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DOING US GOOD AND
CURRENT STYLES IN GOVERN
WELL, fellow Americans, tariff reform wasn't the thing, after all, was it?
Do you remember how we were told year after year that the abominable tariff was the root of all our troubles ? It was the tariff that increased the cost of living; it was because of the tariff that we were getting relatively poorer all the time. Whenever we pointed out that provisions constantly growing dearer, clothing cost more, and rents were higher, the answer from the wise men was always pat. Blame all this to the tariff, they said. It was behind the protecting wall of the tariff that all such evils grew.
They made the thing look rather plausible, too.
There was an import duty on meat, for instance. Therefore, we could bring no meat from abroad, and the American packer having no competition, could charge us what he pleased. That was the reason why meat was dear.
There was an import duty on wool; that was the reason why clothing was so dear.
There was an import duty on sugar; that was the reason why sugar was high and all articles into which sugar entered cost us so much.
There was an import duty on lumber; that made houses dear and rents high.
On practically everything we consumed was an import duty, and thus we suffered from it. To make living cheap, therefore, behold the simple, certain prescription Reduce the tariff and you reduce the price we must pay.
Same way with the trusts.
Those hideous monsters of our dreams, how quickly they would vanish when the fierce, maneating tariff should be driven from our midst ! “ The tariff is the origin of the trusts," sang from ocean to ocean a large, if indiscriminate, chorus. Some persons thought the trust question was complex and difficult to handle. Gifted thinkers that were editing Democratic newspapers knew better. The simple way to abolish the trusts was to abolish or reduce the tariff that nourished the trusts.
For instance, if beef were admitted free of duty, that would dispose of the Beef Trust, because then we could buy our meat from abroad and be independent and happy.
If sugar were admitted free the Sugar Trust would not last twenty-four hours. Put lumber on the free list and watch the Lumber Trust melt away, and rents come down with a rush. Reduce the tariff on steel and the Steel Trust would cease to bother and the Wire Trust be at rest.
And it seemed well that we should do something of the kind, for even to the dullest and fattest witted observer the situation was becoming alarming; if not for himself, being full of beef and mutton, at least to his country. You see the cost of living had been increasing rather rapidly for many years, and as wages had increased comparatively little, and in some instances not at all, this did seem to make a tough situation for the workingman. Even a fat millionaire Senator could see that if it were brought to his attention often enough. It wasn't serious for him, of course, but it might be serious for somebody else.
As to the fact itself, that was not a matter of assertion; it was a matter of statistics as well as of common knowledge among the millions and millions affected by it. Of course old Senator Sorghum does not know anything about it from personal experience, because an increase in the cost of his living is offset by the natural increase in his revenue from the investments that are fattened upon other folks. But he can very easily ascertain all about it if he will turn to the official and other reports. Thus, for instance, what are called “index numbers," a device for registering average prices on the markets, show that in twelve years the average cost of living has increased 50 per cent., and in seventeen years it has increased nearly 80 per cent., but in the same period of seventeen years the average of wages and salaries has increased no more than 20 per cent.
In other words, here is demonstration for the well-fed Senators of a fact that to all the workers needs no other demonstration than their experience. The worker in America is constantly growing poorer. Every year he must pay more for practically everything he buys, and whatever good luck he may have had in securing an increase of wages the prices have soared faster than his income. Every worker