The Republican Oppositionby THOMAS H. REED and DORIS D. REED
As partisans of democracy, therefore, and quite apart from our views on particular questions of national policy, Americans should be glad that in the coming campaign the Republican party will be a real contender. No one seriously expects a repetition of the walk-away of 1936, in view not only of the 1938 elections but of the recent opinion polls in the great pivotal states. Republican attitudes toward the social and economic innovations of the past seven years may have momentous consequences for the general welfare of the American people. It is important, therefore, that all socially minded citizens get a clear view of the policies which the Republican party will offer as an alternative to the New Deal.
Fortunately, it is unnecessary to await the sonorous phrases of the party platform to gather the essential features of Republican policy. The record of Republican members of Congress on several vital issues is available. We have also a panel of five avowed candidates for the Presidency whose views, presumably, reflect the opinions of the party rank and file. Furthermore, there is the report of the Republican program committee, whose more than two hundred members represent every part of the country and every section of party opinion. It spent nearly two years studying the economic and social problems of the day and testing its conclusions against the opinions of Republicans of every stripe. The country was divided by the program committee into nine regions: New England, Middle Atlantic, Southeast, Middlewest, Trans-Mississippi, Southwest, Mountain, Pacific Northwest, and Pacific Southwest. In each region subject matter committees, assisted by the central research staff, struggled with particular problems such as relief, social security, finance, business and government, foreign policy. Each region also had a drafting committee to formulate a comprehensive expression of Republic. In opinion in the region, based upon the conclusions of the subject committees and extensive inquiry among Republicans in general. Each regional committee was kept informed of what similar groups in other regions were doing. Regional meetings were held to discuss these statements of opinion. Finally, the attitudes of the respective regions on each subject were set down in parallel columns for the use of the executive committee in building the specific recommendations of a final report which can claim fairly to represent the consensus of opinion among the intellectual leadership of the party. In the light of all this evidence it is possible to forecast with reasonable accuracy the final party stand.
The Republican Position
THE REPUBLICAN OFFENSIVE IS DIRECTED NOT AT THE SOCIAL objectives of the New Deal but at the economic measures by which the Roosevelt Administration has wooed recovery. Republicans refuse to admit that they are any less interested in social welfare than the adherents of the New Deal. This is clearly expressed by the program committee:
Among most Americans, regardless of party, there is not much difference of opinion about the social goals towards which, as a people, we want to move. . . . That Americans unemployed, through no fault of their own, should be shielded from suffering and their self-respect kept alive pending their return to normal employment is an axiom that no leadership, worthy of the confidence of the nation, will dispute. That the old, the sick, and all those who, handicapped by forces over which they can exert no control, are unable to provide for themselves, must be safeguarded by society, is a long and almost universally acknowledged principle.
Such generalities in themselves may mean much or little. In this instance, however, they are supported by the specific declarations of the program committee and the candidates. There are, it is true, in the Republican ranks some diehards who hate the New Deal with such virulence that they would undo everything which has been done in the last seven years. They are, however,, relatively few in number and notably less vociferous than in 1936. They will have, if the program committee and the candidates mirror party opinion, little influence in its councils.
The great majority of Republicans are convinced that the country has been irrevocably committed to the essentials of the social program or the New Deal. It is impossible to tell how much of this attitude is due to genuine social enthusiasm, how much to regretful recognition of the inevitable. Most human conduct is a compound of free will and social compulsion.
The spearhead of the Republican attack is aimed at the spending, borrowing, taxing, and business regulating policies of the Roosevelt Administration. It vigorously assaults the New Deal position that the country has entered period of "mature" economy in which the opportunities for private investment and, consequently, employment in private industry will be much less than in the past. The program committee devotes a long section of its report to what it calls New Deal defeatism. It finds "that the private economy of America has not come to a dead end . . . but is crowded with possibilities of fruitful growth and profitable expansion." Candidate Dewey has made the defeatist attitude of the New Deal the theme of several speeches. He denies categorically and with evidential detail that "the American people are finished. America," he says, "is at the morning of its destiny."
