It is the custom to attribute every change "to the war"; but in one case, at least, it is true. Our government has found since the war that, for the first time in its entire history, its expenditures have approached near enough to the margin of its income to necessitate ordinary business methods of finance. As a result, the system which has long been found as a matter of course in the smallest private businesses has been adopted by the government, the largest business of all. That is the budget system.
It was only natural that Congress should have balked somewhat at passing any such business-like measure. It was equally natural that officials of an executive department should resist any check on their money-spending privileges, any order forcing them to show their accounts to a comptroller or to submit to his investigation of their demands for appropriations. Hence it is understandable that the first comptroller of the budget needed to be a fighting man with no tender feelings on the subject. President Harding evidently bore this in mind when he appointed "Hell and Maria" Dawes for the job.
Brigadier General Dawes is one man certainly in a position to make remarks about Congress and politicians, even if one doubts his perfect impartiality in the matter. Always the champion of frank speech, "Hell and Maria" severely arraigned the cowardice of Congress in a recent speech in New York: "Men are in office who would barter the interests of their country in order to stay in office, and if there is any organized opposition they run. Look at the way they ran before the organized minorities of the soldier bonus bloc, the labor bloc, the maternity bloc, the good roads bloc. The damned cowards run and run."
Representative government provides for the election, by the people, of a few men whom they can trust to administer their government efficiently. The representatives are meant to apply their time, knowledge, and experience in appropriate legislation and administration. A congressman who is swayed by personal interest, who dares not to risk his chances of re-election for the measures that are best for his country, is betraying his trust. But it seems that something very like breach of trust is the order of the day, for representatives, when an organized few threaten them with failure at the next election, immediately bury their better judgments under tons of campaign truckling and subserviency. When legislators thus live with their ears to the ground, an unorganized minority of agitators, by stamping and kicking hard enough, can tear down any sane government in the face of a more passive majority.
If General Dawes' diagnosis of the trouble was correct, his prescription is even more valuable: "I wish some of the men here would start out to call a spade a spade, and take his successive lickings at the hands of the political bosses. I can promise him a career of statesmanship, the only career worthy of an honest man's ambition."
In short, what America needs today is a few politicians who obey the motto: "Be sure you're right, then go ahead," with the emphasis on the "go ahead!"