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Dolce Far Niente And Dollars
by [?]

The dispatches state that during the three weeks George Gould was lazing and luxuriating in a foreign land “the business revival added at least $15,000,000 to the value of the Gold securities.” Gadzooks! how sweet idleness must be when sugared with more than $714,000 per day! I’m willing to loaf for half the lucre. How refreshing it is to contemplate our plutocrats lying beside their nectar like a job lot of Olympian gods–“careless of mankind”–while

“–they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands, Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands, Clanging fights and flaming towns, and sinking ships and praying hands.”

One of Mr. Gould’s employees, who was toiling at risk of life and limb for about $2 a day while his imperial master was doing the dolce far niente act for $714,000 per diem and his board, comments as follows in a letter to the ICONOCLAST:

“W. C. BRANN: It might be pertinent for you to find out how the festive George, of yacht-racing, Waler-hob-nobbing fame, has managed to reap such pronounced benefits from the revival in business. It is notorious among railroad men that one of the first moves of Superintendent Trice, who succeeded Tim Campbell as manager of the I. & G. N., was to inaugurate a series of ‘reforms,’ the chief feature of which was the cutting salaries of from 20 to 40 per cent, especially among the office men, and at the same time covering it by swapping the men around as much as possible. Forces were reduced by compelling the half-starved employees to do overtime at less pay, and the poor devils can only grin and bear it. Suppose you write down, and get the true data from the various places where the I. & G. N. touches, and then show the true source, or the real ‘revival’ that has given the festive George such a boost in his cash box.”

In the first place, “the business revival” has not “added $15,000,000 to the value of the Gould securities”–it is a political falsehood which George can be depended upon to promptly repudiate when the tax assessor calls around to tender congratulations. It is eleven to seven that Georgie assures him that the Gould estate is in a very bad way, that only by the most heroic self-sacrifices in this period of business depression can he succeed in remaining solvent; that there was a slight advance in railway values while crops were moving, only to be succeeded by a doleful slump, caused by the high tariff, which cuts so dreadfully into tonnage. If he refrains from putting up some such game of talk as that I’ll take up a collection among the bootblacks of Texas to help pay his taxes. Fifteen millions in three weeks! Oh my! Since “Count” Castellane pulled one leg off the estate it is no larger than it was when old Jay went to He-aven. Now Jay was an honorable man–at least he wouldn’t steal the buttons off your undershirt while you had it on, and hotel keepers; did not take the precaution to chain his knife and fork to the table; but in his palmiest days he paid taxes on but $75,000 worth of personal property–railway securities and “sich.” Heavy crops, for which Providence and the industry of the American people are alone responsible, have added somewhat to the present earning power of railway properties, but it is doubtful, if the total mileage and equipment owned by the Goulds would sell for as much actual cash as before the election of McKinley. The great bulk of the boasted advance in Gould securities consists of wind pumped in by the “pulls”; but just the same the American people will be bled to pay dividends on this speculative boodle–both patrons and employees will suffer that interest may be collected on “invested capital” which never had an existence. But even were the dispatches true, what must be said of a “business revival” that reduces wages, that adds enormously to the wealth of the plutocrats while making economic conditions harder for the great mass of the American people? The general trend of wages is downward, while the cost of living is enhanced by the Dingley tariff and the advance in flour caused by foreign crop failures. Why? Because, despite the pumping of the Republican press about the “return of prosperity,” the country is full of idle men, and the inevitable tendency of the gold standard and high tariff is to increase their number and further lower wages by the pressure of these people for employment. Railway securities have advanced a little despite the repressive effect of Republican policy, have beaten up somewhat against the adverse winds, impelled by speculators whose vis vitalis was the crops of the country–the great bulk of which were produced by men who voted for Bryan. The necessary sequence of an appreciating standard of value is depreciation in the selling price of property, whether such property be Gould securities or Irish potatoes; while a high tariff inevitably reduces tonnage below what it would otherwise be–chisels a yawning hiatus into the revenues of every American railroad. This fact is so self-evident that it may seem unnecessary to say more on the subject–that arguing the matter were like wasting time proving that water is wet; but as a number of Republican papers are having a serious of violent epeliptoid convulsions because I recently asserted that a nation can only be paid for its exports with its imports, it may not be amiss to make a few remarks adapted to the understanding of the kindergarten class. Trade, whether between the people of this republic, or those of Europe and America, is, when reduced to the last analysis, nothing more than an exchange of commodities. It may happen that we sell largely to a country of which we buy but little; but the nations that purchase of our debtor pay for our products. Our exports usually exceed our imports, and for the simple reason that we owe vast sums abroad, the surplus being employed in the payment of interest and the discharge of our foreign indebtedness. When we become a great creditor nation like England, our imports will exceed our exports–we will begin to absorb the labor products of foreign lands. If America received foreign gold for all her exports it would be nothing more than a commodity weighed to her at so much per ounce and which she might exchange at her good pleasure for foreign goods, just as she does her cotton and corn. Some gold crosses the sea; but it goes and comes just as go other commodities–seeks the most advantageous market. A tariff wall, by keeping foreign products OUT keep American products IN, thereby narrowing our market and limiting production. If the workman does not produce he cannot consume, and production and consumption are the basis of railway business. But why, it may be asked, would the railway corporations cut their own throats by helping elect McKinley? Surely they understand their business much better than does a Texas maverick-brander who writes economic editorials while astride a mustang. Possibly so; but it were well to remember that while it is evidently to the interests of the stockholders of such a corporation that it should prosper, the bond-owner, who is a kind of wholesale pawnbroker and flourishes best during periods of business depression, also has something to say. Whether the former receives any dividends or not the latter must have his interest, and the more of labor products required to pay it the more he is enriched. The railway bondholder is usually the party who holds a $500 mortgage on a $10,000 farm. Crops may fail, the hogs get the cholera and the poultry die of the pips; cotton may go down and cloth go up; but the sorrows of others cause him to lose no sleep. As I have hitherto pointed out, we have it on the authority of Mark Hanna’s newspaper organ “lower wages are certainly a feature of the new prosperity”–that the American workman need not hope for permanent employment until willing to accept the same wages paid “the pauper labor of Europe,” from whose disastrous competition the Republicans solemnly promised him protection. If Supt. Trice is reducing wages and overworking his men it may be accepted as certain that he is compelled theret
o by a higher power–that the edict has gone forth that the employees of the I. & G. N. must work longer hours for less money that interest be paid on the $15,000,000 which the blessed “business revival” added to the value of Mr. Gould’s securities while he was idling about Europe.