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Government Retrenchment and Government Corruption Previous Next
Digital History ID 3113


In recent years, politicians from both parties have called for efforts to eliminate wasteful government expenditures and to balance the federal budgets. During the late 1870s and 1880s, retrenchment was a very serious matter, especially in the South. Salaries of many government officials were slashed dramatically. Some southern states reduced by half. To discourage its legislature from remaining in session too long, Texas cut the pay of legislators from $5 to $2 a day if they met for more than 60 days every two years.

Ironically, the attempts to scale back government spending coincided with a spectacular wave of government corruption. Iowa built a new state capitol only to find out that its foundation stones had cracked and had to be replaced. New York spent $13 million on a county court house, including $100,000 on a table and chairs. In Louisiana, a state treasurer was accused of stealing $777,000. His counterpart in Tennessee was accused of taking $400,000. One Republican Senator, Joseph Foraker, received more than $44,000 in "lobbying fees" in a single year from John D. Rockefeller.

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