The Tariff in 1932

June 12, 1931

Report Outline
The Tariff in 1910–11 and in 1930–31
President Taft and the Payne-Aldrich Tariff
President Hoover and the Hawley-Smoot Tariff
Present Positions of Parties on the Tariff

The Tariff Act of 1930 was signed by President Hoover June 17, 1930, and the new duties it prescribed went into effect on that day. The Hawley-Smoot duties have now been operative for a full year. Discussion of the economic effects of these duties, and of the general tariff policy of the United States, has been almost as intense during the twelve months that have elapsed since the signature of the act as during the preceding year when the Hawley-Smoot bill was being framed in Congress. On the one hand it has been asserted that the effect of the new tariff has been to prolong and aggravate the business depression and that it now stands as a major obstacle to early recovery. On the other hand it has been maintained that the Tariff Act of 1930 has shielded the United States from an industrial debacle, with nation-wide wage reductions and multiplied unemployment.

Impartial appraisal of the economic effects of the Tariff Act of 1930 is not possible at this time and probably cannot be made until after the lapse of some years. In the absence of adequate data, this report will not attempt any analysis of the economic effects of the new tariff, but will be devoted mainly to tracing the political effects of general revisions of the tariff during the last two decades.

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The Tariff in 1910–11 and in 1930–31

The congressional elections of November, 1930, in which the Hawley-Smoot tariff was made an issue by national spokesmen of the minority party, with promises of early revision if the Democrats were returned to power, resulted in the virtual wiping out of the Republican majorities in the Senate and House, leaving the balance of power in the Seventy-second Congress definitely in the hands of the Progressives. The tariff now looms as a leading subject, of debate in the first session of the new Congress which meets next December. It is possible that the Democrats, in coöperation with the Progressives, will be able to send to the President bills reducing the existing duties in various tariff schedules, thus further concentrating public attention on the tariff, and building the tariff into a leading political issue for the presidential campaign of 1932.

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