THE CONSERVATION OF SOIL IN FARMING STATES BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS NOT
AUTHORIZED BY THE CONSTITUTION
With the trickiness in the use of language which
characterized the National Industrial Recovery Act, the Agricultural Adjustment
Act, and the Bituminous Coal Act (all three held unconstitutional), to make
believe that they were not what they were, Congress passed the second AAA and
called it an act for "Soil Conservation," proceeding thereunder to
irrigate the farming land with money of the taxpayers which it had been
prevented by the decision of the Supreme Court from distributing under the
first act. The second AAA was as lawless as the first.
For more than a decade Congress has been sending money to the farmers
ostensibly to help them conserve their soil, an obligation resting upon them in
the first instance, and upon the State when the erosion (or whatever is the
matter) is so widespread as to call for the exertion of the police power, of
which power the United States has none.
Illegal subsidies to agriculture of appalling magnitude
The magnitude of this drain upon the taxpayers of the country may be
understood from the fact that in 1946 Washington gave to the farmers for
"soil conservation" $57,000,000.
The total of subsidies to agriculture in 1947, as reported (1948) by the
Secretary of the Treasury (p. 429), was $2,299,000,000. Yet in the Presidential
campaign of 1948 the candidates of all parties promised the farmer more! The
returns indicated that he voted for the party that had delivered.
And that misuse of money favored a powerful voting class who were marketing
wheat at $3 a bushel, corn at about the same price, oats at a similar price,
and livestock at rates so high that restaurants were charging their patrons $4
for a sirloin steak!
Through the years, $1 a bushel for wheat, 75¢ for corn, and the same
price for oats were regarded on the land as good prices.
Of course, as before said, the conservation of soil is none of the business
of the United States. It is the obligation of the landowner to take care of his
land. He had done that from the time the Pilgrims cleared away the timber in
the Massachusetts Colonies. He mastered rivers without knowing that he should
have the help of a Big or Little T.V.A., and he opened roads wherever they were
needed without a Federal Highway Act.
Why Constitution for independent individual
The men who wrote the Constitution being of that kind, they never gave
authority to Congress to take the money of one class by taxation and pass it
along with a bow and a smile to another group of great voting power. By Magna
Carta their forebears made the King promise to keep hands off industry and
trade, except under the necessity of war. Hence, the Constitution contains no
grant of power to Congress to pass anything of even the remotest resemblance to
the National Industrial Recovery Act. And as they extracted a pledge from King
John to let trade alone, the Constitution authorizes Congress only to
"regulate" commerce carried on by men, not to engage
in commerce by any branch of government, or by a Fascist corporation set up
by it. The early American tilled his land without expecting any help from
anybody, and he had no idea that Government could by either punitive or
predatory taxation place any limit on the fruits of his industry. Accordingly,
no grant for paternalism or imperialism was given by the Constitution to
Soil conservation important, but not to Washington
To be sure, the conservation of the soil of the farmer may become in some
localities of so burdensome a nature that it ceases to be the obligation of the
individual. Where erosion or some other peril is so widely extended and affects
so many owners and so much property that it cannot be dealt with successfully
by individuals or by a group of them, then it becomes the duty of the State,
either to assist in the task of prevention or take it over altogether. But the
United States has no police power. And the Tenth Amendment was designed to
prevent it forever from usurping any.
"Soil conservation" is a deceiving term, like "commerce"
in the National Labor Relations Act. It is a cover for subsidies from the
pockets of the country to those on the land, a transfer of money from one class
to another which the Supreme Court held could not be made when it pronounced
the first Agricultural Adjustment Act unconstitutional.
As mentioned in a preceding chapter, the farmer has been put in a bad
situation by the mismanagement in Government which ballooned his costs and
those of everybody else beyond all endurance. But that must be mended by
removal of the cause, not by subsidies, which the taxpayers cannot carry
indefinitely, even if they were legal.
Procedure provided by Constitution adequate for conservation
In a condition of erosion, or of a "dust bowl," involving several
States, they have open to them the "Agreement or Compact with another
State" authorized by the closing words of Article I of the Constitution,
with "the Consent of Congress." The seven States in the basin of the
Colorado River made use of this provision to work out an agreement for a fair
division of the valuable water of that stream. So when the erosion or other
trouble is beyond the ability of the landowner, it becomes the duty of the
State to take hold. And when the difficulty belongs to more than one State,
there is a constitutional way to solve the problem.
But the subject is as far beyond the constitutional field of Congress as are
the sands of the Sahara.
On July 22,1947, the Associated Press reported that the House of
Representatives "had voted twice to eliminate the benefit-payment program
for 1948 and sharply cut back payments on this year's crops." The
Senate-House conference group agreed "to continue the main farm program
into 1948." In addition to that, it agreed to a fund of $265,000,000
"to make the benefit payments and meet other costs of the farm crop
program on the 1947 crop."
The "other costs" were $24,000,000 to pay the bureaucrats
"for expenses of farmer committeemen who plan and check the
The farm bill compromise would provide $960,000,000 "for agricultural
purposes during the fiscal year 1948 in comparison with last year's
expenditures of $2,275,000,000" President Truman asked for $1,188,000,000.
National government without feeling for taxpayers
The disrespect for the rights and property of the people in general, in
order to favor highly organized voting groups, is, in addition to being
unconstitutional, morally wrong. In the Congress for the last decade and a
half, in the White House, in the legislatures, in the city councils, everywhere
in public office where there is authority to spend, there has developed,
through indifference or incompetence of those who should have been on guard,
the grossest unconcern for the taxpayer. As a capital illustration of this,
there is cited the veto by the President of a tax-reduction bill passed by the
new Congress in 1947 which had been voted into power on a platform promising
relief from exorbitant taxation.
In the concluding chapter of this work it is shown that we must take the
President out of this kind of politics by returning to the strictest observance
of the method of election prescribed by the Constitution.
1. The ruthless course of the Government at Washington
respecting the taxpayers brings to mind the denunciation by Saint Simon of the
Bourbon monarchy, which brought on by taxes the French Revolution, that it
"has scourged, rather than governed, the state."
Next | Previous |
Contents | Text Version