; I shall merely observe in passing that the enthusiasm for it among the members of the House is unmistakable.
In order the better to understand why the smell of pork had become so irresistibly tantalizing to Congress by the early part of June, let us take a quick glance at some of the events which preceded the passage of the tax bill.
The panic which hit the rest of us in October 1929, and at frequent intervals thereafter, did not hit Congress until December 1931. Up till that time, Congress had been able to pursue its customary lavish career. President Hoover had had the entrails examined fortnightly by the White House haruspex, and had issued repeated assurances that the future was rosy. Soothed by this divination, Congress had gone ahead, in a period of rapidly declining revenues, and had cut taxes early in 1930. A little later, with a mounting deficit, it had voted $1,000,000,000 to its favorites, the veterans. The White House haruspex could see nothing in the entrails to justify such optimism as this, but what did it matter? Prosperity, after all, was just sixty days off — which particular sixty days no one has yet been able to learn.
Then came a sudden jolt. Just before the new session of Congress began, in December 1931, President Hoover announced that the country could no longer pay its bills by borrowing, but must raise one billion dollars of additional revenue. Speaker Garner persuaded the Democratic leaders that taxes capable of providing this amount would have to be levied. This was indeed disturbing news to gentlemen who had come to Washington innocently dreaming of the new appropriations they would get for their districts, of the pension bills they would pass, of the pleasant frame of mind in which they would put their constituents for the approaching election of 1932. Never before, so far as I can recall, had Congress been asked to levy a heavy increase of taxes in time of peace.
Let me repeat that sentence, for it explains everything that follows. Never before, in the whole one hundred and fifty years of United States history, had Congress been called upon to raise taxes radically in time of peace! Hitherto the pleasant business of that august body had been to vote gratuities to its constituents — not to all of them, of course, but to marginal groups of sufficient nuisance value — out of revenues that fell like manna from heaven. It had been in the habit of paying generously for its own reëlection. And now it had to ask its constituents to pay for the privilege of having it in Washington. Dark prospects opened before the members. Congress had been caught short!
But the full horror of the situation was not realized until the Ways and Means Committee of the House, after weeks of searching for a painless method of raising a billion dollars of revenue, reported out a tax bill. Then, at last, the members felt the full force of the catastrophe. The one thought of practically every Representative was: How many people in my district will have to pay these odious taxes? Most of them come from districts where few people pay income taxes, so the incometax provisions of the Committee bill hardly received any attention. It was the excise upon manufacturers, generally called the manufacturers’ sales tax, from the payment of which no citizen could escape, that caused the greatest panic and rage.
Within a few days the House had rejected its leaders, had burst from all control, was indifferent to the claims of parties, was nothing but a mob, the members wrecking the work of the Committee and voting new taxes into the bill with no other consideration than that they should fall somewhere else than upon their own constituents. Such was the fury of the House that it would have torn to pieces whatever taxes the Committee had first offered it. This was inevitable. The members could not all at once overcome their long-established habit of voting gratuities, doles, pensions, special appropriations, and favors. They were bound to become a mob, and be ruled by panic fear, no matter what plan was proposed. When the panic subsided, the House turned about and voted taxes which, at the outset, it would have rejected by a large majority — such, for example, as the automobile excise tax, which was finally put in the bill. The increase in postal rates was another provision which, though adopted in the end, would have been almost unanimously defeated during those first hours of panic.
The mad scenes in the House, amid which the manufacturers’ sales tax was rejected and little or no consideration was given to the economic effects of the taxes voted, caused a great shock to the country. Faith in our democratic institutions was shaken as it had not been since the Civil War. Part of this shock, of course, was the reaction of the income-tax payers when they suddenly realized what heavy demands the government was going to make upon them. It is hard not to take a gloomy view of an institution which is doubling or trebling the amount of money one has to pay to the tax collector. By far the greater shock, however, was produced by the ugly disclosure of the temper of the House itself. The polite mask it wears as a national body was torn aside. The machine that usually controls it was overthrown. Strange and fiery leaders, ordinarily suppressed, came to the front — La Guardia of New York and that mob spirit, Rankin of Mississippi. Abruptly the country was brought to realize what a capacity for mischief lay in a public body whose members are devoted primarily to the representation of local and minority interests.
