A great passage from Charles A. Lindberg's book, Why Your Country is at War. I have emphasized the parts we have recently experienced. This is a mock conversation between a politician, a bankster (probably a direct forebear of JP Morgan Chase), and a farmer.
Tell me if you're not blown away by the similarities.
THE FARMER AND WALL STREET SPECULATOR AFT'ER EMERGENCY CURRENCY
Mr. Politician: Good morning, Mr. Speculator; what brought you to Washington again and at such a time as this? I thought when we gave you your Federal Reserve Banking System that that would satisfy you forever.
Mr. Speculator: Good morning, Mr. Politician. Don't twit me of the past. I wish to see you in private till we can talk over the most important business that ever was on this earth.
Mr. Politician: You evidently think me high up in the political councils here. I pretend to no such great importance. If you have such important business, there should be more of us in conference. No man is big enough to tackle the most important business ever, but I will listen to what you have to say.
Mr. Speculator: Of course we understand each other, but even at that it may be well for you to practice your modesty—to keep on the safe side. I know the importance of your help. We may as well be perfectly frank with each other. Even the greatest of things must begin some where and with some one. There is absolutely no time to waste. You know I am a product of Wall Street and "big business." I represent it. It is in danger this very minute—unfortunately so, for in spite of its danger, it also has its greatest opportunity. We must have help immediately from Congress, for this sudden war, no one can tell when or where it will end, or who or which nations it will involve. Our business was always on a great scale, but this sudden war burst upon us and we have not the capacity to take advantage of it unless Congress helps us. Financial help we demand. We now control $20,000,000,000 of bank deposits to run the business of the country, including our promoting enterprises. We have some deposits of our own, but who knows when the depositors might start a run, lick up the deposits and prevent our taking advantage of speculating on the war business. War business o'ffers the greatest and the most rapid means of building immense fortunes, something worth while to us Americans. We must act quickly, for now is our opportunity to make America the financial center of the world, and our friends to dominate. Germany is pushing out in every direction her vast armies for invasion. Russia is mobilizing and moving her great forces for action. France is rapidly mobilizing and marching- her armies to hold the Germans in check. England, too, will immediately be in the whirl. The world may soon be at it, and I must inform my people that Congress will extend the unlimited credit of the Government to our banks. Without that immediate assurance, we would be forced to precipitate a panic tomorrow, the likes of which in its trail of financial ruin never has been equalled. What, Mr. Politician, have you to offer by way of suggestion for immediate action?
Mr. Politician: Some proposition this is, that you make—too big for me this morning. We shall have to get more of us together in order to figure out a plan of action and draft some bill to be enacted to give the relief. I am not for placing the financial credit of the Government behind those whom you represent, but we must meet the emergency. We must prepare some bill that will meet it.
Mr. Speculator: "Some bill!" No need to talk about "some bill." We have the plan and the bill prepared already. It is only a question of getting it enacted into law in the least time possible.
Mr. Politician: We must to some extent prepare our constituents to understand the situation—the danger, and what might happen if we do not legislate to meet the emergency. They will not take kindly to our lending Wall Street the credit of the Government again, and it will be up to us to show good reason if we do.
Mr. Speculator: Old as you are at this game, Mr. Politician, and as many times as we have talked these matters, you know very well that we make it our business to take care of the constituencies in all cases where that becomes necessary. That has already been cared for through the press, a part of which we control, and through news agencies which we control. We also have several civic organizations whose business it is to mold public opinion, and are organizing more. All that will be, in fact has already been taken care of, for this is only the first of a series of great and important acts that Congress will be forced to pass before the end of this war. All our plans have been organized, and were even before the war began. Before every important act that we shall require, we will conduct a campaign to teach the people and prepare them to approve of your action whatever it may be, and they will even unwillingly demand it of you, for we have our agents out among them. They, that is the people, have no plan, and no organization to finance any. They do not take care of themselves. They think that you are here to do that, and give mighty little thought to it any way.
Mr. Politician: Well, you seem to be prepared, so you better see the other fellows. We can all have a conference today and work something out to save the country from ruin. We can use the telephone to arrange a meeting. So good-bye till the meeting.
Mr. Citizen: Good morning, Mr. Politician. Your secretary told me to come right in when the gentleman just came out. I am a farmer, and am here on very important business, and could hardly wait till that man had gotten through.
Mr. Politician: I am delighted to see you, Mr. Citizen. As one of my constituents, my office is yours, too, and I shall be more than glad if I may be of service to you. What is your important business?
