Realistic liberals, or practical progressives, will not expect President Roosevelt’s second administration to achieve the income of $4,870 per family which the National Survey of Potential Product Capacity has found our productive plant to be capable of yielding. They will be wary of fixing their hopes on the attainment during the next four years of any definite goals, even at modest distances, along the road of economic and social improvement. They must take account of the uncertainties of the world in which they live. They must make allowances for such various influences as Mr. Roosevelt’s characteristics and prejudices, the composition of Congress, and changing sectional, occupational, and individual needs and moods. They recognize that the Roosevelt Administration holds power with the support of a loose coalition bound by no comprehensive set of ideas and aspirations and containing elements which by no stretch of the imagination can be called liberal or progressive. Finally, they will not forget that even among the self-labeled progressives and liberals there is only the vaguest kind of agreement on general aims and the sharpest kind of disagreement on both specific objectives and methods.
It is significant that neither Mr. Roosevelt nor any of his important lieutenants foresaw the extent of their victory in November. Not even James A. Farley, the most accurate optimist in present-day politics, foresaw the size of Mr. Roosevelt’s popular plurality, the Democratic gains in Congress, or the election of many of the weaker Democratic candidates for state and local offices. For the last year or so Mr. Roosevelt and several of his chief aides have been increasingly sensitive to criticism of the various New Deal undertakings. In their caution they have been general, rather than discriminating. To a degree, I think, they fell victim to the same error that bewitched many of their opponents—the notion that the editorial columns of conservative metropolitan journals represented, or were capable of influencing, considerable bodies of public opinion. The scope of his victory may alter to some extent the tentative course which Mr. Roosevelt had charted on the supposition that he would be re-elected by a comfortable margin but by a smaller popular plurality than in 1932, and that the Republican opposition would make some gains in Congress and in major state offices. It may encourage him to move more rapidly along a few specific lines, but it will not change the character of the problems with which he has to deal and it cannot be expected to modify his personal characteristics and predilections.
Mr. Roosevelt emerges from the election singularly free of obligation to any particular individual or group. All the groups which supported him and even the members of his own official family with their varied aims will lay claim to shares of credit for the victory. But no claim can be proved, and no claim to indispensability is credible in the light of Mr. Roosevelt’s overwhelming victory. Among those to whom Mr. Roosevelt owes no special obligation are the regular Democratic politicians. Without belittling the importance of party organization to any movement which hopes to continue in power, it can be asserted, I think, that the contribution of the regular Democratic organization to the result of the 1936 election was not much more significant than in 1932, when Mr. Roosevelt carried many states in which the Democratic party was almost non-existent. In fact, in some states and localities, the regular Democratic organization was a liability to Mr. Roosevelt, owing to malodorous or inferior leadership and clumsy efforts to bring pressure on W.P.A. workers and other immediate New Deal beneficiaries whose loyalty to Mr. Roosevelt could not have been in doubt to anybody except a petty machine politician.
The only distinguishable group in the country to whom Mr. Roosevelt is overwhelmingly indebted is the combination of financial, industrial, and business leaders and reactionary publishers who fought him most bitterly. For four years their unreformed bourbonism has been the chief unifying force at work on Mr. Roosevelt’s diverse supporters. Their success in smothering the tentative feelers towards a more discriminating opposition to the New Deal which came from Topeka in early summer was largely responsible, I think, for the imposing magnitude of Mr. Roosevelt’s victory. Their aid to Mr. Roosevelt was unwitting and they deserve no more than the usual harvest from massive stupidity. Yet it is not improbable that they will be rewarded with Mr. Roosevelt’s gentlest solicitude.
