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Stressing the need for a “new economic playbook” that prioritizes human needs over corporate greed, U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman on Thursday introduced proposed legislation that would tackle excessive profiteering with targeted price controls.
“In my district and across the country, people simply cannot afford to live.”
“In my district and across the country, people simply cannot afford to live,” the New York Democract said in a statement introducing the Emergency Price Stabilization Act. “From impossible rents and utility bills to soaring costs for food, healthcare, 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 asserted that “we must move with greater speed and agility to protect our constituents from price shocks and corporate profiteering. The Emergency Price Stabilization Act will do exactly that—first, by getting to the bottom of what is driving price increases in key sectors, and second, by designing targeted controls and regulations to rein in those prices.”
If passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden, Bowman’s bill would:
- Monitor and analyze price changes related to food, energy, housing, healthcare, transportation, and other goods and services that are vital to the country’s health and economic security;
- Proactively investigate corporate profiteering in those areas, including price gouging linked to supply chain disruptions, by using subpoena power to open up and examine corporate books;
- Make recommendations to the president for appropriate, strategic controls and regulations to limit growth and reduce volatility in those key prices, which the president is temporarily authorized to implement;
- Engage and mobilize the public as part of the process of monitoring and regulating prices, and harness the expertise of federal agencies, outside experts, unions, and community organizations; and
- Propose complementary measures to ensure adequate supply of relevant goods and services, expand productive capacity, and meet climate and public health standards in the application of any price controls or regulations.
“At every step of the way, we will mobilize and engage the public in the process,” said Bowman. “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.”
“Here is the question we must ask: Do we have the resources and skills to reach our full productive capacity, make sure everyone in this country has a good job, and manage our economy in the interests of all people? I believe the answer is yes,” he added. “But we’ll need a new economic playbook to get there, and passing my Emergency Price Stabilization Act would be a major step in the right direction.”
Original co-sponsors of Bowman’s bill include Democratic Reps. Cori Bush (Mo.), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Danny K. Davis (Ill.), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (Ill.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Hank Johnson (Ga.), Mondaire Jones (N.Y.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Donald M. Payne Jr. (N.J.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Mark Takano (Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.).
Dozens of advocacy groups also support the proposed legislation.
Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter said that “though Wall Street tycoons would have us believe otherwise, retail prices for essential goods like food and energy are not set by simple supply and demand. They are egregiously manipulated by corporate giants that have achieved monopoly-level dominance over their markets.”
“Setting reasonable maximum prices for everyday needs would reduce out-of-pocket costs to consumers while curbing excessive profiteering by opportunistic corporations,” she added. “This commonsense legislation is needed more than ever.”
Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement that “even before the pandemic, millions of America’s lowest-income and most marginalized households were struggling to keep roofs over their heads, always just one financial shock away from falling behind on rent and being threatened with eviction, and in the worst cases, homelessness.”
“Today, these same households are facing new threats with historic levels of inflation and skyrocketing rents,” she added. “Just as some states have in place laws to prevent price or rent gouging after natural disasters, Congress should consider similar protections like those included in the Emergency Price Stabilization Act for renters coming out of a global pandemic.”