Power & Market

Biden Runs Interference on "Shrinkflation" in Super Bowl Ad

President Joe Biden made an appearance in a White House advertisement during this year’s Super Bowl. He put one of the biggest problems facing the country—inflation—front and center for the largest broadcast audience since the 1969 Moon landing. Yet, he deflected responsibility for it entirely. A leader with integrity could be expected to level with the general public about the consequences of prior decisions made, but that’s not the style of U.S. leadership, unfortunately. Shifting blame to someone else is the name of the game and the politicians continue to play America.

In the ad, the President called attention to a phenomenon known as “shrinkflation.” It refers to manufacturers changing their products while trying to maintain relatively stable prices on the shelves rather than just raising prices, which would be too obvious to consumers. Some approaches include cutting down the amount of food contained in the same package, producing the product with cheaper ingredients, or cutting corners in other ways that consumers may not immediately notice—all while keeping prices the same or only slightly higher. Another term, “skimpflation,” refers to the method of keeping the volume or weight of a product the same, but changing the proportions of different ingredients contained within, such as using a starchy filler over protein in a canned soup. 

As he squinted into the camera, Biden spoke casually to the audience, saying:

It’s Super Bowl Sunday – if you’re anything like me, you like to be surrounded by a snack or two while watching the big game. You know, when buying snacks for the game, you might’ve noticed one thing, sports drinks bottles are smaller, bag of chips has fewer chips, but they’re still charging us just as much. As an ice cream lover, what makes me the most angry is that ice cream cartons have actually shrunk in size, but not in price. I’ve had enough of what they call “shrinkflation.” It’s a rip-off. Some companies are trying to pull a fast one by shrinking their products little by little and hoping you won’t notice. Give me a break. The American public is tired of getting played for suckers. I’m calling on companies to put a stop to this. Let’s make sure businesses do the right thing now.

Biden made the classic politician’s play in calling out shrinkflation. Of course, it’s the immoral greed of the snack companies that is to blame for you paying more for less! It’s not right that big businesses are pulling the wool over your eyes as you shop for tasty treats! On game day no less!

Senator Elizabeth Warren made the same cry of outrage a couple of weeks ago on X when she said:

Fewer Doritos in your bag.

Fewer Oreos in your box.

Less toilet paper on your roll.

You aren’t imagining it—big corporations really are making you pay the same amount (sometimes more) for less. It’s called “shrinkflation,” and we’ve got to crack down on it.

Warren reiterates the adolescent notion that consumers have a right to the myriad of products on the shelves and nobody can “make them” pay more for less. No one is forcing consumers to buy Doritos. But it's the government that does force you to act against your will. It forces people to pay taxes on special interests and foreign interventions on top of juicing the money supply to service its out-of-control spending.

In a twisted hint to the prudent viewer, the President even wore a small pin in the ad with the American and Ukranian flags joined together—a nod to the many rounds of spending packages that the government has approved for the war in Eastern Europe. That is why Americans are losing the purchasing power of their money. That is the real root of so-called ‘shrinkflation.’

If the producers of snacks and household items that everyday Americans buy simply raised prices on stocked goods, it would likely hurt the current administration’s image. By going the “shrinkflation” route, companies are actually masking the damage that has been done to the U.S. economy by Washington. The impact of gas prices on public sentiment toward the U.S. president is a well-known dynamic. 

Businesses would prefer to keep prices the same for a given quantity and quality of their products so that consumers continue to buy from them so that they can continue to make a profit and stay in business. If they can’t make it work, they go out of business, the product disappears from shelves, and the jobs go away.

In a free market, prices should fall as businesses and entrepreneurs sharpen efficiencies and provide better products. When the state spends money through debt, the central bank increasingly resorts to counterfeiting by creating new money to pay for it. A recent Congressional Budget Office projection estimates that U.S. debt will reach $54 trillion in the next decade. Under such conditions, everyone—including businesses—must adapt to the falling value in the currency and it will become increasingly difficult to do so.

Ironically, the president correctly stated that “the American public is tired of getting played for suckers.” But the real immoral greed is that of the political class and Biden was there to run interference for it on Superbowl Sunday.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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