In his post-election recantation, William Randolph Hearst has rediscovered that Franklin D. Roosevelt is another Andrew Jackson. Only last January Mr. Roosevelt implied that he himself regarded his role as Jacksonian. So it may be. But temperamentally he is not another Andrew Jack-son. He can be unyielding, he can nurse a few personal grudges—not many—and in the thick of a fight he can even be a trifle vindictive—not very. If it suits his political purposes he can boast that he is proud of the enemies he has made. But eight years of observation of Mr. Roosevelt have convinced me that he does not really rejoice in the hostility of anybody. It is true that he likes to be liked. He has exceptional talent for conciliation and compromise. He is happiest, I think, when he can be a benevolent arbiter. This inclination made him especially susceptible to the idea of a fusion of interests inherent in the original N.R.A, As financial and industrial leaders turned away from his leadership and became more and more strident in their criticisms of the New Deal, Mr. Roosevelt’s first reaction seemed to be pained surprise that they appreciated so little what he was trying to do for them. He has never ceased to struggle to win converts from this segment of our society.
A genuine “era of good feeling” would be very much to Mr. Roosevelt’s personal taste. He is eminently fitted to preside over such an era. There would be gains for everybody in a period of relative peace and consolidation. It might soothe the nerves of our financial and industrial bourbons and lead some of them to accept intelligently, or in resignation, a few of the reforms they have opposed so vehemently. A little balm at this point would help to heal the remaining sore spots in business “confidence.” The prolongation or acceleration of recovery by the orthodox methods of plant expansion, plant replacement, and ventures into new enterprises is much to be desired now. A somewhat higher level of production would reduce unemployment to more easily manageable dimensions and balance the budget automatically. The balancing of the budget within the next year or two without additional taxes would, in turn, remove an important source of misgiving among not only the wealthy but hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of small property owners and investors whose upbringing and habits of thrift have conditioned them against comprehension of the differences between public and personal finance. In view of all of these factors, Mr. Roosevelt probably will be as conciliatory toward his opponents as he can without sacrificing his specific or implied pledges to the major groups which supported him for re-election. Obviously an “era of good feeling” cannot ensue if our financial and industrial leadership has been left so unchastened by the recent election that it will merely shift its battlefront from the Republican party to the judiciary. We shall soon know whether that is its intention. There can be no period of relative peace in industry if employers remain unwilling to accept genuine collective bargaining where the employees want it or to accept legislation dealing with maximum hours, minimum wages, and child labor where it is needed.
As he always has been, and as all successful political leaders, especially in democracies, must be, Mr. Roosevelt will continue to be opportunistic as to time and method. But there is one influence to which Presidents are more likely to be fully exposed in a second term than in a first. That is the opportunity to occupy a satisfactory place in history. Mr. Roosevelt probably will be especially susceptible to this influence for three reasons: first, because he is extremely ambitious; second, because he has a vivid historical sense; and, third, because circumstances have presented to him the chance to occupy a large and perhaps enduring place in American history. This high level of aspirations has its dangers; they were illustrated in the career of Woodrow Wilson. Mr. Roosevelt, I think, is a greater realist than Mr. Wilson was. He will bear watching on that score, but I incline to the view that his lofty ambition will steady him, all the more so because the mere consolidation of what he has begun probably would assure him a place among the great American presidents.
Mr. Roosevelt’s prestige in Congress at the outset of the coming session should be greater than it has been at any time since he became President, except perhaps during the first few weeks following the banking crisis in 1933. Conservative Republicanism has been all but obliterated in both houses. On the Democratic side in both houses plenty of conservatives of various hues remain. But the result of the election was not such as to encourage them to proclaim vigorously their criticisms of the New Deal. With rare exceptions outside the South, Democratic candidates all the way down the line know that they won because they were on the same ticket with Mr. Roosevelt and pledged support of his policies. In the South a number of conspicuous Democratic critics of the New Deal were mowed down in the primaries, while such regulars as Senators Robinson, of Arkansas, Harrison, of Mississippi, and Byrnes, of South Carolina, won their primary fights as outspoken and unqualified supporters of Mr. Roosevelt and the New Deal. The new Congress will not contain many new men who can be classified as definitely progressive by personal inclination, but it will contain only a small minority of men who have not publicly sworn their fealty to Mr. Roosevelt.
Although Mr. Roosevelt should have enormous prestige at the beginning of the next session of Congress, several factors will tend to diminish his influence as time passes. In the first place, he will not have anything like the amount of patronage to distribute that he had during his first term. He has a few important places in his administration to fill, and there will be more money for public works of one kind or another, the allocation of which will be a form of patronage. But he will not have thousands of new appointments to make. In fact, if he makes any serious effort to reorganize and tighten up his administration, and especially if he makes a real effort to broaden the scope of the merit system, he will have to throw out a large number of party hacks, to the irritation of them and their sponsors.
