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Jack Ranger

Tapping the Wall Street Wire

(5 May 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 18, 5 May 1947, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

From a Hole in the Pocket to No Pocket

A lot of politicos are talking about lower prices, but the loud talk hasn’t shown up on the price tags in retail stores yet. Retail prices in Chicago hit a new high of 156.2 on March 15, with not a single group of commodities declining from the middle of February. The index, based on the 1935–39 average, showed a 2.2 per cent increase for the month. Food prices advanced 4.1 per cent, bringing the total increase in the past year to 37.6 per cent. Clothing prices increased 2.4 per cent, and house furnishings rose slightly.

Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., chairman of General Motors, who speaks with a great deal more authority on prices than does President Truman, predicted the other day that further price increases were in the offing. “It is impossible to assume,” said Mr. Sloan, in a speech before the Economic Club of New York, “that business generally can accept a sufficient reduction in profits to justify the reduction in prices so badly needed and at the same time substantially increase wages.” You’ve got to give the man an A for gall!

The Department of Commerce released some interesting statistics the other day on what has happened to people’s savings in the past year, under the onslaught of the profiteers. THE SAVINGS OF THE MASSES HAVE BEEN MORE THAN CUT IN HALF. One year ago they totaled $33 billions. Today they total only $16 billions. Buying of the small denomination savings bonds – the $25 and $50 sizes – has gone down considerably in proportion to total purchases while buying of the king-size bonds – the $500 and $1,000 variety that you and I will never see – has gone up to about 40 per cent of the total, said the government. Total holdings of savings bonds declined by $500 million last year, but holdings of the F and G issues increased by $2 billion. A return to the pre-war savings pattern, “in which savings were greater among wealthier groups,” has resulted, said the department. Savings in the form of government insurance declined 30 per cent as a result of veterans letting their national service life insurance lapse.

Money in the hands of the public has fallen a billion dollars since Christmas. The Chicago Journal of Commerce reports that “some government analysts cite the cost of living as a probable cause.”

Those government analysts have minds like steel traps and nothing gets away from them, does it?

This Should Be Good

An extensive project to inform the nation on how and why the American economic system functions is being considered by the American Association of Advertising Agencies. The hopheads with the whizbang minds who run the nation’s ad agencies define the American economic system as based on five fundamental principles: Private property, a free market, profit and wage incentives, competition, and government regulation (but not government control). These hucksters want every plant owner to institute a permanent program “to correct the economic misinformation and lack of misinformation that exists in the industrial worker’s mind about profits, production and dividends. To restore his pride in his job, his feeling of. importance and his sense of belonging to an economic group. To give him a better appreciation of the benefits our American economic system brings him.”

My experience has been that the average industrial worker knows a hell of a lot more about the workings of capitalism than does the average advertising agency executive. I would really like to see how the admen are going to explain away the monstrous profiteering of Big Business at the expense of the masses. I would like to see how any ten ads could convince the guy that spends his life screwing on nut No. 10 that he should feel “pride in his job, and importance.” I’d like to know how the gents who write the perfume ads are going to convince us we should “appreciate the benefits of our American economic system,” which in my lifetime has given us two wars, two depressions, and is setting the stage nicely to throw, us into either: (A) an atomic war, or (B) the deepest, broadest, most devastating depression this nation ever saw.

Strikes Paid Off for the Miners

The Wall Street Journal presented a good summary recently of the wage pattern in 26 dilferent industries from 1939 to date. Obviously, the courage of the miners in disregarding the war-time patriotic whoopla and hitting the picket line has paid off in the paycheck.

Before the war, coal miners were among the “submerged half” of industrial workers, drawing $23.88 weekly. Today they are at the top, with weekly earnings of $69.58 (but their hours of work have grown, too).

The auto workers have lost ground, and have been passed by men of the machine tool, meat packing and bituminous mining industries.

Leather workers drew about $19.13 weekly in 1939, seven dollars less than most factory employees. This year they earn $48.49, a dollar and a half more than most men in factories.

The poorest paid industry remains the power industry, with an average weekly wage today of $32.46, compared with $17.69 before the war.

For men and women in the meat packing industry, weekly pay jumped from $27.85 to $57.38 in the past eight years – enough to pass by the once more highly paid ship builders, machine tool makers, auto workers, steel employees and phone workers. Speaking of phone workers, they have advanced the least of any of the 26 groups, which goes far to explain the stubbornness with which they are conducting their current great strike. Before the war they earned $31.94 each week; by January, 1947, they had gained just $11.25.

People employed in retail trade, have advanced almost as little. They’ve added $13.25 to their pre-war earnings of $21.17 a week. They earn less than the workers turning out many of the wares they sell – furniture, woolens and worsted?, leather, sawmill products, clothing, cotton goods and canned food.

Whereas before the war auto workers received from $3 to $6 more a week than men in the steel mills, today iron and steel workers top the auto workers by nearly $3.

Not all the changes in weekly pay checks have been caused by changes in hourly pay. The length of the working week has been an important factor in some industries. For instance, the soft coal miners have stepped up their work week from 27.1 hours in 1939 to 46.7 hours this January. Laundry workers are working a longer week than before the war, and packinghouse employees are working about seven hours more weekly.

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