Spending itself comes in for general denunciation. Candidate Vandenberg refers to it as "the wastrel theory at you can spend yourself into prosperity." Dewey rings the question home with the words, "The cost of a spendthrift government is paid by every man, woman and child in the country." It has been pointed out repeatedly by Republican candidates that a permanently unbalanced budget leads to "national bankruptcy, or repudiation r equally suicidal inflation. Candidate Taft emphasizes he social implications of continuing deficits: "Let no one say that a sound fiscal policy is too hardboiled toward he more unfortunate among our people. It is the poor who will be cared for by a solvent government. It is the poor who will suffer most when the government goes into bankruptcy." Republicans, however, uniformly make it known that they will balance the budget not by drastic and sudden cuts in relief or other expenditures, but by gradual reduction of spending combined with improved revenues as a result of better business.
Discouragement of investment in new enterprises by high taxation, destruction of confidence by deficit spending, manipulation of the currency, and unreasonable, vexatious and punitive regulation of business, account in current Republican philosophy for the prolongation of depression and unemployment. What the Republicans would do about it was summed up by Taft for the students of Swarthmore College:
Take every possible measure to encourage the development of private enterprise through a repeal or revision of the regulatory measures which have prevented its growth, and by the revision of the tax system to encourage thrift, investment and production; . . . the administration of all laws regulating business, including those which properly prohibit monopoly and unfair competition, in a spirit of real friendliness to private enterprise; cut government expenses so that there shall be no deficit, and repeal the inflationary powers to develop the dollar and issue greenbacks; . . . stop all extension of government activities in competition with private enterprise.
Republican critics of the New Deal insist that the removal of the causes of continued depression and mass unemployment is the first task of any socially minded government. The social goals of the New Deal, they say, cannot be achieved under existing economic conditions. They contrast New Deal promises within Vandenberg's phrase"the larger promise of real jobs at real wages through revived commerce."
Society has a permanent deep-rooted obligation to its aged, its blind, its sick, its unemployed. But it is not enough to say no one shall starve. It is a cruel illusion to pass laws which are a mere promise without also taking measures necessary to fulfillment of that promise. . . . Our obligationand I say ours because the Democratic Administration has failedis to start producing the goods and earning the money so that those promises can be fulfilled.
It is natural that the Republican party should not only foresee the ruin of New Deal schemes of social regeneration in the failure of New Deal economic policies, but should regard with a coldly critical eye the means adopted by the Administration for reaching its social ends. Acceptance of the social objectives of the New Deal does not mean acceptance of its techniques. Whither Republican criticism leads in the social field, including labor and agriculture, can be shown best by a consideration of specific problems.
Republican Attitudes on Specific Social Problems
THE MOST ELEMENTARY OF PRESENT SOCIAL NECESSITIES is relief. Republicans recognize that federal responsibility for relief must continue. "State and local taxing resources," says Vandenberg, "are inadequate to carry such a load. It is a national problem and it must be treated as such." Republicans, however, are dissatisfied on three grounds with the way federal responsibility has been met. The first is discrimination. The program committee puts it forcibly: "By . . . making the unemployed employables a special concern of the federal government and leaving the unemployables as a special concern of state and local governments, New Deal relief has resulted in a gross disparity between the relief accorded these two groups." As Vandenberg says, "A man may be just as hungry if he is not one of the New Deal's 'employables'." Most social workers would agree that there is much more that could be said of inequalities from state to state and those caused by the present administration of categorical relief. Very different conclusions may be drawn from the fact of discrimination, but that it exists on a large scale is indisputable.
The second ground of dissatisfaction with New Deal relief is that it "has proved incredibly costly." The program committee points out that from March 1933 to March 1939 the number of persons on all forms of relief increased little more than 50 percent while the cost of such relief increased 232 percent. It ascribes this result to the adoption of costly forms of work relief; questions if the morale of workers is preserved by WPA as now administered; states that WPA construction costs have been from 25 to 150 percent more than by private contract; and charges that many projects "have been badly conceived, overmanned, slackly administered and have not added to the country anything commensurate with their cost."
The third ground of dissatisfaction is political manipulation. The program committee accuses the administration of taking advantage of the absence of a formula determined by Congress for the apportionment of relief funds to further its partisan ends by the "astute timing, effective placing or punitive withholding of various relief grants." Dewey, using as evidence details from the report of the Sheppard Committee, indicts the Administration for abuses of power, "committed for the simple and ugly purpose of corrupting the electorate of the United States.
