The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington
ON THE WORLD TODAY
IT WAS fully expected that when President Truman settled down in office he would turn his attention to the reorganization of the Executive branch of our government. Mr. Truman thinks a thorough overhaul is overdue, and he knows the government as few men do. He could not have had a better apprenticeship for the Presidency than the chairmanship of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program. That work gave him the low-down about our governmental machinery.
What the President asks of Congress is nothing less than full power to make over the entire structure of the Executive branch. That request is probably too sweeping to be granted in full, even though the President concedes the right of Congress to nullify specific actions by majority vote. But the Federal establishment is a vested interest which has many guardians in Congress. It will be difficult to get consent to the abolition of existing agencies.
What we may expect is the creation of new departments and the merging of many agencies into existing departments. For example, an agitation has long been under way to establish a Department of Public Welfare. There are advocates, too, of a separate Department of Communications and Transportation.
As to agencies outside departmental control, it is felt that Judge Schwellenbach would not have accepted the Labor portfolio without a promise that he could call back into the department the labor agencies which have strayed outside its fold.
A new Labor Department
Nowhere is reorganization more needed than in the Labor Department. This department was supposed to be a service agency for industrial workers, but gradually there has developed a congeries of other agencies to provide more and more service. Some, like the Children’s Bureau, are within the Labor Department’s jurisdiction. Others, like the U.S. Employment Service, are outside it. They all should be integrated.
A question arises over quasi-judicial bodies such as the National Labor Relations Board. Even Miss Perkins, who was always trying to reclaim her lost agencies, felt that the quasi-judicial bodies should be separate from the agencies designed primarily to serve labor. Judicial bodies should be independent of special groups, and there is reason to think that they will be left in their present status.
A hole will be left in the Administration when the War Labor Board is wound up. There will be no no-strike pledge in operation. Postponed wage adjustments will have to be made. The Federal hand will have been removed as an arbiter. In these circumstances there must be some substitute for the machinery of the War Labor Board.
A suggestion which is finding favor in Congressional circles is that the system followed in railroad labor be extended to other classes of labor. This system is a model for the establishment of a code of fair practices which would provide for settlement of disputes through direct negotiations, mediation, arbitration, and, in the last resort, governmental fact-finding boards.
Otto S. Beyer, formerly a member of the National Mediation Board, has attracted some attention with a proposal that any such machinery should be decentralized. Under his plan, industries would be encouraged to work out bargaining codes under which disputes within the industry could be settled. Industries might also set up panels of mediators to aid unions and individual companies in adjusting differences. Government aid in making collective bargaining function more effectively is urgently required. We can expect some such plan from Congress.
Our underpaid legislators
Some idea of the pitfalls in the way of a post-war stabilization policy was gained when the House voted its members a tax-free expense account of $2500. Under wartime restrictions the only way for Congressmen to receive more money is in the form of expenses.
The stabilization policy makes no allowance for boosting salaries over $5000, let alone over $10,000, which is a Representative’s salary. The House subterfuge was a bad example, while the impropriety of Congressmen’s voting themselves an increase in pay during their term of office is patent.
There is, however, a large body of opinion in favor of better compensation for Congressmen. It is, in fact, one of the items in the current proposals for the reorganization of Congress. Discussion is focused on the LaFollette-Monroney Committee, which is making a general study of Congress, with special reference to its needs for expert service and adequate compensation.
Unfortunately the House has prejudiced a good case with respect to better remuneration for its members by this maneuver. It may have resulted in the dropping of this subject from LaFollette-Monroney discussions. Now, perhaps, it would be better to follow the proposal of Representative Dirksen and set up an outside commission to make recommendations.
The World Charter
The indications are that the new World Charter will be ratified. The charter is much more satisfactory than seemed possible prior to the discussions at San Francisco. Over a hundred amendments must have been entertained and acted upon by the United Nations Conference. They insert into the Dumbarton Oaks Plan standards of international behavior, add to the authority of the Assembly, and provide for the decentralization of policing.
To be sure, the charter rests upon the solidarity of the Big Five. But peace depends upon them, and the small nations know that their security has as its fundamental condition the maintenance of the Big Five concert. The so-called veto power is only a recognition of the realities of power and responsibility. It is certainly an improvement over the League Covenant, under which all nations held a veto power, because action had to be unanimous.
