MARCH 19, 1962
NEW YORK—A local newspaper editorial drew attention the other day to a shocking story concerning a transaction last year with the Philippines.
It appears that the President of the Philippines last year authorized the import of 18 million dollars worth of tobacco because he was encouraged in Washington to believe that in exchange there would be an increase in the purchase of sugar from the Philippines. This did not follow, however, and the present Philippines President impounded the tobacco and tried to send the whole of it back to the United States.
Because of this, Southern Congressmen have succeeded in suspending indefinitely a Congressional vote on a bill to appropriate 73 million dollars to pay the Philippines for damage caused there by American forces in the Japanese war. Our government long ago acknowledged the validity of this claim. It was approved by Congress, but an appropriation has never been voted and now it is blocked again.
President Macapagal of the Philippines needs this money to put through certain reforms in the Filippino economy. Somehow it seems incredible that Southern Congressmen—who pride themselves on their integrity and honor—would, for a local consideration, refuse to honor a claim which has been acknowledged by our government as valid.
When one sees selfish interest dominate members of Congress from any one locality in this way, one sometimes wonders how it is possible for us to persuade the world that we have discovered a workable type of self-government. Democracy presupposes that the representatives of the people will be of a very high type and that they will act in the interests of the country, the world and, therefore, of their people. Provincialism, selfishness and greed do not make good representatives in a democracy.
Many people here think that we do not get credit for the good things we do in the world. Perhaps one of the reasons is that people coming into contact with Americans in the business world find that our standards of action fall below the standards we set in words. Certainly if we do not raise our own individual standards from the grass roots up, we will continue to elect as our representatives people who will feel justified in indulging in those practices which they believe their people at home will condone.
Such matters come to us as a warning that our people, from whom all government flows, must hold to higher standards or we cannot expect it in our representatives.
Another newspaper story points out that in our country the Department of Agriculture assures an artificially high price to American sugar producers by determining each year the likely consumption of sugar at the desired price.
I wonder whether a country that has to prop an agricultural product to this extent should insist on producing sugar at all. It seems to me more and more evident that those areas of the world which can produce certain products, whether agricultural or manufactured, better than anywhere else should be the ones to produce these products. Where it requires heavy subsidies to produce them at all, the country should change to products it can produce at a competitive price.
We can do this in the U. S. because our great variety of climate permits us to grow many things that are needed the world over. There is a great deal we can make and process better than any other country and sell at a more reasonable price even with our higher standard of living and its higher wage rates.
Where things are consumed within the country, of course, high wages simply mean a greater market. But we can easily produce in competition with countries that have a lower standard of living, largely because of know-how and our adaptability to the machine age. Hence to continue to insist on subsidizing our sugar growers in this country in the long run seems to me to lack an understanding of what must eventually happen under the changing world economy.