It was glaringly revealed that parties meant nothing, for the House was rejecting plans that had the approval of both parties. Members ran about in terror because they had received a dozen letters and telegrams from home protesting against the proposed taxes. I suppose it was the utter impotence of the normal leaders of the House that caused the profoundest shock of all. I shall have more to say about this aspect of the matter a little later.
The spectacle which the Senate presented in handling the tax bill after it had left the House was not so disturbing. This was partly because the Senate had already dulled the keen edge of its panic by sharing the emotions of the House when that body was a howling mob. In the most violent period, many Senators sat on the floor of the House, while others, in their offices, conferred with House members from their states and urged them on to further excesses. Their reactions, therefore, were somewhat exhausted before they had to deal with the problem of demanding money from their own constituents. Then, too, only a third of the Senate will have to face reëlection in November. The more fortunate two thirds could hope that with returning prosperity they could vote for a reduction in the new taxes before they had to ask their states for approval at the polls. Furthermore, it is a psychological fact that a severely repressed body is certain to be more violent when it breaks the bonds of control than one that is accustomed to freedom; and the House is habitually, and necessarily, bossed within an inch of its life, while the Senate knows no control, either by a machine of its own creation, by the Executive, or by political party.
In spite of these differences, the Senators generally were governed by precisely the same purposes which had caused the Representatives to run riot. Their object was to protect their own interests, by seeing to it that such taxes as would inevitably fall within their states should hit as few of their constituents as possible. That is to say, they were bent upon risking the loss of as few votes as possible in the process of balancing the budget.
Actually, the tax bill in the Senate was largely dictated by a group of Senators who made it a vehicle for putting protective duties on certain commodities produced in their states. The local interests which these Senators represented were oil, coal, lumber, and copper. Their purpose was to make the general public pay more for these commodities in order to aid local producers — another clear case of the national interest sacrificed for the benefit of minorities. Eighteen Democratic Senators broke with their party and supported these particularly vicious items of protection, thereby destroying the Democratic issue that the HawleySmoot tariff was instrumental in causing and prolonging the depression.
These eighteen, combining with certain Republican Senators from states producing oil, coal, lumber, and copper, and with other Republicans who voted for protective duties on general principles, formed a majority strong enough to force the tariff items into the tax bill. Once this was done, the strategy of these Senators was to lend their votes to any combination that seemed capable of completing the bill. That combination consisted of the Democratic leaders in the Senate, who opposed the sales tax because they did not want to subject their party in the House to the strain of reconsidering it, and the Progressive Republican Senators, who favored sky-high income taxes because few of their own constituents, in Mr. Grundy’s ‘backward states,’ would be called upon to pay them.
The final tax bill, then, as passed by the Senate and accepted in substance by the House, was the result of these factors: the interest of a few oil, coal, lumber, and copper states, which sought tariff favors at the expense of the rest of the country; the interest of the less populous and less wealthy Western and Southern states, which wished to shift the burden of new taxes to the industrial North and East; and the interest of the Democratic Party as interpreted by the Democratic leaders in the Senate, who wanted to spare the party another exhibition of such confusion and weakness as it had already given in the House.
At this writing, it is impossible to say what Congress will do about reducing the expenses of the Federal Government, with its vastly swollen budget of $4,000,000,000. The Senate, to be sure, has just voted a cut in the wages of Federal employees, but the House, some time before, practically declined to take any responsibility for curing the evils of its past extravagance. In obedience to minorities, it rejected a carefully framed economy bill presented by its leaders.
One may feel a certain sympathy with this reluctance to cut Federal wages, for they are not high, and they responded slowly, and only in part, to the rising cost of living in the boom period of the last decade. The fact remains, however, that it was not this consideration, but fear of the organized Federal employees, that dictated the rejection of wage cuts by the House. And its refusal to make any but the most moderate reduction in the scandalous provision of $1,000,000,000 for the care of the veterans sprang straight from the members’ abject terror of what that most powerful and best organized of all minorities would do to them at the polls.