Vandenberg and Stassen
It was an inspiration on Mr. Roosevelt’s part to appoint Senator Vandenberg a member of our delegation. At first the Senator from Michigan was difficult. Poland appeared to be his preoccupation. But he came into his own in the discussion on the inclusion of the clause dovetailing our Pan-American security system into the world security system.
Every member of the committee paid tribute to Vandenberg’s work in this respect. After he had heard their encomiums, he declared delightedly, “I felt like Simón Bolívar.” A force in that wing of the Senate which resides in the zone between internationalism and isolationism, Vandenberg will do a great deal to assure ratification of the final instrument in the Senate.
But the most potent worker of all at San Francisco was Harold Stassen. Stassen enjoyed the work of the delegation, and took on his own shoulders the bulk of it. All delegations united in his praise. “Wherever Stassen sits is the head of the table” was the way one of the foreign delegates put it. He has a gift for exposition, and an analytical skill and a patience in diplomatic discussion greater than that of the Senators in our delegation. All the newspapermen joined the delegates in lauding him.
At the same time, the real Stassen is difficult to fathom. In accordance with his super-state ideals, he took the extreme position, in the discussion on regionalism, of favoring the complete subordination of regional security systems to the overall agency. But when it came to the trusteeship discussions, he was an exponent of the Navy point of view — of what somebody described as our security imperialism. It was Stassen who declared bluntly that it would be up to us to say what conquered islands we would give up to the Security Council to be trusteed back to us. In other words, we affirmed the right of conquest, and expect to keep some of our spoils.
Stassen is strong in ideals, but preoccupied at the same time with the necessity of securing a new strategical setup in this complicated world. The mixture is somewhat disconcerting to foreign delegations. They find it a bewildering attitude of mind.
Our backward State Department
The agitation for a reorganization of the State Department is amply justified. Operationally we are a hundred years behind the times. Probably no other Foreign Office is so backward in organization. It is just as if we were to expect the peacetime army setup to guide us through a major war. The peace that we have to secure will be a troubled one for years to come, and we shall go from crisis to crisis. Accordingly, we need in the department wise men and experts and up-to-date machinery in harmonious combination. The President is well aware of this need.
One of the worst features of the contemporary scene in Washington is the deterioration in the public relations of the Army. Congress is constantly being irritated by the capricious and unintelligent meting out of military justice. Censorship asininities are getting worse. The situation augurs against peacetime national military service. It is felt that such a system would carry with it the perpetuation of the present power which the Army exercises over our national life. Never has there been so much press criticism of Pentagon and High Command conduct.
The Navy, on the contrary, is enjoying a good press. Secretary Forrestal is conscious of the significance of good public relations. What is more, he is making converts of the admirals.
The proposal for a greatly expanded social security system is now before Congress. This new Wagner bill is an extremely important measure that deserves widespread discussion.
Aside from the extension of insurance, three problems are involved: Federalization of the system, timing, and cost. Converts to Federalization have increased mightily as the result of the wartime mass migration of workers. Timing is in question because the problem of reconversion still has to be faced. The reduction of taxes is considered a necessary concomitant of reconversion; yet this bill would mean an increase in taxation. The proposal is to levy a 4 per cent payroll tax on employers and a tax of equal amount on insured employees — 8 per cent in all. There will be a battle over it.
THE MOOD OF THE CAPITAL
The Capital is worried about reconversion, and equally about our relations with Russia. It is recognized that Donald Nelson indicated the root of the matter when he wanted to take time by the forelock in the matter of reconversion. Now adjustments are upon us, and we are not ready. Most of the switches will be more or less impromptu, and there will be many headaches.
As for relations with Russia, the division of the country into pros and antis is widely deplored. It is hoped the President’s example will prevent extremism. By sending Mr. Hopkins to Moscow, Mr. Truman has shown what he considers to be the dominant concern of our foreign policy: it is to get along with Russia by combining firmness with understanding. The anti-Soviet atmosphere coming out of San Francisco, which provoked both pros and antis among the people, may be changed under Mr. Truman’s leadership.
What the President wants to do is to formalize as soon as possible some of the diplomatic activities which he still has to carry on by means of personal ambassadors. Until he has renovated the organization of our diplomacy, however, he must keep it under personal supervision, as he is doing through the present missions abroad.