Valid Views (from 1918)

Posted on November 5, 2011 by


This article presents three quotes from 1918. First, Fighting Bob LaFollette points at the connection between a corporate-owned Press and its beneficial reporting for Big business. Second, Ed Browne argues the sacrifice the average family is expected to make on behalf of the country should apply equally to the most afflulent. Third, Hiram Johnson questions the morality of war profits. And finally, the Socialist Agenda offers a current perspective on each quote.

Fighting Bob LaFollette

How the Press Serves Big Business

The setting up of a new, invisible, and all-powerful government in this country, within the last twenty years, in open violation of fundamental and statutory law, could not have been accomplished under the steady fire of a free and independent press.

Except for the subserviency of most of the metropolitan newspapers, the great corporate interests would never have ventured upon the impudent, lawless consolidation of business for the suppression of competition, the control of production, markets, and prices.

Except for this monstrous crime, 65 percent of all the wealth of this country would not now be centralized in the hands of 2 percent of all the people. And we might today be industrially and commercially a free people, enjoying the blessings of a real democracy.

When the Morgan and Rocke interests harmonized to consummate the great wrong, they well understood that they could not achieve their purpose against a hostile press. Hence they “took over” the newspapers. This does not necessarily mean the ownership of all newspapers. The perfection of the modern combination is little less than a fine art. Here again control is better than outright ownership. And control can be achieved through that community of interests, that interdependence of investment and credits which ties the publisher up to the banks, the advertisers, and special interests.

— Robert M. LaFollette, April 1918.

Commentary for Today

Politicians today no longer consider the needs of individual constituents. Numerous constituents together are unable to provide the amount of campaign contributions that a single corporation can provide though a lobbyist. Consequently, corporate bribes – known as large donor campaign contributions – influence politicians to act on behalf of the corporation’s interest rather than the constituents’ interests.

Readers recently read how corporations are actually networked together into a single super-corporation. This single super-corporation not only funnels funds to particular candidates, both democratic and republican; it controls every major news source as well. The news sources report the news in a manner beneficial to its corporate owner. And, its in the super-corporation’s best interest that news sources do not research and show the consideration politicians give corporations over individual constituents.

Conscript Wealth

It may be a greater sacrifice for a man of small means to be taxed a few dollars so that he has to forgo all luxuries and many of the necessities than for a man of wealth to be taxed 95 percent of his total income.

We have passed a law conscripting the boys of this country. We go into the homes of all alike. The humblest cottage in the land, if the iron fate of chance decrees that one, two, or three of the stalwart sons shall be offered to their country, is not exempt. Many parents would rather give over home, farm, all their worldly effects than have their boys go, yet they bow to the voice of duty and their country. We certainly should not be more tender about conscripting wealth than we are of conscripting boys, the flesh and blood of the land.

An excess profits tax of 80 or 90 percent would certainly not compel multimillionaires to make a great sacrifice. The wolf would not scratch very hard at any of their front doors.

— Rep. Edward E. Browne of Wisconsin, September 1918.

Commentary for Today

Our grandparents’ generation imposed socialist values upon America in 1933. They compared the sacrifice the average family made during World War I with the sacrifice wealthy families should have to make as well. If the government was able to extract young men to sacrifice in war; then using that same reasoning, the government should extract money from the wealthy to sacrifice for the general good of the nation.

Although America no longer drafts young men to be soldiers, this same line of reasoning is still valid. Insomuch as the capitalist politicians expect average families to suffer under austerity measures that cut social safety-nets in an attempt to reduce government debt, then the average family can expect America’s most affluent households to suffer from high taxation as government attempts to preserve basic social safety-nets that are provided to those who are not paid an adequate income.

War Profiteers

How the people must laugh to scorn a Congress that deals thus tenderly with war profits while dealing with such severity the common human clay to put against the gun! To the Steel Corporation is returned under the bill nearly $300 million in war profits for this year; not of ordinary profits, mind you, but of war profits because it has coined the blood and the bone and sinew of the land into dollars. Can you justify it?

Sen. Hiram W. Johnson, January 1918

Commentary for Today

War production should be at an At Cost basis. Corporations should be able to cover their costs to produce military necessities; but they should not be allowed to profit from them.