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Wealth Redistribution: Corporations Make Less Stuff, Take More of Your Money

I noted in February that corporate profit-taking is driving higher costs for consumers far more than any of the politicians or policies that Kristi Noem and other corporate shills are scapegoating. The Guardian weighs in with more evidence that we’re being screwed not by big government but by big corporations:

The analysis of Securities and Exchange Commission filings for 100 US corporations found net profits up by a median of 49%, and in one case by as much as 111,000%. Those increases came as companies saddled customers with higher prices and all but ten executed massive stock buyback programs or bumped dividends to enrich investors.

…The analysis found commodity companies trading in oil, timber, rubber, meat, wheat, steel and mining recorded the highest profit increases, while restaurants and retailers saw comparatively lower improvements, or losses. Commodity price spikes reverberate down the supply chain, eventually hitting consumers, noted Martin Schmalz, an Oxford University economist.

The Guardian’s data, he added, objectively shows a massive “transfer of wealth” from consumers, who pay higher prices, to shareholders and investment firms that reap the benefits [Tom Perkins, “Revealed: Top US Corporations Raising Prices on Americans Even as Profits Surge,” Guardian, 2022.04.27].

Supply-chain issues are responsible for a big part of our inflation, but a big part of our supply-chain issues come from profiteers choosing to make less and charge more:

Two of the nation’s largest builders, PulteGroup and Lennar, intentionally kept home starts low and took other steps seemingly designed to maintain high prices by restricting supply.

“​​We could sell another 1,000 homes in the quarter if we wanted to without too much effort. It just doesn’t make sense to do that,” Lennar co-CEO Jon Jaffe told investors in an earnings call. Lennar’s profits are up 78%, while PulteGroup’s jumped 97%.

…Just as PulteGroup kept housing starts down, oil companies have kept production low while gas topped $7 a gallon in some regions. In earnings calls across the industry, oil executives like Diamondback Energy CEO Travis Stice have promised to keep production flat in the years ahead, “putting returns and, therefore, shareholders first”.

“No one wants to see that shareholder return program put at risk with volume growth,” Stice said [Perkins, 2022.04.27].

If you want to vote anyone out for inflation, vote out the profiteering corporations who are raising their prices well above the rising costs of inputs and shoveling your cash into their bulging silky pockets. But, oh, that’s right: corporate raiders don’t answer to your vote. You can’t even vote with your pocketbook for their competitors, because they are eating their competitors and consolidating their markets.

17 Comments

  1. larry kurtz 2022-04-28

    There may be no amount of money some employers can pay workers who already know the risks of working for The Man. A triopoly controls the medical industry in South Dakota, ffs.

    Montana held first place in 2021 but South Dakota is again the most lucrative state to practice medicine thanks to its medical industry lobby. Nurses’ salaries still surf the bottom and the state is 22nd in “medical environment” so why isn’t there a regulatory body like the Public Utilities Commission to regulate medical care costs? Because the state is a corporatist tax haven for an exclusive set of Republicans while over $4 trillion languishes in South Dakota banks and trusts.

    Despair and desperation will always give the underground economy markets for people looking for any remedy to make the pain go away. So, the callous denial of most Republicans that capitalism is failing an ever-growing number of Americans and driving crime rates higher while blaming their own victims will crush this republic before they will ever raise wages.

  2. bearcreekbat 2022-04-28

    The continued personification of “corporations” is interesting and seems to advance the interests of the individuals that control corporate activities.

    Regardless of rulings by the SCOTUS in cases like “Citizens United” that corporations might fit within certain legal definitions of persons, treating them as persons for making moral judgments is a fool’s errand. A corporation is nothing more than a legal classification that insulates a real human’s assets from liability for business decisions and activities. The individual or individuals involved in making these decisions are, in fact, morally responsible for negative or positive consequences. Blindly declaring a “corporation” to be responsible mimics what corporate law is designed to do by protecting the individuals that have acted immorally from accountability. It is that evil “corporation” that is at fault, not the individual owners and managers of the corportation that have made objectible decisions.

    Sure, an individual or groups of individuals can conspire to “take more of your money.” The legal label placed on that individual or group, whether corporation, partnership, enterprise, cartel, association, club, ad nauseum cannot change moral responsibility. Absent any indication of who is responsible for particular decision, simply declaring a “corporation” has committed a wrongful act limits the moral liability of the actual individuals responsible.

  3. P. Aitch 2022-04-28

    What’s the difference between being gouged by Saudis and Chinese and being gouged by Americans?
    No difference.
    When you’re a nail all you buy from are hammers.
    The solution to being gouged is the same as the solution to inflation but nobody wants to hear it.
    Especially when they’re flush with cash.
    Personal austerity aka don’t buy anything that isn’t absolutely essential to live bare bones.
    Business is built on greed.
    When they can’t gouge consumers they turn on each other and cut prices, to gouge their competitors.
    Until that happens, BOHICA!

