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Susan Green

Bumper Crops Will Net Housewives Little Gain

Prices, Highest in History, Are Going Higher

(19 July 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 29, 19 July 1948, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Join any group of housewives and chances are you’ll find them talking about prices. Next to the worry as to whether the Berlin situation will explode into war, they worry about prices. And they talk in a rather hopeless and fatalistic way, expecting to dig into savings if they have any, and to cut down their buying. They know from experience what such people as write for the financial page of the New York Herald Tribune learn from statistics, that the housewife “will find the going tough and, consequently, the borrowings from banks, insurance companies and other institutions will increase. Funds will be withdrawn from savings and savings bonds will be cashed in order to make both ends meet.”

Prices are now the highest in all history and arc scheduled to rise in the months to come. But the Republican Party platform adopted a few weeks ago, absolutely sidetracked the question of stopping inflation. Women are buying much less meat because it costs twice what it did in 1946 when OPA ended. They can’t even buy sufficient quantities of fruits and green vegetables because, even with very ample summer supplies, prices are marked up unreasonably. Mothers wonder why the monopolistic Borden and Sheffield companies were permitted to boost milk prices again. But the Republican politicians are quite complacent about these worries of every family.

Their approach to the question, if they can be said to have one, is that an economical administration, such as Mr. Dewey promises to give, will do wonders toward reducing taxes; this in turn will enable corporations to lower prices (oh, yeah!) and it will also give people (what people?) more money to spend; presto, the whole difficulty disappears. Who said price control is necessary?

More Rises Coming

While politicians evade the issue, it becomes more intense. The United States News & World Report of July 9 predicts that things are going to cost more as the year wears on. The rise will be slow but sure.

The cost of living is expected to increase six or seven per cent more in the year ahead. Meat will be even more expensive, so will milk and butter. Household equipment is being upped. Gas, electricity and telephone may cost more because “utility costs cannot always resist the trend upward.” The cost of building inches upward, and rents are going higher. Such is the dire outlook presented in the latest issue of the United States News.

In Philadelphia this week, but not in time for Labor Action to report on it in this issue, the Democratic Party will also adopt its campaign platform. President Truman had demanded of the Republican Congress that it pass a law giving him power to institute price control, rationing, allocations and priorities, as and when the president should see fit. It is easy to see how inadequate such a law would be even if passed, for it would create no immediate price controls. And it would not be the plight of the housewife that would determine whether controls are necessary or not, but those having the inside track to the president would make up his mind. Whether the Democratic convention will go farther than Truman or as far remains to be seen. Anyway, who any longer takes seriously a campaign platform plank of the capitalist parties?

Fear Lurks Behind Boom

Commentators sought to bring a ray of hope into the picture when the Department of Agriculture reported expectation of a bumper crop of grains in the 1948 harvest. The corn crop will be fifteen per cent over the average of the last ten years, the wheat harvest will be the second highest in all history, oats will be 18 per cent more plentiful than the average of the 1936–45 period. In Europe also the harvest of wheat and rye is expected to yield 25 per cent more than last year. This should mean more and cheaper bread and grain products, as well as cheaper meat, dairy products, eggs and poultry because of abundant fodder. However, after the first optimistic comments, the consensus seems to be that the factors making for increased costs outweigh those that might tend to reduce prices, with the conclusion, as stated above, that the overall cost of living is going up some more.

Those comparatively few workers who have escalator clauses in their contracts, including the recent General Motors contract, will get a little more toward meeting the higher prices. However, the great body of working people will feel the squeeze in full force. The so-called third round of wage increases was not sufficient to put the workers abreast of price increases already in effect, to say nothing of those still to come.

And right behind the workers’ worry over meeting living costs, lurks the fear of what will happen to them when the inflation bubble bursts and the bust comes. What will happen to them without a guaranteed annual wage?

These working class problems can be taken up honestly, forthrightly and adequately only by a working class party. As time goes on it becomes ever clearer that the working people must organize their own independent labor party – not a Wallace-Stalinist party – to contest for power against the capitalist parties. This is what housewives should be talking about in connection with the runaway cost of living and the insecurity of life in general.

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