As the Congressional election of 1938 nears, and to an even greater extent as that of 1940 nears, Senators and Representatives probably will pay greater attention to the whisperings among their own constituents and less to the advice of the White House. (This might not happen if there should develop a really formidable movement to nominate Mr. Roosevelt for a third term—a possibility which I do not think he contemplates but which, under certain conditions, would not be inconceivable.) Moreover, as Mr. Roosevelt knows from his own experience, heavy majorities in Congress do not guarantee docility and a single bad slip can seriously impair the influence of the White House in Congress. The
1934 election, which increased the Democratic majorities in both houses, could properly be construed as a thumping endorsement of the New Deal. The first business which Mr. Roosevelt put before the new Congress was the resolution providing for our adherence to the World Court. He was not quite able to get the necessary two-thirds vote in the Senate. With this rebuff, he lost effective control of Congress for more than two months, during which his $4,880,-000,000 works-relief bill was thoroughly buffeted and battered. He never did regain satisfactory control during the
1935 session. He finally obtained most of what he sought, but much of it was in seriously altered form. A serious miscalculation of public opinion might damage irreparably his prestige during his second term.
Both the President and Congress will continue to work with ears alert for sounds from the grass-roots and sidewalks. Their first task is to interpret the election. Mr. Roosevelt would be the first to recognize that the twenty-six or twenty-seven million people who voted for him were not thereby expressing approval of everything that he has done or attempted. They were expressing satisfaction with a general result or a general trend or with specific benefits which they had received or hoped to receive, or they simply liked him, or they simply distrusted Governor Landon’s equipment for the Presidency or the forces which they could see behind him. Likewise, many of the sixteen or seventeen million people who voted for Governor Landon had no objections to many of the things done or attempted by Mr. Roosevelt. In fact, the Republican platform and nominee openly or tacitly approved some of the accomplishments and objectives of the New Deal.
Mr. Roosevelt’s analysis of the criticisms buried in the votes for him and of the approval buried in the vote for his opponent will be most influential at the beginning of the new Congress. But every Senator and Representative will try to make his own analysis, with his own particular constituency in mind. Sectional and group interests will continue to assert themselves. It is a political axiom that large majorities are hard to manage, that they tend to break up into blocs. It may well be true that in the absence of the kind of blanket opposition adopted by Messrs. Hoover and Hearst, the American Liberty League, and the Republican campaign management—and embraced by Governor Lan-don in the last three weeks of his campaign—controversy over specific measures will be sharpened. Likewise, the steam-rollering of the “lunatic fringe” in the recent election may increase Mr. Roosevelt’s difficulty in handling the conservative Democrats. Until his death, Huey Long was Mr. Roosevelt’s best leverage on some of the old-time Southern Democrats, and to a lesser degree Father Coughlin and Dr. Townsend served a similar purpose.
With the repudiation of extremism and especially of the laissez-faire doctrine which has saturated most of the official opposition during the last four years, the way has been cleared for the more intelligent discussion of specific proposals on their merits. This practical approach is in accord with the democratic tradition, especially here and in the British Commonwealth. Trial and error and compromise are inseparable from the democratic method of social readjustment. However, in extending the hand of reconciliation to his fallen opponents Mr. Roosevelt may find that the price of an “era of good feeling” is an unprecedented amount of dissension among his own sundry supporters.
The maintenance of the general conditions for continual readjustment by democratic processes is of much greater importance than the achievement of any precise objective at any particular time. In a large sense, the greatest accomplishment of Mr. Roosevelt’s first administration has been the demonstration of the capacity of our form of government to act with sufficient energy, imagination, and scope to overcome a grave crisis and begin reforms designed to prevent the recurrence of such a crisis. The demonstration has been heartening, but both the hopes and the tangible benefits generated during the last four years could be easily dissipated during the next four. To prevent such a relapse and its possibly disastrous consequences there seem to me to be at least six things of a general character that Mr. Roosevelt must do.