  4. John 2022-04-28

    This environment of record corporate profits amidst high inflation is telling us the system lacks competition. A system lacking real competition can and will set its prices and profits to continually rise.

    The system needs to massively break-up corporations to return to healthy competition and reduced costs. Theodore Roosevelt knew and practiced that. The US knew and practiced that when during its interventions, it broke-up corporations and large land holdings — creating economic opportunity for lower classes. It works.

  5. O 2022-04-28

    John, I would agree, but is the US willing to challenge the engine of the stock market and shareholder interests? I see all this as symptomatic of an economy that defines its health almost entirely by the Dow.

  6. bearcreekbat 2022-04-28

    It certainly makes sense to break-up monopolistic holdings, but I can’t see how corporate status matters. Shouldn’t monopolistic partnerships, association, trusts, and individuals receive the same treatment?

  7. leslie 2022-04-28

    Personification of ceo leaders of corporations reflects distaste for immoral capitalists behind inequitable pay and screaming lurch of the GOP further right. Whether Charles Koch or Sam Walton is under discussion, or Warren Buffet or even George Soros, when Sen Mike Rounds, after the 2007-8 economic meltdown, sidestepped ceo pay transparency laws shielding them as “too burdensome, he was not working to benefit many of his constituents. A 2016 Harvard white paper says:

    Something more must be at work in the recent lunge of the GOP toward the ultra-free-market right. This article highlights a heavyweight new player in conservative politics – the recently expanded “Koch network” – that coordinates big money funders and an integrated set of political organizations operating to the right of the Republican Party. As we will show, the rise of the Koch network may help to explain the increasingly extreme economic positions espoused by most GOP candidates and officeholders. https://terrain.gov.harvard.edu/files/terrain/files/the_koch_network_and_the_rightward_shift_in_u.s._politics.pdf?m=1463891294

    Corruption, criminality, valueless or immoral capitalism and corporate leaders are properly put in focus. And the corporations behind SD’s burgeoning trust secrecy industry for the ultra rich. Shucks, Larry says here it is a $4 trillion impact. I am interested in hearing more underpinnings of *that* number :)

  8. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-04-29

    I think P. Aitch is on to something here, gentle readers.

    Personal austerity aka don’t buy anything that isn’t absolutely essential to live bare bones.

    I was at one of the two grocery stores in bee-you-tiful Hot Springs last Wednesday, and a harpy was chewing out the cashier about the price of eggs; she had seven dozen on the checkstand. She ranted “These prices are just turrble! This is all Biden’s fault and YOUR fault! My Harl’s gotta have four scramblies for breakfust evey morning; how we s’posed afford this?!?”

    I haven’t bought eggs for over a year, and don’t know what they cost. Seriously, though, four scrambled eggs EVERY DAY? I don’t think I need to belabor my point.

  9. leslie 2022-04-29

    Appendix A (p42 of above link) shows 12 of 37 2016 budgets of “Organizations of Republican/Conservative Universe” that are Koch Industries operated. This Appendix is non-copy-able.

    Appendix B. Core Organizations in the Koch Political Network

    Ideas

    CATO INSTITUTE (1977—): Libertarian think tank.
    MERCATUS CENTER (1980 –): Based at George Mason University to sponsor libertarian research and education.
    CHARLES G. KOCH FOUNDATION (1980 –): Funds research and educational endeavors.

    Policy Advocacy

    CITIZENS FOR A SOUND ECONOMY (1984-2004): Lobbying and public advocacy.
    60 PLUS ASSOCIATION (1992 –): Advocacy group promoting Social Security privatization, free- market health programs for seniors.
    AMERICAN ENERGY ALLIANCE (2008 –): Advocacy group opposing cap and trade, promoting Keystone, carbon fuels.
    CENTER TO PROTECT PATIENT RIGHTS/ AMERICAN ENCORE (2009 –): Advocacy against ObamaCare, health programs; later a general political funding conduit.

    Donor Coordination

    KOCH SEMINARS (2003 –): Twice-yearly gathering of donors who support Koch strategies. FREEDOM PARTNERS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE (2011 –): Raises and directs political funding; now runs Koch seminars.

    Constituency Mobilization – for both policy battles and elections

    AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY/ AFP FOUNDATION (2004 –): Cadre-led federation for advocacy/elections/constituency mobilization.
    GENERATION OPPORTUNITY (2011 –): Promotes libertarian policies to young people; runs issue ads.
    LIBRE INITIATIVE (2011 –): Does civic and voter outreach in Latino communities; runs issue ads. CONCERNED VETERANS FOR AMERICA (2012 –): Does constituency outreach and promotes privatization of veterans’ programs.

