Modernize the G.O.P: Specifications for a Republican Program

A Yankee born at Nahant on July 5, 1902, HENRY CABOT LODGE, JR., was educated at Middlesex School at Harvard. He began as a journalist in the Washington bureau and then on the editorial staff of the New York Herald Tribune. After two terms in the General Court of Massachusetts. he was the only Republican to replace a Democrat in the U.S. Senate in 1936, defeating ex-Mayor Curley by a plurality of 142,000. He was re-elected in 1942; went to Africa in the first detachment of American Tanks with the British Eighth Army; then resigned his Senate seat to serve in Italy, Southern France, and Germany. He was elected to the Senate for the third time in 1916, where his record stamps him as one of the strongest younger men in the party.

THE American political party, whether it be Republican or Democratic, is not an end in itself; it is significant only as a part of our two-party system. I believe the continuance of this system is absolutely essential to the United States, and that the system is in danger only when one party appears to be losing its hold. There is talk today of the realignment of the American parties, and in this talk the Republicans are too often labeled as conservatives and reactionaries. Some of them want to be, as is evidenced by the following letter published in the Wall Street Journal after the 1948 election : —

“We have in this country two major political parties whose philosophies of government are becoming more and more identical with each succeeding campaign. ... If the two-party system is to remain virile and effective, the Republican party must . . . return to a position of unmistakable conservatism, dedicating itself to a determination not to compromise with New Dealism.”

This opinion, in my view, is anchored to a dead past. It expresses a philosophy with which the overwhelming mass of Republicans disagree. It denies the spirit which gave birth to the Republican Party, and if this opinion prevails it will condemn the party to certain defeat.

We must have a program which is obviously good for the country, a program which can be stated in specific terms and which will put us back on a competitive basis with the Democrats. Such a program does not mean “me-too”; neither does it mean mere negation. Instead of scolding the darkness, let us light a lamp.

I propose to confine this article to a domestic program and shall begin with taxes — always a sensitive subject in March.


We should inaugurate a form of tax reduction which will encourage the growth of new economic activity and will therefore, in the larger sense, be most advantageous to the government finances.


1. Republicans should support a change in the law relative to the taxation of corporations doing a business of less than one million dollars so that they could file their returns as a partnership. Practically all the activities of venture capital start as small businesses. This would provide a powerful lift to the little man with a bright idea who is fundamentally the source of new jobs and new wealth.

2. Penetrating analysis — on a more purposeful and optimistic basis than has ever been undertaken before — should be given to the revision of our tax laws so as to reward those businesses which lower prices, increase production, stabilize employment, and keep their people at work even though they are old. A method should be worked out to ease the taxes on young people who are starting new business ventures. There has been a defeatist attitude about this type of incentive taxation — as distinguished from punitive taxation — which should cease.

Civil Rights

To be true to our traditions we should embark on a realistic civil-rights program. This is a field in which the Democrats will always be weak, faltering, apologetic, and divided. It is a field in which we can be vigorous, effective, and bold. We can no longer tolerate the idea of having second-class citizens in this country, and the Republican Party must be the party to bring this truth home. To do so would be in the clearest possible Republican tradition. We were born as the antislavery party and the party of civil rights at the time of the Civil War, and it would be foolish and grossly negligent for us not to seize this issue again.


In our legislation for civil rights we Republicans should work to: —

1. Eliminate the poll tax as a prerequisite to voting for Federal officials.

2. Make lynching a Federal offense.

3. Extend the right of equal opportunity to work and to advance in life to all citizens, irrespective of race, religion, color, or country of origin.

4. Insist on administrative action which would end racial segregation in the armed services as rapidly as possible.

5. Eliminate segregation in housing projects or in educational aid projects which are financed by the Federal government. In both these fields the present administration opposed legislation which would have effectively blocked such discrimination.

These are moderate demands which are essentially public and civic. They do not impinge on private life. They are the minimum to keep modern government in harmony with the statement in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” and with the mandate of the Constitution “to establish justice.”

Social Legislation

In the field of social legislation we must not try to outbid the Democrats, who, let it be noted, have not achieved satisfactory results despite all their talk and eighteen years in office. There are unquestionably problems in housing, health, agriculture, and social security. We must accept the challenge of producing the best solution.

