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Jack Ranger

Tapping the Wall St. Wire

(16 February 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 7, 16 February 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Prices – No Ceiling Sighted

Readers will recall one of my December columns devoted to the pending railroad freight rate increase by the Interstate Commerce Commission, and my not very bold prediction that commodity prices would surely rise further because of the increase. On December 30, 1947, the ICC unanimously gave the railroads another 10 per cent rate boost, on top of the 10 per cent boost granted on October 5, 1947. The recent rate increases, it was estimated by the ICC, represented a gift of $1,230,000,000 to the nation’s railroads. It’s nice to be a capitalist, is it not, with a capitalist governmental apparatus ready to do your bidding and hand out billion-dollar gifts for the asking?

Anyway, commodity prices have already begun to rise. Chicago coal prices immediately advanced 10 cents a ton, “reflecting new higher rates, in that amount, granted to the railroads,” according to the Chicago Journal of Commerce. ... January 8 the Deep Rock Oil Corporation announced an increase in all tank wagon prices at all points in the mid-west. “These increases will vary from two-tenths to four-tenths cent per gallon, and reflect the higher rail freight charges which are effective January 5,” said the company vice-president ... Blatz Brewing Co. announced a plan to raise beer prices, attributing the move in part to higher freight rates. So it will go, in every field.

Commodity prices will go up further before they come down. Wholesale prices – a cue to retail prices of future months – have risen steadily for more than 10 weeks, recently reaching a new post-war high of 165.5 per cent of the 1926 average of 100. This is 17.5 per cent above the like 1947 week, and less than two per cent below the all-time peak in May 1920. Higher prices for non-agricultural commodities more than offset lower agricultural prices recently.

The new Sears, Roebuck catalog contains prices averaging 2.8 per cent higher than those in the corresponding 1947 catalog ... Prices of California oranges have risen $1.38 a box, to $3.54 in recent days, compared with $2.23 a box a year ago ... Corn has jumped 18 cents a bushel, oats 12 cents a bushel, bran $13 a ton. Corn that now brings nearly $2.80 a bushel in Chicago sold as low as 40 cents in 1939. These higher grain prices today mean higher meat prices this summer and fall ... At the January furniture show in Chicago, furniture buyers found wholesale prices were up 10 per cent to 20 per cent over a year ago, the Wall Street Journal reports. The increase in retail prices will be greater, of course. ... Men’s suits will cost about $5 more each this spring. Men’s shirts will increase 25 cents. Women’s spring dresses and boys’ spring clothes will be up 5 to 7 per cent ... International Shoe Co. has announced wholesale price increases ranging from an average of 35 cents a pair on children’s shoes to an average of 95 cents a pair on men’s shoes ... and the Housing Expeditor has removed trailer camps from rent control, to the dismay of tens of thousands of unfortunate families ...

Pittsburgh bakeries have cut two ounces off their bread loaves, reducing the loaves from 19 to 17 ounces. The price remains the same, 16 cents. All big bakers have ordered smaller baking pans, and in the next few months will be giving you a shorter staff of life for your money ... The daily newspapers have managed to muffle their outrage at these rising prices. They are saving their outburst for the unions, when the latter get down to negotiating a 1948 boost in wages to help the workers’ families keep a nodding acquaintance with the grocer, the butcher, the clothier.

By the way! Do you remember all the hulla-balloo raised by General Electric recently when it announced, with the demureness of a shy maid, that it was cutting prices 3 per cent to 10 per cent “on a wide variety of consumer goods.” Do you know what this fourflusher did the very same week? It quietly informed radio distributors and manufacturers of a 12 per cent increase in its prices of radio tubes. No newspaper ads for THIS price change.

The more U.S. exports drop, the more Big Business works through Truman’s party (ahem, Mr. Murray) to push through its “European relief” program. In November 1947, exports dipped eight per cent: Imports dropped $454,900,000 that month, for a seven per cent dip. Exports fell off in ten of the eleven commodity groupings. Capitalism and its wars have so ruined the rest of the world, it appears now to experts in the Department of Commerce, that U.S. exports in 1948 are going to be lower than they were in 1947 even if Congress grants the full appropriation of approximately $7 billion asked by the administration for the European Recovery Plan.

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