Norman Thomas (1952) on big business
Source Dave Anderson
Date 11/02/08/08:23
'Socialized' Advertising
Norman Thomas
The New Republic, April 21, 1952

PRESIDENT TRUMAN RECENTLY made a frontal attack on the current
million-dollar advertising campaign of the private power interests.
“You can hardly pick up a newspaper or a magazine these days,” the
President said, “without seeing an expensive full-page advertisement
denouncing the ‘Socialism’ of our public power program.”

The powerful utility interests, Truman points out, are trying a new
line of propaganda: “They raised the cry of ‘Socialism’—apparently on
the theory that if you can’t persuade people, maybe you can frighten
them; if you haven’t got the facts, try a few scare words.

“The cost of those ads is mostly paid for by the taxpayers, because
the costs of such advertising are deductible for income-tax purposes.
It looks to me as though that advertising campaign itself is pretty
close to ‘Socialism’, because the taxpayers finance so much of the

The President’s observation is one which is shared by all who have
watched the steady stream of “advertorials” aimed at labor and all
liberal ideas, disguised as an attack on Socialism. The election
campaigns this year will intensify the propaganda barrage. Advertisers
will pass the cost of their ads to the public by masking the political
content under the guise of tax-free “institutional advertising.”

The well-developed habit of slurring together the Welfare State,
Socialism and totalitarian Communism first attracted our attention
some months ago. A brief appeal to the readers of the Socialist Call
brought in overwhelming response. Now not a day goes by but a letter
comes in with another clipping of another ad urging: “Let your leaders
know that you oppose ‘Socialistic’ schemes that lead to Communism.”

Joseph T. Ferguson, who ran against Taft in the last Ohio Senatorial
race, can testify to the political power of ad propaganda.
Corporations deducted as business expenses advertising favoring Taft.
Mr. Ferguson points out that “while these ads did not mention Taft’s
name, they were the type of thing that had the effect of scaring any
voter to death who might be thinking of voting for the

The technique of fear is skillfully combined with the technique of
avoidance. The voter is frightened into voting against something
“Socialistic” while the Internal Revenue Department is lulled into
acquiescence by the lack of any specific mention of either laws or

It is not institutional advertising, for example, to carry over the
name of Roberts Dairy Company of Omaha, Nebr., such stuff as this:
“Such teaching [the New Morality] constitutes a ‘softening-up’ process
for totalitarianism. Its advocates are not only the stooges for
Stalin, but also for the traitorous American Socialists who would,
without any contribution of their own whatsoever, take over the wealth
of the country accumulated throughout the past 175 years.”

Theoretically, the cost of advertising—space and preparatory
work—which is clearly in the area of public controversy and is of a
lobbying nature designed to influence public opinion in favor of the
signer—is not deductible. Nevertheless, in so far as we can discover,
the costs of sponsoring the radio show Meet Corliss Archer and the
present advertising program against “Socialized electricity” alike are
deductible for “America’s business-managedtax paying Electric Light
and Power Companies.”

The campaign of the electric companies against the federal power
program is a good example of propaganda aimed at a specific government
proposal. A favorite method seems to be to prepare a full-page ad for
magazines with national circulation and then have the same ad
reproduced in local papers over the signature of the local power
company. A recent ad layout in American Magazine charges that “the
people who plan and work for a Socialistic USA know that permanent
control of a few key industries and services will give the government
the power to take over just .about everything.” We can finish reading
the same ad in the Toledo Union News, placed by the Toledo Edison
Company: “One of the key industries that they’re trying to take over
is electric light and power.”

The same pattern is repeated time and again throughout the nation.
The high point in this campaign must have been the full-page ad in
Collier’s which asked: “Do you want to pay for a government honeymoon
at Niagara Falls?” The ad continues with the customary treatment: “The
government plan is a long step toward Socialized electricity.”
Collier’s then helped with an editorial which was later reproduced as
a full-page ad in the New York Times. Among other things Collier’s
said that “the government’s proposal is another example of the
creeping Socialism that we discussed last week.” The discussion is
legitimate while the coincidence is somewhat suspect. In this case
America taxpayers paid several times over for a distorted attack on a
specific legislative proposal.

An indication of what is spent by business on propaganda can be
glimpsed in the following figures: The Buchanan Committee, a special
House committee investigating lobbying, in May, 1950, sent out
questionnaires to 173 large corporations seeking information relative
to lobbying activity over a three-year period (Jan. 1, 1947, to June
30, 1950). Sixty-five corporations out of those replying spent,
according to their own admission, $2,194,519 for printing and
distributing leaflets, booklets, books and other material dealing with
public issues. Thirty-one reported spending $2,013,369 for advertising
covering public issues.

The out which is provided by advertising is illustrated by a report to
the Buchanan Committee from the NAM listing only 1.9 percent of the
NAM’s $4 million annual budget as allocated to legislative activities.
Not mentioned was the $2 million allotted for a public relations
program or the $395,850 revealed to have been spent, largely on
advertising, in the NAM campaign to abolish price controls. Attacks on
specific legislative proposals, carried in ads whose costs were
deductible, have been common. The Guaranty Trust Company of New York
placed an ad in Business Week of April 4, 1949, which assailed
President Truman’s recommendations to the 1949 Congress. The oft
repeated refrain, “the proposed program is Socialistic,” appears once
more and again we pay for purely political propaganda.

Business Week of September 2, 1950, carried an ad for the National
Education Campaign of the American Medical Association appealing for
aid in “the medical profession’s $1 million advertising campaign . .
.designed to tell every American the truth about state Socialism.” Did
this money escape taxation also through legitimate business
expense”—or perhaps, as a “donation for educational purposes”?

