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House Demolishes OPA Control;
Price-Gougers Get Green Light

(27 April 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 17, 27 April 1946, pp. 1 & 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Wielding inflationary amendments like sledge-hammers, the House of Representatives in a frenzied twelve-hour session on April 17 smashed almost every bone in the skeleton of the Price Control Act before voting 355 to 42 on April 18 to extend the measure for just nine months after June 30.

Previous periodic extensions of the Act, passed originally in early 1942, had already stripped it down to bare bone. When the howling Congressmen concluded their orgy of amendments last week, about all that was left to the Act was its name.

OPA Aids Profiteers

During the hearings preceding the House actions, Office of Price Administration and Economic Stabilization officials had pleaded for a one-year extension of the Price Control Act without any further crippling amendments. They had pointed but that even under the past four-year operations of the OPA, corporation profits had swelled to the greatest volume in all history.

Moreover, the OPA itself has been more than compliant toward the price-gouging demands of Big Business. It was largely ineffective in halting wartime inflation, the extent of which was concealed by lying government “statistics.”

Since V-J Day, the OPA and Economic Stabilization Board have permitted big price increases all along the line and have completely removed price ceilings from thousands of commodities. Just last week, OPA hiked price ceilings to manufacturers of work clothing from 12 to 15 per cent.

“Reasonable Profits”

Nevertheless, the Big Business- dominated House, its inflationary appetite merely whetted by these OPA price concessions, proceeded to wreak havoc on the few remaining legal price restrictions, except for rent controls.

Its major amendment Is designed to safeguard and boost profits on an unprecedented scale. This would provide for price ceilings high enough to guarantee costs and a “reasonable profit” on every single item handled, from the manufacturer all the way to the retailer. The profiteers want not only huge over-all profits – they want assurances of profit on every single nut, bolt and tooth-pick produced.

Further, the House amendments include provisions to give “industry advisory committees” composed of corporation representatives the authority to determine when price controls shall be removed altogether from any commodities. Thus, the price- gougers themselves would have direct power to “regulate” prices and scuttle even the pretence of price control.

Other amendments would eliminate all government subsidies to food producers by the end of this year. The huge subsidies which have been fattening the meat barons would be halted by June 30. Instead, this indirect cost on the consuming public will be collected directly through price increases.

What the House amendments mean to the Wall Street plutocrats is indicated by the response of the stock market, reported in such headlines as “House Vote on OPA Sends Stocks Up” (N.Y. Times, April 18). The House Committee for the Protection of the Consumer was constrained to charge that those who voted for these amendments, including “the monstrous guaranteed profits amendments,” would “add billions to the cost of living” and “are pawning the people’s future for the favor of profiteers.”

Even Economic Stabilizer Chester Bowles, who has been handing the corporations virtually everything they have been asking by way of legal price boosts, was compelled to publicly brand the unrestrained inflationary actions of the House as “a long step toward starting us on a joyride to disaster.”

Bowles declared over the radio on April 17 that the American people face “a total additional burden to our collective family budgets of billions upon billions of dollars. The share of the average family would amount to many hundreds of dollars during the coming year.”

As an agency of the capitalist government committed to protecting profits above all, the so-called “price control” agencies like OPA have been able to do no more than toss a bucket of water on the raging inflationary conflagration. Now even this bucket is being kicked out of their hands.

Only the decisive independent mass action of the workers and consumers, through the struggle for a rising scale of wages to meet price increases and through committees to directly control and regulate the distribution of essential goods, ferret out black marketeers and expose the profiteers, can be relied upon to place any real obstacles before the advancing juggernaut of inflation.

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