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Some corporations are increasing profits 'on the backs of the American people’: Sen. Kelly (D-AZ)

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Sen. Mark Kelly (D) Arizona joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the economy as prices begin to rise.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: And welcome back to our Yahoo Finance special, The Biden Presidency: Year One. Growing price pressures have continued to plague the president, with his approval rating now at just 40% despite a strong labor market. I asked Arizona Senator Mark Kelly about the president's inflation challenge and what he thinks the president needs to do to bring down those costs.

MARK KELLY: I mean, these rising costs are really hurting Arizona families and families across the country. But it's not just here in the United States. I mean, we've seen European countries, you know, experience similar issues.

When supply chains get disrupted like they have over the last couple of years, I mean, that is-- contributes to shortages. And as we know, that's going to result in rising prices.

AKIKO FUJITA: You've pressed the administration specifically to take steps to lower the cost of food. And you've spoken specifically about what you've described as corporate price gouging that's happening. Is that what you think is happening here?

MARK KELLY: For some issues, yeah, absolutely. Just this week, the Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary Vilsack, came out to Arizona a couple of days ago. I was with him meeting with some ranchers in Glendale, Arizona. But the ranchers came from all over the state.

Ranchers are getting the same amount for their beef that they did before the pandemic, but the prices have gone up. So what is causing that? They're not getting more for their product. So consumers are now paying, in Arizona anyway, about $5 a pound for ground beef. So something is happening in where the product goes from the ranch to the market.

So I have the administration looking into this. I mean, is it the processors? What is causing prices to go up? And you know, food is becoming really challenging for many Arizona families to buy groceries right now. And it has to be dealt with.

AKIKO FUJITA: What are you hearing from those constituents. The ranchers that you just alluded to, how much have they seen costs go up? And what's the reality for their businesses?

MARK KELLY: Yeah, I mean, the price of corn and alfalfa, the price of diesel fuel-- so their expenses have gone up. But their revenue is flat. They should be benefiting from some of the price increases. I mean, we don't want the prices to go up. We want Arizona families and families across the country to be able to afford groceries. This has been really challenging.

But there's something specific to this. And I think this is going on in other industries, where you have big corporations that are taking certain steps to increase their profits on the backs of the American people.

AKIKO FUJITA: So let's talk about the steps that you have proposed to try and bring things down. You talked about bringing down the cost of food, but also addressing the snags that we're seeing in the supply chain, specifically in the labor shortage in the trucking industry. You've called for the need to expand the pool of prospective drivers. But how do you actually do that?

This is something that we saw even before the pandemic. And some would argue there's a bit of a generational shift that's happening. Not enough people wanting to get into this industry anymore.

MARK KELLY: Yeah, it's true. It's-- I mean, these are good paying jobs. But they also require that you leave your family for, in some cases, you know, good periods of time. It's challenging work.

And right now, I mean, we've got a shortage of employees across the country. You know, the workforce-- we had over, I think, about 1.5 million additional Americans retire than expected during the pandemic. That's a lot of people that just disappeared out of our workforce.

You know, there are certainly some things you can do. You can provide training opportunities that are more readily available to young people. You can reduce the age for folks to get jobs where they're driving on interstate highways from state to state. Right now that age is 21. We could-- and we are looking into reducing that to 18.

You've got to make sure you have the right people. You've got to make sure you train them well, and they're going to do the job in a responsible way. But there are steps we can take to alleviate that supply chain issue.

AKIKO FUJITA: And you can catch my full conversation with Senator Mark Kelly on our website, YahooFinance.com.

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