Take That, Filthy Gas Station Owners!

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Good news, everybody—the House has voted to ban "gas gouging!" Here's the gist of the bill just passed:

Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act—Makes it unlawful for any person to sell crude oil, gasoline, natural gas, or petroleum distillates at a price that: (1) is unconscionably excessive; or (2) indicates the seller is taking unfair advantage unusual market conditions or the circumstances of an emergency to increase prices unreasonably.

Declares unlawful: (1) intentional reporting of false price information concerning wholesale prices of such products; and (2) market manipulation regarding the purchase or sale at wholesale of such products.

Empowers the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and State Attorneys General to enforce this Act.

Sets forth civil and criminal penalties for violations of this Act.

Requires fines and penalties collected under this Act to be deposited in a separate fund in the treasury to be known as the Consumer Relief Trust Fund to provide assistance under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) administered by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

A new trust fund run by HHS? Nothing but blue skies ahead. (Bush has said he'll veto the bill, sadly.)

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  1. Now Bush can have something worthwhile to veto. Assuming of course that he actually supports capitalism, which is a suspect assumption.

  2. So, who gets to define “unconscionably”?

  3. Veto a slush fund that could get funneled to cronies? I don’t think so. Maybe buying that car the size of a storage barn wasn’t the hottest idea america.

  4. Passing legislation to keep gas prices artificially low is in direct conflict with the supposed goal of reducing gasoline consumption.

  5. Ever notice how the politicians rail against price gouging but never consumer gouging? Here’s an old joke that sums it up nicely.

    Customer: How much for gas?

    Merchant: $3.50 a gallon.

    Customer: $3.50!? The station across the street sells it for $2.75

    Merchant: Why don’t you buy it over there then?

    Customer: They’re sold out.

    Merchant: Tell you what. Come around this evening after I sell out, and I’ll drop my price to $1.00

  6. Since the Senate have always been big proponents of price gouging, favoring it even above stomping on flower beds, I don’t see this bill reaching the President’s desk.

  7. It is so sad to see that two of my state’s representatives (both D’s) cosponsored this bill.

  8. So, who gets to define “unconscionably”?

    The same people who get to define “unfair business practices”.

  9. > Passing legislation to keep gas prices artificially low is in direct conflict with the supposed goal of reducing gasoline consumption.

    Well, it’s not alright if oil companies charge a significant premium for gas. But it is alright if the government (via increased gas taxes) does. ‘Cause the government is doing it for good reasons (to fight global warming), while oil companies would only ever raise prices to line the pockets of their money-hungry executives.

  10. All of ’em are old enough to remember gas lines too.

    “…indicates the seller is taking unfair advantage unusual market conditions…”

    …and they just can’t be that ignorant–surely they know what they’re doing is dumb.

    The only people with a right to complain are the people who didn’t vote–I “get” that more and more all the time.

  11. I’m not sure the point of this bill. Aren’t the oil companies the “evil” ones? This seems to target the gas stations, and to my recolection, it hasn’t been the indivdual stations saying that gas is going up because of terrorists (or hurricanes, or shortanges, or fun, or profits).

    And I agree with Lamar–this seems to contradict the whole “car-free roads” idea that democrats seem to be moving toward with so much other legislation.

  12. Could I be more vague?

  13. The only people with a right to complain are the people who didn’t vote–I “get” that more and more all the time.

    I am even more restrictive: The only people who don’t get to complain are the people who voted for the winners.

  14. Jesus Christ, I’m one stupid motherfucker.

  15. MIKEP,

    THE URKOBOLD IS EVEN MORE RESTRICTIVE–THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO GET TO COMPLAIN ARE THOSE PEOPLE WHO ACTUAL ARE THE WINNERS.

  16. It is said that a Roman emperor, in order to curb massive inflation (…of his doing by cheapening money with lesser metals) threatened death to any merchant who raised his prices….needless to say it didn’t work and poor merchants lost their lives because of the emperor’s economic illiteracy.

    Almost 2000 years later, with the added benefit of learning the real truth about prices (and economic laws in general) from great thinkers and our “noble leaders” still haven’t learned a damn thing.

  17. Oil Industry Lobbyist: How is that Gas Gouging Prevention Bill going?

    Bill’s Sponsor: Not so good, people are saying it is unfair to the oil industry.

    Lobbyist: Excellent.

    Sponsor: I don’t get it, why did you give me a bill that screws your client.

    Lobbyist: First of all, it probably won’t pass.

    Sponsor: Yeah, but it’ll be a disaster if it does.

    Lobbyist: Second, if passed it is sufficiently vague to be enforced. It is worded like The Sherman Act. Do you think that oil companies worry about that these days? Even Rockefeller made out better after he was busted than before, but, really, enforcement is not a concern.

    Sponsor: Okay, no harm, but still . . .

