Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the shutdowns and the resulting economic downturn, many supermarkets and retail stores have reported a dramatic increase in shoplifting. When asked about the nature of the current uptick in shoplifting, chief executive of workplace security firm Aegis described that, “It’s not a whole lot of people going in, grabbing TVs and running out the front door. It’s a very different kind of crime — it’s people stealing consumables and items associated with children and babies.” The most often stolen items include baby formula, bread and pasta.
This increase in theft of the basic necessities reflects the truth about how desperate many have become. Close to 26 million adults — or 1 in 8 Americans — reported not having enough food to eat according to the latest data from the Census Bureau. In addition, some 12 million people have lost their employee sponsored health-care because of their recent job loss. What could be more of an indictment of this society than for millions of people to lose their health care during a pandemic? Over 20 million Americans receive some form of unemployment assistance, and 12 million people are set to run out of benefits the day after Christmas unless there is a new relief bill.
While all of this suffering has skyrocketed, America’s 651 top billionaires have seen their wealth grow by a factor of four during the pandemic, from a collective $1 trillion to $4 trillion. Before anyone shakes their finger at people who might be stealing food to eat from multi-billion-dollar companies like Safeway, Target or Walmart, we need to recognize the real theft that is taking place in society. The real theft is not in the aisles of supermarkets but in the boardrooms of the major companies and banks. They have exploited this crisis to further enrich themselves at the expense of all of us.