’Tax and spend” comes from a 1938 statement by Works Progress Administration (WPA) Administrator Harry Hopkins (1890-1946)—Hopkins always denied the statement—declaring: “We are going to spend and spend and spend, tax and tax and tax and elect and elect and elect.”
The statement was allegeldy made by Hopkins to a group of friends while at the Empire Race Track in Yonkers, NY, but another story has the location as Laurel Park in Laurel, MD. Broadway producer Max Gordon had wanted to hire Norman Lloyd for Sing Out the News, but Lloyd had been hired by the WPA’s Federal Theatre for Sing for Your Supper. Lloyd got fired when Hopkins returned from the racetrack. Norman Lloyd wrote that he’d heard the story from Harry Hopkins’s son, David Hopkins. (See the 1993 citation, below.)
Regardless of whether or not Harry Hopkins ever actually said the exact words, “tax and spend” would become popularly associated with the New Deal programs at this time. “Tax and spend” is still used, usually by Republicans to attack Democrats.
Wikipedia: Tax and spend
Tax and Spend is an economic-political term for raising the tax burden in an economy so that more can be spent on state-provided services (public services). It is most often used pejoratively by political opponents to describe the economic approach of socialist-leaning systems of government.
It appears the formulation first appeared in print in a 1938 New York Times report written by Arthur Krock, quoting President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s trusted advisor Harry Hopkins, the Administrator of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a key agency of Roosevelt’s New Deal program:
“[Hopkins] met a criticism of this sinister combination by saying: ‘We will spend and spend, and tax and tax, and elect and elect.’”
(According to Krock, the “sinister combination” was Roosevelt, Hopkins, United States Postmaster General James Farley, and New Jersey Democratic political boss Frank Hague.)
Two weeks later, Hopkins and Krock argued the point in duelling letters to the editor of The New York Times. First Hopkins flatly denied he had ever laid out the “tax, spend, elect” formulation, but Krock asserted that “I used and printed the quotation after careful verification because, while it fitting completely into Mr. Hopkins’s political philosophy as I have understood it, I wanted to be certain of the language.” Krock also revealed that he had spoken with witnesses who claimed to have heard Hopkins make the comment at the Empire Race Track in Yonkers, New York, including a “reputable citizen” who was “in lighter hours, a playmate of Mr. Hopkins.” The phrase endured.
Wikipedia: Harry Hopkins
Harry Lloyd Hopkins (August 17, 1890 – January 29, 1946) was one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s closest advisers. He was one of the architects of the New Deal, especially the relief programs of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which he directed and built into the largest employer in the country. In World War II he was Roosevelt’s chief diplomatic advisor and troubleshooter and was a key policy maker in the $50 billion Lend Lease program that sent aid to the allies.
24 July 1938, New York (NY) Times, “Broadway Gossip,” pg. 119:
Robert Gordon now is directing the sketches for “Sing for Your Supper,” which also has acquired the services of Norman Lloyd.
Google News Archive
26 October 1938, Daily Times (Beaver and Rochester, PA), “Great Game of Politics” by Frank R. Kent, pg. 10, col. 3:
And he (President Franklin D. Roosevelt—ed.) has made of Mr. Hopkins, who under these accusations maintains a general attitude of denial but truculently tells friends at race tracks that “We are going to spend and spend and spend, tax and tax and tax and elect and elect and elect”—he makes of this Mr. Hopkins the prime White House favorite and a political adviser.
Google News Archive
1 November 1938, Daily Times (Beaver and Rochester, PA), “Great Game of Politics” by Frank R. Kent, pg. 10, col. 5:
NO ONE has expressed this idea more forcefully than Mr. Hopkins, head of the WPA, who last summer in his hours of ease told his Saratoga race track and poker friends that “We are going to spend and spend and spend, tax and tax and tax, elect and elect and elect.”