Mr. Citizen: Well, you know what the war has done to cotton. It has busted the price to the middle —and more—for we can't get the actual cost of production. We owe for the advance we got during the planting and cultivating season, and we have no means to harvest, besides the price we can get, if we can sell at all, is below what we, or most of us already owe, and the harvesting must be done. We are simply busted wide open—can't feed our wives and children. We farmers down there got together, and concluded to send a delegation to Congress for help. I am one of that number. We want a Government loan temporarily. We have the security and are willing to pay the Government all it costs and more.
Mr. Politician: Surely, I sympathize with you most deeply. Just how to help you out, I confess I am at a loss to see. We can't provide a loan to you farmers because that would be class legislation. Let me think. I have it, you go right home, your whole committee may do so, and we will make loans to the bamks. Then you can go to the banks and borrow money. In that way we can help you over the trouble.
Mr. Citizen: Oh no, Mr. Politician, we want to get the money from the Government! The Government already loans to the banks treasury funds at 2 per cent, while the banks have loaned that money at 10 per cent and more for small loans. Besides, just now the banks will make us no loans. They say they don't know what the war will bring, and offer us no encouragement. We have got to have help now, or our crops will rot in the fields.
Mr. Politician: Take my word for it, we will give you plenty of help through the banks. We will give them unlimited loans, so they will have enough for all. We will prepare the plan immediately, legislate and you can depend upon it. You go home, for help will be available. See your banks. It is their business to help you and we will see that they are able to get the funds. The Government will supply the banks with all the money they need for all purposes.
Mr. Citizen: Mr. Politician, we are entitled to it more than the banks are—we want it direct, with no rake-off to pay the banks—we need it to use, while they do not—they take it for profit—we need it for our own industry. I wish to bring the rest of the delegation to see you. We farmers want help direct from the Government.
Mr. Politician: Oh no! Tell them it is all fixed, or will be, and to go home satisfied. I have a very important committee conference this very day, soon to begin, and won't have time to meet the others of your committee. Depend upon it, we will help you, so good-bye and good luck to you, for I must now go to the conference. My secretary, whom you talked with before you came here, will give you some tickets to admit you to the family gallery to see Congress in action, if you or your friends wish to attend.
Mr. Speculator: Mr. Politician, you have all been advised of the purposes of this conference. We have all consulted more or less with each other, and now that a few of us are together, I wish to say that I have seen enough of the other "highups," to know that an emergency currency act can be passed without delay. It only requires slight amendments in the old VreelandAldrich Act which we had Congress pass in 1908, and an extension of time to merge into our new Federal Reserve Act under which we will soon be able to work. These amendments I brought with me, and you can put them right through. Arrangements have been made with the U. S. Treasury Department to anticipate the action of Congress and a great sum of emergency money is already on its way to the Subtreasury in New York where the banks can get it as soon as the law is passed.
Mr. Politician: There doesn't seem to be much for us to do except to get the Senate and House Banking Committees each to meet and report the bill.
Mr. Speculator: That is all. The rest is arranged and there will be no trouble about passing the bill, for this is the most exciting time financially that has ever been. You can assure both Senators and Representatives that our press agents and civic leagues and the United States Chamber of Commerce will see to it that the Act of Congress will get the publicity in a form that will be satisfactory. Every man who votes for it will get unstinted praise, and any obstreperous Senator or Representative who votes against it, will be shown up in a ridiculous light to the public.
Mr. Second Politician: But, Mr. Speculator, what are you going to do with the money? What about the regular every-day common business, what will it get? The bill, if it passes, will enable you to-secure from Uncle Sam over a billion dollars with no check as to whom, for what, and at what rates of interest it will be loaned. Will it be used for speculation; will you reopen the stock exchange and when; will you let the business interest in on this or what ? Give us some idea about all that, for we will be asked many questions when the bill comes up on the floor for discussion and vote.
Mr. Third Politician: I will undertake to answer. The bill will have to be brought out by special rule. We can limit the debate so no one will have a chance to make inquiries other than those we consent to. This is a time when we can force things right along. I live in New York City, and I know conditions there. If any one tries in any way to block this legislation, he can be charged with disloyalty and the press will back it up. Shut everybody off by pressing the urgency for immediate action. So far as to handling the funds, you can trust the banks. You have done so before, so why balk at that now? Even the new Federal Reserve Act places the entire financial control in the banks. We all knew that we were successful in putting that over with a long debate—surely we can this which does not give the banks even so much, for we have the best excuse now.
Mr. Fourth Politician: I am satisfied that the case is so urgent that we must protect the banks immediately so we may as well convene the two Banking and Currency Committees, report the bill to both houses, pass it and be ready to act on other emergency measures sure to be required. There is really nothing further for this conference. I move we adjourn.
