The Charlotte News

Sunday, April 3, 1938


Site Ed. Note: Re "The Pope and Politics", see, as referenced by the piece, "Kidnaped--Or Caught?", February 28, 1938, "A Moderate Request", March 24, 1938, and, further, "A Pope Passes" on the death of Pius XI, February 10, 1939, and "Pius XII" on the election of his successor, March 3, 1939. Pius XII, who reigned until 1958, proved quite controversial by maintaining relations with the Axis nations and not taking the strong stands against Nazism and the Jewish persecutions which Pius XI had--though he started his reign well enough for most ears. (See "Omission", October 29, 1939, and the note associated with "Peace Prospect", August 30, 1939) The presence of course of the Vatican within Rome made for an uneasy time for the papacy throughout the period when Fascism ruled Italy and, by early 1939, Spain as well.

And, if you ever happed to wonder what e'er it was which a mule-skinner did by trade, you may now know by reading below the threnody on its passing.

The stories perhaps are not unrelated for, from our observation, when it comes to mixing religion and politics, a good mule-skinner might be in order on occasion to ameliorate the obduracy of some men of the cloth, those overly impressed by the sound of their own voice and too convinced of their direct conduit from Heaven. Indeed, perhaps not in Cash's mind either were they separate topics; hence, the Latin postscript for the passing of the skinner?

We also add the following piece by General Hugh Johnson on the status in 1938, a time of the so-called "second depression", of an always critical segment of the economy.

F. R. And The Auto

By Hugh S. Johnson

Detroit, Mich.--Conditions in the automobile industry are bad. There are about one million new and used cars, and very high inventories of parts and materials, backed up in the channels of production and sale. The outflow of this back-water of the depression is just a trickle.

The automobile industry is so large a consumer of iron, steel, copper, glass, lumber, textiles, rubber and incidental gadgets and it gives employment to so many people in these industries and in the business of selling and servicing the whole nation on wheels, that any slowing up here is instantly reflected in every field of business and employment in the country. Of course any such almost complete damming up of activities by so great a lump of stalled material is the largest single cause of bad business and unemployment.


What caused the sudden and wholly unexpected slowing up of new car sales that turned off the sunlight on our whole business pattern? Principally the 1937 stock market slump. Call them "paper values" if you will, but a sudden wiping out of 25 to 50 billions of stock values not only makes people feel poorer, but actually greatly restricts their buying power. They have lost just that many billions of borrowing capacity, of opportunity to sell their stocks and buy automobiles if they see fit. In spite of theory, the cold hard fact remains that automobile production and sales go up and down with the market.

Well, if the continued market decline is responsible for the decline in automobile sales, and the decline there is responsible for the general decline in employment and the new depression, the forces that caused the market decline are the forces that brought the depression. And what are they?


There is almost no room for argument about that. When the early 1937 recovery started, the President expressed apprehension about rising prices, the Federal Reserve, and especially Mr. Eccles, began to give out statements about its power and policy to regulate cycles and check booms and then acted to "restrict credit." Government deliberately moved with its vastly increased powers against the recovery.

Apart from this the direct kicking and cuffing around of our delicate economic mechanism, was the incidental music. Threats and accusations against business grew to a rising chorus from many Administration sources. A series of bills were introduced in Congress further to concentrate powers, and to strength a distinctly anti-business administration policy. That started a noisy shindy which perhaps overemphasized the real threat to business.


Whether there was any intent to shut off the steam and delay recovery, the psychological effect did exactly that. It crashed the stock market and kept it on the toboggan. The President talks about purchasing power as the necessary ingredient to recovery, and he is right. But for every one billion of purchasing power he creates by extravagant spending, his policies have destroyed at least ten billions in purchasing power by destroying values.

But hope lies here: the backward movement has gone too far. At extremes, public sentiment always goes too far--too low at the bottom--too high at the top. A rebound is certain soon. When it comes and consumes these excess inventories, recovery will resume as sure as sunrise.

Question and Answer

Defending the Charlotte and Mecklenburg justices of the peace, Magistrate W. E. Smith Friday night told the Mecklenburg Bar Association:

"They have said that we serve as collecting agencies, and there may be some truth in that, but is there wrong in that? Many times people give worthless checks and refuse to make them good. In most cases, all the victims wishes is to get his money..."

Is there wrong in that! Doesn't the magistrate know? The deliberate issuance of a bad check is primarily a crime against the State. And no part of the criminal law of North Carolina is directed to the end of recovering money for a victim, but simply to the suppression of the crimes themselves. The judge in these cases is, indeed, empowered to use a certain amount of discretion, to take the circumstances, including repayment of the victim, into consideration. But he most certainly is not empowered habitually to use the threat of the criminal penalties for the collection of money for any victims--not even when the checks are bona-fide checks.

The Times, Not the Man

There is this to be said for the Townsend Planners--there is nothing of the piker about them. The $200 a month they were going to pay out to old people was fully fifteen times as much as any other country which had gone in for old age pensions was offering, about ten times as much as the average old age payment in the U.S. finally came to be fixed. And now worshippers of Dr. Townsend, alleging defamation of his character, have filed a $27,000,000 damage suit against 24 men and women, among whom are three Representatives in Congress.

