Several weeks ago I reported on the conclusions of an Atlanta newspaperman who had made a study of the performance of faith healers in that area and arrived at the conviction that it was a hoax. This week’s news carries a similar item by the religious editor of the Miami Herald, one Adon Taft. He attended the tent meetings of the Rev. Jack Coe of Dallas, who was drawing a crowd of some 6,000 Miamians nightly. In the front page of his paper he showed there had been no real changes in the physical conditions of those he claimed to cure. In one instance he pointed out that a woman who had thrown away her crutches and walked without them had never ordinarily used them anyway. Three ministers in the city have offered to pay Coe $2,500 if his faith healing cures anyone who had been duly certified as ill and who, after his ministrations, is certified as cured. Thus far, Coe has not accepted the challenge.
And another alleged faith healer, Oral Roberts, is meeting with disappointment in Australia. After the newspapers and ministers there denounced him in Sydney, and after his meetings attracted only about 5,000 in a tent whose capacity is 14,000, he moved on to Melbourne. Reports do not indicate what success, if any, he is meeting with there.
One of the things about which men of social consciousness will, or should, always have continuing concern is any segment of our people who labor under something of an inherent handicap because of circumstances beyond their control. In this connection I have in mind the farmers of this country. We are faced with a paradox of hardship for the farmer in an age when they are producing huge surpluses. Government, in the hands of both parties, has never been able to offer them anything other than an aspirin for their financial headache and much of what both have offered has been the same, regardless of what name it went by. The Democrats have generally stood for rigid parity support of 90 percent for basic crops; the present administration has fluctuated between a sliding scale policy of parity from 75 percent to 90 percent, and now it is the soil bank idea. And this week the Senate committee by a close vote decided to recommend again rigid 90 percent parity support. In the meantime, surpluses of all kinds are piling up at an alarming rate and the cost of warehouse facilities alone runs into some $20,000 per [?]. Moreover, 58¢ of the consumer’s food dollar is lost between the point of his purchase and the price the farmer gets for what he sells. Meanwhile, in vast areas of the world millions are starving or are on the verge of starving, while we store potatoes to them useless, or dump good food into rivers or otherwise destroy it.
Even the simplest of us can see that there is something basically wrong with a world where such things take place. And the United States has opposed setting up in the United Nations a special food agency to see what can be done about getting our surpluses distributed throughout starving areas to lessen our own problem and to save lives of people with not enough to eat. This food, if properly handled, doubtless would go far not only to save lives but to create good will for the West in those places where now we offer them only guns with which to arm in a possible conflict about which they know, and probably care, little. It is about time that men of both parties address themselves to the basic problem created by the situation I have just described to the end of alleviating our own domestic problem, aiding undernourished people throughout the world, and using what we have a surplus of to help us in our race for competitive existence with the non-democratic world. There is a large block of neutral nations in the Middle East and Africa. Perhaps our avoidance of war will depend upon how well we can woo the allegiance and support of these people to the cause of freedom. We certainly are not going to do it with the policy Mr. Dulles is pursuing with all the emphasis upon military assistance without very much if any attention to economic needs. Mr. Dulles apparently does not know any better, or is afraid to pursue any other course. But that course is one of expediency only. It is not one of statesmanship; nor does it, in the long run, contribute to our own security, about which he seems so concerned.
Hence, our own domestic problem here, affecting some 15 percent of our working population, illustrates how much of a seamless web there is to all life on the planet today. Whatever we do or fail to do locally may well have world-wide ramifications, calling for attack upon almost all our problems from a world perspective.
One of the essential elements in a two-party system in a democracy is that these parties take positions on fundamental issues that are sufficiently different that voters going into the polling booth will have a real choice between alternative policies. Looking at the picture of politics as as of now in the present Congress, it is difficult to see much difference between the two. And while there will be much breast-beating between now and adjournment – and election, if these first few weeks are any indication of the way things are going throughout the session, it would seem that next November we shall have a choice about like that between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
Perhaps the most noticeable trend on the part of both parties is the mad scramble to get in the middle of the road (whatever that means). Apparently, both parties have convinced themselves this is not the time to be caught on either the left or right. Under the ever-militant leadership of Sen. Johnson of Texas, Senate Democrats were committed to a program of very mild do-goodism. And with some, perhaps considerable, prodding from Eisenhower lieutenants in the White House, Republicans are trying to toe the center line as closely as possible, even inching their way a little toward that horrible nightmare of four years ago, “the welfare state.”
The result of this is that on the very issues that should reveal real differences between the parties, the leadership of both seems to be in almost complete agreement. For example, in his State of the Union message calling for aid to schools, the president asked for $1.25 billion over a five-year period, while the Democratic measure that went through the House committee last year provided for $1.6 billion in four years.
Both sides are pledged to “do something” about housing, and Eisenhower has called for a goal of 35,000 units, which is a little below that asked by the Democrats but still higher than either hopes to get through Congress.
On highway construction, the administration has abandoned its vast bond sale, simply calling for a plan of adequate financing.
In the matter of tax reduction, neither side seems capable of making up its mind whether it wishes to champion a balanced budget or make a bid for votes in an election year by cutting taxes. The bets are pretty good that if any reduction comes about, it will be in places and at a time when both think it will do them the most good politically.
The farm problem, I have already dealt with today in another connection. On it, the parties are not very far apart, not enough to make any real distinction between them.
Curiously enough, it is foreign economic aid where the confusion is greatest. The president seems to have taken the position that foreign aid of an economic kind is necessary for “projects and programs which we approve and which require a period of years for planning and completion.” You will recall that foreign aid of an economic nature was originally a Democratic creation. At that time the Republicans howled. But it now looks as if the Republicans have stolen Democratic thunder on this issue, and it is the Democrats who are howling that this sort of thing cannot go on much longer.
If time permitted I could go on pointing out the anomalies of politics as she is being played by the two groups at the present time. Certainly the Democrats are going to have to convince the voters that there is enough difference between them and their opponents to justify ousting the incumbent of the White House and putting one of their party in, while the Republicans will have to be just as assiduous in convincing us that it is for the best to keep one of their number at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. You and I, the voters, are going to be caught in the crossfire of a welter of claims and counterclaims, charges and counter-charges that will require almost the wisdom of a Solomon to see through. It is a serious responsibility, and how well we separate the wheat from the chaff and discharge that responsibility will determine in large measure the well-being of us all.