It's interesting in the extreme that Jeff Bezos, the second-richest man in the world, Amazon founder, self-propelled astronaut, and confirmed liberal who lavished the Obama Foundation with $100 million and bought (likely saving) The Washington Post, which he then turned into
a leading digital media innovator, is now an unlikely enemy of the Biden administration.
Amazon employees gave
$2.2 million to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, and Bezos called
Biden’s 2020 election win a victory for “unity, empathy, and decency.” But that hadn't dissuaded the White House from biting the hand that fed it so much cash once Bezos called out the president for peddling disinformation regarding the causes of the current record inflation.
Earlier this month, America’s toughest 79-year-old once again falsely accused oil companies of gouging consumers, demanding of them: “Bring down the price you are charging at the pump to reflect the cost you’re paying for the product. And do it now.”
In response, Bezos posted to Twitter
: “Ouch. Inflation is far too important a problem for the White House to keep making statements like this.” He accused Biden and his handlers of “either straight ahead misdirection or a deep misunderstanding of basic market dynamics.”
Bezos knows full well how the policies of the party he supports adds big costs to gas at the pump. A few years ago, there were 1,600 rigs in this country finding and drilling oil. Today, there are only a fraction
of that number, as big-government environmentalists wage war on fossil fuels.
Apparently, we actually have in Bezos a Democratic donor who has become embarrassed at the lies he’s helped finance.
It didn’t take long for White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to enter the fray, replying to Bezos on Twitter, “I guess it’s not surprising that you think oil and gas companies using market power to reap record profits at the expense of the American people is the way our economy is supposed to work.”
If President Biden and those around him really feel that way, if they really believe that companies should not be “using market power,” then, for the sake of the U.S. consumer, why not impose price controls? After all, the price controls of the early 1970s were bi-partisan, with Richard Nixon signing the Economic Stabilization Act passed by a 91st Congress with massive Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, establishing a federal Price Commission to which Nixon appointed government bureaucrats who would dictate how much sellers would charge for their wares.
Not very many years later, another president would insist that “government wage and price controls have never worked in peacetime. They create unfair economic distortions, and they hurt productivity. These inevitable results have always forced governments to eventually ease price controls and then dismantle them while inflation roars ahead.
"Controls create inequities, and the greatest inequity is their effect on the average American family. As even the most ardent advocates of mandatory wage and price controls will admit, the cost of vital necessities—such as food and fuel—would be passed on to those who are living on frozen wages and on fixed incomes."
You might imagine that this was spoken by Ronald Reagan. It was actually Jimmy Carter who made the statement in the midst
of his presidency’s meltdown in the spring of 1980. But, as if playing the lead in some black comedy, right after Carter bemoaned the failure of price controls, he proceeded to announce the beefing up of the federal Council on Wage and Price Stability—Republican President Gerald Ford’s successor to the Price Commission—to shame businesses into “voluntarily” setting prices, following the advice of federal bureaucrats.
“We simply cannot outlaw inflation with a massive federal bureaucracy or wish it away with a magic formula,” Carter assured us. “On the other hand, voluntary wage and price restraints offer the flexibility we need to deal with our complex economy” with prices determined by “a tripartite advisory committee, with members from business, labor, and the public.” He announced that the council’s "current staff of 80 people will be more than tripled."
"The council will then establish teams of experts to track wage and price developments in each major industry" and then "meet with leaders from specific industries to secure their cooperation in this fight against inflation. Where necessary, we will ask large firms for pre-notification of significant price increases. We will investigate wage and price increases that seem out of line with the standards. I mean to apply these standards with vigor and toughness to both business and labor.” Voluntary, huh?
So even though “controls have never worked,” government-devised “standards” backed by political pressure surely will?
A few years earlier, President Gerald Ford had donned a “WIN” button (Whip Inflation Now) and encouraged Americans to adorn their own lapels with the same, after they signed “a very simple enlistment form” that appeared in newspapers “to join in this massive mobilization and stick with it until we do win as a nation and as a people.” Ford appeared before Congress in October 1974 to advise
Americans to choose “carpooling, taking the bus, riding bikes, or just plain walking.”
The principle for both Democrat Carter and Republican Ford was the same: the cause of inflation is an excess of freedom in a market that lacks government management—if not explicitly by law, then by intimidation.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) earlier this year called for
“reasonable” price controls on the oil industry—the need for “reasonable” being a nod to the fact that even most politicians and economists on the left know that the 1970s experience proved that controls cause shortages that devastate consumers.
Sanders’s single-payer health reform, of course, is built
on price controls. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently put forward a bill
imposing fines for selling “a good or service at an unconscionably excessive price during an exceptional market shock,” but failed to say how “an unconscionably excessive price” would be determined.
The first major decision that Bezos made after purchasing The Washington Post newspaper group was to abolish the online paywall for subscribers of the Dallas Morning News, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and other publications under its control. Guess what—businesses know that customers who make them money are happy customers, customers who do not feel cheated.
Does anyone really believe Bezos’s creation, Amazon, attracted tens of millions of consumers by gouging them? And does anyone really think Amazon would have fared better following the price recommendations of some Council on Price Stability in Washington?
Making prodigious profits for the benefit of those who freely buy is “the way our economy is supposed to work.” That is indeed “market power,” which is to say, liberty.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.