Page images
PDF
EPUB

Department by the very act creating it. The Department is convinced that sooner or later a resumption of this work must be undertaken. Care has therefore been taken to perserve the records and information gathered by the Working Conditions Service during its lifetime in

rder that these may be not only available to the general public in the meantime but that they may also be made part of a similar organization when public and legislative opinion again shall have become focused upon the necessity for a constructive organization of this character.

THE DEPARTMENTAL CABINET.

Origin and purpose. As has been pointed out frequently before, almost the entire subject matter of the Department of Labor deals with human relations. In consequence, occasions for the determination of policy arise oftener and the problems entering into such policies when established are necessarily more complex than when the subject matter is merely financial or material. During the war the extension of the number of bureaus and services within the Department rendered necessary the creation of some means by which the heads of these bureaus and services might be kept constantly informed as to the activities carried on by the others and as to the central policies of the Department itself. A Departmental Cabinet was therefore instituted within the Department for the purpose of maintaining coherency in departmental policy, as well as to promote friendly intradepartmental relations.

Membership.The members of the cabinet are the Assistant Secretary, the Solicitor (as Acting Secretary), the Chief Clerk, and the administrative heads of the various bureaus and services. The Director of Negro Economics is also a member by special designation. During the war there were also included the heads of the various war emergency services and boards. The acting head of the Department at the time of a meeting is the presiding officer of the cabinet and the Chief Clerk acts as its secretary.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY.

As stated in previous reports of the Department, the functions of the Assistant Secretary are to perform such duties as are required by law or are prescribed by the Secretary. Those required by law relate only to circumstances arising from the death, resignation, or absence of the Secretary; those prescribed by the Secretary may relate to any or all of the functions of the Secretary at any time and under any circumstances in the Secretary's discretion, and may be prescribed either generally or from time to time as occasion demands. The official activities of the Assistant Secretary during the period of this report are so involved in the general work of the Department to which this report relates that a special report with regard to his activities would be impracticable.

News release.—Among the special assignments of the Assistant Secretary has been the duty of indicating what announcements submitted by the various bureaus from time to time may properly be transmitted to the public or to the press. The organization of a central agency for the release of news has been found necessary in order to protect departmental administration from premature, unwise, or unauthorized publications.

Making new opportunities for employment.---The Assistant Secretary has also been in charge of investigations within the Department for the purpose of formulating a departmental policy with regard to the relations of wage earners to public lands. In my annual report for 1915 my views with respect to the principles which should govern such relationships were set forth.

In view of the high and increasing cost of obtaining a living and the consequent effect upon the temper of a patient people, the need which I have previously emphasized is becoming urgent. This is the need of creating new employment through the deliberate attempt to render more accessible the very sources themselves upon which our living depends. These sources consist in the land-its soils, its ores, and its forests. Access to these sources, through illconceived means of handling the industrial process, has become badly clogged. And if we would make progress through constructive and not destructive channels, there must be a wide-open door between land and labor.

The investigation in this field, referred to in my report of last year, has been completed with respect to its preliminary stage. Mr. Benton MacKaye, formerly of the Forest Service (United States Department of Agriculture), was engaged to make a general survey of this field and to report upon the possibilities of developing a national policy of land using that would attain the ends of greater accessibility. His report, “Employment and Natural Resources," has recently been issued by the Department. As part of the general investigation there has been published also a report by Mr. Leifur Magnusson, of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on the “Disposition of the Public Lands of the United States with Particular Reference to Wage-Earning Labor.

Unfortunately, this important piece of investigation, through lack of appropriations, has had to be terminated.

This land policy, which I have been recommending since 1915, applies now with regard to our returned soldiers and our other citizens in the reconstruction to follow the coming of peace. It is embodied in part, but only in part, in what has been called the “back to the land” movement. In this movement the need is emphasized

source.

of going back to the agricultural land. This of course is of primary importance and in previous reports I have mentioned the principles. which should, in my opinion, guide us in furthering such a development. Agriculture should be carried on through the community unit, not the isolated farm unit; the farm community should be linked closely with the local city market through the direct postal motor truck rather than the roundabout railway car; above all the individual land tenure should be taken off the present basis of unearned profits and placed upon that of actual use.

But there are other ways of going “back to the land.” Agricultural soil forms only one of the sources of life. The powers dormant in our coal seams, oil pools, and falling waters form another primary

The structural materials in our hidden ores and our growing forests form still another. The coal, ores, and powers in our remaining western public lands should be held under public control. They should then be developed through public means and in a way to make them far more accessible to labor and the people's use than the deposits (once free) which form the basis of our present coal and steel industries. Could a policy of public accessibility have been applied on the coal lands of Pennsylvania and the iron lands of the Messabe Range the troubles now besetting these basic industries could never have arisen.

Proposed legislation designed to carry out the recommendations. on this line in my report of last year was introduced last winter in the Sixty-fifth Congress by Representative M. Clyde Kelly of Pennsylvania. At a hearing on his measure, held in January before the House Committee on Labor, the Assistant Secretary appeared for the Department, and indorsed the legislation in principle. This proposed legislation was later introduced, in extended and improved form, in the Sixty-sixth Congress.

A program of land accessibility would require a vast amount of development work. To do this work Representative Kelly, in his proposed law, has provided for a public construction service" to be handled in accordance with modern standards of labor and labor organization. This is an important means for the practicable carrying out of the program, and could in itself be made an opportunity for creating permanent employment which would be profitable alike to the worker and the public. Such a service would constitute also a means of preparedness against future emergencies of unemployment. This service should be established without delay.

The points covering legislation for carrying out the department's land policy are analyzed in some detail in the MacKaye report above referred to. As they form a concise summary of the situation and suggest concrete means for handling it, they are inserted in full, as follows:

FEATURES OF NEEDED LEGISLATION.

