Barriers at the Boundaries

While bending every effort to drive the war effort on, the Administration blatantly is being checked and even over-ruled by many of the States. Long a threat to our unity, even in peace-time, State trade barriers are today contributing magnificently toward ham-stringing the accelerated war program. So serious has this sectional bigotry and provincialism become that the President and Mr. Nelson have at last been forced to summon an emergency Federal-State Conference this week in the White House. For months the WPB director has been stymied by the stringent restrictions of State trade barriers which not only have retarded, but in case after case completely stopped the flow of war material as well as of war workers from one area to another throughout the nation.

The graveness of this problem could not be overestimated. From the very start, defense production has seriously been slowed down because of it. For example, in Arizona and New Mexico there are laws preventing railroads from running more than 70 freight cars on a string, while the railroads are willing to run at least 150 during the emergency. As a result, in this area alone, transportation authorities have had to run over 4000 extra trains with war supplies at a great loss of time and manpower.

More serious than some of the laws themselves, is the large number of States that cling to such restrictive statutes. Twenty-seven have anti-migratory laws which have effectively stopped the free movement of war workers regardless of the importance of their skills to armament industries. Every State has a law "limiting the rights of persons to engage in certain professions." This limits the supply of qualified persons, such as nurses, for war work. So far only New York has modified this statute. In 45 States trucks over a certain size and length are prohibited, which naturally means thousands of extra trips and delay in that part of the defense program dependent upon trucking. Often court proceedings are carried out against drivers with overloaded vans, while the vans wait with vital defense supplies which may be holding up the progress of an entire factory. Surveys show that thousands of man hours are being lost monthly by these requirements.

We have tolerated too long selfish interests which, knowingly or not, have worked in complete scorn of the national will. Looking at the need as a whole, it is up to the Governors and State legislatures to submerge provincial whims and local profits, for at least the duration, by eliminating their "divide and conquer" laws.