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Notes of the Month

The Roosevelt Message

(September 1942)

From The New International, Vol. VIII No. 8, September 1942, pp. 228–229.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan.

In April of this year, President Roosevelt set forth his economic program to prevent inflation and bring about an “equality of sacrifice” by all the classes in the conversion of economy to a war basis. The program he then presented was over-all; it covered taxation, price ceilings, the stabilization of wages and farm prices, increase of bond sales to drain off additional millions from the people, nationwide rationing of essential consumer commodities, the cessation of installment buying and the paying off of debts and mortgages.

From April until September 8, when the President made his fireside chat instructing Congress to act on his program lest he be compelled to use his extraordinary war powers to enforce individually such economic measures as he considers essential for the prosecution of the war, the legislative bodies did nothing or next to nothing. To say that Congress did nothing during these six months is not precisely correct. It did everything within its power to fortify the enrichment of the American bourgeoisie as a result of the war economy and concerned itself solely with placing the entire burden of the war on the backs of the American workers and poor farmers.

While there is general agreement between the Administration and Congress on the need to increase taxes on almost everything, Congress has been pondering on legislation designed to make the payments of the financiers and industrialists as light as possible, and those of the poor as heavy as the burden will carry. Everyone must pay taxes, say the reactionary congressmen, otherwise an unfair burden will be placed on those fortunate enough to own enormous fortunes. Thus, the person earning $is a week must be judged as economically responsible as the “captain of industry” earning |g,6oo a weekl The difference between the reactionary Congress and the New Dealist Administration is one of degree – how much to tax the low income population!

Six Months of the War

Price ceilings under congressional supervision and administrative control have been a farce. Here again, the working and lower middle classes have been the worst sufferers. There have, in truth, been no genuine price ceilings. Too many commodities were not given ceilings to begin with. Those under ban were unenforceable because no real instruments of control were devised (trade union and consumer committees).

Under the whip of the congressional farm bloc (the rich farmers) no action has been taken on farm prices to effect a genuine ceiling accruing to the interest of the poor farmer and the worker of the urban centers. Thus, the most important consumer commodities (foodstuffs) have continually increased in price, once again reducing the real wages of the workers.

Widespread rationing of essential commodities has not yet begun, but in this sphere too, no genuine controls are proposed with a view of creating a genuine equality in those goods most certain to be rationed in the coming months.

Pressure for the buying of war bonds increases and measures are now planned for enforced savings and buying bonds.

Curbs for installment buying have likewise been passed and are already in effect. These curbs will be made more stringent as consumer goods continue to decline.

In each instance, however, the Presidential program; if carried into effect, will result in a constant decline in the living standards of the masses. The President’s objection to congressional action, or lack of action, is political! He desires an “equality of sacrifice” under conditions where inequality reigns. He desires to “equalize the burdens” of war, where no equality is possible. Does he understand this? Indeed, he does. Therefore, he wants his program to look as palatable as possible. Therefore, his program for wage stabilization is predicated upon the stabilization of farm prices (food). Unless such stabilization or ceiling is achieved, Roosevelt knows there is trouble ahead. The workers are restless. Already they have assumed the real burden of the war program. They work long hours; they sacrifice everything for the war! A wage ceiling is in effect in practice. Consumer goods become scarcer. Vacations, with or without pay, are eliminated from industry. Double time for overtime work on Sundays and holidays has been canceled out. They have given up the right to strike, their conditions of labor, their union gains.

The workers know that the capitalist class and the rich farmers suffer not at all; they have given up nothing of importance. Union papers are afraid to publish figures on profits and earnings of the officers and directors of the large corporations for fear that the rank and file would become uncontrollable.

Contrasts Between Capital and Labor

Leon Henderson estimates that for the year 1942 corporations will earn $20,000,0000,000 (four times greater than 1939) and that after the payment of taxes they will have a net profit of $8,000,000,000 (two times greater than 1939)! Recently published reports of individual earnings by officials of the giant corporations leave one aghast at the tremendous individual fortunes being made out of the war. And this despite the promise of the President that “no one shall profit from the war.” Moreover, in the promulgation of heavy taxes against industry and finance, provisions are being made to rebate a portion of these payments after the war! To date, no proposal has been made to return to the workers a portion of their taxes after the war! And no action has been taken on the Presidential proposal for a limitation of income to $25,000 a year. Nor is such action likely.

The rising cost of living strikes hardest at the workers. Figures show that wage increases have not kept pace with the rise in prices. These are constantly out of proportion, a disproportion favoring the increased costs of all commodities. But this is only the beginning. The Cleveland Trust Co. Business Bulletin for September 15 points out that:

Conversion to war work is not confined to manufacturing industry. It is progressively continuing throughout almost all forms of business activity, although it is not always recognized for what it really is. Transportation, banking, construction, agriculture, engineering, medicine and higher education an rapidly becoming subsidiary agencies of our national war effort. War has already became our chief business, and the degree of its preponderance will continue to increase as long as the struggle lasts.

The war budget by the month of August reached the staggering amount of 223 billion dollars. Less than one-fifth of this amount has been spent and only a little more than halt of this amount has been “committed by contracts or letters of intent.” But already the national economy has been drastically altered. A full realization of the program means a drastic destruction of the “American way of life” – for the masses only!

The President’s effort to make more palatable the destruction of the living standards of the masses will be unavailing. His director of OPA has already indicated what is coming when he declared that “it is probable that in the next twelve to fifteen months we will get a civilian standard of living equivalent to 1932, which was the low of all lows during the depression.”

Given the continued existence of capitalism, the Workers Party has offered a partial program seeking the maintenance of the living standards of the masses during the war. It calls for a capital levy to cover the costs of the war and the confiscation of all profits! It calls for the conscription of all war industries under workers’ control! It calls for the expropriation of the “Sixty Families”! This sharply contrasts with the Roosevelt program. But the Roosevelt program, in its essence, is the “reformist” war program of the financial and industrial ruling class. The program of the Workers Party is the program of the masses.

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