The Smoot-Hawley Tariff bill, conceived in greed, drafted in secret and packed with "jokers," was submitted to the Senate on September 4.
If this bill is passed by Congress and signed by President Hoover, every farmer, every wage-earner, every house-wife, every legitimate business and merchant in the land will feel its blighting effects in increased taxes upon the necessaries of life and upon every phase of production, in the factory and on the farm.
If this raid upon the public is to be stopped, it must be done by the Senate. The bill must be rewritten upon the Senate floor or it must be defeated.
For the first time since the House Ways and Means Committee framed the skeleton of this legislative monstrosity four months ago, the bill will now be debated in the open.
Administration leaders in the House jammed the bill through that body under "gag" rules. These rules prevented a vote on any amendment offered from the floor. The Old Guard Republican majority was large enough to over-ride all opposition, and even to choke off argument and debate, and the more liberal members of the party who protested against the worst features of the bill were silenced with the promise that these would be eliminated in the Senate.
The Senate Committee on Finance, dominated by Smoot of Utah, Reed of Pennsylvania and Watson of Indiana, has gone over the House bill line by line in secret caucus, and stamped its most important provisions with approval. The bill remains a general revision upward of the extortionate rates already in force under the Fordney-McCumber Act of 1922.
In one respect the Senate bill goes far beyond the House bill in meeting the demands of the tariff grabbers. Senator Reed of Pennsylvania succeeded in writing into the bill in the Finance Committee a provision requiring the Tariff Commission to report to Congress equivalent rates, basing the tariff duties in the Smoot-Hawley Bill on "United States value," instead of upon foreign value, as under existing law. This "joker" had its origin in the "American valuation plan" sponsored in 1922 by Joseph R. Grundy, President of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association, who has spent his life raising campaign funds and lobbying at state and national capitals for private interests.
Adoption of the "United States value" provision will literally place the American tariff system on stilts. It will make a sham battle out of any effort in the Senate to scale down the excessive rates reported by the committee.
As it stands on the Senate calendar today, the Smoot-Hawley bill is a flagrant violation of both the Republican and Democratic platforms of 1928.
Instead of giving agriculture the "equality'’ promised at the Kansas City and Houston conventions, the bill advances the duties on many industrial products and gives the farmer a sop in the form of increased duties on many farm products the prices of which are fixed in the world market and never have been and never can be affected by the tariff.
With monopoly entrenched in nearly every line of industry, and with competition among American industrialists practically a thing of the past, the Smoot-Hawley bill gives to these combinations an additional margin of safety through which they can loot the American people at will, without fear of competition from abroad.
In the Senate today there are enough men elected on pledges to their constituents to fight for equality for agriculture and to oppose the exactions of monopoly to defeat the Smoot-Hawley bill.
Already talk is heard that the wisest policy for opponents of the bill is to permit it to pass, after a gesture of opposition on the floor so that it can be used as a campaign issue in 1930.
The Senator who yields to this propaganda would, on the same theory, have permitted the Teapot Dome and Elk Hills oil reserves to be stolen from the public domain.
The Progressive Republicans and the Democrats have a majority in the Senate. If the rank and file of these two groups stand-firm, the Smoot-Hawley bill will be rewritten or defeated.
Realizing that the bill can only be passed with the aid of Democratic votes, the Old Guard Republican members of the Finance Committee are concentrating their efforts in an attempt to break down the Democratic opposition. The bill itself bears on its face the proof that a campaign of log-rolling has already commenced. Tariff duties on the local products of some states represented by Senators of the opposition have been advanced or reduced in order to provide the "Old Guard" with trading material. Backfires will be started in the home states of these Senators and letters and telegrams will pour in from "big business" men and party leaders inspired from Washington.
In anything like its present form, the bill should not be permitted to reach a conference between the two Houses. It is high time to recognize the fact that under the present system of "gag" rule in the House, with the most reactionary element of the Republican party in the saddle, no legislation can pass that body that has not been censored and approved by the little group of men who dominate the party caucus.
If' the tariff bill gets to conference, the amendments adopted by the Senate will be stricken out, the House provisions restored, and all the power of the tariff lobby will be brought to bear to jam the conference report through the Senate.
The responsibility of defeating or drastically changing the bill rests, therefore, upon those Senators of both parties who pledged their opposition to unjust measures of this character. That responsibility can only be discharged by an uncompromising fight against the Smoot-Hawley bill from the outset of the debate.