Friday / Weekend Open Lines

Friday, April 8th. On this date 103 years ago, the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, establishing direct popular election of senators. Previously, members of the Senate were elected by each state’s legislature. As the voting franchise expanded after the Civil War and into the Progressive Era, growing sentiment held that senators ought to be popularly elected in the same manner as representatives. Because of such developments, at least 29 states by 1913 were nominating senators on a popular basis for the legislatures to approve. In the elections of 2014, just 42 percent of citizens cast their ballots, the lowest percentage in at least 36 years. In the 2012 presidential election, not quite 62 percent voted. You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau online at <>.

Saturday, April 9th. This month in 1921, Iowa became the first state to enact a tax on cigarettes, rolling paper and associated paraphernalia. The tax was very modest, being just $1 per 1,000 cigarettes. Iowa today collects $1.36 per pack, ranking it just below the middle of states. The highest excise tax is levied by New York, a substantial $4.35. The lowest is found in Missouri — just 17 cents per pack. In 2014, state governments collected $17 billion in such taxes. Since 1997, the federal government has collected $157 billion in tobacco taxes.  There are 29 cigarette manufacturers in the U.S., and some 134 cigarette brands on the market, with annual sales of over $31 billion. Profile America is completing  its19th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sunday, April 10th. To borrow from some recent advertising slogans, although many Americans couldn’t imagine leaving home without them, and they’re everywhere they want to be, there was a time when credit cards were rare. They were issued only by individual merchants. But that proprietary limitation ended on this month in 1952, when the Franklin National Bank in New York launched a credit card for use by the customers of varied merchants. In this, the bank was following the lead of the Diners Club Card, created in 1950. Today in the U.S., credit card offers fill the mails. The financial sector, which includes some 96,000 banks, backs these offers through some 1,100 issuing establishments, which generate nearly $82 billion in annual revenue. You can find current data on the country’s economy by downloading the ‘America’s Economy’ mobile application at <>.