Amid soaring inflation and record corporate profits, progressive Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-New York) unveiled a bill on Thursday aimed at combating the increasing costs for expenses ranging from housing to gas.
The Emergency Price Stabilization Act would create a sub-task force within the White House to monitor price raises and corporate profiteering, potentially making recommendations to the president to regulate and moderate prices in food, energy, housing, health care and transportation. The group would have subpoena power over corporations’ financial records in order to determine if companies are raising prices for profit or out of necessity.
“From impossible rents and utility bills to soaring costs for food, health care, and other necessities of life, people in America are being crushed by the burden of high prices and wages that can’t keep pace,” Bowman said in a statement. “We cannot simply step back and allow the Federal Reserve, which hiked interest rates again last week, to address inflation on the backs of everyday people. That approach means throwing people out of work and risking a recession.”
Indeed, while progressive analysts and experts point out that high corporate profit margins are a large driving force behind this year’s high inflation, Republicans and corporations have obscured the truth, falsely claiming that inflation is due to Democratic spending and wage raises. Though polling finds that most Americans acknowledge corporations’ role in high prices, corporate media and politicians’ obfuscation of the causes of inflation are likely suppressing efforts to control corporate profits.
With no end in sight to rising inflation, consumers are now being squeezed for every penny they have. Rent rose a record 11.3 percent last year, food prices rose 10.4 percent over 12 months, ending in June, and gas prices in June were up nearly 50 percent over the last year.
Meanwhile, corporations are bragging about their record margins, celebrating inflation and a volatile economy as opportunities to raise prices. According to the Economic Policy Institute, over half of price raises since the second quarter of 2020 are attributable to higher corporate profit margins.
Bowman recently told The American Prospect that the bill isn’t about setting price controls across all sectors, but rather taking a more critical and regulated approach against inflation with a “new economic playbook,” and examining inflation’s true causes, “giving the American people a look at corporate books.” The efforts would be akin to efforts in the U.S. around World War II to control inflation and protect the economy.
The bill has garnered the support of a number of economists and progressive advocates, who say that the proposal would be a major step toward creating an economy with a greater focus on protecting consumers and the public.
“In these times of overlapping emergencies, we need a new policy toolkit for monetary stabilization. The Emergency Price Stabilization Act of 2022 presents a critical step in this direction,” said Isabella Weber, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, economics professor. “If prices of essentials can be stabilized, this preserves purchasing power and enables investment and growth, instead of reverting to austerity.”
Sixteen House Democrats have cosponsored the bill, including progressive heavy hitters like Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), Cori Bush (Missouri) and Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts). A wide swath of progressive organizations and labor unions have also endorsed the bill.