10 November 1938, New York (NY) Times, “In The Nation” by Arthur Krock, pg. 26:
Mr. Hopkins would demur, but he is more candid, less self-deceptive. At any rate, something of what Al Smith calls “this Bowery argument” animates him openly, as he proved when, according to usually reliable people, he said at Saratoga this Summer: “We will spend and spend, and tax and tax, and elect and elect.”
13 November 1938, New York (NY) Times, “Revolt of electorate ends one-party rule” by Arthur Krock, pg. 73:
It is this group which generated the arrogant and cynical confidence of which Administrator Harry L. Hopkins became the spokesman to a group at the Yonkers (not Saratoga) race track: “We will spend an spend, tax and tax, elect and elect.”
23 November 1938, New York (NY) Times, “Letters to The Times,” pg. 26:
Mr. Hopkins Excepts
WPA Administrator and Mr, Krock Differ on a Quatation
TO THE EDITOR OF THE NEW YORK TIMES:
In THE NEW YORK TIMES, under Washington dateline of Nov. 12, Arthur Krock, in a direct quotation, reports me as having said, “We will spend and spend, tax and tax, elect and elect.”
I have never made such a statement and there is no basis in fact for such a quotation.
HARRY L. HOPKINS,
Administrator, Works Progress Administration.
Washington, Nov. 21, 1938.
Mr. Krock Replies
TO THE EDITOR OF THE NEW YORK TIMES:
This quotation of Mr. Hopkins’s views was first published elsewhere, and in September, long before THE NEW YORK TIMES issue of Nov. 12, and between those dates it was often reprinted, twice by me. I used and reprinted the quotations after careful verification because, while it fitted completely into Mr. Hopkins’s political philosophy as I have understood it, I wanted to be certain of the language.
Among those who heard it is a most reputable citizen of New York and, in lighter hours, a playmate of Mr. Hopkins. They were at the Empire race track in Yonkers at the time and were discussing spending and the New Deal in serious vein. Had the quotation not previously been published, or had I not verified it and been assured that it was said seriously, I should not have reprinted the remark.
I am sorry Mr. Hopkins is embarrassed by the publication, and I can well understand that it may cause special difficulties with the Senate if he is nominated to the Cabinet. But, since I know the informant to be accurate, and since his recreational associations with Mr. Hopkins are very close, I can only conclude that Mr. Hopkins has forgotten the incident, though he should easily recognize the consistency of the remark.
Washington, Nov. 23, 1938.
26 November 1938, New York (NY) Times, pg. 6:
Second Letter to The Times
Asserts he Did Not Make
Quotation Ascribed to Him
ASKS “SOURCE” BE TOLD
Krock Replies That he Verified
Statement Although Published
Widely and Not Then Denied
The statement by Arthur Krock in reply follows:
“The first reference I saw to the quotation from Mr. Hopkins was published Sept. 25, 1938, not in THE NEW YORK TIMES, but in many other newspapers.”
“The friend who quoted Mr. Hopkins as substantially repeated is of excellent repute and not at all hard of hearing. He is at liberty to reveal himself if he so desires. I learned his identity in confidence and that confidence—unless I am released—I shall maintain.”
RELIEF: New Targets
Monday, Dec. 05, 1938
To the New York Times Harry Hopkins wrote a letter denying that he ever said, as reported by Timesman Arthur Krock and others: “We will spend and spend, tax and tax, elect and elect” (TIME, Nov. 21). Timesman Krock replied: “Among those who heard it is a most reputable citizen of New York and, in lighter hours, a playmate of Mr. Hopkins. They were at the Empire [City] race track in Yonkers at the time. . . . Had I not verified it and been assured that it was said seriously, I should not have reprinted the remark. I am sorry Mr. Hopkins is embarrassed by the publication, and I can well understand that it may cause special difficulties with the Senate if he is nominated to the Cabinet. But, since I know the informant to be accurate, and since his recreational associations with Mr. Hopkins are very close, I can only conclude that Mr. Hopkins has forgotten the incident, though he should easily recognize the consistency of the remark.”
