Sometimes the way in which a thing is done is more significant than the thing itself. In passing the Bonus Bill the Senate heard a debate in which Senator Borah delivered a speech. To many the speech of the Senator from Idaho was more important than the passage of the bill.
It was a speech made in opposition to the bill. But it was more than a speech of opposition. The bonus was its theme, but it was planned on a larger scale. It was directed squarely at the entire governmental and political situation in the U.S. today. It was delivered by a man noted for his sincerity, a man strongly attached to issues, not caring too much for parties and still less for individual men.
Mr. Borah is something of a zealot for any cause which he supports. He is in many ways mentally aloof from the political stage and his fellow actors. He raises his own pennant and rides hard beneath. Knowledge of that fact by the public makes him the most popular speaker in the Senate judged by gallery attendance. He is intense and earnest. Many people find him the most forceful speaker in Congress. Said he of the bonus bill:
"I have certain opinions in connection with this matter which it seems to me ought to go along with my vote. . .
"Our indebtedness in this country at the present time, State and National, is about $32,000,000,000, and by the time this Congress shall have adjourned, it will be from 35 to 36 billion dollars, a sum of money which is inconceivable when it is undertaken to be measured, especially in foot pounds of human toil. . .
"We shall pass a tax bill, so it is said, reducing taxes some $250,000,000 or $300,000,000, increase our obligations some $4,000,000,000 and go home to report to our constituencies that we have lightened their burdens. . .
"In 1903 our taxes per capita were $17.03. In 1922 they were $64.63.
"In 1913 we were taking 6.4% of our national income in the way of taxes. In 1922 we were taking 12.1% of the national income for taxes.
"Mr. President, our tax bill for either 1922 or 1923 was larger than the entire running expenses of the Government for the 20 years from 1873 to 1893. . .
"Figures, ordinarily, Mr. President, are dull and tedious things: they tell of the forces, move multitudes or change the current of events. . .
"These figures tell a different story, they present a wholly different problem; they tell the story of industry robbed of its reward, of frugality stripped of its compensation, of men and women patient, persistent and capable, deprived of their savings and separated from their property through a wasteful and cruel exaction in the name of government, an exaction, sir, which results not only in ruin to the individuals but, if long continued, ruin to the community and to the State. . .
"If this is not a national problem, there can be no national problem. . .
"Of course, I realize that it is perhaps too much to expect that either one of the great political parties, under the exigencies which exist at this time, would be willing to place itself in a position before the country of refusing the demands of those who served their country. . .
"It ought to be otherwise, but it is not otherwise. But I am not sure that even as a matter of expediency, as a matter of mere politics, we are upon very safe ground.
"The underlying fundamental vice of American politics at this time consists in playing the game on too low a standard far below the level of both the intelligence and patriotism of the voter. . .