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What to know about the 'shrinkflation' bill mentioned in the State of the Union

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

President Biden is far from the first person to notice it. He may be the first person to bring it up in an address to a joint session of Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Same size bag - put fewer chips in it. No, I'm not joking. It's called shrinkflation. Pass Bobby Casey's bill, and stop this.

RASCOE: The Bobby Casey there is Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, and he joins us now. Senator, thank you for being with us.

BOB CASEY: Ayesha, thank you very much for having me on.

RASCOE: So I'm going to ask you about the legislation you're proposing. But first, I want to get your sense of the campaign that the president basically kicked off with the State of the Union address on Thursday. He often returns to the theme of the soul of the nation, that democracy is on the ballot. Do you see in polling and talking to your constituents that Americans feel the same way?

CASEY: Oh, I think so. I don't think there's any question that many Americans feel the threat to our democracy, not only because of what happened on January 6, 2021, but because of the continuing threat. I think that threat to our democracy, if anything - this is my view - is more potent today than it was even on January 6, 2021. So I think we have to continue to make sure that people know what is at stake in this race. I hear about this everywhere I go.

RASCOE: One of the things that - when you look at polling that, you know, Americans are saying they're concerned about is the economy. A lot of times it's the idea, you know, they're making money, but they're getting a lot less with it. You're looking at an angle of this shrinkflation. Using the president's example, are you with this legislation trying to say that they need to make the bags smaller, or are you really looking at the idea of they need to cost less?

CASEY: Yeah, I think for a lot of Americans, they've noticed this for a long time that the product shrinks, but the price doesn't, right? Products are getting smaller, the contents of package is getting smaller, but the price isn't going down. And that's just a rip-off. I mean, it's just as simple as that. The evidence is irrefutable. And the question is, will we take action to prevent it from happening, to impose consequences on companies that engage in it or not? I think we should act. And the Federal Trade Commission should be given the power to take on these deceptive practices.

RASCOE: Do you think the FTC has the teeth or the manpower to take this on?

CASEY: Well, I think that this one example of shrinkflation is part of a much broader problem, which is greed-flation (ph). We have companies that have been jacking up their prices on household items that people need virtually every week. We know that corporate profits went up by 75% from July of '20 to July of '22, and that's five times the rate of inflation, so they're jacking up their prices. And there's no consequence unless you have price-gouging investigations that the Federal Trade Commission should be authorized to do. They don't have the power currently to do the kind of price-gouging investigations that I think families would expect them to do, so we have to give them that power. And if the Federal Trade Commission needs more personnel and needs more help conducting these investigations from a research point of view, I'll be the first one to help them.

RASCOE: Donald Trump carried Pennsylvania in 2016. You supported him on steel tariffs and when he pulled the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. You know, obviously you're supporting Biden, but would you be able to find areas of agreement if Trump returns to the White House?

CASEY: Look, I - no matter who's president, you have to work on behalf of your own state. But I think that - I think President Biden is going to win. And in order to win, he has to win Pennsylvania, and we're going to continue to work together to make sure that he's successful and I'm successful.

RASCOE: Well, how difficult of a lift do you think it will be for President Biden in an election where people are very concerned about the economy? They're very concerned about inflation, and how can President Biden make the case that they're doing better now, when many people say they feel like the country is on the wrong track and they don't feel like they're doing better?

CASEY: I'll tell you - I'll frame it as what I have to do as a candidate. I have a long record of reducing costs for families, voting for - by the way, with zero Republican support for this - voting for the $35 cap on insulin for Medicare Part D beneficiaries. If Republicans helped us on that, we might have been able to extend that to all Americans that need insulin every day. But they wouldn't help us, so we had to do it ourselves. I lowered costs when I led the fight to have a much more generous child tax credit, so families could be able to deal with these skyrocketing food prices that greed-flation has caused. But I got to do a lot more. So does the president. So does every Democrat. And I would hope some Republicans would help us in this.

RASCOE: That's Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. Senator, thank you so much for speaking with us.

CASEY: Thanks. Great to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.