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Friday, August 20, 2004

More on "Gouging"

When the media and the government are in complete agreement on an issue, and no dissenting voice is heard, it's probably time to be very suspicious. Think of the entire US Congress standing on the steps of the Capitol singing "God Bless America" after 9/11, ready and willing to give our idiot president the power to bomb a defenseless country and to cut back on our civil liberties, all as a reward for screwing up massively at his job. The media all agreed to pretend that Bush's speeches were inspiring, flags popped up everywhere like dandelions in the spring, and we took our first big leap into the abyss. The mainstream media is always willing to present dissenting views on global warming or evolution, but on this issue they just sang the same song. And here we are, bogged down almost three years later in two stupid and pointless wars, less safe and more broke.

I get the same feeling when I see stories about "price gouging." Bush praises small entrepreneurs in just about every campaign speech, but after a hurricane entrepreneurs suddenly become the scum of the earth. I watched the NBC Nightly News last night. They were trailing uniformed employees of the Florida attorney general's office as they harrassed various roadside entrepreneurs selling generators, chainsaws, and the like. The scorn was dripping out of the reporter's voice for these people who would dare try to make a profit out of Florida's misery. They reported that two South Carolina men (complete with mug shots) had been arrested for quoting a price of $1000 for plastic sheeting to someone with a hole in his roof. Apparently Florida has a law against selling things for more than the "normal" price when a state of emergency has been declared, and unlike laws against vote fraud and harboring terrorists, Florida enforces this law.

NBC didn't try to interview any of the entrepreneurs being targeted, except for one guy selling "I survived Charley" tee shirts for $15. That was legal, I guess, because the shirts aren't necessities or something. They did talk to one of the Attorney General guys, who said "My message to these guys is this. We don't want you here. We don't need you here." Really? You've got tens of thousands of damaged homes, and people bringing needed equipment and labor from other states aren't needed? They should be welcoming every single one of them. If they did, the competition would quickly regulate the price. But I suspect that there are plenty of people in Florida who would gladly pay somebody $1000 to fix a hole in their roof today, if the alternative is to wait three weeks until Home Depot has an adequate supply of the materials that can be bought for $300. It would even benefit the poorer victims, since the limited amount of donated supplies would be more available to them. I don't see how keeping these "gougers" out of the state is protecting hurricane victims. I do see how it's protecting Home Depot, however. (NBC also showed a guy with this HUGE tree across his roof, and he was fuming that some guy had quoted him $10000 for removing it. It sure looked like a huge and dangerous job to me, one that would require special know-how and expensive equipment. I'm guessing that with the AG chasing down "gougers," the guy is going to have that tree on his roof for a long time.)

And while they're at it, shouldn't Jeb have declared the 2000 election a state of emergency, thereby making it illegal for Diebold to come in and make a profit selling the state unverifiable voting machines?