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From Washington

Operation Bootstrap

The spread of communism into underdeveloped countries might be of economic advantage to the United States.

Who says this? Only as affluent and respectable a financial service as Value Line could afford to tell its $150-a-year clients anything as startling. In a recent copyrighted analysis it offers this calm argument.

The only way to lift an economy in a country is to acquire capital. The simplest way to acquire capital is to hire it from a rich country. But that hurts national pride, and poor countries nearly all detest US capitalists as “exploiters” and “parasites” when they buy up properties and invest money.

The other way to raise capital is to sweat it out of the backs of the poverty- ridden citizens. This doesn’t make economic sense but it is fine politics. Communist Russia did this. Red China is doing it and so is Cuba. Conceivably a fascist dictatorship could get away with it, too. But to succeed there must be iron discipline at the top, an impassioned puritanism in the masses, and somebody abroad to hate. Then the poor patriotic citizens sacrifice themselves in Operation Bootstrap.

Well, observes this valuable New York financial service coolly, so what? If the poor countries want it that way why not let them? To paraphrase the idea (with a bow to Value Line) it will take the underdeveloped nations longer to work out poverty, perhaps, but isn’t that their business? If their effort collapses they can't blame us. On the other hand if it succeeds, as it has in Russia (where capitalist countries – always excepting the purist USA – eagerly carry on profitable trade), then the natives become affluent and less ideological. Give a communist his home and the hopes of a car and Marx recedes a bit.

The fear of going bourgeois agonizes Mao in Red China now. The Russians have come a long way in this direction in 50 years. Why is it so terrifying to think of underdeveloped countries following the same path, quietly asks this leading Wall Street investment service?

There were three participants at Glassboro: Messrs. Johnson, Kosygin, and the crowd. We thought the crowd did wonderfully. They cheered “Alley” every chance they got. He responded graciously. Don't tell us this doesn’t mean anything. It is easy to be cynical in the aftermath as the false euphoria fades away. Superficially nothing is changed. The old Moscow hard line is back again. But a shrewd and sensible Russian leader has had his first glimpse of America's quiet might, and he has seen a warm, friendly crowd crying for peace. That language needs no translator.

Meanwhile, Secretary McNamara is in Vietnam, presumably discussing with General Westmoreland a request for 100,000 more troops. We have a feeling Glassboro makes it harder for President Johnson to go along with the escalation of the war.



Before taking its 10-day holiday the House suddenly postponed decision on the redistricting bill. This is a vicious measure to undercut one-man, one-vote reapportionment. The House shows every sign of being nervous about it, and it should be. You have a few days to make them more nervous by writing a letter to your congressman.

The art of politics is to gerrymander congressional districts so that your party gets a lot of little districts, and your opponents get a few big ones. Obviously this inequality deprives some citizens of equal representation and the courts say it is unconstitutional. They have set down fair standards.

The House proposed to extend the system, however, by offering an outrageous bill to legalize a 30 percent population variance between the size of congressional districts. The Senate balked at the plan; following the lead of Teddy Kennedy of Massachusetts it surprisingly reduced the permissible variance to 10 percent. In the House-Senate conference, conservatives got around this rebuff by proposing an escape hatch. They would relieve states of any obligation to redistrict at all for the next two elections, until after the 1970 census.

They hoped to ram this through the House in a few hours. The scheme backfired. Some members thought the plan unconstitutional and some wondered what constituents would think. So the majority postponed action till after the holiday. It is a fluid situation in which your letters to a congressman would have maximum effect.

Corporate Monster

Meanwhile, here are some of the things we note around Washington. Senator Williams (R, Del.) has listed some of the farms that get government subsidy payments. Five of them in 1966 got over $1 million each. City people have a guilt complex about farms. They remember Snowbound and Old Oaken Bucket, and feel they are not as good as their ancestors in their simple bucolic purity. So they say, “Help the poor farmer.” The farmer under the subsidy program, however, may be a corporate monster, a factory in the fields. Griffin, Inc. of Fresno County, Calif., for example, got $2,397,073 federal subsidies last year, excluding price-support loans.

Then we have J. Edgar Hoover. The President’s Crime Commission has been proposing some sensible remedies. FBI director Hoover denounces “the shallow pronouncements” of “impractical theorists” and their “so-called solutions.” He mentions no names.

We get awfully worried about Ronald Reagan. Goldwater Republicans are boosting him, and he proposes mining Haiphong, and bypassing the UN. It sounds like Dr. Milford Rouse, new head of the American Medical Association, who has been active in H. L. Hunt’s Life Line Foundation. In his inaugural address he said doctors must oppose the concept that health care is “a right rather than a privilege.” What cave did he wander out of?


This article originally ran in the July 8, 1967, issue of the magazine.