To those who feel that President Roosevelt has, ever since his inauguration been consistent about only one thing, namely the advocacy of policies which deal blow after blow to business of all kinds, small and large, the President's latest action in calling a special session of Congress to deal with wages and hours at this time, has merely confirmed their theories.
For whether Mr. Roosevelt cares to express an opinion on the subject or not, the country is nevertheless on the brink of another business recession which bids fair to be the equal of the 1930 secondary slump. The stockmarket, the most obvious barometer, though not necessarily the best, has been on the down grade for many weeks, and although the break in prices is not yet entirely reflected in the production indices, that is simply because manufacturing companies are still filling orders born of summer optimism. Car loadings are just holding even, and after the unusually large farm crops have been moved there seems to be nothing on the horizon which will keep the freight cars of the country partially loaded. Steel capacity is far down, and the building industries, backbone of the new prosperity in England, are beginning to slide back again after only a moderate rise. All these are but isolated and striking instances of the fact that our brief moment of prosperity is over and that we are on the verge of being sucked down into the whirling spiral of depression and defeat.
The timorous hopefulness, which we mistakenly called confidence, is shattered again, in part by the European and Oriental tenseness, but in great measure by the actions of President Roosevelt. One need not go back to the first Hundred Days of the New Deal when measure after measure was whipped through the subservient Congress with spectacular war whoops, and when all business was chastened and employed as a whipping post, and when instilling the confidence and providing the stable government necessary for real recovery was the farthest thing from the President's mind. The original Securities Act, although designed ostensibly to prevent frauds and protect the public, in reality acted as a firm blockade against the receipt of the new capital so sorely needed by American business. Perhaps the crowning blow was the undistributed profits tax and its hand-maiden, the capital gains tax. The first, by destroying all hope of building up a reserve fund on which to count in less prosperous days, has done more than its share in causing lack of confidence and bringing on the present recession. Both taxes together have accomplished just what the lone band of opponents in Congress said they would accomplish: they have frightened capital away from investment in industry to investment in tax exempt securities, they have retarded greatly the development of new industries and expansion to old, and they have darkened the future by extinguishing all confidence in what the morrow may bring.
On one other broad front, the New Deal by its shortsighted labor policy has completely undermined whatever faith American business might have had in government as a fair arbiter of industrial disputes. The Administration's failure to put a quietus on sit-down strikes, the vicious new tool of John L. Lewis, and Mr. Roosevelt's tacit and at times open support of labor in all its disputes with capital, and finally the farcical "hearing" of the National Labor Relations Board, which has earned the name of being a C. I. O. affiliate, have all added to the spirit of unrest which walks abroad in the land and no move whatever has been taken to lay that spirit.
The country faces another, greater depression brought on to a vast extent by policies pursued by President Roosevelt, and at this critical juncture the Chief Executive's only idea is to call a wearied Congress back to put on the statute books another law, the wages and hours proposal the effects of which will be to saddle all industry not only with economically fallacious restrictions, but with dictation from a small board possessed of more powers than even the notorious N. R. A. to change the destinies of American business and American life.
The President called forth a grim specter by his consistent policy of warring on industry, and unless his whole attitude and the attitude of his Administration undergo a drastic change and unless Congress reasserts its independence we will be in the midst of a more terrible depression than we have yet known.