The main features of legislation required to carry out the department's development policy may be briefly summed up. Practically all of these features are embodied in legislation which has been proposed in Congress.

A national board authorized to cooperate with States.-Executive authority for carrying out legislation should be vested in a national administrative board of appropriate Cabinet officers, including the Secretaries of Labor, Agriculture, and Interior, this board to work through a competent director who should be empowered to make written, specific, cooperative agreements with any State or municipality through such officials as may be authorized to cooperate with Federal agencies in the kind of work contemplated

To enable the board to carry out the land-development policy which has been outlined, the legislation must provide for three things---for securing the requisite land, for securing the necessary money, and for vesting the board with the requisite powers.

The placing of discretionary powers in the hands of a national board or department is, of course, always open to the dangers of arbitrary action by a bureaucracy. An antidote for bureaucracy often suggested is that of "decentralization.” There is no question that matters affecting solely the interests of any one local community should be controlled by that community. Most local affairs, however, affect national affairs, and this is so particularly in the matter of using natural resources, for natural resources are also national resources. What happens to the soils, the forests, the ores, or the water powers in any one State affects the people of the entire Nation. The opportunity of utilizing land in any State affects not only the worker in that State; it affects every worker in America. To place these matters wholly in State hands, therefore, as sometimes suggested, is not only wrong in principle but works toward a very practical evil-it withdraws the disposal of our national resources from the searchlight of national attention.

Bureaucracy is something by no means limited to the Central Government; it applies to the State and the local government, and to the private corporation. A better antidote than decentralization is cooperation, but there seems to be no “cure-all” for the evil. Arbitrary power is one kind of bad government, and there are several other kinds; but this does not mean that we should cease to vest power in officials. Cooperation, coupled with constructive criticism both from within and from outside the Government, marks a definite line along which we can work to reduce, and finally abolish, that combination of arbitrary power and inefficiency which we call “bureaucracy.”

Land and taxation.-The board should be authorized by Congress to reserve permanently for the purposes of the act any land-whether agricultural, forest, mineral, or other-in the public domain, as well as any water rights in control of Congress, rights of way, or other easements. The board should also be empowered to make purchases, through condemnation proceedings and otherwise, of lands in private ownership. Where the result of reserving or purchasing land is to deprive any State, county, or other local government of taxes which it could otherwise collect, provision should be made that payment in lieu of taxes be made to such local government out of rentals collected from the land users by the national board or cooperating State authority. The securing of land for settlement purposes by general expropriation, as contemplated in Canada, may become necessary.

The fee-simple title to all lands reserved or purchased by the Federal Government or by any State should be held permanently by the Government or State. The individual settler, as land user, should, for the reasons given herein, hold a tenure dependent upon use-either a perpetual leasehold or other restricted estate. Such tenure could be transferred at any time, through the proper action, from the settler to his

a

heirs or assigns; and arrangements should be made in the case of transfer that the settler be reimbursed by the Government for improvements made at his expense.

Extra values given to land in the vicinity of settlement areas due to improvements made on such areas at State or Government expense should be collected by the State through special taxation. This is necessary to prevent values created at public expense from going into private pockets as well as to protect the public settlement project from the demoralization coming from private speculation and local real estate booms. Taxation of this kind might require changes in the State constitution.

The Federal Government, in cooperating with any State, should stipulate that land values created through Federal improvements be thus collected by such State. Under this arrangement, properly safeguarded, the Government could well be expected to take the initiative in creating local values. In so doing, however, cleancut measures should be taken to see that these values go where they belong-to the settler and worker in the equivalent of fair wages, to the legitimate investor in a fair return, to the local community in sufficient taxes, but not to the speculator in unearned profits.

Finances.-Farm building and other public works could be financed either through direct appropriation or through bond issues. The latter method should be limited usually to self-supporting enterprises; to projects like reclaiming land which can be paid for, with interest, by the land user on the amortization plan; or else to projects like road building, which can be paid for by special taxes on the increased value of abutting lands. In such cases some provision would have to be made, either directly or through the State, for reimbursing the Federal Government. The latter would then be spending no money at all, since all funds advanced would be returned with interest to the Treasury, and thus the credit only of the Government would be needed.

In cooperating with any State for carrying on development projects therein it is customary to restrict the amount paid or advanced from the Federal Treasury to sums not exceeding 50 per cent of the necessary costs. The national board should be authorized to make the necessary assessments and collections for reimbursing the Government for advances made.

Expenditures of varying amounts are proposed in the land settlement measures which thus far have been before Congress. Appropriations for purposes of agricultural development alone vary from $100,000,000 to $500,000,000. The latter sum would probably provide for from 75,000 to 150,000 families, depending on the size of allotments and the cost of land and improvements.

Powers and duties.-In addition to the powers necessary for securing the needful lands and finances the national board should be authorized, through rules and regula tions to be formulated thereby, and through cooperation when desirable with separate States or municipalities, to carry out certain functions, including the following:

To locate areas of land suitable to be settled and colonized in convenient community units and to be developed for farming, forest, or other purposes.

To conduct soil, forest, and other surveys for classifying and determining the most profitable uses for such lands and to prepare plans for developing the same for these uses.

To take proper measures to carry out the plans when formulated, including the providing and equipping of ready-made farms and of facilities for farm operation.

To pass upon the qualifications of applicants for the lands in the communities to be settled.

To supervise the colonies when once established.

To organize cooperative buying, storage, and marketing facilities in connection with motor transport postal routes or otherwise.

To organize facilities for obtaining credit and insurance.

To provide for the construction and upkeep of post roads and other public improvements which will aid or advance the use of any land-development project.

« PreviousContinue »