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OPA Wrecks Many Price Ceilings

Government ‘Price Control’ Agency Helps
Big Business Drive to Hike Living Costs

(20 April 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 16, 20 April 1946, pp. 1 & 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Brushing aside all labor and consumer protests, OPA Administrator Paul Porter last week signed an order, approved by Economic Stabilizer Chester Bowles, to remove price ceilings from several thousand consumer goods items representing about 15 per cent of all consumer goods in terms of dollars.

This action of the agency which is supposed to “control prices” gives legal cover and a great additional impetus to the inflationary drive of Big Business, which is seeking to rob labor of its recent wage gains and to augment huge profits through charging “all the traffic will bear” for scarce goods.

Through appeals to both Porter and Bowles, a Joint committee of the CIO, API, and railway brotherhoods unsuccessfully attempted to block the Office of Price Administration’s Inflationary order.. The union committee warned that this action “Is a major gamble with the economic future of America.”

Labor Protests

The order lifting price ceilings on hundreds of essential household Items, as well as many products customary to the average standard of living in this country, was issued on the pretext that it would have no great bearing on the cost of living since it did not effect “necessities.” Anything the masses don’t need for mere survival is considered “not a necessity” by the capitalist government.

But the government is preparing to legalize extortionate price increases even for indisputable necessities. This was shown by the action last week of the House Agricultural Committee, which unanimously voted approval of a proposal to discontinue the present huge government subsidies to the meat trust and to permit the meat barons to rob the people directly through a six cent a pound hike in meat prices. Meanwhile, the meat packers are channelling a large portion of supplies into illegal, black market outlets.

The House Agricultural Committee’s proposal is one of several inflationary amendments which Congress is planning to attach to the bill for extending the Price Control Act for a year beyond its present expiration date of June 30, 1946. The extension bill is scheduled to reach the House floor next week.

Capital Goods

Porter’s order lifting price ceilings on consumers items also Included the suspension entirely of price regulations on six broad classes of machinery and industrial equipment, including printing presses, textile machinery, railway cars, telephone equipment, machine tools, etc. This affects about one-third of the country’s capital goods industry.

The Joint labor committee, which sharply protested this phase of the OPA’s order, disputed the OPA’s flimsy claim that its “suspension action” on capital goods “will not affect the cost of living.”

Boris Shiskin, AFL economist and OPA Labor Policy Committee member, charged: “The price pattern in the machinery industry generally and in heavy machinery particularly has been traditionally monopolistic. Decontrol now, in the face of the present avid demand and cross-bidding for machinery, will mean immediate and drastic price increases.” These increases, he pointed out, inevitably will be “promptly passed on” to the American consumers.

OPA Sanction

Big Business and its Congress intend to extend OPA only if its powers are shorn to a minimum. The OPA itself is again demonstrating, however, that it is more than ready to give legal sanction to price gouging.

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