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PROPERTY INCOME IN THE UNITED STATES.
BY PROFESSOR Scott NEARING.
The toll exacted each year_by the owners of incomeyielding property is enormous. The figures are not all available, but corporations alone report to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue a total capital stock of $61,738,000,000; and a total bonded indebtedness of $34,750,000,000. These figures include the wealth value controlled by those corporations which are engaged in financial and commercial enterprises, in public services, in industrial and manufacturing enterprises, mercantile activities, and in such miscellaneous activities as architects, contractors, hotels, theatres, etc. The figures do not include any unincorporated business in these fields.
It is possible to add to the figures cited by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue many other sources from which property income might be derived.
The most important items in property income in addition to the facts published by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue are included in house rent, farm rent, interest on mortgages, and similar charges. The Census figures in this field are incomplete and inadequate, yet taking the Census statements regarding the total number of families, the value of city real estate, the value of farm real estate, and adding to them the figures published by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue for corporations (the probable amount of income yielded by the property controlled through other than corporate agencies), it appears that the total income now paid to property owners in the United States is well above the six billion dollar mark.
No claim can be made for the accuracy of this estimate. The thirty-four and three-quarter billions of corporate bonds reported by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue surely pay an average of 5 per cent. interest; that is, a billion and three-quarters to start with. The sixty-one and three quarter billions of capital stock pays at least some dividends. House rent, interest on mortgages, farm rent, interest on public debt, and the various other sources from_which property owners derive income all add their quota. Even at that, the facts can touch only the obvious sources of property income payments.
Grant, for the sake of argument, that the annual income paid to property owners in the United States is equal to six billions a year. There are probably ten million families in the United States which spend less than $500 a year; there are probably twelve million families in the United States, which, together, would have an annual expenditure averaging
$500. The six billions of property income would pay all of the expenses of these twelve million families, or, added to their incomes, would raise them to a level of income respectability.
The estimates on which these conclusions are based are in every case conservative to the last degree. The truth cannot be stated in figures, because the facts for accurate statements do not exist. Figures are used in order to make the matter concrete and real. It is neither practicable nor is it necessary to fix the amount of property income paid at five, six, or seven billions annually: The significant, vital fact is that property income payments are being reckoned not in hundreds of millions, but in billions. The figures for corporate bonded indebtedness published by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue alone establish this fact. It is the fact, and not the amount, that is important.
These figures relate to the incomes now being paid to property owners. The matter may be approached in another way by asking what are the possible sources of property income in the United States at the present time. The largest single group of figures is published by the Bureau of the Census, in its bulletin on “The Estimated Valuation of National Wealth,” Washington, 1915, page 15. According to the census estimate, the total wealth of the United States in 1912 was $187,739,000,000. Of this amount, more than half ($98,363,000,000) was in the form of real property and improvements, taxed. Real property and improvements, untaxed, add another twelve billions to the total property valuation. Farm implements and machinery, manufacturing, implements and machinery, railroads and other public utilities aggregate the vast total of national wealth. Clothing and personal adornments (non-income yielding wealth) are stated at only four and one quarter billions, while furniture, carriages and kindred property is stated at eight and a half billions. Thus the strictly personal property of the country constitutes less than 7% of the total wealth credited to the United States in 1912.
These Census figures obviously do not all represent income yielding property. If the 96 billions of corporate business property reported. by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, the 41 billions of farm values and the 5 billions of public debt are added, there appears a total of approximately 140 billions of income yielding property. These sources alone would yield at 5 per cent, an annual income to property owners of 7 billions..
The second method of computing the total of potential income-yielding property, while less accurate, is far more inclusive. The Internal Revenue figures should be increased by perhaps fifteen or twenty billions so as to include the unincorporated business properties. The city and town real estate, not owned by firms or corporations, must equal tens of billions additional. A highly conservative statement of the problem would place the value of potential income-yielding property in the United States at a sum very considerably in excess of 170 billions.
The figures stagger the imagination. They are unthinkably vast, yet they represent, though only roughly, the facts of possible income-yielding property values in the United States.
The possibilities of property income from the total income yielding property may be suggested. If the potential income-yielding property of the country (estimated as "considerably in excess of 170 billions”) paid a return at the rate of 3 per cent on its stated value, the total amount of property income would be considerably more than five billions of dollars. If it paid a return of 6 per cent, the total amount of property income would be considerably more than ten billions of dollars. These are the sums that might be paid annually to the owners of property in the United States.
The totals for possible property income may be compared with some service income totals. The wages and salaries paid by the manufacturing industries of the United States in 1909 were $4,365,612,851; the wages and salaries paid by the railroads in 1912 were $1,252,347,697; the wages and salaries paid by all of the mines and quarries in 1909 were $640,167,630. Together these figures total only six and a half billions.
