Saturday, April 19, 2014

Why This Century-Old Cartoon Could Have Been Printed Yesterday

by Nomad

I found this political cartoon in an online archive. Incredibly, it was printed in 1912.

The tariff issue, mentioned in the caption, refers to a Republican tax, as hotly-debated in the 1912 election as the Bush tax cuts for the 1% were in our own times. 
Here's a little history:
In 1909 Republicans under Taft had passed the Payne-Aldrich Tariff which placed a tax of approximately forty percent on many commonly imported foreign goods. One of the Senate sponsors had, Nelson Aldrich, had earlier been implicated in a scandal related to huge payments from large corporation and the Rockefeller family. (He had been called "the right arm of the interests.") 
At any rate the legislation was supposed to be a protection for domestic manufacturers and labor against cut-rate international competition.
Like the Bush tax cuts, it was supposed to aid the America's job creators.

Democrat candidate Woodrow Wilson opposed the idea in his presidential campaign and claimed that high tariffs hurt consumers and created and supported monopolies. Basically it was a kind of government-designed  price gouging of the average person on behalf of the very rich.
As one source notes:
The high tariff had the overall effect of keeping prices on goods extremely high when they should have been much lower. Wilson had long felt that high tariffs were not only economically harmful, but also cheated average Americans. While high tariffs lined the pockets of the business owners and manufacturers, American consumers were forced to spend too much of their hard- earned money on high-priced goods that would otherwise be relatively inexpensive.
Wilson's determined efforts, against corporate lobbyists, Republican politicians and backsliding members of his own party, led to his first legislative victory: The Underwood Tariff Act which cut back the tariffs.  Consequently, the revenue lost by lower tariffs was replaced by a new federal income tax, authorized by the 16th Amendment.
Taxation over tariffs was seen at the time to be a much more fair system since all layers- according to their means- would contribute to the general welfare of the nation, instead of targeting the middle and lower classes. (That is, until the Bush tax cuts, gave the 1 % - those job creators- a free ride.)

This cartoon provides more proof- from tariffs to taxes- that the Republican party has been corrupted by big business for over a century.