JUNE 14, 1946
NEW YORK, Thursday—I noticed in the papers yesterday morning that the Senate was weakening the OPA bill as much as it possibly could. They seem completely to ignore the fact—which would seem to have some weight in a democracy—that public opinion polls favor the continuation of price controls. For instance, 82 percent of the people in one of the weekly polls favored controls in general; 85 percent favored rent control.
It is roughly estimated that the cost to the country of the removal of controls on the everyday things which go into our ordinary living will be roughly around $16,000,000,000. You have a good example of what removing them does in the case of butter. We no longer subsidize, so OPA allowed a rise in price. Just that one rise will cost you and your family a goodly sum each week—if you are able to buy butter! And any of you who have been fortunate enough to obtain new automobiles, on which price controls are practically removed, know that the cost has gone up several hundred dollars.
One of the funniest statements I ever heard was made by one of our most respected senators, who remarked that the staff of people in charge of OPA were the greatest Fascists in our country. That, I gather, is because they do not want us to have inflation and are willing to see us submit to a certain amount of control for a limited period of time in order that we may not suffer a depression in the near future.
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I do not like controls any more than anybody else does, but I have lived a long time and I remember what happened to us after the last war. If we are not in full production before we remove controls, prices will soar because a lot of people have money to spend and, when there is more money than there are things to buy, prices go up unreasonably.
The things you eat, the clothes you wear; the houses in which you live are all necessities. If you can possibly manage to have them, you will have them. The people who live on fixed incomes, however, the people who earn moderate salaries—they are the first ones who are going to find that they cannot have the things they have had in the past. Then we will have demands for higher wages, and prices will go up still further as those wages are passed on to the consuming public, which includes the wage-earners as well as the rest of us.
That is what weakening the OPA bill is going to mean for us. I cannot say that I blame Chester Bowles, Stabilization Director, when he says that, if the bill has no force, he will resign rather than try to do the impossible without any tools.