    Lobbyist: Third, and best of all, now you can say that you are doing something. In draft we were calling this the Angry Consumer Pacification Window-Dressing Act, but . . .

    Sponsor: but what?

    Lobbyist: that young hotshot at the corportarian site, whathisname, the Sheen guy, cautioned that his readers can be pretty darn astute.

    Sponsor: I like the new name better anyway.

  18. Doesn’t the URKOBOLD then eat the winners?

  19. OT blogging suggestion:

    Maybe y’all ought to comment on the Pope’s remarks.

    I did here.

  20. Diocletian. He imposed strict controls, including price fixing and making professions and trades hereditary.

  21. this seems to contradict the whole “car-free roads” idea that democrats seem to be moving toward with so much other legislation

    Or, more accurately, it demonstrates that placating voters who whine about the price of gas is more important than principle.

  22. Second, if passed it is sufficiently vague to be enforced. It is worded like The Sherman Act.

    That is one of the more damning things you can say about a bill. When passed, no one thought the vague provisions of the Sherman Act could or would be used. It turns out they were used, extremely deleteriously, as a stick to keep big companies toeing the government line. Wonderful…

  23. And people say the politicians in Atlas Shrugged are unrealistic caricatures.

  24. Pro Libertate,

    A number of historians argue that the increasing regulation of the Roman Empire lead to its downfall. I don’t find it a compelling explanation by itself, but it probably went some way in weakening the economic vitality of the Empire (particularly its less advanced western regions).

  25. increasing regulation of the Roman Empire lead to its downfall

    led, dammit, led! It you’re going to be pedantic, at least spell correctly!

  26. Dr. Johnson,

    At least my friends are smart enough to wear condoms. 😉

  27. And I agree with Lamar–this seems to contradict the whole “car-free roads” idea that democrats seem to be moving toward with so much other legislation.

    Modern liberalism is inconsistent?
    Weird.

  28. I think Diocletian’s draconian controls–which didn’t disappear after his death–contributed considerably to the decline of the Empire. Though, of course, there were other factors as well, and the Eastern Empire managed to hang on for another millennium. Sort of.

  29. As someone pointed out, the populist idea of keeping gas low clashes with the environmentalist/autarky idea of artificially raising the price of gas. Since Americans seem to believe that Amendment 26 of the Constutition requires that gasoline be under $3/gallon, I think anti-warming advocates will NEVER get anywhere gere.

  30. Pro Libertate,

    Well, from the 1st century BCE onward the Roman state was increasingly involved in regulating the Roman economy. I always think of Diocletion’s “reforms” as being part of that progression.

  31. As someone pointed out, the populist idea of keeping gas low clashes with the environmentalist/autarky idea of artificially raising the price of gas.

    Actually if your goal is to control people they work very well and in concert. Make people feel guilty about doing something desireable while making it easier for them to do it. After you get them feeling suffiently guilty they’ll agree to all sorts of things they normally wouldn’t. It’s a pretty common tactic among religons as well.

  32. *sufficiently

    Also, I should have said other religons.

  33. Socialism or death!

  34. “Good news, everybody”

    Weigel-

    Great intro. For making me smile, I award you an ASCII happy face:

    ?

  35. Socialism or death!

    You misspelled “and”.

  36. Is there some law that requires refiners to sell gasoline in the U.S. if they can get more money for it elsewhere? Penna. Governor Rendell seems to think he can structure an extra tax on gasoline profits and not have them passed on to the consumer. If I was a refiner, I’d simply sell more gasoline into other states until the last unit sold brought no more net than it would in Penna.

  37. Sam B | May 23, 2007, 4:02pm | #

    Socialism or death!

    You misspelled “and”.

    Funniest stuff I’ve seen all day.

  38. don’t some states also crack down on people selling gas at a discount?

  39. Darn! When I saw the title of the post, I thought that Congress was passing a law requiring all gas station restrooms to be clean. That would be a worthwhile law.

  40. We’ve all heard this joke before, but it bears repeating.

    Four gas station owners are sitting in a jail cell. The first one says “I charged more than the guy down the street so they get me for gouging.”

    The second one says “At least you got some money before they busted you. I charged less than the guy down the street and they got me for predatory pricing.”

    The third one points to the fourth and says “Yeah, well, we both charged the exact same price so they got us for collusion.”

  41. Person One: Want to hear a joke?

    Person Two: Four gas station owners are sitting in a jail cell for anti-competition crimes.

    Person One: And?

    Person Two: Did I tell it wrong?

  42. I think one too many a legislator got that “Boycott Exxon for a Day” emails.

    Dave W,

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  43. Urkobold, we have troll activity in this thread. Do you copy?

  44. It is said that a Roman emperor, in order to curb massive inflation (…of his doing by cheapening money with lesser metals) threatened death to any merchant who raised his prices….needless to say it didn’t work and poor merchants lost their lives because of the emperor’s economic illiteracy.