After the Bill Was Passed
Mr. Politician: Well, hello, Mr. Citizen—you here again! Glad to see you. By the way—I hope you cotton farmers got all the help you needed to take care of you properly. How are you anyway?
Mr. Citizen: I am still alive, Mr. Politician. We cotton farmers were taken care of "properly." They did not forget us for a minute—no, not till they "skinned" us out of over $200,000,000 scalping on our cotton. They bought up the crop at less then cost of production; and then put the price up to twice what they paid, and will catch us again when we buy cotton goods. They got Government aid, and we farmers were kicked out of Washington and told to look to them for help. Now that I am here again, however, you may think I have joined that crowd up there and become a lobbyist myself. Not quite so, though their success is quite a temptation, to join, I admit, but, we farmers have a new committee here, or rather a committee for a new purpose. We want Government aid this time for rural credits. We wish to use the money to improve our farms so we can feed you. We know that that too is class legislation and would not ask it, except that we see you legislating for the speculators—so we thought, while you seemed to be up to that sort of a game, you might do some of the same thing for us as well. We had hardly gotten home the last time till we learned that the New York banks got $50,000,000 emergency money in one day, and that in a few weeks Uncle Sam turned out to the banks $369,258,040, besides having gotten a large part of what he had in the Treasury before. We noticed too, Uncle Sam, through you here in Congress, passed a new tax bill sticking more taxes on us, so you would not need to take out of the banks the tax money we had before paid. You let them keep it to use for a long time. They had altogether nearly $500,000,000 from Uncle Sam, besides their other special privileges, but even that was not all, for they knew they could get three times that much more if they wanted it, so they began scalping the market on stocks, bonds and provisions, etc., and made several billion dollars. That is what you did for the banks, so their stockholders could speculate. All that our committee asks is Government aid for rural credits so we can improve our farms and raise more crops—more stock. We want to get the money as cheap—that is, at as low interest as you give to the banks. We want actual Government aid, the same as you give to the banks. What can you do for us on that?
Mr. Politician: We have a committee working on that. Some time ago we sent a committee to Europe to look up the different systems of credit—one for general credit, and the other for rural credits. A bill is being framed.
Mr. Citizen: We don't care about these committees. We learned long ago that committees sent out in that way are simply to make delay or to deceive the public. The system that we are now tied to has us practically strangled from an industrial side. A few now are getting all the profits, and every delay gives them greater capital. These committees simply help them out in delay. That is not all. They wine and dine the committeemen, and flatter them until they become mere "dough" in the hands of the capitalists. Now don't talk to me about those committees. I am peeved since the last time I was here. We got such a dirty deal, that I shall not refrain from speaking plainly upon these matters. You are putting up your smooth talk to send us home again with nothing accomplished. We may forgive you for your last tricks, but it will be only upon the condition that we get a good rural credit law.
Mr. Politician: You don't understand. You accuse us unjustly. These things can't be rushed through. It takes time, and investigation- There is a Banking and Currency Committee in which the bill must be framed. I can introduce you to some of the members. Your committee can probably arrange with its chairman so your committee may get a hearing.
Mr. Citizen: You, Mr. Politician, are one of the leaders here. Whenever you take hold the other leaders do, too. It did not take Wall Street Speculators fifty hours to get an emergency currency into their banks and to be using it, and that time included the time it took to pass a law through this very Congress. When we ask aid, it takes a committee to go to Europe, and two or three years to get a report. There it usually ends. When they ask aid they get it in less than fifty hours. They profited billions of dollars by your swift response to their call, and people lost the same billions by your failure, for a whole generation, to pass a proper credit law. You say, we must work through the Banking and Currency Committee. Is that where the wealth grabbers began? You know it is not. They laid their plans with you "political topnotchers." When you pressed the button, the Banking and Currency Committee brought out the bill, and your other special privilege utility committee, which you call "The Rules Committee," arranged for bringing it up for consideration by the House. Our committee is not going to the Banking and Currency Committee this time, because we know that it would be a waste of our time as things are now run. Unless you "top notchers," who connect all the way to the top—the head "mogul" will act in our interest, know that our appearance before the Banking and Currency Committee would be merely a show, and might deceive the public by making it believe that everybody gets a fair hearing. We admit that it is possible to get a hearing here in Washington for any committee that comes with backing, but what does a hearing amount to unless we get action based upon merits. This we cannot do where it affects special privilege unfavorably. You know that many millions of dollars have been spent on hearings and publications that amount to nothing. Now, I will add this, and then relieve you of my presence. There are several of us here in Washington, and all have been as busy as I have been, and some more, each in his own way to learn what could be done for a proper rural credit bill. We have discovered that the whole thing is already planned, and that the main points of the bill have been agreed upon, to suit the banks, and that our work now would be of no influence. You