Monday, June 19, 2017

Robert A. Taft: The Senator who saved capitalism

Senator Robert A. Taft was the son of former President William Howard Taft. He was elected to the Senate in the 1938 Republican landslide lead by Republican efforts to stop the expansion of FDR's New Deal. A bill he would later write is often credited as saving capitalism in the United States.

He was a conservative, and actually went as far to speak the truth about the New Deal, referring to it as, "Socialistic." He was the leader of the "Conservative Coalition" that controlled Congress from 1939 to the 1960s.

Most people may not realize this, but Thomas Dewey was a liberal republican. For lack of a better way of describing it, he was the republican version of John McCain in the 1940s and 50s. Taft ran against him for the republican nomination in 1948, although he lost. Taft ran again in 1952, but lost to Dwight D. Eisenhower. However, to gain Taft's support, Eisenhower promised to curve back spending and to continue the fight against socialism.

After the death of FDR, he effectively became known as the arch nemesis of Harry S. Truman. It was often said that nothing made it through Congress without his stamp of approval, so this type of power would thwart much of Truman's domestic agenda. He ultimately worked to prevent Truman from advancing his liberal agenda, and that was a very good thing.

Among his best achievements was writing and getting passed through Congress what became known as the Taft-Hartley in 1947.

At the end of WWII, labor unions controlled about 25% of the work force. They had a lot of power. They promised not to strike during the war as not to disrupt the war effort. However, after the war they wanted higher wages.

But, President Truman, decided to continue on with FDR's price controls in an effort to ease the transition from a war time to a peace time economy. In August of 1945, in an effort to ease the transformation from a war time to a peace time economy, Truman decided to continue on with FDR's price controls.

This gained the ire of producers, who refused to sell products at artificially low prices. It gained the ire of labor unions, who wanted wage hikes. Since producers could not afford wage hikes, labor unions were unhappy. This lead to a series of strikes in the steel, coal, auto, and railroad industries. They involved over 800,000 workers, the largest in American history.

Consumers were opposed to the strikes. So to were Conservatives, who wanted to conserve capitalism in America. So, this is what inspired Taft to work with republican Representative Fred A. Hartley Jr. to work the Taft-Hartley Act through Congress. They succeeded.

But, Truman called it the "Slate Labor Act," just prior to vetoing the bill.

Fortunately, Congress succeeded at overriding Truman's veto.

This was a huge achievement for capitalism. The bill significantly limited the influence of labor unions in politics, and thereby conserved capitalism in the United States. Democrats to this day hate this Act, and have made various failed efforts to overturn it.

He was taciturn, and a relatively poor speaker. He was also an isolationists, and even opposed entry into WWII. He also opposed the draft and NATO. During his years as a Senator, he was often referred to as "Mr. Republican."

In 1953, he was selected as the Senate Majority leader. However, shortly afterwords he succumbed to cancer. He was honored in 1949 as one of the "most significant" Senators of all time.