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Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(9 December 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 35, 9 December 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Rising Cost of Living:– So I order two containers of milk and a half-pint container of sweet cream. I put fifty cents on the counter. Two quarts of milk 23¢ – 16¢ for cream – total 39¢. Must get 11¢ change. But I get only 8¢.

“What’s this?” I ask, looking at the 8¢ and at the grocer.

“PRICES UP AGAIN,” he says. "Milk two for 25¢ – cream 17¢."

“For the love of mike!” I say, because I don’t swear in public, and at the same time I remember that I need eggs too. "Let me have a dozen white eggs, grade B,” I say.

I count out 27¢; that was the price last time I bought white eggs, grade B. “Four cents more, please,” says the grocer.

“I want the grade B,” I say, thinking he made a mistake.

“They are grade B. Today they’re 31¢ a dozen. PRICES UP AGAIN,” he says.

A general idea of why the storekeeper keeps telling you and me: “PRICES UP AGAIN”, is given in a report to the Department of Justice which points oat that the “food industry functions badly for both consumers and farmers”. Not being a poor farmer nor a poor housewife, the Department of Justice needed a long, report to learn about that.

This report on the food industry contains some very damning information. It shows how rich corporations keep food from starving people – so that the rich can become richer. Here are some of the facts.

Big associations of bakers have destroyed small independent bakers by price cutting. Having a monopoly in the field, they then fixed bread prices to suit themselves.

By cornering the market and preventing competition. certain meat slaughterers have increased prices an average of five cents a pound.

Poultry prices are fixed at make-believe auctions where the stooges of the poultry dealers make abnormally high bids which become the standard for “normal” prices.

Boss associations of fishing boat owners and fish canners control certain varieties of fish throughout the United States and fix their prices. The entire catch of one variety of fish is handled throughout the country by one group of brokers, and they fix the price at their own sweet will.

By the practises of dairymen’s associations they can maneuver increases as high as 3¢ in the retail price of milk, without the farmer getting anything out of the increase – while the poor have to consume less milk because they can’t pay the increased price.

One company already controls 80% of the national market in processed cheese and is making an effort to control the rest of the market.

Such is the greedy use of their power practised by the bosses of the nation’s food – without a “national defense emergency”. Imagine what they will do now when they can pile up their profits under the folds of the flag.

So now, on the basis of this report, an investigation is going to be made which will cover “all the major items in the family food budget”. Particular attention will be given to bread, milk, meat, fish, cheese, canned fruits and vegetables, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Nobody but a chicken just hatched out of an egg will believe that an investigation by the Department of Justice will put the food industry on a basis so that it will function for the benefit of the consumer and the farmer. We’ve heard that one many times before.

Government files are full of reports exposing just such flagrant frauds as the above. Millions of dollars have been appropriated in past years for investigations which showed up greedy corporations maneuvering the milk out of the mouths of babes. Thousands of hours have been consumed by legislators discussing and passing more and more laws, presumably to make such terrible practices impossible.

Such “crusading” reports, investigations, legislation have a habit of coming to the front pages of the press when housewives all over the country look a certain way at the grocer when he says, “PRICES UP AGAIN”.

But what has been the result of all these “crusades” against profiteers? Have the reports, investigations, legislation done any good? If so, this year 1940 ought to show it. Let a statement by the Department of Justice of the boss government itself give the answer:

“At one end of the food industries lies wholesale malnutrition among consumers due to their inability to afford an adequate diet. At the other end lies a population of producing farmers who must sell an abundance of food at distress prices so low as to threaten them with bankruptcy.”

This is another way of saying that the bosses and the banks, which have a stranglehold on the food industry, as they have on all other industry, reap a double harvest in 1940 as in 1930, in 1920, in 1910 – only more so. This is the result after decades and decades of “trust busting”, of “fighting monopolies”. All the reports, investigations, laws and “crusades” are like water on the backs on the profit-grabbers.

Do you want to know why you housewives who stare with malevolence at the innocent grocer when he says, “PRICES UP AGAIN”?

  1. Because their stranglehold on industry is not taken away from them – THEY REMAIN THE BOSSES;
  2. Because the government that is supposed to curb their greed is their own government – A BOSS GOVERNMENT.

This system of boss-owned industry and boss government has proved itself a complete failure. All it can say for itself in this year 1940 is the following:

“More than FORTY-FIVE MILLION PEOPLE are limited to diets so poor that they lack essential food elements. These families are below the safety line. Not all of them feel hunger and not all have clinical symptoms of deficiency diseases such as pelagra, beri beri or scurvy. But those who must live on such a diet for prolonged periods suffer from chronic fatigue, lethargy, various digestive disorders and divers, aches and pains, and have a lowered resistance to disease.”

What can be a greater insult to the intelligence of these POOR people than to offer them another futile investigation!

What can be a greater insult to their spirit than to think they will continue to put up with the system of boss-owned industry and boss government!

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Last updated: 21 July 2014