LOW WAGES AND PROSTITUTION.*
The question as to whether the low wages paid to women workers are an appreciable cause of prostitution has been much discussed, and, if the truth be told, but little studiedat least until very recently. It is true that nearly every Vice Report for the last two decades has expressed an opinion on the question-and this opinion has almost invariably been that there is little or no connection between the two elements—but the problem has always been dealt with collaterally, as a small adjunct to an investigation of the general problem of prostitution, and an inquiry into this particular phase of it has rarely been made one of the express objects of research. Nevertheless, commissions seem to have felt it necessary to express an opinion on the subject, doubtless because of the great public interest therein. It remained for the Vice Committee of the Illinois State Senate to cover the ground exhaustively. This committee
was appointed in 1913, and, after three years of thoroughgoing and painstaking investigation into this and other phases of the vice problem, has just published the results of its inquiry. Its finding is unequivocal, clear-cut, and of unmistakable import:
“Your committee finds ... that thousands of girls are driven into prostitution because of the sheer inability to keep body and soul together on the low wages received by them.”
Now it is well known that there is an organized business of prostitution; that it is tremendously profitable for its owners—who by the way are practically all men—; and what is most important that the business's supply of prostitutes is not equal to the demand. Miss Jane Addams says: “Over and over again in the criminal proceedings against the men engaged in this traffic, when questioned as to their motives, they have given the simple reply 'that more girls are needed' and that they were promised big money for them.”
General Bingham, former Police Commissioner of New York City says: "The procurer
keeps up the supply of women, which except for his industrious labors would fall far below its present volume . so unwilling are women to debase themselves, that the cadet, the dance hall, the Raines Law hotel, false marriages, drink, and even physical force are necessary to keep the hideous thing alive."
The Procurer's Opportunity. Can a more likely recruiting ground for the labors of procurers be imagined than the ranks of $6 a week working women who need $8 to live? Not only are they in the field, but they seem to concentrate their efforts on the women suffering under the greatest economic pressure--a natural enough policy. It goes without saying that a woman with no job is worse off than a woman with one, even though that job net but $6 a week. Accordingly it has been found that employment agencies are frequently used as a recruiting ground by these procurers, and, in some cases it was, discovered that the agencies were in active co-operation with them. The Illinois Commission speaks of the “manager who found his factory besieged with the agents of professional white slavery". (p. 35). This factory is not an exception to the rule, if evidence gathered by a number of investigations is to be believed. Cheap amusement places, the only kind that a $6 a week woman would be likely to patronize, are also infested with these human vultures.
But the greatest danger the working woman faces is the "gentleman friend”-he who stands ready to bridge the deficit in return for a sacrifice of virtue. One of the most remarkable findings of the Illinois Committee was that of the existence of the “call-girl system, serving 'respectable' men with ‘respectable' girls and protecting the reputation of both. How many thousands of girls are enmeshed in its toils your committee is not in a position to state. The reports of the investigators, however, leave no doubt that the number is very large. Here the low wage received by working girls plays a part so conspicuous that none can ignore it as a vital factor in the insidious industry. That a large majority of the girls on "call lists' that have been discovered, are in employment during the day time, is undisputed. Some of them are thus bridging the deficit between the wage paid, them and the cost of their existence.” A million women below the bread-line and a "call girl" system of colossal proportions. Is it possible that there is no connection? The place of the “gentleman friend" as a supplementary source of income has even been recognized by employers. Says the Federal Report on Woman Labor (1911): "The story of the superintendent of employees who says to the girl protesting against the small wage ‘but haven't you a man friend to help support you?' is current in every city. Its very prevalence is the best proof of its truth" (Vol. 5, p. 30). A correspondent of the Illinois Commission writes: "The girls the Vice Commission interviewed were the girls in the brothels—those girls whose lives are closed-but they are not so horribly pitiable as the girls with whom I come in constant contact-who are eking out that shortage in wage by occasional delinquency. The woman who is in the gutter cannot tear at your heart strings like the girl you are watching as she starts and pursues that road. ... I would rather watch a girl dying by inches." (p. 828.)
The First Step Downward. Often a struggling girl's first step downward is taken not with a view to immediate pecuniary reward but in the hope of future support. Says the Illinois Commission "The presumption is incontrovertible that the girl whose means are inadequate properly to meet the items of a bare existence is least fortified to resist prenuptial demands, the denial of which she may fear will cost a husband, while the granting might open the matrimonial door of escape from all the miseries of starvation. . : . The girl gambles rather than makes open sale.” (p. 30.)
Often the girl loses in this "gamble" for matrimonial support, for men know and play upon her anxiety to marry. She becomes a prey to men, who, as the Chicago Commission of 1911 says, "are so low that they have lost even a sense of sportsmanship, and who seek as their game an under-fed,