The men who fought in World War II have been impressed by the fact that, when war broke out, the government took off its coat, rolled up its sleeves, and proceeded to do whatever needed to be done regardless of the conventional theories about too much government. Many of the veterans reason today, therefore, that if government, was such a useful servant in time of war, it had better be equally useful in time of peace.

This statement is all right as far as it goes. But it is not complete without stating that the reason for our great performance in World War II was the competitive system, which in peace had developed incomparable efficiency enabling it to produce wartime munitions at an accelerated pace. Even if we admit the premise that we must use the power of government whenever it can be used efficiently, we must never carry it to the point where we destroy the free system which is the source of peacetime prosperity, the trump card of our national defense, and the foundation of political liberty.

We need to draw a line between what is good and bad in the field of social legislation.

Republicans should approach such legislation believing that the American competitive economic system is the greatest possible producer of material welfare but that, excellent though it be, it is not perfect. There are some chinks which it does not fill. If nothing is done about filling those chinks, discontent will grow until it endangers the whole system. I, therefore, favor social legislation to fill in the chinks, both as a matter of decency and humanity and in order to maintain enthusiasm for the competitive system.

This is a very different type of Social welfare program from that which the Democratic Parly has undertaken. The difference between the two parties would be as broad as the difference between what is wasteful and what is well managed, between what is controlled locally by public-spirited citizens or controlled centrally by political bureaucrats, between something which really serves the people and something which appears to serve the people but in effect aggrandizes the state. There are two aspects of social legislation which come close to the heart of every family: health and security for old age.


Here is an issue which the Republicans must meet in such a way that the sick will receive good medical care without lowering the standards of the medical profession, without depriving the patient of the choice of his doctor, and without creating a system which is so overwhelmed by goldbrickers and malingerers that the really sick cannot get proper attention. The specific problem, of course, is to ease the financial burden of medical care for the individual citizen who is neither a millionaire nor a charity case.

The Administration would approach this problem by putting the doctor into a compulsory system and so forcing the community to run the risk of socializing the medical profession. This is dangerous. We can obtain the desired results if in our program we aim for these objectives:—


1. Take action which will increase the number of high-quality young doctors; with inducements so that they will practice in places where they are most needed.

2. Lower the cost of the hospital bill (such an important item in medical expenditures!) by using public funds for hospital construction and for the maintenance of such hospital services as the care of the indigent on welfare rolls; the education of residents, interns, and nurses; accident rooms; ambulances— services which are now often rendered at much less than cost.

3. Provide free diagnostic clinics, including X-ray service, so as to catch the disease before it gets established.

4. Furnish periodic health examinations for all school children.

5. Provide expensive medicines and appliances free of charge.

6. Provide funds for research and experimentation in the field of voluntary health insurance. We need to determine the utmost possibilities of such private insurance schemes as Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Extensive study should particularly be given to schemes such as that suggested in the IvesJavits bill, which is a clearly superior approach to that of the Administration. Sixty-one million people are already covered by voluntary insurance and the number is growing. Private schemes have a much lower overhead than that which would exist if the government were to operate them: in them the individual would receive more for his money. People who have chronic heart disease or other ills which are not insurable by orthodox insurance methods would be cared for by issuing to them Blue Cross or Blue Shield cards, entitling them to exactly the same benefits as regular subscribers to Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

These proposals are not only radically different from that which the Administration is sponsoring: they are more sound and truly generous. We should work out procedures along these lines and then the amount of dollars to be appropriated for these purposes would be separately decided in the light of the need and of the state of the budget.

Old Age

Never before have we had so many vigorous old people in this country. Many of them are well and could be productive; none of them want to be a burden on their children. The fact that people live longer than they used to has resulted in a large group tragically described in the phrase “too old to work and too young to die*” To react to this fact by saying that men over 45 are too old for industry — as some have done — is clearly inhuman and absurd. The majority party, judged by actual legislation, does not meet the issue broadly.


1. The Republican Party should insist that the government increase the coverage and amount of old-age and survivors’ insurance. The bill which passed the House at the first session of the Eightyfirst Congress does not go far enough. We have the word of the Secretary of Labor that today “social security gives an old couple only $41.” This is obviously far too low to support even a frugal living standard in our cities where the cost of living for a couple is estimated at from $120 to $150 per month. It actually compels about one tenth of all persons receiving old-age insurance benefits to get public assistance as well — to which, of course, they have never contributed. It constrains many persons to stay at work when they are not really fit to do so, thus defeating a prime purpose of oldage security. I propose an increase to be financed il necessary by raising the payroll tax by not more than one per cent, so that an old couple would receive an average benefit of between $90 and $100 instead of the average of $40 in the present law and of $80 in the Mouse bill. This change could give a couple who were credited with an average moil I hi v wage of $800 a benefit ol about $150.

