Oftentimes, when you suspect you’re being gouged by corporate price fixers, you’re right.

Take the rat-a-tat-tat of today’s price jumps at supermarkets and chain restaurants. They make you want to race to the cash register before they raise prices again.

No, no cry the CEOs of food giants, it’s not us, it’s “supply chain disruptions.” Then corporate politicians and economists chime in with old platitudes about the invisible hand of “supply and demand” while media know-nothings pile on, blathering about “ne’er-do-wells” causing a labor shortage.

But that’s hogwash —  your suspicions are right: It’s plain old price fixing by avaricious food monopolies.

Top executives even brag about it when talking to their bankers and stockholders. McDonald’s, for example, recently told investors that “strategic menu price increases” in the past three months had boosted profits by 63 percent.

Big Mac’s CEO exulted: “I’m really proud of how our system has executed pricing.” Never mind that it’s their customers being executed.

Well, say free-market proselytizers,” just buy from a competitor. But in nearly all segments of today’s food economy, a handful of giants control the market — with each one in on the fix.

For example, Chipotle, a McDonald’s rival, also jacked up prices in the same three-month period, manufacturing an 84 percent profit increase. Its CEO then gloated to Wall Streeters: “I think we’ve demonstrated we do have pricing power.”

By the way, these same giants are also fattening their profits by ripping off their workers.

The federal poverty level is now $25,000 a year, with fast-food workers typically getting only $3,000 a year more than that bare minimum for a 40-hour week. But profiteering executives hold each worker to about 26 hours a week, creating a sub-poverty labor force for this multi-billion-dollar industry.

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

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