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TRB: Washington Wire

Eisenhower has one last month to make the lackluster 83rd Congress pass his program. "This is the crucial test. Ike wasted his first year in office, then last January dropped a two-year load into the hopper. Will Congress act? The pace quickens now and the big lobbies start to grind.

The tariff battle is lost. This was an issue where progressives backed Ike. He repeatedly promised to base his whole foreign economic program on "trade not aid" and now his ineptness has lost the fight. For reasons which we shall never comprehend he threw away his chance in 1953 by appointing an unnecessary study group which wasted the year in which Ike probably could have got what he wanted. In this second year he has his Randall Report but not the GOP votes to pass it. Ike agrees instead to a one-year, stopgap extension and sadly says, "Wait another year." If you want a classic example of the fact that good intentions aren't enough, think of the tariff.

Progressives oppose the big new Eisenhower tax revision law. This probably will pass. It favors corporations, and upper income brackets.

Oh the third great issue, farm prices, this particular column supports Ike. In our view Congress can't go on piling up surpluses of cotton and corn any more than it could of darning needles and fly paper. If Congress insists on passing another extension of rigid price supports and if Ike has the guts to veto the bill, then flexible prices automatically follow. Congress seems hell-bent on passing the bill, and we hope Ike has the courage to chuck it out. Personally, we are a fan of honest, simple Agriculture Secretary Benson and believe he has called his shots fairly and non-politically.

Some of the Eisenhower social legislation seems sunk or else, if it does pass, it will be a ghost of what is needed and of what was proposed last January. This includes unemployment aid, health, housing, education, pensions and legislation to aid the handicapped. The toughest battle in two years now starts over some of these measures. July will tell.

Some things we never shall understand! Here we are denouncing Britain and France for not permitting us to embark on vast military ventures in IndoChina and simultaneously the Administration cuts defense. America has dropped one Army division and is in process of dropping another. Somehow we can't believe defense is going to be cheaper with A-bombs. We are naturally shy, nervous and timid and the s thought of an Administration that likes big military adventures—and reduced s defense budgets—gives us the creeps at night. The watered-down $28 billion defense budget is now passed. Ike cut it first, and Congress has lopped off another billion. In fairness it should be said that even reduced it amounts to half the new obligation authority for all government expenses. July starts a new fiscal year. The deficit this year is about 13.3 billion according to GOP bookkeeping; a billion or so higher as Democrats figure.

CBS broadcaster Eric Sevareid called our attention to the current Collier's expose of what the Administration has done to the State Department, It's good to see a husky mass circulation magazine striking up the full brass band after our own penny whistle. The Collier's story is complete and documented; it ought to be entitled "How Scott McLeod Wrecked the State Department," but isn't: in eight years not a single foreign service officer able to win promotion for merit, in two years not a single new junior officer taken into the service; the ablest college graduates (who used to compete for Jobs) now avoiding the dead-end trap with its 13 month security clearance; morale ruined and the s truth in foreign intelligence reports tailored carefully to satisfy any prejudiced Senator. A sad, sad story we think.

We might as well stick our necks out and show how dangerously subversive we are. We think Alger Hiss ought to get his pension, and we think the State Department is making a bad blunder over Guatemala. Ike is shocked that Hiss will get a $70-a-month federal pension after being convicted of perjury. We have come to the reluctant conclusion that Hiss lied, but this pension business is another matter. The court sentenced Hiss for his crime, but now the proposed retroactive pension cancellation means, in effect, that his sentence is increased. An automatic criminal penalty would be inserted in the civil pension law falling on a restricted class of people, federal workers, and on their innocent survivors. We fear these ideas. We fear Ike's proposal to "de-Americanize" citizens for certain crimes. This old Greek business of exile and retroactive breaking of contracts isn't part of the American tradition, and we want none of it.

As to Guatemala, anybody who ever read a foreign news dispatch knows that the United States is deeply suspect — rightly or wrongly (and we believe wrongly) —all over the world for alleged "imperialism," and for possible intervention behind the United Fruit Company in Guatemala. If these charges aren't true, how much wiser and easier it would be to let the UN investigate. America is innocent and it favors the UN; then why allow our UN Ambassador Lodge to create the dangerous precedent of blocking a full inquiry?

It has been assumed by Ike's critics that he is a well-intentioned, frank and open man. But his extraordinary order directing the Atomic Energy Commission, against its will, to contract with a private power company so as to by-pass TVA, is something else again. The pro-Eisenhower NYTimes denounces the plan, suggesting it could lead to TVA liquidation. Ike made an election pledge to support TVA but now he seems to be playing the game of the utility lobby and the power trust.

This article originally ran in the July 5th, 1954, issue of the magazine.