“I Cannot Consent to Buy Votes with the People’s Money”

(p. 91) . . . Thomas Gore, . . . was first elected to the Senate in 1907, the year Oklahoma became a state. Gore had a populist streak in him, but he always recognized the protections to individual liberty that came from limited government. In the 1930s, therefore, he strongly opposed the federal government going into the relief business. Interestingly, Gore was made totally blind by two childhood accidents. He still managed to become a lawyer, and as a senator, he had to have family members or staff assistants read bills, books, and newspapers to him. Yet he claimed to see clearly through the political chicanery that would occur if the federal government entered the relief business. No depression, Gore argued, “can be ended by gifts, gratuities, doles, and alms handed out by the Federal Treasury and extorted from taxpayers that are bleeding at every pore.” On the issue of relief, especially, Gore argued that state and city officials “have immediate contact” with hardship cases and can best “superintend the dispensation of charity.” Soon after the ERA brought federal relief into existence, Gore said, “The day on which we began to make these loans by the Federal Government to States, counties, and cities was a more evil day in the history of the Republic than the day on which the Confederacy fired upon Fort Sumter.”

In 1935, Gore helped lead the charge in Congress against funding the WPA with $4.8 billion. After he spoke against the bill, thousands of people in southeast Oklahoma held a mass meeting to denounce Gore. They sent him a telegram demanding that he cast his vote for the WPA and, by implication, start bringing more fed-(p. 92)eral dollars into Oklahoma. Gore responded with a telegram of his own. Your action, he wrote, “shows how the dole spoils the soul. Your telegram intimates that your votes are for sale. Much as I value votes I am not in the market. I cannot consent to buy votes with the people’s money. I owe a debt to the taxpayer as well as to the unemployed.” Shortly after dictating these words, the blind Senator was led to the Senate floor to cast a lonely vote against the WPA.

Source:
Folsom, Burton W., Jr. New Deal or Raw Deal? How FDR’s Economic Legacy Has Damaged America. New York: Threshold Editions, 2008.
(Note: ellipses added.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.