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Today the United States enters its ninth day without price controls of any kind. Except in those instances where governors of states have used extraordinary war powers to keep ceilings on rents, the roof has been completely ripped off the price structure and the sky is now the limit. President Truman's veto of the emasculated OPA bill a week ago was perhaps the bravest thing he has done since entering the White House. But revived hopes for a genuinely effective price control bill have faded once again in the face of amendments to the new bill to exempt oil, cotton, and pulp products from control, the Taft proposal for manufacturer's profits and the delaying tactics of Senators Wherry and O'Daniel. Thus the bitter paradox continues by which the majority of people, who ardently desire the retention of price controls are defied by their elected representatives.
Since legislative recourse is apparently impossible, some other means must be found to head off the spiraling inflation, the first signs of which appeared last week like mushrooms after a spring rain. By the end of last week, prices had inched up throughout the country, steak to two dollars a pound, butter to seventy-five cents. On the local scene, food prices in Harvard Square beer parlors and short order places quietly went up a nickel here, a dime there. Chicken feed, a mere beginning.
After the last war, in the absence of price controls of any kind, a voluntary buyers' strike was staged by the American people in protest against the soaring prices of the early twenties. That strike was won, the inflationary spree was halted and prices levelled off. It could be won again. Last week, a group of school children in a Middle Western town conducted a strike against the corner drugstore because the druggist had upped "cokes" from a nickel to a dime. After three days, the druggist capitulated and the price reverted to a nickel.
Harvard Square consumers are, by and large, either teachers or students. Teachers, whose salaries are fixed, and students, most of whom are essaying the thankless task of stretching sixty-five dollars over thirty days. The type of consumer, in other words, who is particularly hard hit by rising prices. In the case of the student-veterans, most of their savings are represented by war bonds, whose real value would vanish in any long term inflation. A successfully conducted buyers' strike in Harvard Square would give heart to the millions of other consumers of the country who stand helplessly by while the manufacturers contemplate what the traffic will bear. By limiting purchases to the necessities of life, by refusing to buy those items which have been marked up since the demise of OPA, Harvard Square consumers can stop the local inflation roller coaster in its tracks.
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