The processing tax was a controversial element of the AAA legislation.. In order to stimulate the depressed agricultural economy by raising prices, the AAA paid farmers not to produce. "The money to pay the farmers for cutting back production of about 30% was raised by a tax on companies that bought the farm products and processed them into food and clothing." (1) Scenes 14 through 17 demonstrate how this tax effected both the consumer and the middle man by juxtaposing disparate rhetorics.

(scenes 14-17) --click to hear re-enactment


scene 15: Park Avenue RestaurantWhen the staff of the Living Newspaper was not documenting factual information, it worked with dramatists to create scenes that dramatized certain issues. These scenes were footnoted as "creative" and often hinged on the implementation of differing rhetorics. Scenes 14 and 15 use rhetorical strategies to illustrate the tension between the consumer and the middle man. Both scenes take place in restaurants; however the first is a counter restaurant or diner and the second is an elegant bistro on Park Avenue . The rhetorical style of scene 14, in which a poor customer is faced with paying more for a bowl of oatmeal, is concise and matter-of-fact, while the language of scene 15 pronounces the calm assuredness of the of the middleman who relishes his profitable situation.. He explains the mechanics of the processing tax, noting frankly that though the tax is levied on manufacturers of commodities, in effect "it's the customer who pays."

Scene 16: DROUGHT

cattle die of starvationThis scene is a stylized depiction of the effects of the relentless drought afflicting the Midwest . A staccato dialogue between two voices, the first asking for the weather report and the second announcing in foreboding repetition: “Fair and Warmer” until the scene climaxes in the tragic and resigned exclamation of the farmer who cries “Dust!” Rhetorically, this scene evokes the inexorable advance of meteorological circumstances (footnoted to an article in the New York Times from August 12, 1934 calling 1934 the driest and hottest year on record) through its mechanical and repetitive quality. Herbert Halpert describes in his Activity Report on the Writing of Living Newspapers:

An example of the need for this understanding between the dramatist and the research worker is to be found in in the Living Newspaper's production of Triple-A Plowed Under. One sequence called for exhaustive information on drought conditions in the Middle West. Days were spent culling the news columns and other sources. The result was a scene in which ... a farmer, scooping up dried soil from the ground, uttered one tragic and pregnant word: "Dust!" This scene in its succintness, was hailed as one of the most effective in the play.


1. The Agricultural Adjustment Act,
2. Herbert Halpert, "Writing the Living Newspaper," Activity Report, National Service Bureau (NSB), FTP, Living Newspaper, NOGSF, Records of the WPA, RG69, NAB.