White House scrambles to quell rising consumer prices as inflation surges
New White House competition council created in July to hold its first meeting on Friday
The Biden administration is rushing to tamp down rising consumer prices.
A new White House competition council created in July is slated to hold its first meeting on Friday, where participants are expected to highlight at least 18 actions taken to help consumers and potentially lower prices, according to the Associated Press, citing two people familiar with the matter.
The goal is to ultimately create a more dynamic economy in which competition among companies leads to increased transparency, more choice and potential savings for customers.
Among the matters the council plans to discuss are a new report about airlines that wrongfully denied refunds to customers whose flights were changed or canceled; an inquiry into excessive fees charged by ocean carriers; and a nearly 20-fold increase in fines for hospitals that fail to disclose their prices to the public.
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The council – led by White House economic adviser Brian Deese – also intends to tackle corporate mergers, landlords who prevent renters from shopping around for internet services and removing requirements by companies such as John Deere that stop independent repair shops from fixing broken tractors and other machines, the AP reported.
The administration's supply chain disruptions task force is having conversations with businesses across the food supply chain to identify possible bottlenecks in the supply chain, a White House official told FOX Business.
"We are committed to working with all industry participants to identify ways we can help alleviate those bottlenecks," the official said.
Deese previewed the administration's efforts to tamp down skyrocketing meat prices, which he blamed on profiteering by major industry players, rather than economy-wide inflation. During the White House press briefing on Wednesday, Deese noted that beef and veal prices are up 15% since January 2020, while pork is up about 14% and poultry up 12.%. By comparison, the broader category of food to be eaten at home is up just 6.5%.
CONSUMER PRICES SURGE 5% ANNUALLY, MOST SINCE AUGUST 2008
"It raises a concern about pandemic profiteering — about companies that are driving price increases in a way that hurts consumers who are going to the grocery store, and also isn't benefiting the actual producers — the farmers and the ranchers," Deese said.
The meeting comes in light of a new Labor Department report released Friday morning, which showed that inflation at the wholesale level surged at the highest known level since August 2010. The producer price index, which measures inflationary pressures before they reach consumers, climbed 0.7% last month to 8.3%.
Excluding volatile food and energy prices, so-called core inflation jumped 5.4% in July compared to the previous year. Still, month-over-month, the consumer price index climbed 0.3% in July – well below June's increase of 0.9%, a sign that inflation could be plateauing.
Inflation has accelerated as the economy recovers from last year's brief, but extremely severe, recession.
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Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has largely attributed the spike in consumer prices to pandemic-induced disruptions in the supply chain, a shortage of workers that's pushed wages higher and a wave of pent-up consumers flush with stimulus cash. Still, he's maintained the rise in inflation is like "transitory" and has warned about the dangers of the Federal Reserve acting superfluously to lower the benchmark federal funds rate.
Fox Business' Edward Lawrence contributed to this report