With the trickiness in the use of language which characterized the National Industrial Recovery Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, and the Bituminous Coal Act (all three held unconstitutional), to make believe that they were not what they were, Congress passed the second AAA and called it an act for "Soil Conservation," proceeding thereunder to irrigate the farming land with money of the taxpayers which it had been prevented by the decision of the Supreme Court from distributing under the first act. The second AAA was as lawless as the first.
For more than a decade Congress has been sending money to the farmers ostensibly to help them conserve their soil, an obligation resting upon them in the first instance, and upon the State when the erosion (or whatever is the matter) is so widespread as to call for the exertion of the police power, of which power the United States has none.
The magnitude of this drain upon the taxpayers of the country may be understood from the fact that in 1946 Washington gave to the farmers for "soil conservation" $57,000,000.
The total of subsidies to agriculture in 1947, as reported (1948) by the Secretary of the Treasury (p. 429), was $2,299,000,000. Yet in the Presidential campaign of 1948 the candidates of all parties promised the farmer more! The returns indicated that he voted for the party that had delivered.
And that misuse of money favored a powerful voting class who were marketing wheat at $3 a bushel, corn at about the same price, oats at a similar price, and livestock at rates so high that restaurants were charging their patrons $4 for a sirloin steak!
Through the years, $1 a bushel for wheat, 75¢ for corn, and the same price for oats were regarded on the land as good prices.
Of course, as before said, the conservation of soil is none of the business of the United States. It is the obligation of the landowner to take care of his land. He had done that from the time the Pilgrims cleared away the timber in the Massachusetts Colonies. He mastered rivers without knowing that he should have the help of a Big or Little T.V.A., and he opened roads wherever they were needed without a Federal Highway Act.
The men who wrote the Constitution being of that kind, they never gave authority to Congress to take the money of one class by taxation and pass it along with a bow and a smile to another group of great voting power. By Magna Carta their forebears made the King promise to keep hands off industry and trade, except under the necessity of war. Hence, the Constitution contains no grant of power to Congress to pass anything of even the remotest resemblance to the National Industrial Recovery Act. And as they extracted a pledge from King John to let trade alone, the Constitution authorizes Congress only to "regulate" commerce carried on by men, not to engage in commerce by any branch of government, or by a Fascist corporation set up by it. The early American tilled his land without expecting any help from anybody, and he had no idea that Government could by either punitive or predatory taxation place any limit on the fruits of his industry. Accordingly, no grant for paternalism or imperialism was given by the Constitution to Congress.
To be sure, the conservation of the soil of the farmer may become in some localities of so burdensome a nature that it ceases to be the obligation of the individual. Where erosion or some other peril is so widely extended and affects so many owners and so much property that it cannot be dealt with successfully by individuals or by a group of them, then it becomes the duty of the State, either to assist in the task of prevention or take it over altogether. But the United States has no police power. And the Tenth Amendment was designed to prevent it forever from usurping any.
"Soil conservation" is a deceiving term, like "commerce" in the National Labor Relations Act. It is a cover for subsidies from the pockets of the country to those on the land, a transfer of money from one class to another which the Supreme Court held could not be made when it pronounced the first Agricultural Adjustment Act unconstitutional.
As mentioned in a preceding chapter, the farmer has been put in a bad situation by the mismanagement in Government which ballooned his costs and those of everybody else beyond all endurance. But that must be mended by removal of the cause, not by subsidies, which the taxpayers cannot carry indefinitely, even if they were legal.
In a condition of erosion, or of a "dust bowl," involving several States, they have open to them the "Agreement or Compact with another State" authorized by the closing words of Article I of the Constitution, with "the Consent of Congress." The seven States in the basin of the Colorado River made use of this provision to work out an agreement for a fair division of the valuable water of that stream. So when the erosion or other trouble is beyond the ability of the landowner, it becomes the duty of the State to take hold. And when the difficulty belongs to more than one State, there is a constitutional way to solve the problem.
But the subject is as far beyond the constitutional field of Congress as are the sands of the Sahara.
On July 22,1947, the Associated Press reported that the House of Representatives "had voted twice to eliminate the benefit-payment program for 1948 and sharply cut back payments on this year's crops." The Senate-House conference group agreed "to continue the main farm program into 1948." In addition to that, it agreed to a fund of $265,000,000 "to make the benefit payments and meet other costs of the farm crop program on the 1947 crop."
The "other costs" were $24,000,000 to pay the bureaucrats "for expenses of farmer committeemen who plan and check the programs"!
The farm bill compromise would provide $960,000,000 "for agricultural purposes during the fiscal year 1948 in comparison with last year's expenditures of $2,275,000,000" President Truman asked for $1,188,000,000.
The disrespect for the rights and property of the people in general, in order to favor highly organized voting groups, is, in addition to being unconstitutional, morally wrong. In the Congress for the last decade and a half, in the White House, in the legislatures, in the city councils, everywhere in public office where there is authority to spend, there has developed, through indifference or incompetence of those who should have been on guard, the grossest unconcern for the taxpayer. As a capital illustration of this, there is cited the veto by the President of a tax-reduction bill passed by the new Congress in 1947 which had been voted into power on a platform promising relief from exorbitant taxation.
In the concluding chapter of this work it is shown that we must take the President out of this kind of politics by returning to the strictest observance of the method of election prescribed by the Constitution.
1. The ruthless course of the Government at Washington respecting the taxpayers brings to mind the denunciation by Saint Simon of the Bourbon monarchy, which brought on by taxes the French Revolution, that it "has scourged, rather than governed, the state."
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