The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Where’s the Beef?
Too Expensive to Eat—Food Prices Are Too High!

Feb 12, 2024

Spending more at the grocery store and leaving with fewer bags of food is infuriating. In only four years, grocery prices have jumped by 25%. People need food to stay alive. This basic necessity has been hit hard by inflation. The items recently seeing the biggest rise in prices are beef, chicken, fruits and vegetables, and snacks.

Low-income working families now spend 30% of their income on food. The inflation rate may be down, but prices went up and stayed up. The U.S. Consumer Price Index showed a 2023 inflation rate of 3.4%. But most prices have not gone down after four years of inflation. Families are feeling squeezed.

The lie told to the public is that supply chain problems from the pandemic are still to blame for sky-high prices. A new report by Groundwork Collaborative exposed that lie. They studied U.S. Department of Commerce data and looked at price increases in food and household goods between April and September 2023. By analyzing corporate costs, the prices they charged and the profits they made, the Groundwork Collaborative showed that corporate profits accounted for 53% of price inflation! Over half!

By comparison, for the 40 years before Covid hit, corporate profits drove 11% of price increases. If recent inflation feels different, that’s because it is!

The corporations carrying out this enormous price gouging give every indication they want this to be the new normal. Duke University and the Richmond Federal Reserve just asked major corporations about future plans. Sixty percent of companies said that they plan to hike prices at a faster rate in 2024 than ever, regardless of their costs.

Other studies now show the same thing as the Groundwork Collaborative study—that more than half of recent price increases went directly to corporate profit increases.

Corporations are cutting back hours, laying off, and refusing decent raises—right when families are paying more for the food that kids and families must have!

Biden said in a speech in January, "To any corporation that has not brought their prices back down—even as inflation has come down…—it’s time to stop the price gouging." Right. But who is listening?

Trump talks about inflation on the campaign trail, and this may be putting him ahead in the polls. But he offers no controls on corporate profits—he just falsely blames different groups of workers and not corporations—for the problem.

In the meantime, corporate profits are up 29% since the pandemic started. Corporate conglomerates are charging ever higher prices just because they can. So much for speeches and promises!

The share of company income going to workers is less in 2023 than it was before the pandemic in 2019! Workers are right to fight, but the isolated fights the unionized working class has been waging have not brought workers back up to even 2019 levels. This shows the profound need to expand the fights beyond one workplace at a time.

Inflated prices are not meaningless statistics. They are the same thing as a wage cut. Our wages buy less this month than last year and the year before that.

The high food price is added to high housing costs, transportation costs, and medical costs—the basics. High prices are causing a crisis for working families. Wages and pensions could be tied to price increases—going up IMMEDIATELY whenever prices go up. This needs to be the aim of the struggles workers carry out today.

But it’s not enough to demand this. It must not be left to bosses and politicians. Workers can organize to make a fight to take the next step. Teams of workers and family members can be organized to monitor prices in the stores and wages at the workplace: whenever prices go up, wages should IMMEDIATELY go up.