Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) announced on Friday that the committee will soon hold a hearing on how corporate greed is contributing to rising prices and inflation.
The hearing scheduled for Tuesday will highlight a “level of corporate greed [that] has only widened the gap between the top one percent and the working class,” according to the press release. It will feature testimony from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Lindsay Owens, director of Groundwork Collaborative, a progressive economic advocacy group.
“The American people are sick and tired of corporate greed,” Sanders said. “They are sick and tired of being ripped-off by corporations making record-breaking profits. They are sick and tired of being forced to pay outrageously high prices for gas, rent and food while large corporations make out like bandits.”
The hearing comes as high prices are squeezing working-class Americans, while corporate profits rise. As inflation rose by 7 percent in 2021, corporate profits increased by 25 percent to reach nearly $3 trillion – a record high. CEOs and shareholders are benefiting heavily from these profits; last year, S&P 500 firms spent more than $900 billion.
Meanwhile, prices for basic needs have also skyrocketed. Gas prices are up 38 percent, used car prices have increased by 41 percent and Tyson has increased its prices on meat products, the press release points out. Analysis from Bloomberg last week found that the average family will have to shell out an extra $5,200 this year for the same level of consumption as previous years.
As corporations were raising prices, executives bragged about it. As Owens wrote in March, CEOs in many industries have told investors on earnings calls that raising prices on products has been a successful tactic for raising revenues and stock prices.
The Vermont lawmaker has been urging Congress to address corporate profiteering. During a speech on the Senate floor in February, Sanders said that billionaire wealth hoarding has led to an oligarchic society in the U.S.
“The time is long, long, long overdue for Congress to start addressing the needs of the American people,” the independent senator said. “Maybe, just maybe, we should do what the American people want, and not what wealthy campaign contributors want.”
In late March, Sanders introduced a bill that would capture nearly all excess profits through 2024. The Ending Corporate Greed Act would levy a tax on corporate windfall profits, capturing 95 percent of corporate profits exceeding average pre-pandemic levels through 2024.
This would not be the first time that the country implemented similar taxes in order to prevent corporate price gouging. During the first and second World Wars and the Korean War, the U.S. taxed profits to ensure that companies weren’t taking advantage of wartime to pad their pockets.
Other lawmakers have introduced similar bills; in February, lawmakers debated whether or not to give federal regulators more power to crack down on and potentially ban corporate price gouging. Republicans claimed that high prices are caused by labor shortages and inflation, though industries have been lobbying against corporate price gouging regulation in order to keep their profits high.