We suppose these litigants have an actionable interest, at least in theory, since the collapse of the Townsend Movement probably played old ned with their meal ticket. But they are preceding on the same fallacious reasoning that caused Congress to demand a pound of Dr. Townsend's own personal flesh--that is, the reasoning that Dr. Townsend himself was primarily responsible for the Old Age Pension plan. In a way he was, of course, but the times were more so. If it hadn't been he, it would have been someone else, if it hadn't been old age pensions, it would have been Technocracy or free silver or what-have-you. Sometimes, indeed, we think that the country owes Dr. Townsend a debt of gratitude. His Plan was so ingenuous that it kept the country from taking up worse delusions while it tried to figure out the catch in it.

Is This Corruption?

One of the favorite arguing points of the people who have been shouting against the President's reorganization bill is that it will destroy the civil service. It does away with the present Civil Service Commission of three men and replaces it with a single administrator, appointed by the President. One man government! The spoils system at its worst! The back door of the White House!

But either these people have not bothered to discover the fact or they so dislike the President that they can see only evil in everything he proposes--else they are not quite candid. As matters stand now, the members of the Civil Service Commission can be changed at the will of the President, but he cannot move a single Government employee out front under the spoils system and place him under the civil service system without the consent of Congress. And that consent is most devilishly hard to get, since Congress has a vested interest in patronage.

On the other hand what the new bill proposes is:

1--That the President shall have the power to take Government employees out from under the spoils system and place them under the civil service at will. But the rule does not work the other way round.

2--That the new administrator shall be charged with drawing up plans for a genuine career service.

3--That this new administrator, appointed only with the consent of the Senate, shall hold office for fifteen years!

In short, the bill is so far from being calculated to destroy the civil service that one might say of it that it seems the most completely honest design for a genuine civil service ever proposed to Congress.

The Pope and Politics

The Bulletin of the Catholic Layman's Association of Georgia takes us to task for an editorial of February 28, wherein we suggested that Jesuit priests, at the Pope's behest, were lending aid and comfort to the Japanese in China. The Bulletin says that the fact is that, immediately the story was made public that he had instructed priests to aid the Japanese. Pius XI denied it. So he did, indeed. But at about the same time, he issued a statement blessing "militant efforts against communism," both in Spain and "elsewhere." The Japanese official version that its expedition into China is in reality a crusade to save China from "communism," was very well known to the world at the time the blessing was issued. And Mussolini had officially accepted it. So it seems fair to presume at the Pope knew it, too.

The Editors of The News are not Catholic-baiters, thoroughly dislike Catholic-baiters. They respect and like Catholics, count them as generally excellent citizens, believe they are entitled to equal rights with every other sect, and are prepared at all times to defend those rights. But when they observe the Pope mixing in international political quarrels, and, by suggestion, at least, approving the Japanese attack on China, and openly blessing the murderous Franco and fascism, they must reserve the right to oppose him precisely as they would oppose any layperson who did the same thing.


And while we are talking about the Pope; a spokesman for Pius XI Friday night sharply lectured the Austrian bishops for their statement professing servile allegiance to the Nazi Party in calling on Austrian Catholics to vote "ya" in the coming mock plebiscite. That, he said, was political Catholicism and irreconcilable with the true spirit of religion.

The Pope is right, obviously. The bishops have been among the most determined enemies of Nazism in Austria, and their course now looks pretty snide. And yet--the good men probably had no choice but to do as they have done or to take up residence in concentration camps. More, they had the obvious justification that the Pope himself has blessed fascism in general and that Nazism is only a variant of that fascism. Indeed, they had more than that. Has the Pope forgotten that he achieved peace with Mussolini, after the latter had long persecuted the church in Italy, promising to shut up the priests who had been opposing Fascism?

Threnody on Mule-Skinners

We can drum up little sentiment over the news that the old-fashioned army mule is finally to be replaced completely with trucks and airplanes. But what does fill us with heavy regret is that with him will pass also the old army mule-skinner. A machine can be obdurate enough at times, heaven knows. But for 100,000% pure obduracy the mule--as all old country boys know--is the unchallenged champion of the earth and the sidereal universe. He cannot be reasoned with. He has no sentiment and not even a better side. In his more determined hours of devotion to free-will, neither scourges nor goads nor fires under his middle will prevail upon him. The very feed-bag itself cannot always be counted on to seduce him. He simply lays his ears back and waits, secure in the knowledge of his mastery of swift treachery and his murderous heels.

Farmers are the most patient people on earth mainly because of their long and intimate association with him. But in the army--ah, no, patience would never do in the army; for while a mule dallied with his independence, the enemy might seize victory. Hence the mule-skinner. A man brawny and hard and sudden, above all a man with a theory--the theory that the mule, after all, has his weak spot, too, and that this weak spot resides precisely in a certain reluctant admiration for and amenability to the superlative in red-hot language. It worked, too--sometimes, anyhow. And if it did not always work, certainly it was justified by its philological results. To hear a really first-class mule-skinner at the practice of his trade in a remount station was a truly heart-warming experience. The fellow was an artist. Beside him, even steam-shovel men and Irish building foremen and first mates on sea-going tramps were inept schoolboys out behind the barn. Sic transit gloria mundi!


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