JUNE 20, 1946
HYDE PARK, Wednesday—People say to me, "Well, prices have gone up already, so why do we need controls?" They do not stop to think that there is still a vast difference between the prices we now have and completely uncontrolled prices.
A bulletin from the Office of Price Administration gives the following information. From September, 1939, when the war began in Europe, to April 15, 1946, the average of all consumer prices and rents rose about 33 percent. Much of the increase, however, was before price controls became effective. From May, 1942, when the general maximum price regulation was issued, to April 15, 1946, the average of consumer prices and rents rose only about 13 percent. During World War I, retail prices and rents more than doubled, and half of the increases occurred after the Armistice."
Even with the necessary rise in prices to reflect wage adjustments and facilitate prompt reconversion since V-J Day, and with the increase in grain and bread prices to meet the requirements of the famine program, as well as the increase in dairy prices which came as a result of feed costs and farm-labor costs which threatened to reduce our milk supply—even with all these increases, prices by July 1, 1946, will have risen less than 3½ percent since V-J Day.
Since V-J Day, we can see in some of the uncontrolled areas how quickly inflation occurs. The price of raw cotton, for instance, not under control, has risen 23 percent. In the last few years, the average stock market prices have gone up 33 percent. During the war, real estate prices rose 57 to 76 percent, and commercial rents, as many a small businessman knows to his cost, have advanced greatly.
This shows what inflation can do.
If the people of the country understood this, they would make their voices heard in Washington.
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On the question of sugar, there is apparently a bill introduced again to aid the sugar beet industry in this country. During the war, it made sense to help that industry, because shipping was being torpedoed and we could not get sugar from outlying regions. Now that the war is over, we might well examine the sugar beet industry and decide whether it is worth subsidizing.
It is not an industry which pays the workers well or gives them employment the year around. It is costlier to produce beet sugar here than it is to import sugar from outside sources of supply. So it boils down to whether the people of this country feel it important enough to support this industry and pay more for their sugar.
There are things which it does pay to subsidize, such as a merchant marine run with decent labor standards, and perhaps the aviation industry, and any industry which is in an experimental period. But I doubt if the sugar beet industry can be looked upon in this light.
These questions are not too complicated for the average citizen to study, and they make a difference in our daily lives.