The Dingley committee had among its majority members only four men, Messrs. Dingley, Payne, Dalzell and Hopkins, a newspaper editor and three attorneys, and Mr. McMillan of the minority, with previous experience. That men so inexperienced should have hastily made a tariff for this nation was worse than a blunder—it was a crime. They only made a great blind jab at the task. They began wrong by taking classifications more than a generation old, inapplicable to their time. The committee had neither knowledge nor time to consider this important phase of the subject adequately. Consequently, we have had 30,000 lawsuits on the classifications of the appraisers, nine tenths of which might have been avoided. They put in one classification, for instance, buttons, stoves, electric fans, revolvers, nails, dress trimmings, railway cars and enameled portraits, cannon for war and crosses for churches. They were as careless as to rates. Said a member of the Ways and Means Committee in conversing with me upon this subject, "Why, when any one down in my district wants anything I get it for him, I get all I can, and that is all there is to it."
When Congress passed the Dingley bill it went into the trust-making business up to its eyes. A list which I have compiled of all the principal industrial trusts in the United States shows an absolute and complete disregard of the principle of measurement, or any other principle in the making of the schedules in which trusts are interested. A table showing the more important of these trusts was exhibited.
The tariff is supposed to be a protection to wages. This table shows that most of the trusts have tariff rates that are from one to fifteen times their total pay-rolls and yet the tariff should measure but little more than the difference between the American wage cost, per unit produced, and the foreign cost. In this sense these trusts have from fifteen to one thousand times a just rate. When Congress gives more than a just rate to any industry it invites, as a practical matter, those in that industry to form a trust and add to their prices as against the home consumer the difference between a fair protection and the excessive protection given.
Prohibition is not protection. An excessive tariff is usually prohibitive. It makes foreign competition impossible. The home producers by consolidation eliminate home competition and then have their 80,000,000 compatriots at their mercy. When, for instance. Congress put a duty of 45 per cent, upon goods I make, 15 per cent, being enough, it gave Congressional permit, if not a Congressional invitation, that all in my industry consolidate and add to our present domestic prices the difference between the necessary 15 per cent, and the 45 per cent, given. This is what all our trusts have done. The question whether any industry does add much or all of the tariff to its domestic prices is answered by this other question, "Can they?" If they can they do. Trusts can and trusts do.