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A person shops for meat at a grocery store

A person shops in the meat section of a grocery store on November 11, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Data Highlights 'Egregious' Pandemic Profiteering by US Food and Oil Giants

On the eve of a congressional hearing on corporate price hikes, a new analysis shows that "companies are hiding behind the pandemic and supply chain disruptions as an excuse to gouge consumers."

Jake Johnson

A new analysis released Tuesday ahead of a congressional hearing on pandemic-era price gouging shows that U.S. corporations in the food and energy sectors—from Tyson to Exxon Mobil—are pushing higher costs onto consumers while raking in ever-increasing revenues and handing executives massive pay packages.

Conducted by the advocacy group Food & Water Watch (FWW), the analysis spotlights the fact that skyrocketing food and energy—specifically gasoline—prices have been major contributors to the overall rise of inflation in the U.S. Between December 2019 and December 2021, the nation's Consumer Price Index (CPI) jumped by 8.5%.

"Many companies have subsequently fattened executive compensation while worker wages have stagnated."

According to FWW, overall energy costs rose 20% over that period while the price per gallon of unleaded gasoline increased by 31.7%.

Meanwhile, FWW found, "the cost to feed a family of four on a 'thrifty' food plan has increased by 33.5%," driven by the rising prices of ground beef (+19.2%), bacon (+31.7%), chicken breasts (+19.7%), milk (+17.4%), and eggs (+16.5%).

The analysis emphasizes that such "egregious" price increases come as leading corporations in the U.S. food and energy sectors are reporting growing revenues and huge profits. Tyson Foods—the second-largest chicken, beef, and pork processor in the world—has seen its revenue grow 11% above pre-pandemic levels.

The corporation also rewarded its top executives with higher pay in 2021 even as it raised prices for consumers, blaming supply chain issues.

Amanda Starbuck, research director at Food & Water Watch, argued in a statement Tuesday that "companies are hiding behind the pandemic and supply chain disruptions as an excuse to gouge consumers."

"In reality, 2021 revenues among the largest food and energy corporations topped pre-pandemic levels," said Starbuck. "Many companies have subsequently fattened executive compensation while worker wages have stagnated or even dropped."

FWW's analysis was published on the eve of a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday titled, "Pandemic Profiteers: Legislation to Stop Corporate Price Gouging."

"We spent a half-century allowing business executives and financiers to take control of our supply chains."

One of the witnesses set to testify at the hearing is Groundwork Collaborative chief economist Rakeen Mabud, who on Monday co-authored an article in The American Prospect arguing that recent product shortages and price hikes were "brought to life through bad public policy coupled with decades of corporate greed."

"We spent a half-century allowing business executives and financiers to take control of our supply chains, enabled by leaders in both parties," wrote Mabud and David Dayen, the Prospect's executive editor. "They all hailed the transformation, cheering the advances of globalization, the efficient network that would free us from want. Motivated by greed and dismissive of the public interest, they didn't mention that their invention was supremely ill-equipped to handle inevitable supply bottlenecks."

"And the pandemic exposed this hidden risk," they added, "like a domino bringing down a system primed to topple."

Mabud is expected to reiterate that conclusion before lawmakers at Wednesday's House hearing. According to her prepared testimony, Mabud will contend that "big corporations have taken advantage of shifting demand to raise prices on essentials like Covid tests, masks, and hand sanitizer, all to generate record profits."

"Our economy works best when it works for all of us, but deeply entrenched concentrated corporate power has systematically stripped down supply chains and undermined consumers’ bargaining power," Mabud plans to say. "The path towards an inclusive, resilient economy must include policies that foster competitive markets where consumers, working people, and smaller competitors all have meaningful bargaining power."

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Dr. Rakeen Mabud of the Groundwork Collaborative.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.


Ilhan Omar Says Plan to Fix Supreme Court Must Include Impeachment Probes

"We need an impeachment investigation into Clarence Thomas' role in the January 6th coup, as well as into Gorsuch, Alito, Barrett, and Kavanaugh's testimony on Roe during their confirmation hearings," said the Minnesota Democrat.

Jake Johnson ·

Right-Wing Justices Should Be Impeached for Lying Under Oath, Says Ocasio-Cortez

"We have a responsibility to protect our democracy," said the New York Democrat. "That includes holding those in power who violate the law accountable."

Kenny Stancil ·

'Infuriating': Biden Rebuked for Continued Opposition to Supreme Court Expansion

"What does Biden 'agree' with doing?" Mehdi Hasan asked. "What does the leader of this country want to do to stop the increasingly fascistic assault on our democratic institutions and basic rights?"

Kenny Stancil ·

'We Need Action': Biden, Democrats Urged to Protect Abortion Access in Post-Roe US

"The Supreme Court doesn't get the final say on abortion," Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith wrote in a new op-ed.

Kenny Stancil ·

Motorist 'Tried to Murder' Abortion Rights Advocates at Iowa Protest, Witnesses Say

Although one witness said the driver went "out of his way" to hit pro-choice protestors in the street, Cedar Rapids police declined to make an arrest.

Kenny Stancil ·

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