Anyone who challenges the accuracy of the Times’s Krock, who last spring won a Pulitzer Prize for an interview with Franklin Roosevelt, has indeed made a challenge, but Mr. Hopkins wrote again to the Times, again disowning the quotation. This time Mr. Krock replied: “I saw him [Mr. Hopkins] on ... the very day of the publication to which he now so violently objects, and he said nothing about it at all. The friend who quoted Mr. Hopkins as substantially repeated is of excellent repute and not at all hard of hearing. ... I learned his identity in confidence.* . . .”
*Hopkins’ playmates include: Herbert Bayard Swope, Morton Schwartz, Max Gordon, Harold E. Talbott.
Google News Archive
15 December 1938, Spokane (WA) Daily Chronicle, “The Washington Merry-Go-Round” by Drew Pearson and Robert S. Allen, pg. 1, col. 1:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 15.—Friends of Harry Hopkins claim they have uncovered the real source of the hotly disputed remark attributed to him, “We will tax and tax, and spend and spend, and elect and elect.”
Arthur Krock, able Washington correspondent of the New York Times, charged the relief administrator with making the statement at a race track. Hopkins wrote a letter to the Times denying authorship and demanding that Krock reveal his source. Krock refused, saying he was pledged to secrecy, but insisted that the informant was reliable.
Now intimates of Hopkins say the original author of the statement was Berney Baruch, millionaire New York financier and bitter secret foe of Hopkins; also that General Hugh Johnson, ex-NRA boss and one-time business associate of Baruch, publicly quoted Baruch as having said it.
As their proof, Hopkins’ friends cite a speech made by Johnson September 13, 1933, at a merchants’ association banquet in New York, in which he said, “Some months ago one of our greatest liberal statesmen, Barnard Baruch, said in a speech advising action, something like this: ‘Tax, tax everybody for everything—spend, spend for re-employment...’”
Google News Archive
11 January 1939, San Jose (CA) News, pg. 10, col. 1:
DOUBT IF HE SAID IT
Harry Hopkins, former big boss of the WPA who has been nominated for secretary of commerce, denied emphatically—in fact, almost tearfully—that he ever made the statement, so frequently attributed to him, “We will spend and spend, tax and tax, elect and elect.”
The News has no particular fondness for Hopkins. We do not, however, believe he ever made this statement.
To say such a thing would be so outrageous that any public official who did so would need to have his head examined. And, with whatever fault he has, Hopkins is not at all dumb.
12 January 1939, New York (NY) Times, “Hopkins Concedes It Was His Error To Talk Politics” by Charles W. Hurd, pg. 1:
he reiterated his denial of the “spend-tax-elect” statement after Chairman Bailey had read a sworn letter from Frank R. Kent, author of a syndicated newspaper column, who was the original reporter of the statement. Mr. Kent reiterated that a personal friend of Mr. Hopkins twice so quoted him.
Arthur Krock, Washington correspondent of THE NEW YORK TIMES, later testified that he had verified Mr. kent’s report to his own satisfaction; and Joseph W. Alsop Jr., co-author of a syndicated newspaper column, told the committee that he had verified from other sources the attribution of the quotation to Mr. Hopkins by an intimate friend.
All declined to name the source of their information, in line with traditional practice requiring that news correspondents keep in confidence their sources of information unless and until these sources voluntarily release them from a confidence.
Jim Farley’s story: the Roosevelt years
By James Aloysius Farley
New York, NY: Whittlesey House
Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1938, I talked with Arthur Krock of the New York Times, who was still engaged in controversy with Harry Hopkins over the remark, “We will spend and spend, and tax and tax, and elect and elect.’ The remark, carried by Krock in a Washinton report, was widely quoted by the opposition. Hopkins had denied it and was still denying it weeks after the election. Krock told me the story of the remark and how he got it. I must respect his confidence, but I am satisfied it was made as quoted. I have every reason to believe it was said by Hopkins to Max Gordon and at least one other (Pg. 157—ed.) person at the Yonkers, New York, Empire Race Track in August of 1938.
