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The immediate fruit of economy and the retirement of the public debt is tax reduction. The annual saving in interest between 1925 and 1929 is $212,000,000. Without this no bill to relieve the taxpayers would be worth proposing. The three measures already enacted leave our Government revenues where they are not oppressive. Exemptions have been increased until 115,000,000 people make but 2,500,000 individual taxable returns, so that further reduction should be mainly for the purpose of removing inequalities. The Secretary of the Treasury has recommended a measure which would give us a much better balanced system of taxation and without oppression produce sufficient revenue. It has my complete support.
Unforeseen contingencies requiring money are always arising. Our probable surplus for June 30, 1929, is small. A slight depression in business would greatly reduce our revenue because of our present method of taxation. The people ought to take no selfish attitude of pressing for removing moderate and fair taxes which might produce a deficit. We must keep our budget balanced for each year. That is the corner stone of our national credit, the trifling price we pay to command the lowest rate of interest of any great power in the world. Any surplus can be applied to debt reduction, and debt reduction is tax reduction. Under the present circumstances it would be far better to leave the rates as they are than to enact a bill carrying the peril of a deficit. This is not a problem to be approached in a narrow or partisan spirit. All of those who participate in finding a reasonable solution will be entitled to participate in any credit that accrues from it without regard to party. The Congress has already demonstrated that tax legislation can be removed from purely political consideration into the realm of patriotic business principles.
Any bill for tax reduction should be written by those who are responsible for raising, managing, and expending the finances of the Government. If special interests, too often selfish, always uninformed of the national needs as a whole, with hired agents using their proposed beneficiaries as engines of propaganda, are permitted to influence the withdrawal of their property from taxation, we shall have a law that is unbalanced and unjust, bad for business, bad for the country, probably, resulting in a deficit, with disastrous financial consequences. The Constitution has given the Members of the Congress sole authority to decide what tax measures shall be presented for approval. While welcoming information from any quarter, the Congress should continue to exercise its own judgment in a matter so vital and important to all the interests of the country as taxation.
Being a nation relying not on force, but on fair dealing and good will, to maintain peace with others, we have provided a moderate military force in a form adapted solely to defense. It should be continued with a very generous supply of officers and with the present base of personnel, subject to fluctuations which may be temporarily desirable.
The five-year program for our air forces is in keeping with this same policy and commensurate with the notable contributions of America to the science of aeronautics. The provisions of the law lately enacted are being executed as fast as the practical difficulties of an orderly and stable development permit.
While our Army is small, prudence requires that it should be kept in a high state of efficiency and provided with such supplies as would permit of its immediate expansion. The garrison ration has lately been increased. Recommendations for an appropriation of $6,166,000 for new housing made to the previous Congress failed to pass. While most of the Army is well housed, some of it which is quartered in war-time training camps is becoming poorly housed. In the past three years $12,533,000 have been appropriated for reconstruction and repairs, and an authorization has been approved of $22,301,000 for new housing, under which $8,070,000 has already been appropriated. A law has also been passed, complying with the request of the War Department, allocating funds received from the sale of buildings and land for housing purposes. The work, however, is not completed, so that other appropriations are being recommended.
Our Navy is likewise a weapon of defense. We have a foreign commerce and ocean lines of trade unsurpassed by any other country. We have outlying territory in the two great oceans and long stretches of seacoast studded with the richest cities in the world. We are responsible for the protection of a large population and the greatest treasure ever bestowed upon any people. We are charged with an international duty of defending the Panama Canal. To meet these responsibilities we need a very substantial sea armament. It needs aircraft development, which is being provided under the five-year program. It needs submarines as soon as the department decides upon the best type of construction. It needs airplane carriers and a material addition to its force of cruisers. We can plan for the future and begin a moderate building program.
This country has put away the Old World policy of competitive armaments. It can never be relieved of the responsibility of adequate national defense. We have one treaty secured by an unprecedented attitude of generosity on our part for a limitation in naval armament. After most careful preparation, extending over months, we recently made every effort to secure a three-power treaty to the same end. We were granted much cooperation by Japan, but we were unable to come to an agreement with Great Britain. While the results of the conference were of considerable value, they were mostly of a negative character. We know now that no agreement can be reached which will be inconsistent with a considerable building program on our part. We are ready and willing to continue the preparatory investigations on the general subject of limitation of armaments which have been started under the auspices of the League of Nations.
