Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/16

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bill did provide; but he simply had a vague notion that he had an illegitimate advantage which somebody was trying to take away.

But, in addition to loss of this kind, the maintenance of the protection system has for a number of years resulted in a heavy surplus—a taxation of the people very far beyond the requirements of our Government. This surplus, therefore, must be charged up as one of the costs which the system entails upon the people. For the past seven years this annual absorption by the Government of the annual product has been very heavy. This present year, it seems, the House and Senate have by systematic extravagance succeeded in diminishing the surplus between fifteen and thirty millions. But it is admitted on all sides that the surplus fairly amounts to a sum not less than $125,000,000 annually. This is ten dollars per annum for every family in the United States. The total amount of the tariff taxation is about twice that sum. But if we view the family solely as consumers, and not at all as the recipients of protective bounty (which is practically a correct basis),[1] we have to add to this cost the enhanced prices of American products, some of which have been mentioned, and of which the Government gets no share. This indirect tax, of which examples have been given, is variously estimated in its total amount. On some articles it amounts to $13 when the tariff tax amounts to $1; that is to say, the consumer pays out $14 in enhanced prices, of which only $1 reaches the Government. On the whole, this indirect levy or transfer (it can not be called a tax) may be estimated to amount to about five times the tariff tax.[2] It amounts, therefore, to about $100 per family per annum, and, with the superfluous element of the tariff tax, to about $110. While this estimate is largely conjectural, no one who is aware of the increased expensiveness of our manufacturing, and even of our agricultural processes, will doubt that the figure is very large, and perhaps in excess of that named. This, be it remembered, is not a tax on property but a tax on consumption. The poor man pays as much on sugar and rice as the rich man. The carpenter with $2 per day pays nearly as much on clothing as Jay Gould, rated at $30,000 a day; and on no article of consumption or use are the rich and poor taxed in proportion to their wealth, because ninety-five per cent of the poor man's income is required to pay his family's living expenses, while the rich man uses a much smaller proportion for that purpose.[3]

  1. In 1886 W. C. Ford, E. B. Elliot, and Simon Newcomb, statistical experts, reported to the Secretary of the Treasury their estimate of the number of persons in "protected" industries. Their estimates vary from 4·7 per cent to 5·2 per cent.
  2. I believe this is Mr. Wells's estimate.
  3. It is a frequently made reply to considerations like the above that, though protection takes from some and gives to others, yet all are Americans—"it is all in the family." This proposition and the other great stand-by, that "foreigners pay the tariff-taxes," I find it difficult to answer seriously. When a philosopher starts out with an inconceivable proposition, it is rather difficult to argue. But we may say, in the first place, that justice has some place in the family as well as elsewhere. Moreover, much of what is taken from the people is, from an economic point of view, wasted: it is used up in sustaining extravagant and old-fashioned processes, unfavorable locations, and the like.