FEBRUARY 13, 1959
COLUMBIA, Mo.—Even though I am on tour this week I am most interested in what is going on at home and, as everybody else must be, I have been following the newspaper accounts of the various new tax proposals, both city and state. Even though I vote in the country I am in New York City so much that I cannot help but be interested in what affects our great city.
I have always felt that a sales tax is felt more keenly by the poorer people of a community, and so if the proposed off-track betting tax is approved by the state legislature it would seem to me to be a more desirable one.
MAYor Robert F. Wagner has said that if this latter tax is approved, he will not have to add to the current sales tax in the fiscal year 1959-60, since this system of betting and tax collecting could be put into operation in six months after authorization from Albany.
People who can bet at all can probably stand the tax on betting. I know there is a feeling that betting should be outlawed. But we should remember that there was once a feeling that we could legislate against those who were too weak to resist drink.
We had to repeal the Prohibition Amendment because we found that people who wanted to drink somehow did find ways of doing so, and this was bringing about so much lawlessness among people whom you felt would ordinarily respect the law that it was having a worse effect than the drinking.
And as bad as I think drinking is, I do not think it is any worse now then it was when we had prohibition. In fact, I think there are signs of improvement in people's self-restraint and self-discipline.
Unquestionably, I believe, we have to look at betting from the same point of view. If people want to bet, you can be sure they are going to find some way to do it, and by making them pay through taxing their bets will probably make them think more of their moral practice than all the exhortations in the world could do.
One can certainly become most indignant over the duplicity of the Russian leaders which was proven by those recorded conversations from the Soviet planes as they were downing an unarmed American transport plane.
I must say, however, that I think we chose a bad moment in which to publish the recorded conversations. Either soon after we picked them up or a later date than now would have seemed better. For now it looks as though we are really trying to use them in the issue over Berlin, which, of course, is still undecided, and tensions are mounting.
I think we must be most careful in our timing in these international matters. We seem to have a genius for putting ourselves into the position where almost any Russian accusation that we are the warmongers and are trying to create bad feeling is made more plausable by something we say or do.
When we have such information that proves the Russian version of almost anything is not the truth we should present it immediately through the proper channels. We must be very careful to choose the right moment to publicize such things so that they do not play into the hands of the Soviets and seem to justify their accusations that we are the uncontrolled people who are willing to use anything that comes to hand in order to stir up bad feelings.