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Albert Gates

New Taxes Add to War Burden on U.S. Masses

Under FDR’s Direction, War Measures Hitting at Labor and “Aliens”
Follow One After the Other in Rapid Sucession

(July 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 13, 8 July 1940, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Another week has passed. But there has been no let-up in the preparations for war. Increased taxes, measures for the suppression of militant working class organizations, defense of profits, persecution of aliens – these are part of the general campaign.

The Alien’s Bill

The President signed the bill requiring the registration and fingerprinting of all aliens. Already the post Office and Justice departments have started their work which will stretch over a four month period. An “educational” campaign is to precede the registration and fingerprinting, in which 45,000 post offices will cooperate. Thus one measure to control the population in the ensuing period has become a law. complete organizational el

This legislation on aliens has been followed by a number of bills introduced in the House and the Senate calling for the liquidation of all political organizations advocating the abolition of capitalism. The bills aim at the severest censorship of political activities as a means of bringing about their complete organizational elimination.

Along with the passage of the anti-alien bill, Roosevelt announced an emergency situation and provided for the control and seizure of all shipping, American and foreign. It is not difficult to understand at whom this measure is directed. It is directed against French and British vessels, or neutrals engaged in carrying materials to the Axis powers. German and Italian shipping has been driven from the seas. Therefore, the only possible conclusion is that the United States is preparing for any eventuality, perhaps the complete defeat of England. To prevent vessels, both warships and merchant marine, from falling into the hands of Germany or Italy, Roosevelt intends to seize them for the United States.

Simultaneous with these measures, the State Department at Washington is strenuously engaged in preparing for the Inter-American conference to be held in Cuba on July 20. The drive for hemispheric unity, which is another way of saying United States domination of the western world, is meeting with some opposition from Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Argentina has already protested the presence of an American warship in her waters, Uruguay, which only two weeks ago under instigation from Washington, unearthed a shocking Nazi plot, has suddenly, under the sharpest pressure from Germany, dropped the whole matter.

Brazil continues to hem and haw. It demands that the United States lay it on the line in the form of huge loans. That is a cheap price indeed the United States must pay for the inter-American front against the Axis.

At the time of this writing it is still not known how many Latin-American countries will participate in the Cuban conference, and if they attend, how far they are willing to go in lining up with the United States. But Washington does not intend to let the matter rest there. The government will exert the greatest pressure upon the most important South American countries to force through pan-American “unity.”

New Taxes

The new tax bill enacted to defray part of the cost of the huge war budget now in operation. The bill presumably effects “luxuries”. It is quite clear, since consumers goods or so-called luxuries are involved, that the American masses will be subject to additional penalties to help pay for the war. And this is in addition to the drive against the actual living standards of the American workers and their working conditions. The new tax bill applies to future manufactures on a number of products. “Floor taxes” are immediately applied to cigarettes, beer and liquor. (Floor taxes are those applied to stocks on hand.) For stocks now on hand, the following taxes are assessed, a half a cent on a package of cigarettes, seventy-five cents on a gallon of liquor and one dollar on a barrel of beer. The tax on movies, with a penny for every ten cent ticket, beginning at an admission of twenty-one cents, starts at once. Other articles taxed are toilet preparations at ten to eleven per cent; automobiles, radios, refrigerators, matches, gasoline, lubricating oil, playing cards, club dues and initiation fees.

To sooth the deep resentment of wide sections of the population against these taxes, Roosevelt, in his congressional message of July 1, called for an excess-profits tax for the purpose of spreading the cost of war preparations over all classes. This is presumably the measure designed to prevent the growth of new millionaires out of America’s war preparedness measures. The demand for a measure to limit profits is not unfamiliar. Such steps were taken in the last war – but they did not prevent enormous profits and a new crop of millionaires. It is well to bear this fact in mind since Speaker Bankhead has already declared that the bill would be “along the lines of the World War excess-profits tax, aimed at stopping the creation of war millionaires.” England enacted similar measures with the outbreak of the present war, yet reports on British industries, especially the war’ industries, showed the greatest profits in years, and this in the midst of England’s life and death struggle.

No one really takes the excess-profits tax seriously, because it is obviously offered to allay resentment among the workers and poor farmers who are asked to give everything for the sake of “national defense” while the bosses enjoy greater and greater profits. Thus, while the warmonger in Washington prepares to conscript the youth of the nation as cannon-fodder, and the workers in industry as industrial slaves to war machinery, not a single step is taken to conscript the great wealth of the Sixty Families. On the contrary, all measures are taken to guarantee their property and profits.

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