2. We should also insist on making the coverage as broad as possible, particularly so as to cover the more than six million farmers and farm workers who todav are ineligible for social security benefits. This should result in a more intelligent and truly constructive type of farm legislation and should ease public assistance costs in rural areas where they are highest. I contend that the wider the coverage the better for the country.

3. Every individual should be entitled to tax exemptions up to a stated portion of his income for the purpose of investing in a bona fide annuity plan. This would encourage both individuals and employers to provide for supplementary pensions or annuities, chiefly through tax concessions. This is a point which is not covered by the House bill. Our tax system should be revamped so as to give corporations a wider latitude in the framing of pension plans to suit their particular needs.

4. The House bill does not sufficiently liberalize the eligibility requirements for the aged. If relief costs are to go down in the future, the eligibility requirements for old-age insurance should be reduced along the lines suggested by the Advisory Council of the Senate Finance Committee to the Eightieth Congress. Under the House bill, a man 65 years of age would have to work a minimum of five years before he could retire. Only workers aged 69 or over could retire in less than five years. Yet these are the very people who will keep relief costs up because their earning power is so low. The Advisory Council suggested that persons aged 62 or over be qualified for benefits after one and a half years of coverage and contributions, thus shortening the time they are on relief. Such a provision would be a vast improvement over the Administration bill and would really —and not merely hopefully help to decrease relief costs in (he near future.

These changes are defensible on humanitarian grounds; they would also promole economy in government — Federal, slate, and local.

Private Responsibility

The arrangements regarding old-age pensions which were agreed to last November by Steel are all but one on a noncontributory basis, which means that the worker has no personal rights in his pension.

The worker loses his pension if he moves away from his job. This is obviously bad for the worker, bad for business, unsatisfactory for the community, and a potential danger in case of war, when workers would be wanted for transfer to defense industries. Moreover, the agreement by the large industries to pay direct pensions outside of the social security system naturally creates a demand to have small businesses do the same thing, and many small businesses simply cannot afford to do so. Clearly, the progress of the pension movement should not become one more discouragement and one more obstacle to the prosperity of small business. On the other hand, pension benefits received from the government-operated social security fund are on a contributory basis. Worker contributions along with the contributions of industry have built up this fund on a share and share alike basis. The recipient has a vested right in his pension and carries that righl with him even when he changes his job.

The agreements that were reached with the big steel companies provided that industry should underwrite a guaranteed pension payment of $100 per month on the understanding that whatever amount the government provided out of social security payments would be deducted from the amount which industry has to pay. To the extent, therefore, that government social security payments are increased, the burden of industry is reduced.

This is not in conflict with the idea that the more that industry, working through labor and management, assists in developing the security of the citizen, the better. Industries which, for example, can progress toward an annual wage to their employees, or industries which will agree to keep their older employees on the job, are perhaps the most powerful forces working toward the enhancement of our private competitive economy. The more our private enterprise carries the load, the less the demand on the state and the more we enhance the private enterprise system. Wider coverage and larger amounts under social security make the citizen more mobile; his potential for production is increased. Under a system based on a contribution by the worker, taken out of his own production, the result actually is that private enterprise bears a larger share of the cost even though the payments are made in the name of the government. The worker too is, in I ho most literal and truthful sense of the word, “private enterprise.”


Republicans should start legislation which would, all other things being equal, give preference, so far as government contracts are concerned, to industries which guarantee an annual wage to their employees. This will be an effective denial to the rather helpless reaction of the majority party that the only solution to all problems is the indefinite extension of government.

These recommendations taken together would mean a much reduced burden of old-age assistance (or relief) locally, which cost 250 million dollars more in 1949 than in 1948. There would be a consequent reduction in local and state taxation, since social security would be financed out of earnings. Instead of throwing people on charity, either private or public, when they were old, we would now ensure that they would have a modicum of existence as a matter of right.

Writing in the New York Times for December 26, 1949, A. H. Raskin said that “one out of every four Americans past the age of 65 is currently on relief and the cost of assistance is running nearly nine times as high as it did in 1996.” ’This is clearly not the best way to handle this problem.