    Looks like Robert Mugabe was a student of Classical history:
    Zimbabwe jail over bread prices.

  45. arrrrgh, I can’t even tell jokes correctly when I use “preview.” Oh, well.

  46. Point well taken but it needs a punchline. Let me attempt:

    Five gas station owners are sitting in a jail cell. The first one says \”I charged more than the guy down the street so they get me for gouging.\”

    The second one says \”At least you got some money before they busted you. I charged less than the guy down the street and they got me for predatory pricing.\”

    The third one points to the fourth and says \”Yeah, well, we both charged the exact same price so they got us for collusion.\”

    Then they all turn to the fith one and ask: \”How about you?\” \”Oh, I molest children.\”

    Ta da!

  47. arrrrgh, I can’t even tell jokes correctly when I use “preview.” Oh, well.

    I thought it was funny. What did you mean to do?

  48. Person One’s first line should be: “Tell me a joke.”

  49. Sorry, PLS, the correct punchline is “The Aristocrats!”

  50. I think I’m going to buy stock in tylenol. If Bush vetoes this the cognitive dissonance of agreeing with him is going cause some massive headaches at Hit and Run.

  51. Pro Libertate,

    Anyway, it was all the fault of the Gracchi brothers. 😉

    Economics wasn’t the strong point of the ancients. The classic example of why that is so was a proposal in Athens in the 5th century BCE to hand out to all Athenians a certain amount gold from Athens’ gold mines in Thrace and up on I think Euboea. Inflation anyone?

  52. Actually, depending on my mood, I do blame the Gracchi. In the sense that it was they who got the Senate to sanction and actually use violence to quell the Gracchi’s actions. Not to mention that the Gracchi brothers both demonstrated the power of direct appeals to populism, which was the beginning of the end for the Republic (not that ignoring the plebs was a good thing, either).

    If the U.S. Senate ever gets up as a body and kills someone with whom they disagree. . .well, let’s just say that’s bad, m’kay?

  53. come on David…is it really that hard for you to like what bush is doing that you have to post a satiric parody?

    Here i will show you how it is done…

    “I am David…I hate most of what Bush does…but I like that he is Vetoing this stupid bill.”

    See, not hard at all.

  54. Lobbyist: Second, if passed it is sufficiently vague to be enforced. It is worded like The Sherman Act. Do you think that oil companies worry about that these days?

    Jesus H fucking Christ…what fucking dimension do you live in?!?!

    The Sherman act is sufficiently vague all right…vague enough to effect every non-black market transaction or business communication in this fucking country.

  55. Doesn’t the URKOBOLD then eat the winners?

    No…on the contrary, the winners eat URKOBOLD’s semen.

  56. Four gas station owners are sitting in a jail cell. The first one says “I got busted for coke.”

    The second one says “I was fudging credit card payments.”

    The third one points to the fourth and says “I’m going to bugger him the second he goes to sleep.”

  57. ?

    To me it look like the smallest bit after shooting up all the big bits in Asteroids.

    The coin arcade version not the Atari home console version.

  58. joshua,

    If you are using Firefox (I don’t know if IE works the same way) hit control-plus twice and it’ll finally look like a smiley face. I find 🙂 to be easier, myself.

  59. joshua,

    Was do you sehen now?

    ?

  60. Was do you sehen now?

    I have like 5 posts in shotgun order…what one do you want an explanation to?

  61. The opening line to the article — “Good news, everybody” — would have been funnier if “comrades” had been spelled correctly.

  62. It looks like the finger to me.

  63. Missed the proximity on the thread…what “I sehen now” looked like the finger, which is how I always saw the hammer and sickle when drunk.

  64. So, what’s the penalty for oil companies conspiring to reduce prices in the Fall?

  65. Presidential Medals of Freedom.

  66. Hammer and sickle. . .is correct! You are the winner, comrade! You have won brand new Soviet car, which will come off assembly line for you in 31 years.

    Congratulations!

  67. Pro Libertate,

    Yeah, but man, he was gesturing for a crown! 😉

  68. Very well.

    ? ?

  69. ?

    Feh, I cannot learn the special codes of the Pro Libertate.

  70. Why is everyone posting all these tiny little squares?

  71. Stevo,

    I always wonder who can see what. In IE 5, some of the characters don’t show up–hence the wee little boxes. I don’t have IE 6 at work, so I can’t comment on it. In Firefox, as far as I can tell, everything shows up. Not sure about Opera, etc.

    A while back, I posted a chess game, just for laughs. It probably looks different in different browsers–oh, well.

    ?

  72. why attack as station owners instead of big time security and future traders like Lehman and Bear and Sterns who makes tons of money trading energy futures? Those hard working gas station owners hardly make few cents per gallon and face uncertain prices as much as commoners do.

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