The first and most imperative of Mr. Roosevelt’s responsibilities is to prevent our attention and energies from being diverted to an excursion abroad. Major wars in Europe, Africa, or Asia—or all three—during the next four years are at least a visible possibility. If they occur, the economic and emotional suction applied to us will be powerful. I believe that Mr. Roosevelt is now determined to do all that he can to resist this suction. I believe that he is aware that our participation in the World War stopped the Wilson reform movement in its tracks and, in addition to the penalties of the War, ushered in a period of reaction which brought our society perilously near to ruin. I believe that he realizes that if we should succumb again, as we did in 1917, the aftermath would be unpredictable. Disquietingly, some of his advisers are in the grip of the deterministic thesis that if major wars occur abroad we cannot escape involvement. So believing, they logically conclude that the United States should make an aggressive effort, in one way or another, to preserve the general peace. During the last three years this pressure on Mr. Roosevelt has been whittled down by belated recognition of the sterner realities of the situation in Europe and the Far East and by numerous warnings that at the present time a great majority of the American electorate is not in a mood to tolerate any policy which obviously tends toward entanglement abroad.
A few shades removed from the fatalists who hold that peace is indivisible and neutrality impossible in the present-day world stand the open sympathizers with the democratic regimes of Europe, notably Great Britain and France. This sentiment is probably generally held in this country and would be intensified in the event of a war that found Great Britain and France aligned against the Fascist powers. No one can predict to what whirlwinds of passion we might be subjected during another world war. One can only hope that Mr. Roosevelt will try to allay these passions rather than feed them with public criticisms of the “war-like” powers—criticisms which may be merited, in part, but which do not help to preserve that sober and realistic atmosphere in which American policy can best be formed.
Since his re-election Mr. Roosevelt has been the target of an especially appealing form of flattery. The pronouncement from a French publicist, to the effect that “democracy has at last found its leader,” is being supported by various persistent and subtle appeals from French and British sources. Mr. Roosevelt probably will be tempted to assume the role of a world leader. It should not be necessary to emphasize that he holds no mandate, specific or implied, to assume the leadership of any democracy except our own. On the contrary, he is publicly committed to a policy of neutrality except where our own interests are directly concerned. His domestic success may well, serve to strengthen the morale of other democratic nations. It is conceivable that he may be able to do something toward preserving the general peace without so entangling us that we cannot extricate ourselves if major wars occur. His Latin-American policy is all to the good. Most, if not all, of the Western Hemisphere is in the zone of American naval supremacy. The preservation of a Pax Americana based on the status quo, defense of Latin-American nations against aggressors from across the sea, and neutrality in foreign conflicts, depends, in the last analysis, upon American naval power. By example, the Western Hemisphere might exert influence elsewhere. It might encourage the formation of a general bloc of neutral powers. But outside our naval zone, the rights of such a bloc would have to be underwritten by military and naval forces other than our own unless we are prepared to resume the risks of 1914-17.
The degree to which we might find it wise to curtail our trade with belligerents’ in the events of general wars abroad cannot be determined by any formula laid down in advance. Very probably an administration genuinely determined to preserve the traditional neutral rights, and nothing more, could do a better job diplomatically than was done by the Wilson Administration. The important thing is to prevent any attempt to preserve neutral rights from drawing us into war. We should be prepared to restrict our trade to the extent that is necessary to avoid war. Fully as important is the prevention of a war-boom in the United States. , In this connection, insufficient attention has been paid to the fact that foreign investments in the United States are now approximately $2,500,000,000 greater than they were at the outset of the World War. If converted into purchases of supplies, as many of them world be in the event of major wars, they would give us the same kind of boom that we had in 1915 and 1916 and sweep us along the same fatal channels toward credits and loans to maintain the boom when cash purchasing power had been exhausted. The existence of this enormous foreign investment fund in the United States vitiates any attempt to prevent a war boom by requiring our customers to pay cash. Measures should be taken to segregate these funds and, in the event of war, hold them as security for our outstanding loans and investments abroad and for payment of damages, if any, to American shipping.
