The GOP's Sudden Interest in "Price-Gouging"

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The GOP's Sudden Interest in "Price-Gouging"

At, Jacob Weisberg writes:
Few topics seem to addle the collective brain of Washington like high gas prices.

... Republican talk about price-gouging is inane at several levels. If you don't have some sort of monopoly power, gouging is another word for charging the highest price the market will bear, also known as capitalism. This is why the FTC investigation has turned up nothing.

What constrains filling stations from marking up gas excessively is not the fear of prosecution but competition from other filling stations. Even many Republican congressmen understand this, but calling for an investigation is a good way to deflect attention from the party's favoritism toward corporations that are now so profitable that they have become unpopular.

Of course, there is outrageous anti-competitive conduct in the petroleum industry — it's called OPEC. But no presidential administration, especially the current one, takes seriously the idea that this price-fixing cartel is a criminal conspiracy under American law.
As for Democrats? Weisberg writes:
Democrats, who can barely restrain their glee at this political opportunity, bandy the same implausible complaints about gouging and "speculation" and speak even more enthusiastically about confiscating oil-company profits. They also have their own distinctive form of gas-price stupidity, which is to ignore the conflict between the environmentalism they espouse and the cheap fuel they demand.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi even moaned about high gas prices in her Earth Day statement last week. If you care, as Pelosi claims to, about clean air and preserving the coastline, you should welcome high gas prices.

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