MAY 11, 1948
NEW YORK, Monday—Now and then I find the Congressional Record extraordinarily interesting reading. I won't quarrel with anyone who says that for the most part it is somewhat dull, but I was rather surprised that I had not seen more in the newspapers about a speech by Rep. Helen Gahagan Douglas—which I read in full in the Congressional Record—on the subject of the cost of living in 1948.
There is a great deal more involved in the cost of living in the United States than just whether you and I, as American housewives, can pay for the things we want. If that was all there was to it, we might be told that, for the sake of peace and in order to help world conditions, we must do without certain things at the present time. We must do without as we did during the war and for the very same reason—that is, that certain things which were needed for the war are now needed to win the peace.
But in addition, there is a balance that must be maintained. The rest of the world is depending on the economy of the United States. Even the USSR, which for the moment is highly suspicious of everything we do, would suffer greatly if our economy were to collapse. They might accept this with joy because they would feel it vindicated their theories, and they might think that in the future, with the spread of their own economic theories, greater benefits might come to all mankind, but there would be a substantial interval during which their economy would suffer if ours suffered.
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It is necessary, I believe, for us to be in a position of military strength, and we should so gear our economy that it would serve both our military and other needs. But if we go beyond a certain point in military strength, the rest of the world, including the USSR, has a right to wonder whether we are gearing for aggression rather than for peaceful purposes.
We know that we have to provide the aid for European recovery in the next few years, and we know that our own economy must stay healthy or we cannot continue to meet our commitments. Taxes must come from a prosperous people, but the prosperity must not be all in the hands of the corporations, for that does not last long.
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In this speech by Mrs. Douglas, there is one little passage on the steel industry, which is basic to many other industries. When United States Steel announced recently that it would reduce prices in May by $25,000,000 annually, this was coupled with a refusal to raise wages for the workers. I saw no mention, however, of the fact that since November 1946, seventeen months ago, United States Steel has raised its prices by a total of $340,000,000 annually. That means that its customers will still pay $315,000,000 more for a year's output of steel than before Congress killed price control. This is just one point that I think should be brought home to the people of the nation.
In my next column, I will write about the prices of things that go into the housewife's basket—which Mrs. Douglas dramatized so ably.