Secretary Hull’s reciprocal trade agreements also seem to me to have been insufficiently considered in the light of the possibility that they may increase the difficulties of remaining out of war rather than serve the cause of peace. This criticism does not apply to the Canadian and various Latin-American agreements and probably to no others that have been executed so far, since the total volume of trade which they affect is not large. But the dangers of entanglement prescribe caution in the management of the tariff.
If general wars do not materialize during the next year or two, the dangers of another kind of diversion probably will increase. This is the resumption of foreign lending on a large scale. The pressure of surplus funds—augmented by the flow of foreign funds into this country—is working toward the re-opening of the foreign loan market. Any reader of the financial press can see that some of our international bankers are itching to begin. The first flow of funds might be toward Latin-America. Sound national policy, in my opinion, would restrict foreign loans and investments to those specifically needed for the development of resources or manufactured products for our own use. In view of the strongly international and orthodox character of Secretary Hull’s economics, Mr. Roosevelt cannot be expected to adhere to so rigid a formula. But he has a primary responsibility, I believe, to prevent the repetition of anything like our war and post-war period of foreign lending. By failing to keep up the bars, he might temporarily achieve a slightly higher level of prosperity, but it would be at the cost of a more serious reckoning later.
Only second in importance to preventing a foreign diversion I should place Mr. Roosevelt’s responsibility for trying to keep our domestic recovery on a solid basis. This requires checks on speculation. In the Federal Reserve Board and the S.E.C., the Federal government has greater powers for dealing with speculation in securities than it has ever had before. More extensive and exact powers may be needed. The S.E.C. has begun to move slowly toward a few fundamental reforms. However, it is quite possible that the worst speculative excesses of this boom may crop up in some other field —in real estate, for example. The danger at this point is not that the New Dealers will bob up with some new and startling plans for upsetting the poise of financiers and business men, but that they will be lulled into a semi-comatose state by the surge of recovery. Extreme watchfulness will be necessary. A basic objective, I think, should be to prevent the kind of piling up and pyramiding of debts which occurred during the post-war decade. To prevent this, while at the same time increasing production and distribution under the capitalist system, will require better management of the flow of income. Much that the New Deal has done has been directed at this problem. But much of it has been only temporary. Federal expenditures are now being pared down. The achievement of a balanced budget within the near future is highly desirable. But the present course of recovery contains many unpleasant reminders of the ‘twenties. It suggests that the measures so far taken to redistribute the flow of national income are wholly inadequate and that we are still faced with the crucial problem of excessive money savings due to the concentration of ownership of the means of production. Pending a more equitable distribution of the direct claims on production, it may be found necessary for the Federal Government to increase, rather than reduce, its expenditures. To keep the capitalist system moving it might have to take, let us say, eight or ten billion dollars annually from the top through taxation and push it in at the bottom. This could be done easily with a properly graduated tax system and may prove to be indispensable.
Mr. Roosevelt’s third broad task, closely related to the second, is to round out the reforms which he has begun and to consolidate and imbed them so that they will be relatively secure against a conservative reaction. This will require the revision and expansion of some existing legislation, and perhaps the passage of new legislation. It will permit pushing ahead with a few long-range projects on the wisdom of which there is general agreement, such as conservation of natural resources and the reduction of land tenancy.
On the farm front the immediate problem continues to be the finding of a workable way to stabilize the income of farmers at a suitable ratio to the national income. In view of the extreme sensitivity of the prices of some of the staple farm products, this probably requires some kind of production control overlaid by something in the nature of Mr. Wallace’s ever-normal granary and crop-insurance proposals. At present surpluses are not a problem, but if the indirect method of production control embodied in the existing soil conservation law does not prove adequate, undoubtedly the farmers will insist on returning to the direct type of control with which they experimented under the original A.A.A. Whatever methods are used to hold up farm income, they should not be permitted to interfere with the gradual readjustment of the productive plant to the existing market by the elimination of the marginal producers of such crops as wheat and cotton.
