Art Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Art Preis

Administration Aids Meat Profiteers

Yields To “Famine” Threat By Granting Price Subsidy

Roosevelt Tells People to “Tighten Belts”
While Packers Divert Meat to Black Market

(31 March 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 13, 31 March 1945, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Two weeks ago before the Senate hearings on the price control act lobbyists of the Meat Trust threatened to impose a “meat famine” upon the country unless OPA “inconsistencies,” meaning price ceilings, were promptly removed. They issued this ultimatum even though the packers have boosted their profits almost eight times during the war and their spokesmen admitted that the country has the raw beef.

Last week the Roosevelt administration promptly yielded to the profit-greedy meat barons’ brazen threat of enforced scarcity.

OPA Director Chester Bowles announced to the Senate Banking and Currency Committee that the government is granting an additional subsidy of 50¢ a hundred pounds to the cattle slaughterers. He further revealed that previously the government had quietly granted a subsidy of 75 cents a hundredweight on hogs.

Roosevelt’s Pretext

At the same time, Roosevelt himself provided a cover for the existing scarcity, in part deliberately created by the food profiteers to force up prices. He declared that the American people must “tighten their belts” because, he falsely claimed, the “humanitarian” capitalist government intends to “feed” starving Europe. Actually, during 1944, only 6.8 percent of all the nation’s meat, and but seven-tenths of one percent of the beef, was shipped in Lend-Lease to all the “United Nations,” according, to official government figures.

The government’s generous treatment of the meat profiteers, who openly admitted that 90 percent of the civilian meat supplies have been diverted into black market channels, is in striking contrast to the Roosevelt administration’s ferocity against workers forced to strike for a few cents more wages to meet the insatiable demands of the price-gougers.

Instead of throwing the criminal meat profiteers into prison for withholding supplies and diverting a major food necessity into the black market to force up prices, the government gives them another fat subsidy out of the public treasury.

Instead of answering the meat profiteers’ vicious meat “famine” threats – already half fulfilled – with government seizure of all meat supplies and meat packing facilities, Roosevelt actually conceals their role in the meat shortages. Moreover he appeals to the people to accept them without protest and offers a hypocritical justification for the greater profiteer-created food scarcity to come.

But these latest government concessions to the meat packers has not quieted their clamor. On the contrary, they returned to the attack on price ceilings last week with redoubled fury before the Senate price control hearings.

Huge Profits

The Senate committeemen wagged their heads in open sympathy and interjected expressions of approval as the meat trust lobbyists sniffed scornfully at the flush subsidies handed them by the government. They lamented about how price ceilings are “bankrupting” them and demanded nothing less than removal of all price control bars to their “fair” profits.

Here is what these parasites, who thrive on the desperate needs of the people, mean by “fair profits.” Between 1940 and 1944 the eight largest meat packing firms secured total net profits equalling 80 percent of their total capital investments!

Bold as brass, the chief spokesman for the National Independent Meat Packers’ Association confessed to the Senate committee that “many honest” meat packers “felt the OPA regulations were unjust and unlawful and concluded that they would not be bankrupted by unlawful regulations.”

The worthy Senators listened to this confession of wholesale law-breaking by rich businessmen without blinking an eye. Not a peep was uttered in protest, much less a call for investigation and punishment of the offenders.

Hide Records

Further, the meat packers’ representative renewed the threat of a meat famine unless the meat packers had their way on price ceilings. “We believe the policy of OPA in maintaining present maximum price ceilings is one of the main causes of maldistribution of meat,” he said. In short, the meat shortage will be remedied just as soon as the government permits the food profiteers unrestricted prices!

One of the most astounding facts presented to the hearings by the OPA was that, despite the “bankruptcy” wails of the meat packers, they have persistently refused to let OPA examine their detailed financial records.

Deputy OPA administrator Brownlee disclosed that OPA officials attempted “for several years” to gain access to the packers’ books, but were refused. The meat packers’ spokesman answered that the OPA wanted figures “as far back as 1943” but “some companies have felt that they should not be called on to supply historical figures.” The government, of course, goes back to the “historical” figures of January 1941 living costs to impose the wage-freezing Little Steel Formula.

The farce of these hearings equalled anything ever seen in the Senate. Instead of cross examining the meat packing lobbyists, the Senators submitted OPA head Bowles to a three-hour grilling intended to bring out an admission that the OPA was “interfering” with “legitimate” profits.

Heckled by Senators

Bowles, for his part, protested that the OPA wasn’t interested in how much profits were made and cited reams of facts and figures to show how much richer the profiteers have become precisely during the period of price “controls.”

The Senators took delight in heckling Bowles all over the lot. Only once did Senator Wagner, of New York, touted as the “consumers’ representative,” plaintively interject, “we’ve got to think of the consumers, too.” After this brave sally, he was silent.

The Senate committee ended the hearings and retired to secret session. There they are expected to mourn the sad plight of the profit-gorged meat packers and figure out some new ways to help them reach deeper into the wage- earners’ pockets.

Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 22 June 2018