"The total problem of relief should be unified in every state, The state should receive an annual lump sum grant from Washington representing the federal government's contribution to the state's relief problem as a whole. Then except for certain generally controlling criteria to assure honest, equitable use of the money, state and local governments should be left to decide how best to meet their total relief problem in the light of their intimate knowledge of their own needs and total available resources. after they have matched the federal contribution on some appropriate basis."
The program committee goes into greater detail, suggesting a 'regularized formula of .apportionment, a bi-partisan federal commission to oversee, grants-in-aid and bi-partisan state and local bodies to actually administer relief.' Taft insists that the administration of relief be returned to the states, with the federal government providing perhaps two thirds of the money required. condition of federal aid should be,' he declared. 'that the state plan be administered by a board acting under civil service restrictions in order that state politics be not substituted for national politics."
The Care of the Aged:
CRITICISM OF THE OLD AGE Insurance articles of the Social Security Act is no longer pay dirt for the opposition. The repeal of the 'full reserve' plan left the Republicans with little ground for objection. They seem to have acquiesced in the other changes in the law effected in 1939. The program committee merely suggests an eyes-open policy. It warns that questions have been raised concerning "the fairness and financial feasibility of the complicated provisions of the revised act. The operation of the act must be critically observed and whatever adjustments may be necessary to provide a fair and workable system of contributory old age insurance adopted." This attitude is further emphasized in its advocacy of extending the coverage of the act to "farm laborers, domestic servants and some other smaller groups of workers. . . . A scientific study of the present law should be made in order to develop administratively feasible methods, which are not now available, for its application to these other groups. The committee likewise favors continuance of old age assistance "based on need." It very definitely limited its support of pensions to those of a contributory character and those based on need.
On this point, however, the program committee report does not wholly represent Republican opinion. We can ignore the diehards who would repeal the Social Security Act, but we cannot ignore the fact that many Republicans favor outright pensions. On a test vote in the House of Representatives, June 1, 1939, against the opposition of Minority Leader Martin and the Republican organization, fifty-four Republicans favored the Townsend plan. Of much more significance is the fact that Taft and Vandenberg, who are thoroughly committed to economy as a general principle, have gone on record as favoring out right pensions without reference either to contributory character and those based or need. Vandenberg says:
"As regards old age pensions, the day will come when all the complicated and irritating perplexities [of the Social Security Act] will be swept aside for a general old age pension as a matter of right. Such is the demand of our senior citizens" and such is the undisguisable need introduced by a machine age which draws the deadline of employment under fifty years of age. If the size of the general pension is limited to the total resources now used in our various units of government to administer existing methods of old age aid. We should all be better off."
Whatever party wins next November, unemployment compensation is here to stay. There is no hostility to thc principle although there is a certain caution evident in holding out for a possible revision of details. Candidate Bridges takes "pride in the fact that some time before the passage of the federal Social Security Act my state of New Hampshire, while I was Governor. enacted an unemployment insurance law." He believes that unemployment insurance "is part of a permanent general system of social security for the American people," Vandenberg says "it will probably persist in something like its present form. Taft's endorsement of this and other humanitarian activities is accompanied by a demand for revision of administration to make it "intelligent, economical and fair." The program committee frankly envisages unemployment compensation as taking "the place of unemployment relief, except in major depressions, for those whose occupations are covered by the act. It even hints at increasing the scale of benefits, but not by increasing payroll taxes which it regards as a "business depressant." It particularly urges better and more adequately financed state employment offices. It would require all able-bodied persons on relief to register with one of these offices and would make refusal to accept a job "prima facie grounds for removal from the relief roll. . . . Gearing the machinery of relief to that of finding jobs for the unemployed. will, in its opinion, "save expense and simplify the transition from relic to employment."
