Financial History of the United States: Fiscal, Monetary, Banking, and Tariff, Including Financial Administration and State and Local Finance

By Paul Studenski; Herman E. Krooss | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 22: THE PROGRESSIVE ERA: FISCAL POLICY

The previous chapter was concerned with monetary and banking reform in the first years of the new century. This chapter is intended to explain how the rise in Federal power manifested itself in the expansion of Federal expenditures, the reorganization of the revenue system, and the improvement of fiscal administration.

Principal Increases in Federal Expenditures . During the three years immediately succeeding the Spanish-American War Federal expenditures declined about 20 per cent from the wartime peak. But then they rebounded, and by 1914 they not only were double the expenditures of the middle 1890's but were also in excess of the highest expenditures of the war period. This extraordinary increase resulted from six main developments: enlargement of Federal responsibility for conservation of natural resources and improvement of agriculture; expansion of Federal regulation of business, protection of labor, and social welfare; increases in the Navy; liberalization of veterans' pension laws; extension of public works for the improvement of rivers and harbors; and construction of the Panama Canal.

Conservation and Aids to Agriculture . Probably the most important accomplishment of the Theodore Roosevelt administration was the effective beginning of conservation. Over a period of years, much of the country's natural resources had been acquired by private individuals at very low prices and were being ruthlessly wasted. The situation was particularly alarming in the nation's timberlands, for between the close of the Civil War and 1900, government-owned timberlands dropped from 80 to 20 per cent of the total. Some steps for the preservation of the publicly owned forests had been taken a few years earlier. In 1891 Congress authorized the President to set aside as national parks any government lands containing forests. Harrison and later Cleveland set aside some 45 million acres of land despite strenuous opposition from private interests. However, the personnel charged with the duty of administering the lands was too small to be efficient.

It was under Theodore Roosevelt that the program was really put under way, and before the end of his administration, he set aside some 148 million acres. President Taft continued the program, and by 1910, there were 149 national forests containing 193 million acres. The Forestry Serv-

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