11 ⋆The "Other Half" in the New Gilded Age

IN Calvin Coolidge's autobiography, written early in 1929, he said that his administration had "encouraged enterprise, made possible the highest rate of wages which has ever existed, returned large profits, brought to the homes of the people the greatest economic benefits they ever enjoyed, and given to the country as a whole an unexampled era of prosperity."1

Throughout the twenties, however, Fiorello LaGuardia found it necessary to spend most of his time and energy battling against the high cost of food and rent, for the rights of wage earners on strike, for a redistribution of wealth through taxation, and in general for government aid to that part of the population which was bypassed in the national rush toward better living. In the course of these conflicts the plastic of his social and economic philosophy hardened, took more definite form, and, in the era of greatest triumph for laissez faire, pointed unhesitantly and challengingly toward the concept of the welfare state.

Shortly after LaGuardia took his seat in the Sixty-eighth Congress, in early 1924, the House began to consider extension of the rent controls which had been established in the District of Columbia in wartime to curb rent profiteering. The original imposition of controls had been greeted with fierce indignation on the part of exponents of "rugged individualism" like Congressman James T. Begg of Ohio, who had said:

____________________
1
Autobiography ( New York, 1929), 183.

-135-

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