The Charlotte News
Monday, June 20, 1938
Site Ed. Note: Poker and horse races, with small and the largest of kitties and cats at stake, are told among the other opinings of today's remaining page-print. Would holding the war debt, held at bay, fast to their hides have tempered their ever-lasting will to gain that adrenaline rush to the lines? We have to say that we doubt it. The game they were playing was fast afoot and had to be played by their rules, to the death, in order for them to see, to know, finally, to know that thing which is still dying aborning among us, that particular thing we can't see, only they, in the world they left behind for us to live in after them.
But, since the day and night are hot and boiling where we are right now, horripilantly so, we shall let you sail on through these on your own now. We have to go find ourselves one of those new-fangled chromium, gold-plated, silver-lined, solid platinum air conditioners for the Tower, one to clear the air of all that potassium-uranium, potassium-lutetium-xenon, potassium-lanthanum which sometimes proliferates the air, sometimes, in the burning heat of old-night newsprint, especially if one were reading it, say, coldly, a quarter century after the devil's last turning-heat of the blocks had been left amid the cobwebs and the mould--in the brick-trip shine, out where the steam ships come to port in the new time.
The Wasted Tenth
Last week 402 new names were added to the list of the unemployed in the city registered with the North Carolina Employment Service. That brings the grand total of such persons up to 8,782, nearly a tenth of the whole population of the city.
We have got used to that sort of thing by now, but it is essentially a tragedy. And not only for the unemployed themselves but for all of us. These people are not the aged and infirm--not unemployed rebels--but men and women quite capable of working and, in general, quite willing to work. And what the figures really mean is that a very large part of the productive capacity of the city is going to waste. Every one of us is poor because of the fact that these people are idle.
What is to be done about it we don't know. But it seems intolerable to think that we can't somehow find a way to end this waste and this helpless misery.
Before now we have lamented the sad decay of rhetorical swordplay among the statesmen who presently adorn the Congress in the United States, as against those who used to perform there or in other august bodies. Where, we have sighed, is the public man capable of the quiet and terrific riposte Disraeli made when the Irishman taunted him with being a Jew? Or the brilliant and dizzying play of old Randolph of Roanoke, in whose hands a meat-ax became something very like a rapier? Or the swift, sure away of a Clay or a Webster or a Calhoun? Or the caressing, casual, almost sleepy, but nonetheless telling point and counterpoint of a Zebulon Baird Vance or a John Sharpe Williams? Alas and alack! Gone, we have said, gone with the snows of the scurrying years. The statesmen of our time sound like the crackerbox wits around a country store.
But stay--. Perhaps the tribe is not altogether extinct after all. For in the Congressional Record for June 16 we find Speaker Bankhead performing not unworthily. Listen:
"I'm very deeply indebted to my friend of many years' standing, the distinguished Representative from New York, Mr. Snell... I believe that on one occasion...I undertook to say that he was one of the very finest minority leaders I had ever known, and out of my great admiration and affection for him I trusted he would continue to serve in that capacity for a number of years... [Laughter and Applause.]
Site Ed. Note: For more on the Bonus Army, see the note accompanying the editorials of July 19, 1939.
Heywood on a Limb
Heywood Broun has a piece on this page today in which he strives, with some success, we must admit, to nip in the budding the nostalgia that, after all, "the Old Deal wasn't so bad." It was awful, as any candid soul who reviews the blunders and the futility of the Hoover Administration will have to admit. And its handling of the Bonus Army, as Heywood says, was one of the most inept of its many inept performances.
But Heywood is about to make the very mistake he is cautioning against--the mistake of attributing virtue to that which was merely the lesser of two evils. "The men who were attacked" on Anacostia Flats that day, he says, "had committed no crime save that of being poor and miserable and homeless."
They had committed a crime, indeed they had. They fought off the evicting police with bricks and iron pipes and other deadly weapons. They came pretty close to attempting to influence legislation by physical intimidation. They weren't asking small favors; they were determined to get a wad of dough in a hurry; and while Roosevelt would have handled them better than Hoover, he also twice vetoed the bill which in the end gave them the bonus years before it was due.
Those guns never should have been fired, but that does not excuse the Bonus Army. It started the fight.
Our Southern Competitors
Nobody, we believe, not even the New Deal itself, has any clear idea of how the wage-and-hour law is going to work out. Our own fear has been that it would displace a lot of Negroes who held marginal jobs and that it might result disastrously for the South, which needs industries on almost any terms.
And yet, when you say South, you cover a lot of territory, just as you do when you say cotton textile industry. For between parts of the South there is as much difference as there is between South and North, and wages in the cotton textile industry vary as much in these Southern parts as they do intersectionally.
A Department of Labor study, for example, shows that the average textile wage in April, 1937, was 49.4 cents in Massachusetts as against 37.6 cents in North Carolina, a difference of nearly 12 cents and a differential of 30 per cent. This put North Carolina in a swell competitive position with Massachusetts, but Tarheelia also had its low-wage competitors.
Mississippi, for one: sister in the Confederacy. Average textile wages in Mississippi were 28.8 cents an hour, which gave the textile industry in that neighborhood an advantage over North Carolina in labor costs of 8.8 cents an hour, or a differential of 30 per cent.
To be sure, these are average wages under discussion, and the Government has set out to fix only minimum wages. But the figures show that not only are North and South competitive but the South competitive within itself. In that respect, regulation of Mississippi's wages might be a good thing for North Carolina.
A Glance at Russia
With the spotlight turned on the fascist bullies, Soviet Russia, once democracy's hobgoblin, has just about been overlooked. It is vaguely comprehended that Stalin has gone on killing off his people from the top and bottom, and scarcely a week passes that emaciated Russia doesn't have to undergo another purge. But live-and-let-die expresses the attitude of most of our countrymen today to the terror that is Soviet Russia.
Even so, it is of academic interest to learn that the governmental experiment which started out, under Lenin, is rapidly jelling into just another fascist model where the insiders live on the fat of the land, the rest on the crumbs that fall from their masters' tables. The United States Bureau of Mines reported last week, in a survey of Soviet mineral production, that--
"After 20 years of Communism in Russia, instead of a uniform standard of living among the population, one sees a difference of living standards greater than that to be found in so-called capitalistic states."
If Russia doesn't watch out, it's going to need a New Deal. And wouldn't that be the joke of the century!
The Battle of the Poets
We have not in a long time enjoyed anything so much as the war of the poets which has been going on in our letter column to the right. We hoped, when we published Miss Waddell's first four-line squib against Mr. Dickson, that it would draw a rise out of him. It did, for that matter. But he suppressed it. And we had to call in the public and egg on Miss Waddell to further thrusts before he could be persuaded to take up the cudgels. But certainly, when he did come upon the field, he acquitted himself proudly. The two pieces of verse he published yesterday tickled us immensely--and everybody else who knows Miss Waddell and Mr. Dickson.
It was all in pretended hurt and fury, of course. It merely pleases Mr. Dickson to affect a high intolerance for poetry of the sort Miss Waddell writes, to argue that the only verse worth anything is comic doggerel tossed off with lightning speed. His title of Poet Laureate of The News was bestowed in jesting recognition of this pose and to give him some defense against the hauteur of an unashamed poet like Miss Waddell. And yet, those compositions of Mr. Dickson yesterday, things of length and much polish, showed conclusively that he had been--
a) Burning the midnight oil; or
b) Poetizing on company time.
In fact, we think that the man must be tempted by the astonishing finish of his work to commence turning out poetry in earnest. In which case we should have to resuscitate Miss Waddell and hold up her writing hand in victory.
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