We have a considerable cruiser tonnage, but a part of it is obsolete. Everyone knew that had a three-power agreement been reached it would have left us with the necessity of continuing our building program. The failure to agree should not cause us to build either more or less than we otherwise should. Any future treaty of limitation will call on us for more ships. We should enter on no competition. We should refrain from no needful program. It should be made clear to all the world that lacking a definite agreement, the attitude of any other country is not to be permitted to alter our own policy. It should especially be demonstrated that propaganda will not cause us to change our course. Where there is no treaty limitation, the size of the Navy which America is to have will be solely for America to determine. No outside influence should enlarge it or diminish it. But it should be known to all that our military power holds no threat of aggrandizement. It is a guaranty of peace and security at home, and when it goes abroad it is an instrument for the protection of the legal rights of our citizens under international law, a refuge in time of disorder, and always the servant of world peace. Wherever our flag goes the rights of humanity increase.
The United States Government fleet is transporting a large amount of freight and reducing its drain on the Treasury. The Shipping Board is constantly under pressure, to which it too often yields, to protect private interests, rather than serve the public welfare. More attention should be given to merchant ships as an auxiliary of the Navy. The possibility of including their masters and crews in the Naval Reserve, with some reasonable compensation, should be thoroughly explored as a method of encouraging private operation of shipping. Public operation is not a success. No investigation, of which I have caused several to be made, has failed to report that it could not succeed or to recommend speedy transfer to private ownership. Our exporters and importers are both indifferent about using
American ships. It should be our policy to keep our present vessels in repair and dispose of them as rapidly as possible, rather than undertake any new construction. Their operation is a burden on the National Treasury, for which we are not receiving sufficient benefits.
A rapid growth is taking place in aeronautics. The Department of Commerce has charge of the inspection and licensing system and the construction of national airways. Almost 8,000 miles are already completed and about 4,000 miles more contemplated. Nearly 4,400 miles are now equipped and over 3,000 miles more will have lighting and emergency landing fields by next July. Air mail contracts are expected to cover 24 of these lines. Daily airway flying is nearly 15,000 miles and is expected to reach 25,000 miles early next year.
Flights for other purposes exceed 22,000 miles each day. Over 900 airports, completed and uncompleted, have been laid out. The demand for aircraft has greatly increased. The policy already adopted by the Congress is producing the sound development of this coming industry.
WESTERN HEMISPHERE AIR MAIL
Private enterprise is showing much interest in opening up aviation service to Mexico and Central and South America. We are particularly solicitous to have the United States take a leading part in this development. It is understood that the governments of our sister countries would be willing to cooperate. Their physical features, the undeveloped state of their transportation, make an air service especially adaptable to their usage. The Post Office Department should be granted power to make liberal long-term contracts for carrying our mail, and authority should be given to the Army and the Navy to detail aviators and planes to cooperate with private enterprise in establishing such mail service with the consent of the countries concerned. A committee of the Cabinet will later present a report on this subject.
The importance and benefit of good roads is more and more coming to be appreciated. The National Government has been making liberal contributions to encourage their construction. The results and benefits have been very gratifying. National participation, however, should be confined to trunk-line systems. The national tax on automobiles is now nearly sufficient to meet this outlay. This tax is very small, and on low-priced cars is not more than $2 or $3 each year.
While the advantage of having good roads is very large, the desire for improved highways is not limited to our own country. It should
and does include all the Western Hemisphere. The principal points in Canada are already accessible. We ought to lend our encouragement in any way we can for more good roads to all the principal points in this hemisphere south of the Rio Grande. It has been our practice to supply these countries with military and naval advisers, when they have requested it, to assist them in national defense. The arts of peace are even more important to them and to us. Authority should be given by law to provide them at their request with engineering advisers for the construction of roads and bridges. In some of these countries already wonderful progress is being made in road building, but the engineering features are often very exacting and the financing difficult. Private interests should look with favor on all reasonable loans sought by these countries to open such main lines of travel.
This general subject has been promoted by the Pan American Congress of Highways, which will convene again at Rio de Janeiro in July, 1928. It is desirable that the Congress should provide for the appointment of delegates to represent the Government of the United States.
CUBAN PARCEL Post
We have a temporary parcel-post convention with Cuba. The advantage of it is all on our side. During 1926 we shipped twelve times as many parcels, weighing twenty-four times as much, as we received. This convention was made on the understanding that we would repeal an old law prohibiting the importation of cigars and cigarettes in quantities less than 3,000 enacted in 1866 to discourage smuggling, for which it has long been unnecessary. This law unjustly discriminates against an important industry of Cuba. Its repeal has been recommended by the Treasury and Post Office Departments. Unless this is done our merchants and railroads will find themselves deprived of this large parcel-post business after the 1st of next March, the date of the expiration of the convention, which has been extended upon the specific understanding that it would expire at that time unless this legislation was enacted. We purchase large quantities of tobacco made in Cuba. It is not probable that our purchases would be any larger if this law was repealed, while it would be an advantage to many other industries in the United States.
Conditions in the Philippine Islands have been steadily improved. Contentment and good order prevail. Roads, irrigation works, harbor improvements, and public buildings are being constructed. Public education and sanitation have been advanced. The Govern