Google News Archive
13 March 1983, St. Petersburg (FL) Evening Independent, “Independent Action” by Pat Fenner, pg. 11A, col. 4:
According to Henry H. Adams in the biography Harry Hopkins: “Actually, the remark originated in a casual conversation with Max Gordon, Heywood Broun and Daniel Arnstein at the Empire City Race Track the previous summer. neither of the latter two remembered anything like the famous statement, or, indeed, anything worthy of quotation. Even Gordon, a well-known theatrical producer, admitted that Hopkins had not actually said those words, but ‘that’s what he meant.’
“Viewed dispassionately, the words do not seem to be Hopkins’ style. They bear all the marks of a well-rounded punch line in a Broadway comedy or revue. Hopkins’s style was bluff, abrupt and impromtu. The famous quotation has too much of the literary polish to be convincing for an offhand remark.”
Stages of life in theatre, film and television
By Norman Lloyd
New York, NY: Limelight Ed.
At the racetrack near Washington, D.C., Max Gordon ran into Harry Hopkins, of the Roosevelt administration. Max asked him, “What kind of theatre are you running there?” Hopkins wanted to know what he meant. “The Federal Theatre. You know Norman Lloyd? I offered him a job at two hundred and fifty dollars a week and he insists on staying at the Federal Theatre at twenty-three eight-seven.” Hopkins replied with the line that became famous, and for which he is well known. “That’s how we run things. Tax, tax, spend, spend, elect, elect.” I heard about it many years later from his son, David Hopkins.
Voices from the Federal Theatre
By Bonnie Nelson Schwartz
Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press
Max Gordon, the producer of the show, meets Harry Hopkins at the racetrack in Laurel, Maryland. He said, “What are you running over there?” Hop said, “What are you talking about?”
He said, “Well, I offered Norman Lloyd a part in Sing Out the News, and he turned me down to stay in Sing for Your Supper on the Federal Theatre.” Hopkins said, “Oh, don’t you know, that’s what we do: Tax, tax, spend, spend, elect, elect.” He went right back to his office after the last race, sent a wire to Hallie, said, “Fire him.” And she very apologetically had to let me go. Now I had no job.
Feb 21st, 2009 at 2:58 pm
Commerce Cabinet Crisis VII: Harry Hopkins
February 21st, 2009 at 5:28 pm
As you say, “the apocryphal strategy “We will tax and tax, and spend and spend, and elect and elect” is typically attributed…” to Harry Hopkins, but it was made up out of whole cloth.
Hopkins denied saying it immediately after it was printed, and all the evidence suggests it was bullshit — too bad, in my view: it’s a great quote.
But the story goes that a Broadway producer named Max Gordon, the writer Heywood Broun, and Hopkins were at the track one day. According to Broun, Hopkins was mostly bored (which I would guess meant he was losing). Afterward, Gordon pushed the faked quote to FDR’s opponents in the media, notably Arthur Krock of the NY Times, who made it famous. When challenged about the quote, Gordon explained ‘that’s not what he said but that’s what he meant’.
Broun backed Hopkins: he never said it. But Krock rather lamely explained attributing the quote to Hopkins and giving it wide circulation, by pretending that he had tried to determine if it was “an offhand remark”, which (he claimed) would have meant the NYT wouldn’t use it. [That Hopkins argued that he had never said anything like it seems to indicate a higher standard of proof would be in order, e.g., calling Hopkins to confirm it or getting somebody who was there to back it explicitly, as Gordon would not: but maybe that’s just me.]
Tellingly, years later Krock had a similar story about Dwight Eisenhower saying something pithy in private, and in that case, he refused to print it BECAUSE “important men” shouldn’t be quoted in public with what they say in private.
The more things change….
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Sunday, May 30, 2010 • Permalink