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Jack Ranger

Tapping the Wall Street Wire

We Could Do It Better

(17 February 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 7, 17 February 1947, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Capitalism in its youth serves to free production from the restrictions of feudalism; but as capitalism ages it forges new fetters of production. Not a day passes but what this Marxist charge against the profit system is supported by new illustrations from the inefficient operations of this Big Business-controlled society. Today let’s talk of eggs and natural gas.

Poultry raisers, hatchery operators, produce merchants. and the Department of Agriculture, are worried stiff about what to do with the billions of surplus eggs in sight for late 1947 and 1948. (Of course there is no real surplus of eggs, in the sense that there are more eggs than people want to eat. Capitalism distorts the meaning of words as it distorts everything which it touches. When a capitalist uses the word “surplus," he means there is more of a thing than people can buy at a price.)

In recent years the Department of Agriculture has been holding up egg prices by buying the “surplus” production, and shipping powdered eggs to England. The English are just about fed up with powdered eggs and by the fall of 1947 will be getting enough shell eggs so they can turn their backs on the powdered kind. A Chicago produce dealer has suggested that the surplus dried eggs be dumped in Italy, Yugoslavia or elsewhere at a cut rate, which would mean either the farmers or the government would take a loss. Incidentally, the Department of Agriculture’s program to bolster egg prices costs the consumer about 10 cents a dozen.

Just now, some of the stupid things done under this program are coming to light. Back in 1944, according to the >Wall Street Journal>, 28 cars of iced, grade A eggs came into St. Louis. There was no storage space available. The people of St. Louis couldn’t afford to buy them at the price asked. The eggs – all 28 carloads of them – were fed to the hogs. In southern Indiana a government agent bought 6,000 cases of eggs, could find no cold storage space for them. The eggs spoiled and maggots were crawling out of the cases. Thousands of other cases were used for fertilizer.

Says the >Wall Street Journal>:

“The cost of supporting egg prices in 1944 has never been reported. Neither has anyone totaled up the number of eggs that spoiled. But the dollar cost ran into the millions and the egg loss was in the billions.” ...

A socialist society would always know how to arrange things so that surplus food and hungry people would become friends. Not so capitalism. Just recently, the press showed pictures of mountains, and fields of “surplus” citrus fruit in Texas and California – grapefruit and oranges, just the thing for growing children – rotting under the sky.

Why the Oil Pipelines Rust

Now for natural gas and the pipelines. The pressure of the recent war finally brought about the building of the so-called “Big Inch” and “Little Inch” pipelines, from the South to the East, whereby oil could be piped east to keep the war machine running. The government built the pipelines at a cost of $146 millions, and the lines paid their way during the war. (For decades the coal-carrying and coal-owning railroads had blocked construction of this obviously economical form of transportation.) Since the end of the war the pipelines have been rusting away. It has been estimated that they are depreciating at the rate of $10,000 a day, and costing the government $60,000 a month for maintenance.

Why aren’t the pipelines put to use? The natural gas producers down in Texas want to use them to pipe natural gas to the east. They say that enough heat goes to waste daily in “flare gas” fires to light and heat the city of Detroit. These fires are permitted to burn simply because there’s no other use for the gas – under the profit system.

A socialist system would know how to pipe this source of heat and light through the pipeline to people who need heat and light. The capitalist system doesn’t know how or care to achieve this. The pipelines continue to rust away. The flare-gas fires in Texas continue to heat the heavens.

In a few days the government will open new bids from would-be purchasers of the pipelines. But the congressmen from Pennsylvania – all trusted servants of the coal trust – say they won’t let any sale go through. Part of the pipelines, which run from the Texas oil fields to New Jersey, run through Pennsylvania. The coal trust is threatening to whip a law through the Pennsylvania state legislature to prevent the pipelines from ever being used to carry natural gas. Any potential buyer of the pipelines who proposed to pump gas through them to the east coast would face litigation all along the 300-mile right-of-way within that state.

Oh, the Great American Way of Life is the Most Efficient in the World, as the capitalist orators never tire of telling us. In a pig’s eye it is.

Profits Keep Rising

Everyone knows that it is Big Business that is running the world. And everyone with half an eye can see that the businessmen are running the world in their interest, not in the interest of the people. Here in the United States the people suffer from high prices, poor housing, high taxes, insecurity. But the capitalists are doing right well by themselves.

Here are some recent profit statements from enterprises owned by America’s 60 Families: The country’s leading oil companies report earnings for 1946 approximately 25 per cent above 1945, and estimate another rise of 10–15 per cent in profits for 1947. ... Procter & Gamble Co., one of the country’s largest soap makers, showed earnings in the half year ended December 31 equal to 52.53 a share, compared with $1.46 a share in the like 1945 period. In addition, the company set aside $14.5 million for a possible decline in inventories in the first six months of its fiscal year. Its net profits for the past six months total $16,300,000, compared with $9,456,033 in the same period in 1945 ...

U.S. Steel reported for the year 1946 net earnings of $88 million, equal to dividends of $7.27 on its common stock, compared with earnings of $58 million in 1945, equal to earnings of $3.77. Current assets rose $29 millions during the year, to $629 millions. ... Bethlehem Steel in 1946 reported net earnings of $41 millions, or $11.79 a share, the largest earnings since 1940 and far above the $9.52 a share earned in 1945. Despite such profiteering, Mr. Grace, president of Bethlehem, is very firm about one thing. “Any demand for increased pay, if granted, will mean higher prices for steel,” he says. It would never occur to Mr. Grace to cut down his exorbitant profits.

That is what unions and a labor party are for. To make Big Business do things it would never dream of doing ...

Even the five-and-dimes coined money last year. F.W. Woolworth & Co. reported 1946 net income of about $40 million, equal to $4 a share, compared with $2.43 a share in 1945. ... Inland Steel reported net income of $15 million in 1946, equal to $3.18 a share, compared with $9 million and $2.01 a share in 1945.

Quite naturally, Big Business believes capitalism is the best of all possible systems. It is – for Big Business. But it is hell for the people. Or haven’t you had enough yet? If you have bad enough, and are looking for a program to fight capitalism intelligently, join the Workers Party.

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