We Republicans should say to the voter; We offer you social legislation without socialism, a welfare society without a welfare state; we offer von a sell-executing, self-liquidating plan. We think the desire for security is normal and human and good, in war and in peace, and that we can have it without red tape, without bureaucracy, without governmental stupidity, without sacrifice of opportunity, and without loss of personal liberty. We Americans have done harder things than that in our history.

The Farmer

Problems of the farm involve another type of social legislation, and, to be fair, (he majority party must be judged by its latest agricultural bill, which became law on October 31, 1949. This bill will not promote the best long-range interests of either the producer or the consumer because it is not soundly based on the premise that the farm must be related to human food, which is produced eit her direct ly lor human consumption or indirect Iv as feed for animals. Without such a relationship the consumer is taxed twice — once when he pays his Federal tax, and again when he buys his food. This current agricultural act is also bad for the producer because obviously he cannot have the prosperity to which he is entitled without the existence of a prosperous market. It appears all too likely that this farm law, with its rigid price-support provisions, will have the end result of increasing agricultural surpluses which may rot before they can be eaten. It will add more speculative elements to the whole structure of agricultural economics and, by inflating the price of animal feed, will increase the cost of raising cattle so much that the average consumer will be even less able to buy meat, dairy products, and eggs than he is now. As this is written, complaints are arriving in Washington from farmers confirming the worst fears of those who opposed the Administration’s farm law. They charge that the so-called big “factory farms,” raising speculative crops, are subsidized by Washington but that the small family farm, raising food for people to eat, is out in the cold.

Surely, this is not the only approach to the farm problem. The Republicans should, here too, offer a program which is radically different, sounder, and in the end more generous. We should say that the farm must be related to food; that we think of agriculture not in terms of Henry Wallace’s “ever normal granary,” but in terms of the “ever normal refrigerator’ ; that we think of the farm as a place which grows the things that people put in their refrigerators because they are the things which are good to eat — milk, cream, butter, cheese, eggs, lamb, pork, and steak. No bill has passed Congress in the lifetime of anyone reading this article which has done anything to make steak more plentiful or cheaper for the consumer, or to make the production of steak more attractive to the farmer.


1. A first step would be legislation ending the discrimination against the family-type farmer who raises hogs, poultry, and cattle—human food; discrimination which is in the present law. We cannot end the system abruptly, but we can and should eliminate its flagrant defects and move gradually towards the new objective of farm-for-food.

2. Legislation giving automatic protect ion against the kind of market collapses which ruin food producers could inaugurate this farm-food relationship and be of immense benefit to producers and consumers alike. But Congress must not only start thinking of the farm in terms of food; the parliamentary alliances between food and fiber growers must also cease. Were such an approach made, the voter would be given the choice between a system which piles up unwieldly surpluses, wastes the consumer’s substance, and defrauds the farmer; and one which, on the other hand, being soundly based on the mutuality of interest of the farmer and the consumer, produces a better diet for the American people and a richer market for the farmer. There must indeed be no pitchfork stuck in the back of the farmer — or the consumer. The solution I propose sticks no pitchfork in anybody’s back.

3. Congress, as I have argued, should extend social security to cover farmers.

4. Help should be extended to the farmer to assist him in the procurement of capital equipment, and it would be sound policy to extend direct aid for maintenance and improvement of the quality of the soil.

5. Republicans should subscribe to the idea that a good agricultural program must be designed primarily to protect those who need protection when they need it; not those who do not need it. Above all, it must protect the national economy. If anyone is going to be favored by this type of social legislation, it is the small farmer — not only for his benefit but for the good of the whole.

6. Out of our surpluses we must see that food will get to those consumers who particularly need it, through school lunches and food stamp programs.

7. New uses for farm products such as those being developed through chemurgy should be encouraged.

All these procedures and objectives would in time put farm legislation on a new, sounder, and eventually more economical basis than exists today. The size of appropriations would have to be determined in the light of the need and the state of the budget each year.


Here Republicans should favor specific and prompt corrections of those clearly proven defects of the Taft-Hartley Law which are causing immediate hardships and inequities. For example, a labor leader came to me the other day and said that in certain parts of the watch industry, new assembly-line procedures are currently eliminating the jobs of certain craftsmen. But, because of a quirk in the law, the union cannot use strike action for the retention of these men on one of the new assembly-line jobs should such action be deemed necessary by the union. Correction of such manifest imperfections may perhaps incur the displeasure both of those who wish to retain Taft-Hartley without change and of those who are satisfied with nothing short of total repeal.