Listing of them as donations for educational purposes exempts from
taxation one series of ads brought to our attention. The Small
Business Economic Foundation, “a non-profit organization to develop
and promote a better understanding of the American Way of Life,” is
running a series (up to 105 at last count) of “educational ads” in the
Midwest, South and Far West. While the ads do not seem to attack any
specific measures on the surface, Dewitt Emery, President of the
Foundation, is evidently not taking any chances. Contributions are
tax-exempt on the grounds of education. We “explain to workers the
advantages of our free competitive system of business” is his promise.

A majority of the ads we’ve seen in this series are aimed at taxation.
“Do you wonder where your money goes?” is a favorite question, posed
with many variations and always in bold black type. “In less than five
years, the federal government spent more of YOUR MONEY than it spent
during the ENTIRE FIRST 152 YEARS OF OUR NATION.” “You Pay Income
Taxes!” “You Pay Business Taxes!”

Since the Small Business Economic Foundation seems to be against all
taxes, obviously their ads have little or no bearing on the
Constitutional amendment to limit taxes now. circulating the country.
“You have no Constitutional right to keep one penny of your income,”
the Foundation screams across a full page in the Des Moines Register
of February 6, 1952. “In 1949 the government took one-fourth of all
the money earned by the American people. How much more of your income
are you going to spend for government?” After this the “millionaires’
amendment,” limiting personal and corporate taxes to 25 percent of
income, sounds appealing.

Number 99 in this series of educational efforts tells us to “GO BACK
TO SLEEP, if you don’t care. . . . “ Then follows an interesting list:
“If you don’t care that the government has invested, committed or
guaranteed billions of dollars of your tax money in various
non-veteran enterprises . . . whether your money is loaned in a
business you never heard of, or to non-veterans who couldn’t get a
loan from a private bank . . . if you don’t care that, in the year
1951, BILLIONS of your tax money was loaned to non-veteran privileged
groups—GO BACK TO SLEEP.” (Our Italics) Evidently veterans’ groups are
too sacred—or too big—for the Foundation.

The Foundation does not neglect to do its bit for isolationism and
consequently for Stalin. “How much longer can you pay to support your
family, our defense program and continue to support the rest of the
world?” Not long is Mr. Emery’s fond hope. “103 Billion DOLLARS of
Americans’ earnings were given away.”

“We’re healthy and wealthy. . . . But how wise are we?” Not very, the
Foundation replies several ads later: “Socialism is government
ownership or control of the means of production [factories and
businesses] and governments get this power by different methods”(All
this is in caps, 36-point, bold-face type.) In Russia the method is by
“violence,” in Britain, “nationalization” and in “America, instead of
actually taking over the means of production from private owners, our
government has . . . (the rest follows in caps, 24-point, boldface
type) unlimited power to tax the earnings of businesses! So now the
owners can keep only 1/8 of what their business earn. This is
Socialism in Disguise!”

We quote the following in full since it is repeated throughout the
series and is a gem of its kind:

If we are to stop Socialism in disguise, we must insist that our tax
money be used only for defense and for this moral purpose

of God preceded all manmade laws and are superior to them. Therefore,
the purpose of our government must be . . . “To make and enforce laws
which protect every individual’s God-given life, liberty and the right
to earn and hold property from the interference of any other
individual or group—and these laws must also protect people from the
government itself.”

Since an individual cannot lawfully interfere with the Life, Liberty
or Property of another individual, then a moral government cannot
lawfully interfere with the Life, Liberty or Property of individuals
or groups.

The National Small Businessmen’s Association, the parent body of the
Foundation, is a registered lobby. The Foundation has the blessing of
the largest oil and rubber in the country.

One member of Congress, Sen. Hubert Humphrey (D, Minn.), has opened
the way for an investigation into political propaganda by way of
advertising. On April 1, Senator Humphrey told his colleagues that
“newspapers and other publications and periodicals of America are
flooded with what amounts to outright political advertising. One of
the loopholes in our present laws affecting campaign expenditures is
the use of political advertising by business concerns who deduct the
cost from their tax returns.”

Humphrey has called upon the Treasury Department to study its statutes
on this question and, if they are adequate, to regulate the growing
abuse. If the statutes are not adequate, Senator Humphrey plans to
press for legislation to meet the problem. Holding up ads sponsored by
the McGraw-Hill and Safeway Corporations, Humphrey charged that a
recent Safeway “food and freedom” ad is “nothing but a wholesale
attack upon the Defense Production Administration.” McGraw Hill’s ad
entitled “Some Things are Worse Than Strikes” has nothing to do with
the business of that company. Such ads are not only discriminatory in
terms of other taxpayers (who must pay for the privilege of
advertising their political views out of personal expenses), but are
an open form of lobbying.

We have covered but a bare sampling of the material we have received
over a four-month period. We have not discussed the role of such
organizations as the NAM and the Foundation for Economic Education in
the promotion of reactionary propaganda on a scale with which liberals
cannot compete unless protected by a tax policy which does not allow
exemption for expenditures on obviously political projects.

Socialists are alarmed by the nature of an attack on labor and all
liberal ideas which hot only masks itself as an attack on Socialism
but also slurs over the gulf between Stalinist totalitarianism and
democratic Socialism. This attack will increase in intensity with the
approach of the fall elections. Among our strongest allies in the free
world’s contest with totalitarian Communism are the democratic
Socialists of Europe and Asia, and they will watch our electioneering
and its results closely. If the lies of reactionary ad propaganda go
unanswered and unchallenged in the coming campaign, the repercussions
abroad will be severe.

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