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Byrnes Governs The Allocation Process

On April 27, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented to Congress a program of ration banking: "Since those who can afford to pay more for a commodity should not be privileged over those who cannot, where any important article becomes scarce, rationing is the only Democratic, equitable solution."

During the Second World War, James F. Byrnes served as Director of the Office of Economic Stabilization and as Director of the Office of War Mobilization. In these capacities he had to make certain that civilians had enough supplies to survive and that the military had enough to win the war. This required the scrupulous management of goods in short supply.

Part of Byrnes' job was to enforce the rationing or fixed allowance of certain goods for every family. Rationing affected fuel oil, gasoline, rubber and food industries. Americans received ration tickets allowing them to buy certain quantities of scarce commodities. Money alone was not enough: no tickets, no purchase.

In the cartoon below, Byrnes is portrayed as a gas station attendant. Uncle Sam, the driver of the car, represents America and the American people. America is asking for more gasoline and, of course, as Director of Economic Stabilization, Byrnes cannot give out extra gas or authorize an improvident use of any commodity which is in short supply. The cartoon shows Byrnes pondering which gadget would be best to measure the "extra gas:" the eyedropper, the spoon or the thimble. All of these gadgets are useless for holding or measuring gas of any large quantity. The point is that Uncle Sam will get no more gasoline than to which his ration tickets entitle him!

Notice the patched right front tire on Uncle Sam's car. Rubber also was rationed.

The cartoon is by political satirist Jim Berryman, who presented Mr. Byrnes with a signed copy (see the bottom left corner) in October 1943.

An editorial cartoon depicting Byrnes as the resource allocator.

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