Why the White House stopped telling the truth about inflation and corporate power

The Guardian – By Robert Reich – Feb 24, 2022

Starbucks, McDonald’s, Chipotle, Amazon – all protect profits by making customers pay more. We need the political courage to say they can and should cover rising costs themselves.

The Biden White House has decided to stop tying inflation to corporate power. That’s a big mistake. I’ll get to the reason for the shift in a moment. First, I want to be clear about the relationship between inflation and corporate power.

While most of the price increases now affecting the US and global economies have been the result of global supply chain problems, this doesn’t explain why big and hugely profitable corporations are passing these cost increases on to their customers in the form of higher prices.

They don’t need to do so. With corporate profits at near record levels, they could easily absorb the cost increases. They’re raising prices because they can – and they can because they don’t face meaningful competition.

As the White House National Economic Council put it in a December report: “Businesses that face meaningful competition can’t do that, because they would lose business to a competitor that did not hike its margins.”

Starbucks is raising its prices to consumers, blaming the rising costs of supplies. But Starbucks is so profitable it could easily absorb these costs – it just reported a 31% increase in yearly profits. Why didn’t it just swallow the cost increases?

Ditto for McDonald’s and Chipotle, whose revenues have soared but who are nonetheless raising prices. And for Procter & Gamble, which continues to rake in record profits but is raising prices. Also for Amazon, Kroger, Costco and Target.

All are able to pass cost increases on to consumers in the form of higher prices because they face so little competition. As Chipotle’s chief financial officer said, “Our ultimate goal … is to fully protect our margins.”

Worse yet, inflation has given some big corporations cover to increase their prices well above their rising costs.

In a recent survey, almost 60% of large retailers say inflation has given them the ability to raise prices beyond what’s required to offset higher costs.

Read entire article here

Posted by Teri Perticone

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