C is for Congress

When I was little, I loved ‘Sesame Street.’ While the hilarious Muppets helped me learn my ABCs and how to count, they also influenced me in other ways. Bert inspired my love of argyle socks. Kermit inspired my love of journalism. And, of course, Cookie Monster inspired my love of cookies.

Well, apparently Cookie Monster still has quite a bit of sway.

“Me hate shrinkflation! Me cookies are getting smaller,” the furry blue Muppet recently proclaimed on X (formerly Twitter). “Guess me going to have to eat double da cookies!”

He is referring to the economic trend that started during COVID of manufacturers reducing the size or quantity of a product while the price of the product remains the same or slightly increases. Evidencing his point, according to a report based on figures compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor, Oreo Double Stuf Chocolate Sandwich Cookies shrank by 6% in size by weight from January 2019 to October 2023.

Cookie Monster’s post garnered the attention of some politicians. “C is for consumers getting ripped off,” the White House tweeted. “President Biden is calling on companies to put a stop to shrinkflation.” Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown wrote, “Big corporations shrink the size of their products without shrinking their prices, all to pay for CEO bonuses.”

Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania isn’t just talking the talk, he’s walking the walk. “Cookie Monster, I’m on it,” he tweeted as he introduced the Shrinkflation Prevention Act. The bill is designed to stop companies from reducing the size of their products without a corresponding price reduction, a practice he calls “greedflation.”

According to Casey, corporations are making record profits by hiking prices and reducing package sizes well above the inflation rate. In December, Casey issued a report on shrinkflation, citing the Department of Labor data. In addition to Oreos, Doritos reported a 5% decrease, Wheat Thins shrank by 12%, as did Gatorade. The biggest shrinkage, however, was found in paper products, such as the 28% decrease in Great Value ultra-strong toilet paper.

Our own Sen. Tammy Baldwin joined the fight by co-sponsoring the bill, along with seven other senators. “Whether it’s a bag of chips, paper towels, or coffee, we are seeing the same disturbing trend: big corporations are shrinking the size of their product but continuing to charge Wisconsin families the same price,” she said in a statement.

Under the bill, the Federal Trade Commission would be empowered to enact regulations establishing shrinkflation as a deceptive practice. It would also allow the FTC and state attorneys general to pursue civil actions against companies accused of shrinkflation.

Financial analysts claim shrinkflation started during the pandemic, as supply chain disruptions and crisis-induced inflation led to higher prices. Despite those issues being largely resolved, the trend continues. A Consumer Affairs report revealed that grocery prices in Wisconsin rose 5.6% between November of 2022 and November of 2023.

Just a few weeks prior, Baldwin introduced the Price Gouging Prevention Act, designed to protect American families from corporate greed with a new federal ban on grossly excessive price increases. “Wisconsin families work hard, but when they check out at the grocery store, they are being ripped off by this corporate greed and we’ve got to put an end to it,” she said.

While I am definitely opposed to shrinkflation, I am excited by the thought that after 40 years, now is the perfect time to bring back Clara Peller, the “Where’s the Beef?!” lady.

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Reg P. Wydeven

Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney at McCarty Law LLP
Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps from a young age, Reg’s practice primarily consists of advising individuals on estate planning, estate settlement and elder law matters. As Reg represents clients in matters like guardianship proceedings and long-term care admissions, he feels grateful to be able to offer families thorough legal help in their time of need.

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