End Price Gouging and Protect the People

gasoline pump© Mark Hatfield / Getty Images / Canva
Op-Ed by Reps. Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie), Sara Innamorato (D-Allegheny), Nick Pisciottano (D-Allegheny) and Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia/Delaware)

America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, where working hard gets you ahead, but in 2022, price gouging and corporate greed are leaving working families behind and hurting the small local businesses that are the cornerstones of our communities.

We’re seeing numbers at the gasoline pumps like we’ve never seen before and it’s driving price increases on food, clothing and everything you and your family use.

The oil companies are blaming inflation worldwide. Republicans are blaming the president.

The facts tell a different story. Yes, inflation is high, but the per-gallon price of gas has gone up far, far beyond the rate of inflation, and in the first half of 2022 oil company profits are up 300% over the first half of 2021. You read that right, 300%. Oil profits are up 300% over 2021 when vaccines became available, and we were all desperate to get out of the house. Demand for travel was higher, but prices were lower.

Here’s the deal: Corporate greed is driving these price increases, and the money is flowing out of the pockets of working people and into stockholder dividends, company stock buybacks, and to inflate the salaries and benefits of corporate officers who get to boost their compensation by taking credit for 300% profit increases.

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On Wall Street earnings calls, CEOs of oil companies, meat processors, retail stores, restaurant groups, grocery conglomerates, and more have boasted to investors that price increases are good for their bottom line. One publicly said, “historically, inflation has been positive for us,” while his company reported a 21% increase in profits in the first quarter of 2022 alone.

This is unacceptable while Pennsylvanians struggle with high prices at the pump, in the grocery store, and everywhere else.

House Democrats have a plan to protect the people now and build a fairer economy for the future.

Our Stop Gas Gouging Act would have us join five other states to ban oil companies or gas retail operations from raising prices more than once in a 24-hour period or during an emergency and give the attorney general more tools to investigate and prosecute.

Our Stop Price Fixing Act would come down hard on the businesses that collude to artificially send prices skyrocketing to take advantage of emergencies – or just to pad their own pockets. Our plan would give the attorney general the tools needed to get the facts, get the bad guys into a courtroom, and get them convicted.

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Lastly, our Open Markets Act would address the long-term issues with our economy and stand up for the small local businesses that truly create the jobs and put their communities first. Our plan would end behavior that hurts fair business competition and give the attorney general more power to investigate and prosecute any anti-trust violations.

It’s a good start, and we’re ready to do it right now, but there’s even more work to be done.

Right now, Pennsylvania has a budget surplus of more than $5.5 billion, and nearly $2 billion more in leftover COVID-19 relief funds. This is your money. It should be in your pocket. It should be in your schools. It should be in your community where it belongs rebuilding roads and bridges, creating affordable housing, funding economic development, and more.

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It should be used to correct the imbalance between working people and large corporations that have caused this inflation. We have an opportunity to correct the structures that have depressed wages, thwarted competition and open markets and created shortages.

The Republicans want to place the blame everywhere but where it belongs: their 30 years of bad leadership. We are the minority, we need the GOP majority to work with us, and run these pro-consumer bills.

Let’s get to work and put People First and create a fair economy.

Rep. Ryan Bizzarro
House Democratic Policy Chairman
www.pahouse.com/bizzarro

Rep. Sara Innamorato
D-Allegheny
www.pahouse.com/Innamorato

Rep. Nick Pisciottano
D-Allegheny
www.pahouse.com/Pisciottano

State Rep. Joanna McClinton
House Democratic Leader
www.pahouse.com/McClinton

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