However, all’s well, I suppose, that ends well. Some reduction in Federal expenses will doubtless be made, and the tax bill is already law. For this much, let us give thanks. The budget will be balanced — at least on paper. And as Speaker Garner, a very practical man, has remarked, it is relatively unimportant by what taxes the deficit in revenue is made up, so long as the budget is balanced.
But the fact that Congress, at such a time of crisis, was so slow, so hesitant, so fearful, to take the statesmanlike action which was demanded of it, and the fact that this action, when taken, represented the most obnoxious kind of compromise between the national interest and the petty, selfish interests of minorities, with the minorities claiming the lion’s share of the bargain — these things together have been enough to arouse grave misgivings about the future of democratic government. And rightly so, for this stormy session of Congress has made it clear that the various devices, constitutional and extra-constitutional, by which we have hitherto been able to force some regard for the general welfare upon a legislative body which is almost exclusively concerned with local and group interests, have broken down. In order to see how this has come about, let us examine the several devices in turn, and observe what has happened to them.
In the first place, there is the constitutional means — the Presidential veto. Theoretically, the Constitution seems to ensure majority rule by requiring that two thirds of both houses must favor a measure before it can become law without the President’s signature. Rut minorities have often been able to control two thirds of both houses. Twice in recent years the Presidential veto of gratuities to the ex-soldiers has been overthrown in the Senate and the House.
Moreover, the Executive himself is not immune to pressure from minorities. He is chosen by a party, which, to elect him, makes pledges to organized groups of all kinds, and these pledges are binding upon him. If he is a candidate for reëlection, he has to think of the votes he may alienate by his vetoes. President Hoover, for example, was inclined to exert his influence against the oil, coal, lumber, and copper duties in the tax bill. He was doubtless told that if he did so he would risk losing in November the electoral votes of California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Montana, Oklahoma, and Kansas — states in which local interests demanded these tariff duties. At any rate, he maintained a discreet silence about taxing the rest of us to put money in the pockets of a minority.
Then there is the extra-constitutional device — party government. For the benefit, as it now seems, of the minorities, we weakened party government some years ago by adopting a double system of elections. Under this system minorities are given two shots at a candidate — one in the primary, and another in the election. Most of the terror which minorities inspire in Congressmen springs from the power of political life and death which they exercise over candidates in the direct primaries. Thus it would appear that in seeking to cure the evils of party government we introduced the evils of government by minorities.
Finally, there is the machine in the House. Ever since the heyday of Cannonism it has been abused in the public prints, just as the political machine was abused before the days of the direct primary and the direct election of Senators. It has been a national scandal, we were told, that ‘ten men control the House,’ that the House is ‘no longer a deliberative body.’ I have no doubt that the machine often lent itself to the purposes of the dominant business interects of the country; but it also had its uses — and very important uses they were.
It has not been without significance that the House, through its control by the machine, has usually coöperated with the President when, as commonly happens, he has belonged to the same party as the majority in the House. This coöperation has served the interests of party government, and party government is one of the strongest safeguards against the rapacity of minorities. It is an imperfect one, to be sure, because the machine has to accept compromises and is susceptible to corruption; but nevertheless a safeguard. If you doubt it, look at the Senate: lacking such control by party, it is almost always at odds with the President.
The sheer size of the House prevents its operating otherwise than as a strictly managed assembly, under rules which curb the free play of individualism enjoyed by the Senators in their smaller chamber. Four hundred and thirtyfive members, free to talk whenever they liked, and as much as they liked, free to press, each of them, the measure in which each was specially interested, could accomplish no business. Legislation would be impossible. Some method of selection was inevitable, and it was provided by the voluntary resignation of certain powers belonging to the individual members Into the hands of the House managers.
