Note: If you find my posts too long or too dense to read on occasion, please just read the bolded portions. They present the key points I’m making and the most important information I’m sharing.

The on-going saga of corrupt, extreme capitalistic behavior by big corporations is manifesting itself dramatically in the wake of the pandemic in price gouging for the sake of increasing profits. This enriches wealthy shareholders, including corporate executives, while ripping off consumers. Some recent examples are presented below. (See this previous post for some background, ways to fight price gouging, and previous examples ranging from disposable diapers to gasoline.)

Giant meat processor Tyson Foods posted a $1 billion profit last quarter, a 48% increase, while increasing meat prices for consumers by double digits. The price of beef is up 16% over the last year, a significantly bigger increase than the already high 7.5% increase in the price of food in general. The four biggest meat processing corporations (Tyson Foods, Cargill, JBS, and National Beef Packing Co.) control over 70% of the market for beef and have tripled their profit margins during the pandemic. The Justice Department is investigating them for price fixing. [1]

Nike’s profit increased by 125% last year to $5.7 billion, but it’s blaming “inflation” for a 10.5% price hike on its expensive sneakers, which are made in Vietnam by workers earning less than a dollar an hour. Phil Knight, Nike co-founder and previous chairman and CEO, became $26.7 billion richer during the pandemic as the price of Nike’s stock doubled from March 2020 to April 2022, largely due to the growth in profits.

Price gouging of a slightly different sort is evident at Moderna, which received $2.5 billion from U.S. taxpayers to develop its COVID vaccine. Its pricing of its vaccine and its refusal to share production of it with others to serve the global need have led to a $12.2 billion profit in 2021, a huge turnaround from a $737 million loss in 2020. As a result, its stock price has increased from $20 in Feb. 2020 to $165 in April 2022. It has given its CEO a $923 million golden parachute and handed out $360 million in stock options to two top executives.

At Amazon, profits increased by 75% last year to a record $35 billion. A $20 price hike in a Prime membership was blamed on “inflation” while Amazon denied workers a $3 raise and illegally underpaid drivers. Executive Chairman Jeff Bezos became $81 billion richer during the pandemic as Amazon’s stock price increased 50% from March 2020 to April 2022.

Price gouging by the pharmaceutical industry has been routine for years. (See this previous post from Jan. 2022 and this one from Jan. 2019 for background.) Outrage over drug price gouging is growing and, with a specific focus on insulin, the drug diabetics require to stay alive, President Biden is calling for a limit on its price and the U.S. House has taken action to implement one. Price controls are one way to counter price gouging.

On March 31, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, 232 to 193, to limit what diabetics have to pay for insulin to $35 a month or 25% of one’s insurance companies’ negotiated price, whichever is lower. One hundred ninety-three (193) Republicans (all but 12 of them) voted against reducing the cost of insulin for the 30 million Americans with diabetes who require it to live.

The fate of the bill in the Senate is uncertain. Last November, House Democrats passed a bill that would have addressed drug costs more broadly, including allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. However, Republicans and a couple Democrats blocked that bill in the Senate. [2]

The price of insulin in the U.S. has soared from $21 in 1999 to $332 in 2019 and now costs ten times more in the U.S. than in any other wealthy country. This could happen only because there is no regulation or negotiation by the U.S. government to keep the price reasonable. There is no reason for the high price other than corporate price gouging as insulin is a 100-year-old drug. [3] However, only three companies – Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, and Eli Lilly – supply insulin in the United States. Estimates of the cost to produce a vial of insulin range from $2.28 to $6.16 depending on the version of insulin and other factors, [4] so the over $300 retail cost represents a huge mark-up and huge profits for the drug makers. (See this previous post for more detail.)

[1]      Puzzanghera, J., 2/19/22, “Why are beef prices so high? Some ranchers and White House say it’s more than just inflation,” The Boston Globe

[2]      Sprunt, B., 3/31/22, “House passes bill to cap insulin prices,” NPR (https://www.npr.org/2022/03/31/1090085513/house-passes-bill-to-cap-insulin-prices)

[3]      Richardson, H. C., 4/1/22, “Letters from an American blog,” (https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/april-1-2022?s=r)

[4]      Silverman, E., 6/22/19,  “Insulin rationing high in US, survey finds,” The Boston Globe


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