This section of the book is from the "Introduction To Public Finance" book, by Carl Copping Plehn.
The larger part of the income, however, came from taxes which could not well be tampered with. The tariff had been so long a subject of controversy that there was little desire to alter its recent settlement. For reasons already made clear, there were many parts of the tariff which could not well be changed. Except in a very few instances, the income to be obtained from it would not be increased by raising the rates. In the great majority of instances to raise the rates would have been to lessen the receipts, while to lower those rates for the purpose of increasing the income by allowing larger importations would have been to remove the protection afforded by them. This was contrary to the avowed policy of the administration. It would, moreover, have served to disturb industry and to perplex its leaders at a time already sufficiently disquieting, and might have proved but an aggravation of the disturbance caused by the war. The great body of the customs rates, of which there are thousands on the tariff schedules, are not productive of much revenue and are not intended to be. They are there to restrict importations. These certainly could not well be changed. Of the bare dozen or so of articles of importation which do yield a revenue, sugar, one of the most important, was likely to be interfered with by the war. At the existing rates, sugar imported should yield a revenue of about $80,000,000 a year, but at least half of the importation was jeopardised by the war itself, and it would have been highly impolitic to have changed the rate at this time. Iron, which was once a source of considerable revenue, was, in consequence of the changes which have taken place in that industry, and of the protective features of the customs law, not available to provide new revenues, as the importations are at best small. Cotton goods, the tax upon which yields considerable revenue, were protected; so were manufactures of hemp, flax, and jute, of leather and of wool. Drugs, medicines, and chemicals were already taxed up to the limit of productiveness, from a revenue point of view. In short, there were but four important articles imported which might be used to yield additional revenue. These were hides and skins, raw silk, tea and coffee. To tax hides and skins or raw silk would, probably, under the prevailing theory of " compensatory " duties, have involved an increase in the rates on the products manufactured from them, to maintain the same degree of protection that those products now enjoy. That would have reopened the whole tariff controversy, and have rendered the outcome of the war revenue measure extremely doubtful. Clearly it were wisest, considering how recently the tariff issue had been temporarily settled, to leave them alone. As a matter of fact, then, there are only two articles in the whole list of importations which might be considered by the Secretary of the Treasury in his search for new income. These were tea and coffee, which might, perhaps, have been made to yield together nearly $80,000,000 additional revenue. That was approximately all that could be expected from the tariff.
In the war revenue bill, as presented to the House of Representatives by the Committee on Ways and Means, of which Mr. Dingley was chairman, there was no suggestion of using the tariff in any way for obtaining additional revenue. It was not until the very end of the long discussion of the measure in the Senate that it was proposed to put a duty of ten cents a pound on tea. That measure passed the Senate and was accepted by the conference between the two Houses and by the House of Representatives without any public discussion as to its merits. The reason for this duty, as for the omission of coffee from the list, is therefore not clear. The tax on tea is an important matter. The yield will be over $10,000,000 per annum. A similar tax on coffee, which would have been at the rate of 8.5 cents per pound, would have yielded about $70,000,000 more. It is, therefore, somewhat surprising that it should have attracted so little attention from the members of Congress.