Health and Medical Care:
WITH A FEW EXCEPTIONS Republicans are not yet ready for compulsory health insurance on a national scale. Republicans in general are opposed to the Wagner health bill. Its suggested expenditures, says the program committee, "are based alike on exaggerated statements regarding needs and extravagant claims of the speed and scope of improvement possible with existing medical knowledge." The program committee further voices its objection to the launching, all states of elaborate programs of medical service under political sponsorship and control." leaving the safeguarding of professional standards "entirely to the discretion of politically appointed administrators." In the Republican view it is not now possible to add to the already staggering total of the national budget large new outlays for medical care, but these must perforce wait upon reduction in other less important expenditures and the increase in national income which will follow the revival of private enterprise as a result of Republican financial policies. The candidates have had little to say on medical care, except generally to express their solicitude for the care of the sick. That the subject is receiving real attention Republican circles, appears from the fact that the program committee devotes eight pages of its report to health and medical care, most of it to a discussion of fundamental needs.
Miscellaneous Social Policies:
THERE ARE SEVERAL NEW Deal activities which seem unlikely to become involved in the coming campaign. Insurance of bank deposits up to five thousand dollars is universally approved, as is the guaranteeing of building loans by the FHA. The USHA housing program has not been included in the candidates' reviews of New Deal policies. The program committee invokes the housing shortage as proof of the opportunity for expanding private enterprise, leaving to government as "example-setter and stimulator" the task of "clearing the track of the obstacles to economical construction.
National Labor Relations Act:
EVERY KESPONSIBEE REPUBLICAN leader who has discussed the operation of the NLRA has insisted that the right of collective bargaining through representatives of its own choosing must be preserved to labor. They are wont to point out, as does Bridges, that the first application by Congress of the principle of collective bargaining was in the Railway Labor Act enacted under President Coolidge. Republicans, however, are equally insistent that the NLRA must be amended. The underlying reason for this position is cogently expressed by Vandenberg.
"The basic trouble is that the Wagner act was contrived and intended exclusively as a Bill of Rights for labor (and a too long delayed Bill of Rights); but in practice it has come to be the controlling code in our whole industrial relationship. It must be broadened and improved to fit these larger ends, but not at the expense of labor's complete right to organize, to bargain collectively, to choose its own agents for this purpose, and to be fully protected in the whole process."
The program committee, Taft, and Vandenberg unite in urging that the administrative and prosecuting functions of the NLRB must be definitely separated from its judicial functions. This idea was given definite form in the bill introduced in the 1940 session of Congress by the majority of two Republicans and one Democrat of the House Investigating Committee. Aside from this one point, there is little coherence among Republican spokesmen as to specific changes to be made in the Wagner act. Taft leans to amendments "along the lines recommended by the AF of L."
A good deal of attention has been given to the alleged unfairness of the NLRB in its conduct of hearings. The program committee desires to "insure to all parties the elementary processes of fair hearing," while the House Investigating Committee bill provides that "proceedings, so far as practicable, shall be conducted in accordance with the rules of evidence applicable in the District Court of the United States."
There is a widespread purpose among Republicans to penalize acts of labor violence. The program committee says "Penalize unfair practices by whomever committed." Vandenberg says, "Duress, coercion and force should be equal, unlawful when used by anybody under any circumstances."
The program committee makes a further recommendation, emanating from its Negro members. It urges that a union which becomes "an exclusive bargaining agency" should be prohibited from discriminating against worker on grounds of race or religion. Such unions, by refusing membership to Negroes, can cut them off from all hope of employment within the industry in question. "Neither organized labor," says the committee, "nor organized industry should be able to impose restraints upon freedom of employment which government itself is forbidden by the Constitution to impose."
Fair Labor Standards Act:
THE WAGES AND HOURS LAW has come in for much less public discussion than the Labor Relations Act. It is difficult to find any view on the subject which can be classed as representatively Republican. Attitudes on this measure are largely sectional. Most New England Republicans, for example, have favored minimum wage legislation, provided it was uniform for the country as a whole. Taft would abandon hour regulation except when it involves injury to health or lack of time for recreation." Vandenberg, who voted No on the wages and hours bill in Congress, has in recent utterances let well enough alone. Up to this writing, Dewey has not mentioned wages and hours legislation. The program committee, representing a consistent revolt against the economic theories of the New Deal, treats the wages and hours act as part of the New Deal's program to increase consumer income by increasing wage rates and broadening the distribution of jobs. On the ground that the results claimed for this program have not been produced and that wage and hour legislation by the federal government introduces excessive rigidity in our economic structure and paves the way for government domination of labor, it would limit such legislation to the case of workers "not in a position to protect themselves through collective bargaining." It makes no funding that the present law is inconsistent with this principle.