Both major parties are committed to the same long-range policies with respect to farming and the land: the conservation of soil and water resources, a comprehensive land-use program, and an increase in the number of farm owners. The experts have been warning us that a successful farm-ownership program depends partly on the training of prospective buyers in farm-management and balanced farming. Moreover, it is not easy to see how the transfer on a large scale of farm properties from absentee owners to active owners can be accomplished without bidding up the price of land—except by the use of subsidies or discriminatory taxation. Governor Landon’s hint that farm subsidies should be limited to one farm per owner may be one approach to the answer. The farm-tenant and share-cropper problems and the related problem of moving families stranded on sub-marginal land can be dealt with over a period of years—although the perfection of an invention such as the mechanical cotton-picker might call for prompt and more drastic measures.
The New Deal has revived and pushed forward conservation measures across a broad front. Its conservation program has suffered badly, however, from poor general staff work in Washington. As J. N. Darling (Ding) has bemoaned, money has been used to accelerate the run-off of water instead of to hold it back, and to destroy the habitats of fish and fowl in the name of flood control. But genuine conservationists of the newer school have been gaining the upper hand in Washington. Mr. Roosevelt has a comprehensive understanding of soil and water conservation and should be able successfully to consolidate his program in this field. Although it may be rather late to worry about our depleted supplies of petroleum, it would be gratifying to see Mr. Roosevelt show greater concern for the conservation of our mineral resources.
Mr. Roosevelt can be counted on to push ahead with his “cheap electricity” program, embracing rural electrification, the development of publicly-owned hydro-electric resources, and continual downward pressure on rates for domestically-consumed electricity. The pooling of private and public electricity in the vicinity of the New Deal “yardsticks” may prove to be a workable arrangement—provided that adequate control over rates is retained by the government.
On the financial front, all that can be asked is that the government try to use the powers which it now has to influence the flow of credit and regulate the investment markets. It can seek new authority as it becomes necessary. The S.E.C. seems to be preparing to take a few additional steps toward breaking up the iniquitous system under which the same men act as buyers and sellers, promoters and trustees, industrial managers and speculators.
With respect to holding companies, as with respect to large industrial combinations, trade practices and related matters, no clear lines for policy seem to me to be indicated. It may be true, as one sector of progressive thought holds, that many of our manufactures can be produced most efficiently by small competitive units. But the advantages of large-scale production are apparent in certain lines and the advantages of large-scale management in other lines should not be dismissed lightly. Regulatory policies in the industrial field should be cautiously experimental. Bituminous coal needs one kind of treatment, the steel industry another, the cotton textile industry a third. A Federal Trade Commission with enlarged powers ought to be able to deal discriminatingly with fair practices. In some industries it will be necessary to break down price-fixing, in others to give prices some support. Large industries with peculiar problems, of which the bituminous coal industry is an outstanding example, can be handled, as they will be, through separate regulatory boards. Whatever is done with respect to trade practices should be done with lively regard for the consumer.
Minimum wage, maximum hour, and child labor legislation is badly needed in several lines of activity. Mr. Roosevelt is committed to it, as he is committed to the protection of collective bargaining. These are among the most important of the objectives which he sought but failed to achieve, or retain, during his first Administration. Minimum wage and maximum hour legislation should be flexible, and hours should not be so short as to curtail seriously the potential national production. If an adequate system of public work for the unemployed can be maintained, it may serve as a rough substitute for minimum wage legislation. The extent to which labor wishes to avail itself of the opportunity for collective bargaining remains to be disclosed. Except for a brief period and to a limited extent during the World War it has not had the opportunity to make a free choice, owing to the failure of the State and Federal governments to protect the rights of labor freely to organize.
In the whole field of industry, the Federal government is lamentably lacking in adequate statistical knowledge. It gathers statistics of many kinds, but they have not been brought together as the Department of Agriculture has brought together and analyzed its information concerning agriculture. One of the main differences between the A.A.A. and the N.R.A. in their early stages was that the government’s agricultural economists could predict the probable effect of reducing a crop by a given percentage, while the N.R.A. had no more than the foggiest notion of the probable effects of many of the fair practice provisions it was asked to approve. With a view to the future, the government should enlarge its statistical services and undertake continuing studies of various industries.
