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Susan Green

As Capitalist Politicians Prepare the Next Budget

The Rich Get Another Windfall

(3 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 9, 3 March 1947, pp. 1 & 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The conflicts within American capitalism today, but more especially the headaches of the Republican majority in Congress produced by these conflicts, have been on display in the current controversy over the federal budget.

Thus Senator Vandenberg, taught by his experience in international diplomacy that American imperialism must carry a mighty big stick, these days, argued against a six billion cut, endorsed by the House, in President Truman’s proposed $37,500,000,000 budget. Said Vandenberg: “The war is not over for us until German and Japanese occupation is over. Any lapse in our purpose or resources in this connection will be an open invitation to Soviet Russia to fill the vacuum. Economy which produces any such results is penny wisdom and pound foolishness of the bitterest and most expensive sort.”

But, while worried about the military needs of American imperialism, Vandenberg is also burdened by the campaign promises of the Republican Party to cut taxes, to reduce the $260,000,000,000 national debt, et cetera, et cetera. Especially is he mindful of the pressure from the class upon which high taxes “tend to impede business activity” – as the saying goes. So Vandenberg, along with most other Republicans in the Senate, favors a less drastic cut than six billion from . Mr. Truman’s figure, the still substantial reduction of $4,500,000,000 – or else how will those taxes on the rich be reduced?

The New York Times, watchful of the over-all needs of American imperialism, had a neat answer to a four and a half billion cut. Taking up Senator Lodge’s comment that the Congressional approach to budget-cutting is like a man wielding an axe in a dark room who might cut off his own head, the New York Times editorially comments: “Mr. Lodge omitted only one point to make his comparison complete. He might have added that in the dark a man’s head could be severed by a meat-axe with a 4.5 inch handle quite as effectively as by one with a 6 inch handle.”

Help the Poor Rich

Here you see capitalist spokesmen caught between the imperialist need for an expensive military set-up and the displeasure of capitalists in paying for some of the expense – with the politicians’ eyes, of course, on election capital for themselves. Has anybody inside of Congress or in the capitalist press raised a voice throughout this budget dispute in favor of spending more money for what the people’ need? Yet President Truman’s proposed budget, which Congress is revising, provided a really picayune sum for pub ic welfare. For instance, out of a $37,500,000,000 total, the President set aside a bit over two billion for both public works and housing. This same budget provides almost as much for tax refunds mainly to you-know-whom as it does for public works and housing combined.

No Congressman got up on his high oratorical horse to demand that the tax refunds to the rich be scaled down. No Congressman who favored reducing the overwhelming figure of $11,300,000,000 for military expenditures wanted to spend on housing the money thus saved. Neither did anyone clamor that the three and a half billions for “international affairs” be cut down, so that there might be developed and financed a program for building homes – a program less insulting to the people who are without those homes.

To be sure, Democrats in Congress, opposed to any revision downward of Mr. Truman’s figures, rose in indignant protest against taking a half billion off that small sum allocated to public works, as those who are cutting the Truman estimates propose. For instance, Senator Myers, Democrat of Pennsylvania, declared: “No, Mr. President. I cannot vote to cripple flood control, soil conservation or all the other federal programs we all know mean so much to the people of this nation.” Politicians want something to boast of in their localities when they come up for re-election! But what about an adequate program for nationwide housing? And what about a respectable figure even for such public works as flood control, valley developments, reclamation, irrigation, roads, parks and so so?

The majority in the House that voted for the six billion cut in Mr. Truman’s figures are presumably willing to slice $2,250,000,000 off the Army, Navy and War Department allotments. Of course, Secretaries Patterson, Forrestal and Marshall predicted doom if such a cut were actually made, as did the generals and the admirals. Secretary Patterson warned that such economies might leave the United States with a second-rate air force, might lead to abandonment of United States occupation abroad and other dire consequences for American imperialism in the international robbers’ game.

Senator Taft, high in Republican prestige, is impressed but not floored by the predictions of cabinet members and military brass. He says: “Most of us (meaning Republican Senators] agree that by rigid economy and cutting out a lot of popular projects, we can cut from three and a half to four billion dollars without touching the armed forces.” But anyway he believes that the military budget can take a ten per cent cut without any harm to its chances as the biggest big stick in the world arena.

Not Binding

In the course of the debate, from here, there and everywhere came bright ideas for reducing federal expenditures. For example, Arthur Krock, Washington editor for the New York Times, would slash two and a quarter billion off the budget by firing 800,000 federal employees and by making the rest of them work more than forty hours a week, shortening vacations and sick leaves and in other ways worsening their conditions. Krock also points out that it costs $1,000 a month to maintain one American soldier in Japan and not much less than that in Europe. Therefore, he wants Congress to pass a universal military training law pronto, to reduce this cost. The same tune is played by the business man’s United States News: “Costs of an Army and Navy would be brought down by universal service, by training for all that would permit a smaller standing army.” These opinions show which way the wind is flowing.

Many newspaper readers have the impression that Congress is now actually determining the amount of federal expenditures for the next fiscal year. This is wrong. The, legislative budget that Congress will pass – which probably will be a compromise between the sijf billion cut voted by the House and the four and a half billion that the Senate will doubtless accept – is not binding when appropriations for the different departments and purposes are made. Just as Truman’s budget was only a proposal, so will the Legislature’s figures be.

Reporters speak of the proposed cuts as “paper cuts.” In the House, Rayburn, Democrat from Texas, opposing a cut in the President’s estimates, bluntly said to his colleagues: “You know you are not going to live up to it.” Indeed, when the Appropriations Committee opens the purse strings to pay out the cash, the generals and admirals will be heard from again, the politicians will clamor for this or that local pork barrel, and so on. Also there is nothing to prevent Congress, after appropriations have been made, from passing bills to increase any appropriation. Political shenanigans are endless.

As a socialist sees it, how a government spends money is of grave importance to the working population whose productive labor alone provides that money. The Workers Party and Labor Action have ideas about how to spend and how not to spend money – also on how to collect it.

Government money, should come from taxes on those who can afford to pay them. A 100 per cent tax on all wartime profits above five per cent on invested capital; a $25,000 ceiling on all annual incomes; a graduated capital tax on accumulated fortunes; such measures would bring lots of money into a government treasury.

Furthermore, an international policy declaring for all nations and peoples to decide their own destiny, for self-determination of all nations, for freedom of the colonies, for international socialist brotherhood, would mean the end of military expenditures and release wealth for constructive measures. For instance, such a constructive measure should be a five-year national building program of $250,000,000,000 to provide the houses and apartments and schools and hospitals we lack.

Such ideas are part of a working class program and can be carried out only by an independent working class party. No getting away from it.

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