won't ask us to go home, this time, because you know what happened the last time. But I wish to tell you myself what will happen this time about rural credits. We are going home without a hearing with the Banking and Currency Committee. Some other committees that have come here have had a hearing. This is what will happen about the rural credits: The banking interest, that is the big city banks through their representatives have outlined what they will accept as a rural credit bill without opposition. It is proposed to give a pretense of Government aid. That will be the "joker." We have learned that since we came. The Government will take some stock, but it will crawl out as fast as the farmers can be forced to take the stock off the hands of the Government, and then it will be left without Government aid. The Government will issue no money for the rural credit system, like it does for the banks. But the Government will run a steering game to sell bonds for the rural credit system, and of course the money to buy these bonds will have to come from the banks mostly, and they can force the interest because they control the money. Interest will be reduced somewhat, but not enough to give the farmers loans at the rates of interest that they should have. The banks get money from the Government for almost nothing. We farmers should have interest at 3 per cent to begin with, and gradually be reduced from that to actual cost, the Government issuing the money to us in the same way it does to the banks. We would furnish the best security in the world. Better still, however, we would be satisfied if you would pass a law to place every body on the same footing. We farmers do not ask special privileges except when you give them to others. Later on, when the farmers learn that they will not get what belongs to them by the rural credit bill which will be passed, less than half a loaf in fact, we will be back to see you, to ask for support for a currency law in favor of all the people. So, for the present, good-bye, Mr. Politician.
A Couple of Years Later
Mr. Citizen: Mr. Politician, I am here to see you once more. Practically the same committee with which I came here before are here now. We have not come for any special bill or help this time, but merely to size up the situation to see about how long it is likely to take for the people of this country to draw the curtain aside and get a good look at the political work in the Capitol of our country. This game of politics is the smoothest thing possible, but we have gotten pretty good organization among the farmers, and the wage and salary workers seem to be even better organized, so we are looking things up to see when will be the best time for all the people to join to make Congress do its duty to all the people.
You know, Mr. Politician, that we have learned a thing or two in these most strenuous times. We used to get up a campaign for some good purpose, to give us some much needed law for governing something that concerned us—concerned the public in general. We never came in with a bill all framed up, and then asked you to enact it into law. We just told you in a general way what we wanted. To our surprise, we found that the "speculators" always anticipated us, and as soon as they saw that we would present something to a legislature, or to Congress, they had a bill, the main features of one ready that would defeat the very purposes of our campaign, and their bills would be passed, and advertised as if they were our bills. We never presented any bills. We always left them to you legislators to draft. We are here now in advance looking things up, and in the near future we expect to have some meetings, we farmers, and join with the organizations that the wage and salary workers have, so we can agree upon some bills in the interest of all the people. We will prepare the bills just as we want to have them passed. You won't need the blind committee meetings that you hold under your present practice. I am not here to ask you for a thing, but merely to pay you my respects, and to let you know that my eyes have been partially opened since the time you sent me home to wait for aid to the farmers.
I suppose, Mr. Politician, that you saw that some rural credit bonds were sold and that the banks and insurance companies bought them. I suppose, too, that you noticed how slow they were in even doing that
I suppose you have noticed the difference between what they sold for and what Government bonds sold for is very large. That difference represents the rake off for special privilege collected out of the farmers and consumers. I suppose also that you have sufficient intelligence to know that even the Government bonds would not be necessary if it were not because special privilege has put its system into force even upon the Government itself. What the Government pays for interest is also a rake-off for special privilege. Yes you have helped the banks to Government aid, which means the speculators; you helped England, Russia, France and Italy to government aid; you helped various other enterprises to government aid, and while I am making no criticism now upon any or either of these, I am calling attention to the fact that the plain toilers everywhere go without government aid. (read Middle class) They are the ones upon whom all the assessments ultimately fall to supply all the government aids whether it may sometimes in the future be to themselves, or as it is now to the specially privileged.
Good-bye, Mr. Politician, our committee did not come to be talked to, but merely to appear one by one, as if a vision, to the "top notchers" in this political game, to give the signal that the people are going to rule. There will be no revolution—don't for a minute fear that, for fundamentally we have a good government and all that is necessary is for us to act in our own behalf under the Constitution, instead of as we have done heretofore, by permitted special committees or standing committees, to run the Government in secret. We expect to elect our own representatives hereafter, and not to select representatives for special privilege. Good-bye, Mr. Politician, good-bye forever. The next time we come, you will be a "statesman" or you will not be here.