In fact the watch worker’s problem may seem to be a minor matter, of consequence only to the watch worker. But the solution of his problem by specific legislation opens a way for intelligent legislative treatment of the whole labor problem.

Up to now this has been dealt with by the “omnibus” approach, which forces a vote on a single legislative package, containing many and divergent legislative proposals, some good, some bad, and labeled “all or nothing.” This has resulted in the rank and file of labor and the public becoming the unhappy victims of extremists in the Democratic Party, in the Republican Party, in management, and in the labor movement. The watch worker’s problem is also important because it illustrates how a group of working men can be compelled to wait unnecessarily, perhaps for a whole year, before “omnibus” legislation can be finally agreed to — pending which, their particular and essentially simple problem cannot be solved. They therefore symbolize the many other groups who for no good reason are suffering from an “all or nothing" political approach to labor legislation. (Let it also be emphasized that the vital interests of the rank and file of labor are not nowadays exclusively centered in laws affecting unions, but are strongly affected by all things which pertain to economic security.)


1. Republicans, accordingly, should favor a bill removing the present legal prohibition against negotiations on matters in which technological changes are involved so that the situation in the watch industry described above will be subject to the same type of labor action as applies in industry as a whole.

2. To the best of my judgment there are at least two dozen other specific defects, many of which would be corrected by Congress if they could be brought up in individual— not “omnibus” — bills. These should be acted on quickly and new defects should be corrected as fast as they come to light.

3. The rank and file of labor would also be directly benefited by specifications previously described in this article which aim to improve the worker’s diet, foster his health, make secure his old age, and which, by stimulating progress toward guaranteed annual wages, would stabilize his employment.

These then are a few specifications for a modern Republicanism. There are necessarily omissions, such as conservation, military affairs, and foreign policy, all of which may become issues between the parties, but have not yet done so. The specifications proposed in this paper are neither negative nor imitative and I believe that, regardless of party fortunes, they are good for the I nited States. With them, of course, goes the vital duty of the minority to act as a check on the majority by constant scrutiny and investigation.

Underlying the entire program is the urgent need for a balanced budget and its corollary, a stable currency. A dollar of constant value has always been necessary to the successful transaction of business; to the millions receiving checks from the government the constancy of the dollar is a matter of economic life and death. Republicans should work faithfully and enthusiastically towards making possible a balanced budget by a definite date, following a dependable timetable. This would be based in part on putting into effect measures of the type recommended by the Hoover Commission for the elimination of overlapping and duplication in the government —a job which we should be able to do better than the Democrats because we have no political machine to protect. It would be achieved in part by the tapering off of Marshall Plan and similar expenses which has already been announced and virtually accepted by both parties.

No man can say that this program alone will elect a Republican administration. Such an achievement may well be beyond the power of any program. Also, the full Presidential program comes with the national convention in June of 1952. Success at that time will depend on the candidate and his traits as much as it will on a program. Success also depends on the extent of the desire to “throw out” those in power. Luck and the irresistible forces of circumstances also play a part.

When we consider the Democratic reaction to this program, we come up against the predictions of many seasoned Washington journalists that there will be no legislation of consequence at this session of Congress and that it is part of the “smart politics" strategy which is currently dominating national affairs not to legislate, but to keep all the glittering legislative goals intact so that the party in power will reap a harvest of votes at the 1950 election in anticipation of favors lo come. Those who remember the vigorous efforts of the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt to get Congress to act will note this difference and, perhaps, wonder at it.

Clearly, the lack of constructive achievement in 1949 in such fields as civil rights, agriculture, and public health lends color to this journalistic opinion, however much we may deplore it.

If these observers are right, an issue arises between the parties which is in addition to the challenge which these clear and constructive specifications propose. The strategy of “smart politics” paints a picture of an Administration making a cynical offer of political bait and thus raises the naked issue of sincerity, of responsibility, of achievement. This is an issue on which many a political campaign has been won in the past. But Republicans should not depend on Administration shortcomings for success. We must press our own program—bold, different, practical, and constructive. Inspired by the beginnings of the Republican Party in the fight for human rights, we should press this program. We should do so because we believe that it will create a political climate in which the strength and self-reliance of the individual human being will grow and flourish. On this ground we will gain the victory because we deserve to win.