Recent despatches from Washington indicate that President Hoover will probably sign the tariff bill, if and when it finally reaches him. Official statements endorsing the bill have been issued by the Republican National Committee, which presumably reflects the viewpoint of the Administration. The revised flexible provision is extolled as the beginning of a new era of "scientific determination" of tariff rates. Under this scheme it is hoped that the Tariff Commission will be able to act more effectively than it has during the past ten years.
Guilty consciences are revealed in some of the pronouncements of the Republican leaders. Their own words imply that the Smoot-Hawley bill is in general a pretty bad hodge-podge of log-rolling and special pleading, and the new flexible provision is offered as the only hope of improving the bill. Unfortunately for the sincerity of the memory of some of our Congressmen, it may be recalled that almost the identical eulogies of the flexible provision were offered in 1922. Yet the intervening years have not shown much in favor of the innovation, in large measure because of the personnel of the Tariff Commission and the indifference of the Administration.
If the bill goes through in its present form President Hoover will be able, upon the basis of the reports of the Tariff Commission, to transform it into something better in line with national welfare. The experience of the past few years indicates, however, that it will take a considerable amount of courage to reduce any rate in the face of a strong sectional interest. Judging from recent polls of newspaper editors, as well as the practically unanimous verdict of the economists against the bill, a Presidential veto would command the enthusiastic support of the nation. But if the veto power is not exercised, the country will expect to see Mr. Hoover use the flexible provision in a statesmanlike and scientific way.