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The “down” Years 1972-74
A Senator’s View
August 1976 | Volume 27, Issue 5
The President reported to us that Chou En-lai was apparently the keenest and ablest head of state he had ever met, that discipline among the Chinese people was meticulous, that crime seemed to be under control. Since the United States and China are fairly comparable in the matters of geography and resources, I have often wondered what type of government we might be functioning under here if we found ourselves with their population of eight hundred million people. I hope we do not have to face that situation for a long time to come.
The conference report on foreign-aid appropriations, which was previously passed by the House, was approved by the Senate, 45 to 36. However, opposition to foreign aid seems to be growing. There appears to be a lot of dead wood in the personnel that administers this program, and it is a general feeling that much of the money appropriated is a subsidy to American industries to help them get business in other countries.
Much of the opposition to the conference report was due to the fact that military assistance to other countries was considered excessive. The answer to this, of course, is that if they don’t get military equipment from us they will get it from somewhere else. …
The Friday session of the Senate was not a happy one. There were difficulties in getting a quorum of the Senate at all. Forty-two members were absent. Except for two or three cases of illness the members were out on the road playing politics, many campaigning for their own reelection and others taking part in the campaign for the nomination and election of a President. Most of the congressional candidates for the Presidency have, in my opinion, eliminated any possible excuse for voting for them next fall. I still can’t see what there is about neglecting their duties that qualifies them for higher office.
The Foreign Relations Committee met … Friday morning, and political insinuations again saturated the committee room. Senator Church was insistent that the Foreign Relations Committee investigate the reported efforts of the ITT [International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation] to influence the last Chilean election. He studiously avoided any reference to our big copper companies, who, through excessive depletion of Chilean ore and tremendous profits on the same, were largely responsible for the people of Chile resorting to a socialist government.
This week … saw the return of several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee from Denver, where they had gone to interview Mrs. Dita Beard, a lobbyist for the ITT . …
Certainly many of our larger corporations with international holdings have become more powerful than the governments of the countries in which their investments have been made. It is safe to say that an American national corporation, having invested heavily in a developing country, will do all within its power to protect such investment, even to influencing or overthrowing governments and inciting civil war. There isn’t much the United States could do to stop such behavior, but we can try to keep it humane and beneficial not only to the investors in the company but also to the people where an investment is made.
Last year the Congress enacted two pieces of legislation which I am not proud to have voted for. One was a new tax law ostensibly to help low-income people, but which at present seems to be having the opposite effect. The other bit of legislation enacted last year was supposed to ensure clean elections. I almost voted against it because I knew on the face of it that it wouldn’t work, but finally went along with the rest of the Senate and voted for it. I would feel better today had I voted against this so-called Clean Elections bill and the new tax law. The national election due next November promises to be anything but clean, and the loopholes in the tax bill and benefits to big business are enabling the corporations to go a long way in their efforts to influence or purchase the election outright.
… it is an old practice among politicians, particularly among those seeking re-election or election to a higher office, to vote for something they don’t believe in and then trust a smaller group of House and Senate conferees to kill such proposals. In that way they can always tell the proponents of a particular idea: “I did what I could for you but that miserable House (or conference) committee just wouldn’t accept it.” Maybe such action isn’t entirely honorable, but it may go a long way toward ensuring re-election for a member of Congress.
And another reason why members of Congress sometimes vote for proposals in which they do not believe is to help a colleague in his quest for re-election. If he proposes something which is very popular in his own district, he can then tell his constituents: “I did the best I could for you but it just wasn’t enough to get your proposals enacted into law.”