Upton Sinclair: The war system, bankers recouping the costs of war propaganda
From Boston (1928)
And later on, when dinner was over and the maid dismissed, the great lawyer settled himself into an easy chair with an ash-holder on the arm, and with the utmost tactfulness steered the conversation onto the subject of German propaganda; with the result that his mother-in-law put him on the griddle. “Tell me, Henry, how much do the Boston banks stand to lose if the Germans win?”
“Is this for publication, Mother?” The cloud of cigarette smoke did not obscure the twinkle in Henry’s fine dark eyes.
“Your name is not for publication, Henry. I’m told it’s a hundred million dollars.”
“Round figures are generally exaggerated. As a matter of fact it would be everything the Boston banks have, because when a panic like that got started, nobody could say where it would stop.”
“And that’s why we have to go in?”
“We live under a system, Mother. Maybe you know how to change it, I don’t.”
“And what’s this I hear about you and Rupert taking over the Haupt electric works”
“Jehoshaphat! Where did you get that?”
“Well, I have sources of information. I suppose that is the system too – our leading bankers getting the cost of their war-propaganda!”
“Well, Mother, we can’t expect the Germans to pay it for us; and if we do go in, we surely can’t leave the manufacture of our war-supplies to the enemy!”
“The fact that you and Rupert and James are getting your lines on Haupt Electric means that we are really going in, then?”
“Of course, Mother, we’re going in…”
So Rupert and Henry got possession of the great property for one-twentieth of its market value, and turned out the German-American executives, and put in some younger sons of the “blue-bloods,” and were ready to manufacture war supplies and sell them to the government at the highest possible prices. And the government was ready to buy with patriotic fervor. If the business men of the country made big profits, they could pay high wages, and enlarge the plants, and increase the product, and there would be prosperity for everyone except the Kaiser.