FT Alphaville riffs today on the potential inflation-lowering effects of the release of 60 million barrels of oil reserves — and wanders into this passage from an LBJ aide, about how the president tried to fight inflation one product at a time:
Shoe prices went up, so LBJ slapped export controls on hides to increase the supply of leather. Reports that color television sets would sell at high prices came across the wire. Johnson told me to ask RCA's David Sarnoff [RCA was then a major TV manufacturer] to hold them down. Domestic lamb prices rose. LBJ directed [Defense Secretary Robert] McNamara to buy cheaper lamb from New Zealand for the troops in Vietnam. ... When egg prices rose in the spring of 1966 and Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman told him that not much could be done, Johnson had the Surgeon General issue alerts as to the hazards of cholesterol in eggs.
That's Joseph Califano, as quoted in Robert Samuelson's The Great Inflation and its Aftermath. Samuelson writes that LBJ couldn't hold back the inflationary tide:
The slight effects on individual prices and wages were overwhelmed by the emerging economic boom, which put upward pressure on all wages and prices.