Carlos Hudson Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Jack Ranger

Tapping the Wall Street Wire

(2 December 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 48, 2 December 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The aim of Big Business, to legalize the former black market prices, is now complete. With practically all price controls scrapped, OPA officials snickeringly refer to their agency as the Office of Rice Administration, rice being almost the only commodity left under control. But it isn’t a funny situation at all. For the people of this nation, it spells tragedy. Here, for your record, is what has happened in the first four days since President Truman’s sweeping decontrol order of November 9:

General Motors announced it had immediately increased prices of all cars and trucks $100. Willys-Overland increased prices on jeeps and station wagons by $44 and $48 respectively. Zenith raised prices of. its radios from 2 to 20 per cent. Carpets went up 5–10 per cent. Some cotton goods went up 25 per cent. Gum turpentine went up 20 cents a gallon. International Harvester increased prices on all farm implements and tractors 9 per cent. Minneapolis-Moline farm equipment went up 10 per cent. U.S. Steel announced it would raise prices of those products “now being sold below cost.” ... The New York Journal of Commerce predicted that decontrol would drive the general commodity price level up about 10–12 per cent the first week.

“Businessmen Tormented”

“Pricing dilemmas forment businessmen,” writes the Wall Street Journal. Manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, are being torn between their ingrained cupidity and their fear that the consumers won’t and can’t take it ... The AFL recently compared food advertisements published in Washington, D.C., newspapers in June 1939, and those appearing November 1, 1946. “Increases as high as 500 and 600 per cent were noted in basic and routine items on the average American table,” said the AFL. The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, on the other hand, says its retail price index shows “only” an 86.2 per cent increase for the same period. Guess it depends on who does the figuring ... The Journal of Commerce’s daily index of 30 sensitive commodity prices has risen 50 points since July 1946,’ as much as the total increase from 1942–1946.

Foreign Trade Bust Coming

Big Business in this country is worried about the foreign trade situation, afraid that the boom will break when foreigners have no more cash. Foreign nations have been buying U.S. exports with dollar surpluses built up during the war, or with money shipped out of those countries before the war, or with loans from the Export-Import Bank. They will soon run out of dollars and will have to borrow more money – or sell to the U.S. “Sell what?” is the question that worries U.S. industry. The recent war lessened this country’s dependency on the outside for raw materials ... For instance, in 1940 the U.S. paid $570 millions for three big commodities – tin, rubber, silk. But nylon and rayon factories have finished off the great silk trade. The U.S. consumed 463,000 tons of synthetic rubber in the first seven months of 1946, and only 106,000 tons of natural rubber. Only tin remains ... Whereas before the war, U.S. exports averaged about 20 per cent above imports, today they are about double imports. This off-balance situation cannot prevail much longer.


Housing Situation Worse

The housing situation will grow worse. The sharp rise In the price of lumber, plumbing fixtures, brick and clay, roofing, insulation, electrical equipment, will just about finish off the hopes of many people to build their own homes. Rents are sure to go up shortly about 15 per cent. A head-on collision is coming between the landlords and their natural enemies, the tenants ... A survey of servicemen being discharged reveals that 55 per bent are searching for housing in the so-called “middle-rental bracket” of $30–$40 monthly. Some 34 per cent want housing in the $30-or-less bracket, and only 11 per cent can afford to pay $50 or more. Almost everyone of these servicemen are doomed to disappointment.


The Insurance Man’s Soul

I always wondered what insurance salesmen had in their souls. Now a fellow named Wendell F. Hanselman, president of Agency Management Assn., let’s us in. Speaking in Chicago the other day, he said:

“One of the greatest obstacles to communism is the group of more than 100,000 trained life insurance salesmen. These men have imbedded in their souls the sermon of thrift and free enterprise.”


Getting Rid of Surplus

With all the talk of shortages, representatives of 13 nations are now meeting in London, behind closed doors, trying to figure out what the hell to do with the vast wartime accumulation of wool, without upsetting the world market. One official thought it might take “12 or 13 years” to get rid of the surplus.

What Happens in Washington

Under pressure of many unions, Congress and Truman created a “full employment” braintrust not so long ago. The Wall Street Journal reports that members of the “Council of Economic Advisers,” so created, are “nourishing ideas that may make labor leaders whistle in surprise.” Their thinking, it seems, “has most nearly crystallized in the direction of legal curbs on union activities.” The group has held off-the-record discussion with John Steelman’s Office of Reconversion, and proposed a revision of the National Labor Relations Act to the benefit of the employers, abolition of “union monopolies” to make it impossible for a union to bargain on an industry-wide basis, and other means of hampering labor demands and ability to take strike action. The council, it is reported, hopes that a bit of “scare talk” will frighten the unions out of “any rash acts they may be contemplating.”

Carlos Hudson Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers’ Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 19 July 2020