None of the candidates. for obvious reasons, has expressed himself on what the program committee considers the weakest point in the New Deal labor policy-its emphasis on wage rates as contrasted with real wages. "If," says the program committee, "wage, hour, price and profit policies are flexible, far-sighted labor leadership and far sighted industrial leadership Can maintain such adjustment between these factors that production will be increased, prices lowered, effective consumer demand lifted, total profit improved, and the real wages for labor raised.
Neither of the Great Political Parties can say the last word on questions affecting the farmer. The Farm Bloc probably would determine farm policies under a Republican as it has under a Democratic Administration.
All articulate Republicans have a great deal to say about the failure of thc Roosevelt-Wallace policy of crop limitation to solve the farm problem. Few will argue with them on that score. The program committee and all the candidates also lay great stress on the enlargement of the farmer's market by improvement of industrial and business conditions and a more drastic application of the tariff. Bridges, for example, urges: "The problem of the farmer is not overproduction, but underconsumption," in part due to the vast number of unemployed. and in part to the policy of turning American markets over to foreign producers." Dewey elaborates the idea of underconsumption:
"One third of the nation, according to the President himself, is ill-fed and ill-clothed. The families in that third today spend on the average less than $250 a year on food. Compare this with the middle third of the nation in which each family spends an average of over 3400 a year. When the unemployed are again given a chance to go to work at adequate wages they will spend not less than three billion dollars a year more for the products of the farm."
All Republican candidates and the program committee plump for the good old Republican principle of protection for agriculture as well as for industry. The "American market for the American farmer" seems a sure-fire slogan in the great open spaces. Many farmers believe that they have been sold down the river by the reciprocal trade treaties.
They have been told, for example, about tapioca of which we import large quantities from the Dutch East Indies to compete with potatoes and other domestic starches grown for industrial purposes. It was frozen on the free list for three years by our treaty with the Netherlands, although the Dutch themselves maintain a tariff on tapioca from their own possessions to protect Holland grown potatoes. It enrages farmers to hear of cattle, wheat, butter or other products slipping through the tariff wall. This state of mind is witnessed by the united opposition of Republican Senators to the extension of the Reciprocal Trade Treaty Act.
Aside from revived home consumption and more tariff protection, constructive Republican proposals merely reemphasize policies already in force. Candidate Gannett enumerates some of them: "The farmer should have the home market, low interest rates, soil conservation, the benefit of more cooperative buying and distribution, the cheapest possible shipping facilities, the advantage of more research and more helpful handling of surpluses." Alone among Republican candidates, he has a panacea for farm ills-currency periodically adjusted to the prices of commodities by an impartial and expert board.
Pending the solution of the farm problem by enlarged markets and other practicable long range policies, the Republicans agree that the farmer must be subsidized. Taft declares that the farmer is "at a decided disadvantage in receiving less for his work than other groups in the population. So long as that condition exists, I believe that a subsidy to the farmer is justified. . . . The program of the present Administration cannot be abandoned overnight." He goes on to suggest the use of crop loans and several possible forms of subsidy, including soil conservation payments and the so-called McNary-Haugen or two-price system. Although he expressed doubt as to continuing subsidies on the level of recent years, he made it clear that the farmers have nothing to fear from him as to protection of their special interests.
Vandenberg and Dewey take essentially the same position. Dewey, however, foresees that government "must give in a voluntary program sponsored by agriculture itself for the elimination of temporary excess surpluses."
NO QUESTION OF THE DAY HAS A MORE DIRECT BEARING ON human welfare than that of war and peace. This question, whether or not it becomes an issue between the two great parties, will continue to overshadow in the minds of many persons all other public questions. Republican strategists consider the European war a break for President Roosevelt because it diverts public attention from domestic affairs. They refused to accept his suggestions of a truce to partisanship as not warranted by the nature of the emergency and they continue to warn the people against letting their minds wander from the problems of the home front.
