4.1-4-44,440v e ” BROWSE TILL 10:00 P.M. MONDAY thru FRIDAY Now In Our 13th ‘fogy of sorvice to Austin BOSTOIFi tE 2116 Guadalupe Austin, Texas 7671111 477-9725 Houston Lighting and Power was granted a rate “adjustment” from the Houston city council the day before Thanksgiving. Not surprisingly, the adjustment was upward, meaning that the average Houstonian can add yet another 2 percent to the monthly light bill. With this latest increase, the typical residential bill in Houston is 10 percent higher than it was in April. Not one city council member voted against the increase, which was said to be necessary to offset increased corporate costs. Under the current arrangement, the power company does not have to absorb increased costs, but can count on periodic rate adjustments to pass the increase directly to customers. It’s not as if HL&P is reeling on the edge of bankruptcy and unable to meet another dime in costs. The utility’s profit, as measured by its return on equity, is running at 15 percent, which puts it in fast company indeed. Noting this high profit level, some council members balked at awarding the rate increase, but the head of the city agency that regulates HL&P rushed in to assure the doubters, that the firm’s return on equity actually would have been only 14.5 percent had it not been for extraordinary circumstances. Oh, well then, of course, if it’s only 14.5 percent. City of Houston regulators had determined earlier in the year that a “reasonable” return on equity for HL&P is 14 to 14.5 percenta high level, considering that the median return on equity of the large corporations surveyed by Business Week magazine is well below HL&P’s. The upshot: Houston households will see their monthly bills increased in order to maintain the extraordinarily high profits of the power company. The farm machinery industry is a shared monopoly, with the four largest manufacturers controlling better than 70 percent of the American market. The staff of the Federal Trade Commission found in 1972 that farmers buying new equipment were overcharged some $250 million because of monopoly pricing practices. Since then, prices of tractors and other farm machines have skyrocketed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in November that tractors and other selfpropelled farm implements were priced 38 percent higher than in 1974, and the department said the machines would cost 10 percent more next year. It is this unrelenting rise in equipment costs, combined with falling farm prices, that forces efficient family farmers off the land. Your phone bill It is not hard to envision the scene: natty, well-buffed AT&T officials at ease in their tasteful executive club each afternoon, chatting amiably about ways to squeeze still another dime out of phone users. Undoubtedly, the reality is much less personal, and much less interesting probably, instead, a lot of systems engineers and accountants gathered around computer terminals. But the result is the same: higher phone bills. In addition to requesting plain-vanilla rate increases throughout the country this year, AT&T sought permission to charge for “411” directory assistance calls \(see Obs., charge in 14 states and is pressing the point in others, Texas included. But the phone company has already drawn up new schemes for charging more. First, AT&T will begin as early as 1977 to ask state regulatory agencies for permission to bill customers for making long-distance directory-assistance calls. Currently, if a Texan wants to phone someone is another town or state, but doesn’t know the party’s number, he or she can get it free by dialing the area code plus 555-1212. Under the company’s proposal, however, a caller will need every phone book in the country or will have to pay to get unknown numbers. For the longer run, AT&T’s department of phone-bill hikes has an entirely new pricing schedule in the works. They want to do for local calls what is now done for long distancecharge by the minute and by distance of call, instead of the current flatrate on local phone use. The company claims it is the direct dialing equipment, computers, and other gadgets that make this higher-priced system of unit charging possible. That must chap all the phone users who have paid for this “progress,” since now it’s being used to ring up higher phone bills. December 24, 1976 21 YOU’RE US If you feel American Society is shot through with injustice; If you are hopeful that free people can control modern technology to create a humane world; If you are angry when democracy is polluted in the United States, assassinated in Chile, and suffocated in the Soviet Union. DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST ORGANIZING COMMITTEE For more information, contact: Austin DSOC Dallas DSOC Houston DSOC 209 West 20th 4924 N. Hall P.O. Box 7296 Austin 78705 Dallas 75235 Houston 77008 478-2095 522-6107 777-4470 MARTIN ELFANT SUN LIFE OF CANADA LIFE HEALTH DENTAL 600 JEFFERSON SUITE 430 HOUSTON, TEXAS Good books in every field JENKINS PUBLISHING CO. The Pemberton Press John H. Jenkins, Publisher Box 2085 ES Austin 78768
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