PROBLEM ONE: TO CAPTURE THE SEAT OF GOVERNMENT
There was here no choice of means. The use of force was not to be considered. Therefore, it had to be done by ballot. That being the case, and the factor of political discontent running very high, the single imperative was not to alarm the people.
Senator Taft says that in the presidential campaign of 1932 "the New Deal was hidden behind a program of economy and state rights."
That is true. Nevertheless, a New Dealer might say: "How could we tell the people what we were going to do when we ourselves did not know?" And that also may be true—that they did not know what they were going to do.
Lenin, the greatest theorist of them all, did not know what he was going to do after he had got the power. He made up plans as he went along, changed them if they did not work, even reversed them, but always of course in a manner consistent with his basic revolutionary thesis. And so it was with Hitler, who did it by ballot, and with Mussolini, who did it by force.
There was probably no blueprint of the New Deal, nor even a clear drawing. Such things as the A.A.A. and the Blue Eagle were expedient inventions. What was concealed from the people was a general revolutionary intention—the intention, that is, to bring about revolution in the state, within the form of law. This becomes clear when you set down what it was the people thought they were voting for in contrast with what they got. They thought they were voting :
For less government, not more;
For an end of deficit spending by government, not deficit spending raised to the plane of a social principle, and,
For sound money, not as the New Deal afterward defined it, but as everybody then understood it, including Senator Glass, formerly Secretary of the Treasury, who wrote the money plank in the Democratic party platform and during the campaign earnestly denounced as akin to treason any suggestion that the New Deal was going to do what it did forthwith proceed to do, over his dramatic protest.
The first three planks of the Democratic Party platform read as follows:
"1. An immediate and drastic reduction of governmental expenditures by abolishing useless commissions and offices, consolidating departments and bureaus and eliminating extravagance, to accomplish a saving of not less than 25 per cent in the cost of Federal government ....
"2. Maintenance of the national credit by a Federal budget annually balanced ....
"3. A sound currency to be maintained at all hazards."
Mr. Roosevelt pledged himself to be bound by this platform as no President had ever before been bound by a party document. All during the campaign he supported it with words that could not possibly be misunderstood.
"I accuse the present Administration (Hoover's) of being the greatest spending Administration in peace time in all American history—one which piled bureau on bureau, commission on commission, and has failed to anticipate the dire needs or reduced earning power of the people. Bureaus and bureaucrats have been retained at the expense of the taxpayer. . . . We are spending altogether too much money for government services which are neither practical nor necessary. In addition to this, we are attempting too many functions and we need a simplification of what the Federal government is giving to the people."
This he said many times.
Few of the great majority that voted in November, 1932 for less Federal government and fewer Federal functions could have imagined that by the middle of the next year the extensions of government and the multiplication of its functions would have been such as to create serious administrative confusion in Washington, which the President, according to his own words, dealt with in the following manner:
"On July eleventh I constituted the Executive Council for the simple reason that so many new agencies having been created, a weekly meeting with the members of the Cabinet in joint session was imperative.... Mr. Frank C. Walker was appointed as Executive Secretary of the Council."
Fewer still could have believed that if such a thing did happen it would be more than temporary, for the duration of the emergency only; and yet within a year after Mr. Roosevelt had pledged himself, if elected, to make a 25 per cent cut in Federal government by "eliminating functions" and by "abolishing many boards and commissions," he was writing, in a book entitled On Our Way, the following:
"In spite of the necessary complexity of the group of organizations whose abbreviated titles have caused some amusement, and through what has seemed to some a mere reaching out for centralized power by the Federal government, there has run a very definite, deep and permanent objective."
Few of the majority that voted in November 1932 for an end of deficit spending and a balanced Federal budget could have believed that the President's second budget message to Congress would shock the financial reason of the country, or that in that same book, On Our Way, he would be writing about it in a blithesome manner, saying:
"The next day, I transmitted the Annual Budget Message to the Congress. It is, of course, filled with figures and accompanied by a huge volume containing in detail all of the proposed appropriations for running the government during the fiscal year beginning July 1,1934 and ending June 30,1935. Although the facts of previous appropriations had all been made public, the country, and I think most of the Congress, did not fully realize the huge sums which would be expended by the government this year and next year; nor did they realize the great amount the Treasury would have to borrow."
And certainly almost no one who voted in November, 1932 for a sound gold standard money according to the Glass money plank in the platform could have believed that less than a year later, in a radio address reviewing the extraordinary monetary acts of the New Deal, the President would be saying: "We are thus continuing to move toward a managed currency."
The broken party platform, as an object, had a curious end. Instead of floating away and out of sight as a proper party platform should, it kept coming back with the tide. Once it came so close that the President had to notice it. Then all he did was to turn it over, campaign side down, with the words: "I was able, conscientiously, to give full assent to this platform and to develop its purpose in campaign speeches. A campaign, however, is apt to partake so much of the character of a debate and the discussion of individual points that the deeper and more permanent philosophy of the whole plan (where one exists) is often lost."
At that the platform sank.
And so the first problem was solved. The seat of government was captured by ballot, according to law.