1. The avoidance of entangling alliances in Europe.
With some modification introduced by the Kellogg-Briand pacts and the naval disarmament treaties, these principles were faithfully pursued by three great Republican Secretaries 0f State-Hughes, Kellogg and Stimson. Up to the outbreak of war in Europe there was no serious departure in the conduct of foreign affairs by Secretary Hull from the policies of his Republican predecessors. Extreme isolationists, who are to be found in the ranks of both parties, decried the Kellogg-Briand pacts and the firm affirmation of our rights in China under the Nine Power treaty. However, prior to September 1939, there was no basis for an issue between the two parties in the actual conduct of our foreign relations.
The coming of the European war reopened an old fissure in American public opinion, primarily sectional and cutting across party lines. Since all sections of American opinion are firmly against participation in this war, this fissure can best be defined by saying that the people of the interior are more exclusively concerned with staying out of war than are those of the seaboard. The western tendency to isolationism appeared in the vote on the amendment of the Neutrality Act. It has grown stronger as time has passed, in spite of the fact that there has been no overt official act of the Administration to which its opponents could take exception.
To this isolationist tendency the candidates have yielded more completely than the program committee, to some extent perhaps because Republican chances seem strongest in the isolationist West. The program committee, while sufficiently strong for any taste on "keeping out of war," is anything but isolationist in tone. It would implement the Monroe Doctrine by defense measures sufficient to protect "the western hemisphere from aggression." It favors the Stimson-Hull policy of reaffirming our treaty rights, particularly in relation to the open door in the Far East. It is for reciprocal trade treaties subject, it is true, to approval by concurrent resolution of both houses of Congress. It vigorously asserts that national security and welfare "will be served by every advance that is made towards a more peaceful and more rationally ordered world. Our political and economic foreign policy, therefore, should be flexible enough that, in a rapidly changing international situation, we can adopt the measures that will, at any given time, most effectively serve both these purposes."! If the program committee report were followed, foreign policy would not be an issue.
"We in America cannot escape being affected by these tragedies. Nor can we remain unmoved by the agony through which millions of men, women and little children are passing daily, both in Europe and in Asia. For their sake, for our own sake, we must search for the moment when we might, without entanglement, use our good offices to effect a genuine peace."
"It is not enough to say that no American shall be sent to die on the battlefield of Europe. It is imperative that we shall not become involved directly or indirectly in foreign wars. Have we leaders we can trust in this period of crisis? Can we rely upon this Administration to hold to the one objective upon which all America is agreed-peace for this country? We know how strong the temptation is to play a leading role on the stage of world politics. We know how compelling the temptation is to play up foreign issues to divert attention from domestic failures. And yet we know we cannot possibly remain strong and Free unless we reject every entanglement in the affairs of Europe."
"Reality warns us that if we enter this appalling conflict shall come from it in bankruptcy and with our liberties in chains. Reality demands that we must avoid these wars by every effort consistent with national security and honor. We can stay out of war if we will-and stay out we must. When we are attacked, we shall respond with every man and every dollar beneath the flag. Until we are attacked we shall hold our peace. America must be our exclusive, dominating dedication. America must be our passion. And none but devoted, single-purposed Americans must be put on guard."
"I do not feel that the President has wholeheartedly accepted the declared view of The people of this country that we must stay out of war except a war of defense."
"Congress alone can declare war, but an impetuous and unpredictable President handling foreign affairs can deliberately create situations which may force the hand of Congress. There is no safety with an unsafe man in the White House."
The candidates' opinions, capped by the unanimous vote of the Senate Republicans against the Reciprocal Trade Treaties seem to indicate that the program committee's generous words do not represent the party's men of action. It seems evident also that if the President's official conduct of foreign affairs is not an issue, fears of the effect of his personal opinions and ardent temperament may be. It does not follow, however, because Republican leaders are being careful not to let even the hems of their togas touch participationism, that they would be found unwilling to use their best offices, if elected, to bring about a just peace.
MAJOR FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE PARTIES are in the fields of pure economics, public finance and business regulation. In those fields only are there widely opposed theories of action. On social ground the parties differ not on broad objectives but over the details of organization and management. The success of any program of social welfare depends to a large degree on the success of the economic policies of government. That will be emphasized in the campaign of 1940. This review of Republican attitudes makes it apparent that liberal humanitarians have no reason to dread a debacle of their dreams of social welfare if that party is returned to power.