Leon Henderson was appointed by President Franklin Roosevelt to head up the Office of Price Administration (OPA), and economic planning board, during World War II. The OPA was wracked with mismanagement, incompetence, and complaints during its existence.
Henderson was five feet six, weighed 210 pounds, and was known for he throwing his body around, yelling and shouting orders, threatening to throw people out of windows and to exhibit himself before the populace as a sort of burly ideological comedian. It was Presidential Assistant Harry Hopkins who first found Henderson a job in the TNEC. Then the SEC, NDAC, SPAB, OPM, WPB, OES, OPACS and, finally, OPA.
High prices are caused by inflation. Inflation is the expansion of the quantity of money available to buy things in excess of the goods available for purchase. If the number of dollars in circulation increases without an increase in the volume of goods for sale, inflation, or a raise in prices, is the result. Henderson understood it exactly backward, thinking inflation was caused by high prices.
At first OPA began with Henderson and 84 office assistants. In August, 1941 a new bill, reorganizing OPA, was being considered by Congress. A member asked if the plan would not require a staff of 100,000. Henderson replied: "Oh, no. This bill will be practically self-enforcing." The next year May, 1942 Henderson asked for 110 million dollars and said he needed a staff of 90,000. The next year it cost 153 million and the following year it had a staff of 53,500 paid workers and 204,000 volunteers.
At one time there was an almost complete breakdown of food distribution throughout the United States. .In December, 1942, things got so bad that Henderson had to be eased out. A former senator, Prentiss Brown, succeeded him with no better results, after which Chester Bowles was made head of that bureau.
- The Roosevelt Myth, John T. Flynn, Fox and Wilkes, 1948, Book 3, Ch. 7, The Happiest Years of Their Lives.