The American Party System: An Introduction to the Study of Political Parties in the United States

By Charles Edward Merriam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
SPOILS SYSTEM (Continued)

PURCHASES AND CONTRACTS--INTEREST ON PUBLIC
FUNDS--THE UNDERWORLD--TAXATION

The purchase of supplies and materials by the government has been for many years a rich source of revenue for a corrupt machine in control. Roughly speaking, onethird of the total expenditures of governing bodies is made for these purposes. The purchases of coal, of machinery, of lands for various uses, of institutional supplies, and of a great variety of miscellaneous materials offer a fertile field for the political exploiter. The letting of contracts for public works of various kinds, paving, etc., is of still greater importance. The construction of great water, sewer and street systems, the erection of city halls and school buildings, bridges and court houses in counties, capital buildings, and institutional structures in states, postoffices, and a wide variety of construction works in the Federal government, are illustrations of the different kinds of opportunities open to followers of the spoils system.

The waste and graft in public works and purchases is probably no greater than in any other branch of the government where political control is found. It appears to be worse because the waste is more easily measurable and the losses may be more graphically shown. It is more impressive to show that a building which should have cost $100,000 actually required an expenditure of $:200,000

-138-

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