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Susan Green

House Lifts $25,000 Limit

A Story with a Double Moral

(22 March 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 12, 22 March 1943, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The House of Representatives has rebuked the President for “usurpation of legislative powers.” That sounds like something worth rebuking a President for – until you get down to cases.

Then you find that the House of Representatives by a vote of 268 to 124 revoked the Executive Order of the President limiting salaries to $25,000 per annum. Not so good!

The logical step would have been to extend that limit to all income, including interest, dividends and other gravy soaked up by the rich. But no! The House lifted even the very limited limit on salaries alone, and it is predicted that the Senate will duplicate the action of the House.

These legislators – who are supposed to be representing you – would like you to believe that they are interested, purely and simply, in stopping Presidential usurpation of legislative powers. You see these politicians just got mad because the President had “assumed powers which Congress never intended to grant him.” So – hurrah – they clapped the President down.

But there is a catch here.

Why is the limit on fat salaries alone a “usurpation of legislative power”? WHY NOT ALSO THE FREEZING OF WAGES?

For, be it remembered, that the same Presidential stabilization program, which was supposed to limit salary to $25,000, put wages on ice IMMEDIATELY. The workers are, naturally, finding this a bit too cool for them – and are demanding that wages be taken out of refrigeration. But the House of Representatives and the Senate – the so-called representative organ of the people – passed no law to unfreeze wages as a “usurpation of legislative powers,” or on any other ground.

The same Presidential stabilization program that called for limiting salaries that have not been limited and for freezing wages that have been frozen still, also demanded that the workers give up their right to strike. This edict actually operated as a violation of the law which grants workers the right to bargain collectively – -for without the right to strike the workers have nothing that the boss respects enough to make him bargain with them. What has in fact happened since the no-strike regulation is that collective bargaining has become an empty phrase.

But neither indignation nor any other sign of disapproval issued from the United States Congress or from any other body of politicians – not one of them has lifted a finger to restore to the workers their right to collective bargaining – and to strike. Presidential usurpation of legislative powers against the workers and in favor of the bosses has, on the contrary, received the blessing of both legislative houses – and they have continued where the President left off, as evidenced by the flow of ever more vicious anti-labor bills into both houses.

It is only when a Presidential order might curb the acquisitive instincts of the rich – when it might crack the knuckles of hands dripping with blood-money – that the “representatives of the people” see “usurpation’ of legislative powers.” This true story has a double moral.

First, “EQUALITY OF SACRIFICE” is only a phrase – a catch-phrase for morons, which the working people are NOT.

Second, many and devious are the ways by which a capitalist government serves the master class. So nicely coordinated is the system of checks and balances that an executive can order a limit on salaries of the rich, thus get himself a reputation for being a “liberal and friend of labor” – and at the same time be damn sure that the legislative branches of the government will not allow any infringement of the sacredness of the self-determination of profits.

The executive can be especially sure of this, if he himself has – as President Roosevelt has – given out the word that he will protect – to its lost hair – the profit system.

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