The Charlotte News
Friday, April 22, 1938
Site Ed. Note: "Synthetic Economics" sums succinctly, and as succinctly and accurately as you will likely find it, what precisely brought on the Great Depression and how the New Deal, for all its faults, wens and warts, staunched its bleeding and brought some level of recovery through government spending, albeit recovery never fully and finally realized until the prosperity brought on, as austerely as that realization was at the time, from the industrial boom stimulated by the four years of America's participation in the war.
It Has Been Worse
In another month now the harvest cycle will begin all over again. And with that so close, the farmers of the land find themselves with far greater stocks of produce than they had at this time last year. They have, for instance, 600,000,000 bushels more of corn than in April 1937. And the cotton carryover is ranging around at an all-time high. Nevertheless, Government statisticians forecast a fall in farm income for the year as against 1937. For prices are from 13 to 50 per cent lower than a year ago, and from 29 to 57 per cent lower than recovery highs.
It is a curious paradox that the fat abundance yielded by the earth leaves the farmers not richer but poorer. And that it leaves the nation not happier but unhappier. But there is one little consolation in it all. Prices are still from 33 to 177 per cent higher than the lows reached in 1932 and 1933--and there is plenty for all.
From all reports, Representative Bulwinkle is entirely justified when he heaps praise upon Postmaster Paul Younts. The Charlotte Post Office is rated at double 99, which makes it one of the three best-run in the country. Complaints are said to have been conspicuous by their absence, and we ourselves, as a large patron of the post office, can testify that the service has been excellent and the personnel accommodating.
And Paul--Paul is a good fellow, and we are fond of him. Nevertheless, Paul is the happy accident that proves the unreliability of the system of selecting postmasters. For the reason Paul got the job, the best within Mr. Bulwinkle's bestowal, was not, primarily, that he had the capacities or the experience of a good postal service man but that he had served Mr. Bulwinkle in the capacity of campaign manager. And if Mr. Bulwinkle hadn't won, Paul would have been abruptly eliminated from consideration, and the service would have been deprived of one who has shown that he had the stuff.
Besides, the present system isn't fair to the assistant postmasters, career men who, in most instances, really do the work for which the postmasters get paid. They are forbidden by law to take part in politics, yet have to stand by and see the job ahead of them given to some outsider whose chief claim on it is political.
Credit Where Due
Governor Hoey, speaking at Pinehurst this week, said that what this country needs is more respect for the constitution, and went on to say that it is the greatest existing document short of the Holy Scriptures.
But for ourselves we are minded to amend that a bit. There is no lack of blind respect for the constitution among us already. If anything, there is too much of it. This constitution is not a holy thing, and it is dangerous to suggest that it is. It is a compromise document arrived at by men who were perfectly aware that they were not inspired with any infallible inspiration, and who were not too enthusiastic about their handiwork. The Bill of Rights--to which the Governor refers as "safeguarding each citizen's rights"--was tacked on against the opposition of most of the Fathers, only because some of the frontier states, like North Carolina, wouldn't come into the Union otherwise.
That is not to suggest that it doesn't deserve respect. It has worked with fair success for 150 years, and any charter which has a record like that deserves respect and ought to be tampered with, if at all, most cautiously. But we do suggest that it has been this country's observance of its constitution rather than any sanctity inherent in the document itself which has brought us through with our democracy virtually unimpaired.
It's pretty hard not to jeer at what Son James Roosevelt says in any case, but when he says that the way to everlasting prosperity is by government spending, it's impossible. Listen:
"We have learned that when we go ahead with public works and work relief, your average income goes up and we come closer each year to balancing the budget... A relationship is proved by experience..."
This is the bunk. Spending was clearly shown by this country's experience from 1920 to 1929 to be glorious while it lasted, but to lead inevitably to a dreadful reckoning. The spending in those gaudy days was done by the international bankers, in account with the American people. Sixteen billions or so they lent to foreign nations so that they might buy goods from America, and the manufacture and sale of those goods were the bedrock of our prosperity. But when the bills came due and couldn't be paid, we had lost our goods and our money too. The bottom dropped out.
Government spending to counteract a deflationary cycle appears, on short acquaintance, to be a different thing. It has its uses, and at least the money is distributed among the home folks instead of foreigners. But to keep it up indefinitely is to ignore the harsh lessons of the very recent past.
The Helium Squabble
The story out of Washington has it that Cordell Hull won't really mind if the Hon. Harold Ickes beats him out on the issue of selling helium to Germany. The Secretary of State is, indeed, a stickler for the sacredness of the Government's word when once given. And the same career men in his department who presumed to apply the Neutrality Act to Spain in his absence in South America are bringing terrific pressure on him in behalf of Dictator Hitler, whom they dearly admire.
More than that, Dr. Hull is a devout believer in promoting international commerce of every sort, and Germany must have the helium before she can resume Zeppelin service to the United States. Nevertheless, it appears from the testimony of army and naval officers that a Zeppelin filled with helium is not so useless for military purposes as Hitler protests. For such ships can be fired into many times without seriously affecting their lifting power, and they can even be treated with chemicals so that an incendiary bullet will not fire them. The German Government has, to be sure, given its word not to use the helium for military purposes, but the whole record shows that the word of the present German Government is entirely worthless.
So Dr. Hull, we suspect, has a great deal of company. For once, the whole nation probably won't much mind if the Hon. Ickes has his way. The prospect of contributing indirectly to the murder of women and children in, say, Czechoslovakia or France, is not a pleasant one.
This for Embezzlers
Time magazine, in recounting the sentencing of Richard Whitney to five-to-ten years in prison for the embezzlement of several hundred thousand dollars, sententiously added that he "was led out, started toward Sing Sing in company of one John Mahoney, who had been sentenced to 30-to-60 years for stealing $60."
The glaring intimation here is that the bigger the theft, the lighter the sentence. Apparently Justice of the Peace Hicks in St. Louis was setting out to invert such an axiom when he said to a man convicted of having stolen $2 from a filling station,
"Richard Whitney got five years for stealing about $225,000. That would be $45,000 a year, $120 a day, and $5 an hour. You stole $2. That would be 24 minutes, and that is your sentence."
Whoa! This plays old hob with what all the New Dealers and the New Moralists have been saying over and over again, that human rights take precedence over property rights. How does one go about robbing a filling station? Why, either with a gun in broad daylight, or in the dead of night, again in all probability, with sidearms. Hence, a robber of this kind is a distinct menace to human safety. The property he steals is as nothing. It's having such a desperado loose in the community, to the menace of all storekeepers and police officers, that makes his crime frightful. Richard Whitney, whatever else may be said of him, had no gun.
Besides, suppose a desperado, after sticking up a filling station, found the till empty. Under the rule enunciated by the St. Louis magistrate, the State would have to let him go free; and that makes no sense at all.
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