1929 State of the Union Message

Dry Killer Herbert Hoover

Branding folks felons for beer since March 1929

On December 3, God’s Own Prohibitionist, Republican President Herbert Clark Hoover delivered his State of the Union Address to Congress December 3, 1929. Here are the highlights:

…Owing to unusual circumstances, it has been extremely difficult to estimate future revenues with accuracy. (…) I recommend that the normal income tax rates applicable to the incomes of individuals for the calendar year 1929 be reduced from 5, 3 and 1½ per cent to 4, 2 and ½ per cent, and that the tax on the income of corporations for the calendar year 1929 be reduced from 12 to 11 per cent. It is estimated that this will result in a reduction of $160,000,000 in income taxes to be collected during the calendar year 1930. (p409) (…) The long upward trend of fundamental progress, however, gave rise to over-optimism as to profits, which translated itself into a wave of uncontrolled speculation in securities, resulting in the diversion of capital from business to the stock market and the inevitable crash. (p411) (…)

AGRICULTURE: The agricultural situation is improving. The gross farm income as estimated by the Department of Agriculture for the crop season 1926-27 was $12,100,000,000; for 1927-28 it was $12,300,000,000; for 1928-29 it was $12,500,000,000; and estimated on the basis of prices since the last harvest the value of the 1929-30 crop would be over $12,650,000,000. The slight decline in general commodity prices during the past few years naturally assists the farmers’ buying power. The number of farmer bankruptcies is very materially decreased below previous years. The decline in land values now seems to be arrested and rate of movement from the farm to the city has been reduced. Not all sections of agriculture, of course, have fared equally, and some areas have suffered from drought. (p413) (…)

TARIFFS: I am firmly of the opinion that their application to the pending [tariff] revision will give the country the kind of a tariff law it both needs and wants. (p415) (…)

THE BANKING SYSTEM: The development of “group” and “chain” banking presents many new problems. (…) The relinquishment of charters of national banks in great commercial centers in favor of State charters indicates that some conditions surround our national banks which render them unable to compete with State banks; and their withdrawal results in weakening our national banking system. (p423) (…)

FEDERAL PRISONS: In order to relieve the pressing evils I have directed the temporary transfer of the Army Disciplinary Barracks at Leavenworth to the Department of Justice for use as a Federal prison. (…) We need some new Federal prisons and a reorganization of our probation and parole systems; and there should be established in the Department of Justice a Bureau of Prisons with a sufficient force to deal adequately with the growing activities of our prison institutions. Authorizations for the improvements should be given speedily, with initial appropriations to allow for the construction of the new institutions to be undertaken at once. (p429) (…)

PROHIBITION: The first duty of the President under his oath of office is to secure the enforcement of the laws. The enforcement of the laws enacted to give effect to the eighteenth amendment is far from satisfactory and this is in part due to the inadequate organization of the administrative agencies of the Federal Government. (…) First, there should be an immediate concentration of responsibility and strengthening of enforcement agencies of the Federal Government by transfer to the Department of Justice of the Federal functions of detection and to a considerable degree of prosecution, which are now lodged in the Prohibition Bureau in the Treasury. (…) The District of Columbia should be the model of city law enforcement in the Nation. …there is need for legislation in the District supplementing the national prohibition act, more sharply defining and enlarging the powers of the District Commissioners and police of the District and opening the way for better cooperation in the enforcement of prohibition between the District officials and the prohibition officers of the Federal Government. It is urgent that these conditions be remedied. (p432)

LAW ENFORCEMENT: (p435) … We need to reestablish faith that the highest interests of our country are served by insistence upon the swift and even-handed administration of justice to all offenders, whether they be rich or poor. (…) I have appointed a National Commission… for an exhaustive study… including the special problems and abuses growing out of our prohibition laws. (…) the Department of Justice has been striving to weed out inefficiency… to stimulate activity on the part of its prosecuting officers… The department is seeking systematically to strengthen the law enforcement agencies… by removal of negligent officials and by encouragement and assistance to the vigilant. (…) Increases in appropriations are needed and will be asked for in order to reinforce these offices. …if the citizen… shall insist on selecting the particular laws which he will obey, he undermines his own safety and that of his country. His attitude may obscure, but it cannot conceal, the ugly truth that the lawbreaker, whoever he may be, is the enemy of society. We can no longer gloss over the unpleasant reality which should be made vital in the consciousness of every citizen, that he who condones or traffics with crime, who is indifferent to it and to the punishment of the criminal or to the lax performance of official duty, is himself the most effective agency for the breakdown of society. Our laws are made by the people themselves; theirs is the right to work for their repeal; but until repeal, it is an equal duty to observe them and demand their enforcement.

I have been gratified at the awakening sense of this responsibility in our citizens during the past few months, and grateful that many instances have occurred which refuted the cynicism which has asserted that our system could not convict those who had defied the law and possessed the means to resist its execution. These things reveal a moral awakening both in people and in officials which lies at the very foundation of the rule of law. (Hoover 1929 1974 404-436) (link)

Money was fleeing Federally chartered banks in order to not be confiscated via asset forfeiture should some officious dry killers storm the bank. Observe also that we now call the Laffer Curve was totally operative during the Coolidge and Hoover Administrations, when every cut in federal tax rates brought increased federal revenue and, in Hoover’s words, “fertilizes the soil of prosperity.” This optimistic sermon came after the Crash, with a Crash still wrecking the German economy, and banking panics already afoot in these States, thanks to use of the income tax as a club to enforce prohibition. Herbert Hoover was already proving that he himself, while enforcing prohibition, was “the most effective agency for the breakdown of society.”

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