Farm Collector Blogs > Looking Back

Some Things Never Change

Sam MooreI’m not a political person, but since that’s all we hear nowadays on the media, here’s my little contribution, and naturally it’s historical.

Did’ja ever wonder what our Congressmen do for a living? Besides running for office, that is.

Back in 1937 the 75th Congress was convened during a time when the Great Depression, which had eased somewhat in 1936, had recently suffered a relapse. An editorial in the March 1937 issue of Country Gentleman magazine had this to say about the body.

NOT ENOUGH LOG CABINS

A diligent perusal of the biographical section of the new Congressional Directory–wherein members are permitted to state their qualifications, accomplishments and virtues–is apt to leave the voter with distinctly mixed emotions.

Naturally, we agriculturists rejoice to see that the baby chick industry at last has crashed through and is now represented in the House by the owner and operator of a hatchery in New Jersey. And everyone, of course, will be relieved to know that finally we have in Congress a chap who, according to his own testimony, understands the language of the Sioux Indians. Gradually, it seems, our most urgent national needs are being filled.

The member who declares himself a prospector wins our admiration for his business acumen; certainly there is no better place to dig for gold these days than in Washington. We are also a little dazzled by the forthright courage of the gentleman who admits that he was once a tax collector. Bless his heart, he probably reformed long ago and feels better now that he has made his confession. But the newly elected member who openly states that he has “traveled extensively on three continents in behalf of corporate interests” obviously goes too far in defying the political fates. A prince of privilege, eh? How did he get in?

Forty-two senators and congressmen earnestly ask us to believe they are farmers, but thirty of them, who admit they are also lawyers, realtors, manufacturers and what nots, plainly shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it–unless they can prove to the satisfaction of an investigating committee that they can milk a cow and plow a straight furrow. Apparently, only a round dozen of the forty-two are honest-to-John dirt farmers. The lawyers, incidentally, have tightened their scissor-hold on the Government, totting up 295 members of the profession in this session (that would have left 236 non-lawyers in the body. S.M.).

The 75th Congress seems to be ready for almost any emergency, since its membership includes a paper hanger, a clergyman, a radio announcer, two ex-sheriffs, a city fireman, several doctors and a couple of dentists, an actor, a railroad conductor, a professional baseball player and an ex-captain of the Harvard football team. Also a precocious fellow who says he was graduated from grammar school at age eleven–thus disproving the old adage that all smart kids die young.

The most depressing fact revealed in the volume is that only two members, both from Texas, were born in log cabins, and nary a one, so far as we can determine, in a prairie soddy or dugout. Obviously, what this country needs is more log cabins for our congressmen to be born in. After all, what sort of statesmanship and good sense can we expect to get out of the maternity wards of hospitals?

Actually, the percentages probably aren’t all that different from the very first U.S. Congress (1789-1791). It had 91 total members whose listed professions were: 34 lawyers, 15 soldiers, 12 planters/farmers, 11 businessmen/merchants, 6 clergymen, 5 statesmen/career politicians, 4 physicians, 3 teachers and 1 diplomat.

The latest Congress I can find numbers for is the 112th (2011-2012). With a total of 539 members (including 6 non-voting), the professions were: 209 businessmen and women, 208 public servants (career politicians?), 200 lawyers, 81 educators, 34 ag professionals (farmers?), 32 medical professionals, 17 journalists, 9 accountants, 9 scientists, 9 social workers, 9 military (Reserve and NG), 7 law enforcement, 5 clergy, 4 pilots, 4 Peace Corps, 2 pro football players, 2 screenwriters, 1 fire fighter, 1 astronaut, 1 filmmaker and 1 comedian. Some listed more than one profession so the numbers don’t add up, and of course some of these professions didn’t exist in 1789, or in 1937.

I guess the point Country Gentleman was making, is that these are the very people that write and enact complicated farm laws and programs and darned few of them know a thing about farming. Of course, the same can be said for the military, medicine, education and a lot of other subjects that they legislate on. Fortunately for us, they have all the expert, and deep-pocketed, lobbyists to advise them.

Heckuva way to run a country! Or is it? Should we bring back the log cabin?

– Sam Moore

Log cabin in Ohio

Log cabin at Beaver Creek State Park in Columbiana County, Ohio. (Photo by Sam Moore)