Speaking at a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Development Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today blasted “greedy” CEOs for “taking advantage of hardworking Americans by using inflation as an excuse to raise prices on consumers.”
Menendez says rapidly rising prices and supply chain shortages have squeezed household budgets causing economic hardships for many families across the country.
Holding up a transcript of Kimberly Clark’s recent earning call, the Senator highlighted how the company’s CEO Mike Hsu bragged to investors that the company took “decisive action to offset the impact of higher costs with significant pricing actions”. From October 2021 to January 2022, the price of a 50-pack of Kimberly Clark N95 masks doubled from $23 to $57. The company also stated that they will resume stock buybacks when they have excess cash flow.
“I just gave one example, but too many companies are taking advantage of the headlines and jacking up prices and profits above and beyond any rise in raw material prices can justify, just so they can kick back more to wealthy shareholders through dividends and stock buybacks,” said Sen. Menendez. “So I hope the administration and Congress can work together to address this.”
Sen. Menendez, the leading immigration advocate in the Senate, also pushed for immigration reform as one measure that can be taken to address broader economic challenges such as the labor shortage across the country. The labor shortage is a contributing factor to rising inflation.
“There are currently nearly 11 million job openings nationwide across low-wage and high-skill industries. Immigrants are ready and willing to fill these jobs,” said Sen. Menendez. “Unfortunately, over 1.6 million immigrants still have pending work permit applications before USCIS and over 8 million immigrants are stuck in the broader visa backlog. Leading business groups, including the American Business Immigration Coalition, agree that robust immigration legalization provisions are urgently needed to address our significant labor shortage.”
Dr. Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, agreed that addressing the backlog at USCIS is part of the solution to the labor shortage and reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to dealing with the backlogs.
Construction, transportation and warehousing, accommodation and hospitality, and personal services businesses are the industries facing the worse labor shortages. Between May and July 2021, job postings in these industries increased over 65% as compared to the same time period in 2021.