    Utilities

    THEMIS/ i360 (2010 –): Non-profit and for-profit voter data bank and vendor.
    AEGIS STRATEGIC (2013 –): consulting firm to find and advise pro-free market GOP candidates

  10. leslie 2022-04-29

    Conclusion:

    “In some policy fights, the Koch network may flex its muscles against business allies. But for the most part, the network just strengthens the ability of right-wing *corporate* and ideological elites to steer American democracy away from the wants and needs of most citizens.”

    Hmmm, there’s that fuzzy word “corporate” again, Bat:)

  11. bearcreekbat 2022-04-29

    leslie, at least “Koch” is identified by that quote as a key individual behind that particular obnoxious corporate activity, rather than simply blaming some fictional legal entity. And Koch certainly should not be able to avoid responsibility by using some other business form than corporation, such as a nameless “association” or “trust” or “partnership” or “network” etc. As long as named individuals, including Koch, are held responsible as a real people to the extent permitted by law, our language might begin to “pierce the corporate veil” in the realm of public knowledge and opinion.

    . . . hold a corporation’s shareholders or directors personally liable for the corporation’s actions . . . .

    https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/piercing_the_corporate_veil

  12. ABC 2022-04-30

    Capitalism is not enshrined in the US or SD constitutions. No economic system is.

    Poverty amongst many people is the baked in result when Republicans rule in this state, and also in the Democratic years of 1971 to 1978 and the 1930s. Both parties favor capitalism.

    The Scandinavian experiment is still showing the best results- strong capitalist economy, high taxes, large social safety net for those who can’t find jobs or don’t own profitable businesses.

    Since a majority of American voters prefer capitalism without the huge Scandinavian social safety net, America is doomed to repeat the 1776 to 2022 experiment of 15% of the population living in poverty and 1 out of 6 people being food insecure, wondering where there next meal is from.

    Swedes are proud of paying taxes. USA ers hate paying taxes.

    Since government here isn’t meeting the needs of the people, what can we do?

    Maybe social businesses as proposed by Dr. Yunus, Nobel Prize winner is the way out of this self imposed no tax one party monopoly.

    Social businesses uses the power of capitalism to create good paying jobs and help abolish poverty and other bad social conditions. Social businesses have no profit, it all goes into creating jobs, improving society and the environment, and paying back the capital of those who lent the money to start the social business. There are no profits or dividends.

    A new direction is needed. Social businesses and eventually 4th 5th and 6th Parties will bring our State into its true potential, prosperity for everyone, and an end to Republican based apartheid, white rule in South Dakota.

  13. ABC 2022-04-30

    yunussb.com is the website for social businesses.

    You can create a social business that has 10,000 jobs! You can prosper so many lives! Yes, you!

  14. All Mammal 2022-05-01

    I love smelling what our gracious host and his blog’s inspiring vanguard is stepping in.

    We can and should follow through and not let great ideas peter out whilst the good earth is bombarded with bombastic republican politics.

    I’m like a sprinter on the blocks, drop the hammer; tell me when to go.

  15. leslie 2022-05-11

    Republicans have made a major mistake, jinking SCOTUS into a blatant right wing politically corrupt institution in order to strike down Roe v. Wade.

    1. Economic inequality, is exemplified in SD’s new secret trust money laundering industry, and John Thune’s intimate partnership w/Mitch McConnell’s “death spiral” they have forced SCOTUS into, packing the institution over the cliff! So much for being owned by Koch-type billionaires, and their network of corporations, shell companies, dark money and ideology, John!

    2. Climate change, the other crisis issue facing the world, has lost center stage, thanks again, to Putin and his puppet, the leader of the GOP, Baby face Trump. WE MUST ACT NOW!

    Today the House voted 368-57 to pass nearly $40 BILLION in additional military, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine to fight against Russia’s invasion. The Senate is expected to follow. NPR

    How many of these votes are from the same majority of Republican asshol*s that voted to protect Trump from impeachment for depriving Ukraine of $400 million or so in military aid trying to “Benghazi” Hunter and Joe Biden (just like they did to Hillary’s email OMG!)

    Republicans are trying to cover up their corrupt treason to the United States democracy (not to mention their unforgivable denial of their direct responsibility for January 6th) by FINALLY STANDING UP TO RUSSIA for the visual it might serve as their upcoming reelection and midterm efforts to regain power loom in November; JFC!

    Vote blue to reverse 1. economic inequality, and 2. climate change. For integrity and truth. Republicans can no longer buy elections, gerrymander, and limit the right to vote.

  16. leslie 2022-05-11

    *THUNE VOTED AGAINST the January 6th Commission, along with 35 other Republicans.

    Rounds was a no show and DIDN’T VOTE! (he was busy using phenomenal medical insurance and senatorial access for medical care for his spouse’s cancer treatment). I would say “tragic” but it has become so routine in society. The illness certainly won’t bankrupt the Rounds family, unlike most Americans.

    It is unfortunate this blog fails to include and expose comments such as these to the broader daily DFP audience. Kinda defeats the purpose.

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