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Professor Taussig's testimony before the Senate special committee which opened its investigation of the Tariff Commission on Tuesday contains this statement: "The endeavor seems to have been to make the tariff commission not an organization for unbiased inquiry on facts, but one for preparing such recommendations as are known in advance to be acceptable to the party and the Administration in power."
No more serious and sweeping condemnation of the Republican administration's commission policy could have been made Professor Taussig was the first chairman of the Tariff Commission which was expressly organized in 1916 as an advisory body to Congress to "Study all questions relating to the importation of merchandise and to provide data upon which the tariff can be formed with reference to the real economic needs of the country rather than in obedience to sectional, or class, or political pressure."
Under his administration the Tariff Commission obtained great influence and prestige chiefly because of its non-partisanship. With the advent of the Republican Administration, however the composition of the commission was altered to suit the high tariff requirements set forth in the Republican platforms of 1920 and 1924. It has lost not only its unbiased character, but, according to Professor Taussig, something of its efficiency as well.
The problem which the Senate investigation has already revealed, is a serious one, for similar charges, at least partially substantiated by fact, have been directed against the Interstate Commerce and Federal Trade Commissions. Whether tariffs should be high or low, whether certain types of combinations are in restraint of trade or not, are debatable points, to be settled only by investigation and adjudication of the commissions. But it is certainly beyond question that those enormously intricate problems relating to interstate and foreign trade which are now within the sphere of governmental regulation or supervision, and they are many, should be handled by competent and unbiased bodies of men assured of semi-permanency in office.
No defense can possibly justify the appointment of men like William Burgess, who sat on the Tariff Commission after long representing the pottery interests in tariff squabbles or of E. G. Broussard, a strong high tariff man with no more technical knowledge of his subject than the average politician. And similar appointments have been made recently to the Interstate Commerce and Federal Trade Commissions.
The whole system of governmental control of trade and commerce, as essential in America today as the Supreme Court, is based upon these three commissions. If they become the play things of party politics, changing from administration to administration, as they give every indication of becoming effective governmental regulation will disappear.
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