These managers are normally the Speaker, the floor leaders, and the chairmen of important committees, — Ways and Means, Rules, Appropriations, and a few others, — who have risen to leadership by reason of their political skill, their knowledge of legislation, their character and personality. Actual membership in the machine depends partly upon position and partly upon the inherent force of the individuals who make it up. Often the ‘Tsar’ of the House is the Speaker, but sometimes he is the majority floor leader, or the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, or the Chairman of the Rules Committee. The man counts fully as much as his position in determining who is to be boss.
The authority of the leaders is always tyrannical. The recusant member finds it difficult to obtain recognition on the floor. The bill in which he is interested is likely to slumber in committee. If he cherishes the ambition to be appointed to an important committee, he learns that some other member, more amenable to discipline, is preferred to him.
Of course there are limits to the power of the machine. It is a kind of elective tyranny, and operates on sufferance. It owes its very existence to the members over whom it rules, and must keep their good will. It must compromise; it must conciliate; it must recognize that the main purpose of a Representative is to secure his own reelection. It must not force those upon whose votes it depends to face the risks of defeat at the polls by organized minorities. It must reward faithfulness in a member by permitting him to have the appropriation, the special act, which seems necessary to procure him the favor of some group in his district. Many a member will do exactly as he is told all through a session in order to have at its close a chance to secure the one little bill on which he has set his heart.
Democratic government as we know it is necessarily a working compromise between national and local interests, and the machine in the House is one of the devices that have come into being to make this compromise effective. It sees to it that the individualism of members and the pressure of minorities do not wholly submerge the larger concerns of the nation. To a considerable extent, the managers of the machine rise above the petty concerns of the rank and file. They arc national figures with a sense of national responsibility which the average member lacks. They are usually free to think in terms of other things than their own reëlection, for their prestige makes them secure. Speaker Garner, for example, has not had to campaign in his district for fifteen years. The leaders are also less easily stampeded by minorities than are their submerged followers. They feel a sense of responsibility to their parties as national organizations. They are the connecting link between the House and the President, who uses patronage to sustain their authority.
In a large sense, therefore, the machine brings order out of the chaos, not only of individualism, but also of conflicting local and minority interests. So far as the national interest is served in the House, it is the machine that serves it.
Of the disquieting political events of this year, it appears to me that not the least disturbing was the victory of the minority interests over the House machine. Twice it was wrecked — once on the tax bill, and again on the economy bill. And while it is true that these victories were won when the leaders lacked both an adequate majority in the House and the support that a President of the same party might have given them, the fact remains that the minorities have taken one more salient. It was necessary for them to break the machine if they were to gain their ends, and they have broken it. I doubt whether it will ever again reclaim its almost autocratic power.
The minorities will not soon forget the success of the revolt which they engineered in this session of Congress. They have set an example which other organized groups will be sure to emulate — particularly if it should prove true, as many think, that this depression marks the beginning of a new era, in which life in America will be harder, in which opportunity will not be written on every birth certificate, in which the struggle for existence will be more intense and tempers more on edge. Economists tell us that we shall be left with a permanent unemployment problem on our hands. This means that we shall have to deal with a new minority, more menacing, perhaps, than any which has yet arisen, for its object will be nothing less than to demand the right to live in idleness at the expense of the public.
To picture the dangers that lurk in this development, we do not have to draw upon our imagination. The thing has already happened. As I write, a mob composed of the unemployed and the discontented, who happen, incidentally, to be ex-soldiers, have assembled in Washington from all over the country for the express purpose of terrifying Congress into passing a bill for the payment in cash of $2,400,000,000 to themselves and their associates. This is minority government in a new and most threatening aspect — an organization formidable in numbers, moving on Congress in a body to demand ‘bread and circuses.’
Surely the time has come to press the case of The People against Pork. Minorities are growing constantly more exigent, and all the devices that we have worked out for enforcing the national interest against them are breaking down. What we may be able to do to create new safeguards I cannot pretend to say. Only this much is certain : No regard for the public welfare can be expected of those Congressmen and Senators who, in such a national emergency as confronted them this year, proved themselves indifferent to everything but the saving of their own political skins.
In this game of politics, it happens that the public has the last move. Is n’t it fortunate that The People will have an opportunity in November to register their emphatic disgust against those members of Congress who cannot resist the smell of Pork?