The Social Security Act needs revision. Probably it will be subjected to continuing revision. The large reserve fund in the present contributory old age insurance plan has few, if any, defenders. But even if the prospective reserve fund is eliminated or greatly reduced, the system will still remain a means of enforcing saving on many low-paid workers who cannot afford to save. It will continue to be a drain on purchasing power. In the course of time it may be possible to shift part of the cost of this plan, as well as of the direct old age assistance plan, to general taxation. The objective, in my opinion, should be the elimination of the contributory system and the substitution of a minimum pension to be paid to every citizen over a certain age regardless of need.
Likewise, the present unemployment insurance plan can be regarded only as an experimental stop-gap. It is of fundamental importance, however, to avoid the cash dole and to preserve a wage paid for public work as the method of caring for the able-bodied unemployed after they have exhausted their benefits under an unemployment compensation system. Public work on a large scale may have to be maintained indefinitely to give work to the unemployed. Time, and not prophecy, will disclose how many of the unemployed private industry can absorb during the next year or two. W.P.A., C.C.C., and related agencies can do much more than they have done in training unskilled workers for private employment. Likewise a considerable upward push in the average number of years of schooling, abetted by greater aid to the regular educational system than the Federal government ever has given in the past, would be a useful way of reducing the pressure of unemployment while improving the quality of the electorate.
A large-scale slum-clearance program, better pure food and drug legislation, and the gradual revision of the tax system are among the other reforms which demand attention. There are many conflicting ideas concerning a housing program. Since the need is so great, it might do no harm to give them all a trial. At this stage, Dr. Tugwell’s suburban “green-belt” communities look like the most promising venture the Federal government has undertaken in its scattered and halfhearted housing program. The allocation of tax sources among the Federal, State, and local governments, the gradual reduction of indirect taxation, and the simplification of the tax structure are among the essentials of a program for tax revision. The whole question of taxation is inextricably bound up with the flow of national income and cannot be considered apart from major social objectives. Perhaps all that can be asked of Mr. Roosevelt’s second administration is that in taxation it take a few steps more in the right direction.
Unless the present Supreme Court is sufficiently abashed by the election result to change its course, Mr. Roosevelt obviously cannot round out his program without coming to grips with the judiciary on the Constitution. This is his fourth major obligation. No course can be suggested that is entirely satisfactory. I doubt that Mr. Roosevelt yet has a very clear idea of his probable course. Experience with the child labor amendment and the difficulties of drafting a suitable constitutional amendment do not recommend an attempt to amend the Constitution. The effort seems unnecessary in view of the readiness of at least three, and perhaps four, members of the present Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution with intelligent latitude. Yet many peopie shrink from the simple method of enlarging the Court to throw the balance to the liberal side and from proposals to curtail or abolish the Court’s power of judicial review of acts of Congress. Obviously in some way the Court’s current interpretations of the general welfare, commerce, and due process clauses will have to be overridden. If the present Court does not retreat, Mr. Roosevelt will have to make a decision in the next few months. When the Court has revealed its hand in its decision on the Wagner Labor Relations Act and on other New Deal legislation now before it, a definite course of action may be more clearly indicated.
To round out his program and make it work, Mr. Roosevelt will have to improve his administrative organization and personnel. He probably will undertake the reshuffling of government bureaus. He probably will weed out some of his incompetent administrators and their subordinates. The need for expansion of the merit system is obvious. But the establishment of a real merit system will require reorganization as well as expansion of the Civil Service. The greatest need is to provide assured careers for first class administrators. The present Civil Service is based too much on the idea of giving security of tenure to petty job-holders. The establishment of career services comparable to those in the British Civil Service will require a generation of continual attention. But the time is ripe to make a beginning. And Mr. Roosevelt is well situated to begin the reform.
Mr. Roosevelt’s sixth major duty, which needs no elaboration, is the scrupulous preservation of civil liberties.
Nothing in the six major objectives outlined above is inconsistent with Mr. Roosevelt’s avowed purposes or beyond the range of reasonable expectation. That he will succeed in maintaining these fundamental conditions for orderly progress cannot be forecast with confidence. But if he does succeed he will be assured an important place in American history.