• U.S.

COPPER: No Retreat

2 minute read

Hard on the heels of the War Labor Board’s decision to pay copper miners $1 per day higher wages (TIME, Oct. 26), OPA and WPB last week moved to reconsider the return which copper companies can expect to get for their metal in view of higher labor costs.

Such review made good economic sense since it would recognize that money incentives in the form of profits to corporations can be as important as wage incentives to labor in maximizing war production.

Nevertheless, both OPA and WPB were careful to package their sense-making proposal in elaborate wrappings. In no circumstance would there be a retreat from an official 12¢ price for copper, which many companies contended from the beginning was too low to bring out total production.

Instead higher returns may be granted to some companies by revising the production quotas which have been in effect for some time. Under this system a company now gets 12¢ per pound for anything produced up to its allotment, but gets 17¢ for any additional copper. By reducing quotas downward the Government can in effect pay more for copper while maintaining the 12¢ fetish.

When Price Boss Leon Henderson consulted with Economic Stabilizer Jimmy Byrnes, his argument for this scheme was that since the ceiling would be maintained, the move would not be inflationary. Actually, of course, if the Government pays bigger subsidies to corporations (be they copper companies or milk companies), and the corporations pay higher wages which are used to buy consumer goods, the net result is very definitely inflationary. The truth, which the Government has acknowledged but refused to face, is that copper is so badly needed that it is cheap at the price of a little inflation.

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