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Spring 2024

I recently started receiving emails from Senator Bob Casey about his “Greedflation” campaign. The campaign started in 2020 and continues.  The premise is that companies increasing prices for products more than inflation and/ or cutting product size are greedy. Senator Casey introduced a bill that would require the Federal Trade Commission to define selling smaller sizes at regular prices as an unfair or deceptive practice, making companies subject to penalties.

This effort is misguided in a free market economy. In the United States, we have lots of choice in consumer items. There are always products that come out that are better, different, or less expensive than existing products.

We already have laws against mergers or acquisitions that are anti-competitive.    We have laws against mis-representing products.

The Casey email mentions specifically that the price of Scott toilet paper increased by 10%, and that Gatorade decreased container size from 32 ounces to 28 ounces (12%).  If the price is clearly listed, and the quantity clearly listed, I see no problem. There are plenty of alternatives for toilet paper, and for sport drinks.  If Scott wants to increase prices, they should be able to.  If another toilet paper manufacturer sees an opportunity to sell a comparable product for less, well, that is the American way, and the consumer will benefit.

Casey’s email also mentions bank overdraft fees and food delivery fees.  Shouldn’t people be responsible if they overdraw their bank account?  It’s expensive to run a bank, and difficult handling overdrafts.  Banks need to be profitable, so they do not go out of business.  Sure, disclosure of fees is important. Some banks offer overdraft protection or charge lower fees.

Food delivery fees are Greedflation? That is ridiculous. Food delivery is a luxury, and if you can’t afford it, you ought to pick up your own food.

The Greedflation campaign panders to consumers. Can you imagine the bureaucratic effort required to track price increases or cuts in product size if there were laws about it?  What a drag that would put on our economy, now doing the best of anywhere in the world.

In 1962, John F Kennedy called out steel manufacturers who increased prices by 3-5%.  Kennedy called the price hikes “a wholly unjustifiable and irresponsible defiance of the public interest.”  He criticized “a tiny handful of steel executives whose pursuit of power and profit exceeds their sense of public responsibility.”

Eventually the manufacturers backed down.

Is Bob Casey’s Greedflation campaign different?  Yes, in several ways. Kennedy didn’t make up a silly mocking name, although he did call the steelmen “sons of bitches” in private. Kennedy also didn’t call for legislation.  What he did was called “jawboning”.

The Greedflation campaign reminds me of the PJ O’Rourke quote: “The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.”

Consumers need protection, but not from their own decisions.  People need to be responsible for their choices, as long as the information is available to them.


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