Coronavirus

House Coronavirus Committee Will Investigate 'Price Gouging,' Not Government's Failed Pandemic Response

"We're not going to be looking back," said House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.

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When it comes to the federal government's coronavirus response, there is much room for self-criticism. But that won't come from the House's new select oversight committee, announced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.), the purpose of which is to investigate waste, fraud, and abuse in the country's handling of COVID-19.

"We're not going to be looking back," says House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D–S.C.), telling CNN's Jake Tapper that the committee will instead focus on things like "price gouging" and "profiteering."

Clyburn offered an anecdote: "The governor of New York recently said that masks that he was spending 70 cents for, he's now having to spend 7 dollars for," he explained. "Is that past price gouging? I think it is. And that's what this committee is all about."

In other words, if Clyburn's description is to be taken at face value, lawmakers will scapegoat private businesses, as opposed to delving into the list of ways the government has failed the American public.

That list is a long one.

Consider the hurdles created by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for one, which set onerous roadblocks to speedily addressing the crisis. It stood in the way of importing face masks, a critical need against mounting personal protective equipment shortages. It dramatically slowed private testing, which, as a result, is still widely unavailable for many who think they might have COVID-19. It even got in the way of the production of hand sanitizer, another item that's been in short supply as consumers seek to follow hand hygiene guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All this malfeasance could be useful for an oversight committee to examine.

Clyburn has said that the House will similarly avoid probing President Donald Trump, who has been criticized by both sides of the aisle for his initial response to the virus. Though the president spent several weeks downplaying COVID-19, turning down meetings with experts on the matter, and pushing false statistics, any Democrat-led investigation would almost certainly be viewed as a politically-motivated sham that would change few hearts and minds.

Still, neglecting to do even the slightest postmortem on pivotal decisions made by the federal government is imprudent, especially considering the committee will instead scrutinize decisions made by private businesses. "This is about focusing on how the money is spent, whether or not the people who are getting the money are actually working on behalf of the American people, or whether they are profiteering," said Clyburn.

The South Carolina representative said the House will probe businesses receiving government aid and will punish those that set high prices on essential goods, though he didn't say how this would work in practice.

In any case, laws against price gouging, which are meant to keep costs low during an emergency, do more harm than good. High prices work as market indicators, and without that, a privileged few get to hoard all the supplies, leaving the rest of us with nothing. But never mind the bad economics. Deeply troubling here is that the federal government and its red tape prevented the public from recovering from critical shortages, or, even worse, from developing the means to beat back this virus in the first place. Most troubling is that they're passing the buck to the victims.

NEXT: Houston Federalist Society Chapter Meets on Zoom: Public Health Restrictions in the Time of Pandemics

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  1. “We’re not going to be looking back,” said House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.

    Well that’ll be a big help when the next pandemic rolls around.

    1. We’ll panic off that bridge when we come to it.

    2. Simply put, looking at government failures requires admitting the vast majority of regulation just fucks up the system. That is counterproductive to government [especially the far left] gospel that any regulation is a good regulation and any deregulation is nothing but anarchy and evil and some other names. If they go down that path, the future for cumbersome regulations and the ability to use it as a whip against deregulation becomes much harder to make.

      Far better to go after private enterprise [aka Wall Street, evil CEOs, capitalism, etc] for responding to market conditions. And they will simply take a look at pricing adjustments with zero information about costs or availability of product, even if it’s a direct effect of government intervention.

  2. Self reflection has never been the government’s strong suit. Scapegoating and victim blaming, OTOH, are two of the few things they actually do well.

    1. It’s only a strong suit if they can remotely pin it on the other party. Simply put, when Pelosi said she was forming a committee to investigate Trump one more time, she even came across as the evil harpy, even to her own constituency. She looks like exactly what she is, being self absorbed and and party and politics first, last and only, even as corpses lay in freezer vans because they can’t be processed. So her response is to turn it on the other enemy, capitalism and free markets.

  3. There is no such thing as ‘price gouging’; that’s a phrase invented by lefties in the hopes of enforcing government price fixing.

    1. It’s military-style assault gouging.

      1. Don’t forget that it has the thing that goes up.

    2. While the government should not be involved in price fixing of any kind, there most certainly is such as thing as price gouging.

      1. Of course there is. It’s when you’re forced to pay for something you don’t want.

      2. While the government should not be involved in price fixing of any kind, there most certainly is such as thing as price gouging.

        You.
        Are.
        Full.
        Of.
        Shit.

        1. Do you actually have an argument? You are claiming a concept that you yourself used does not actually exist. The burden of proof is on you.

          1. Chipper Morning Wood
            April.6.2020 at 10:57 pm
            “Do you actually have an argument?…”

            You bet! Do you have a brain?
            If so, define “price gouging” in terms someone other than a fucking lefty ignoramus can understand.
            I’m waiting…

            1. I am gonna ignore the personal insults for now, since you seem incapable of communicating without them. The concept of price gouging is very easy to define. It means charging more for a good or service than most people would find reasonable in a civil emergency, compared to the market price of the good or service before the emergency.

              1. “most people would find reasonable” – The Democratic story line…
                Sell your soul to the [WE] foundation because you don’t own you – [WE] own you!!!!!
                — If you don’t like the price; DON’T BUY IT!!!! The fact that you will buy it means the market price is “up”. If you think that it’s an unfair price but need it — GO MAKE IT!!! OBVIOUSLY THE MARKET IS SIGNALLING A NEED FOR MORE!!!!

              2. The market price is the price at which a buyer and seller agree to an exchange. If the seller requests more than the buyer will pay, there will be no exchange. Therefore it is not the market price. The presence of an emergency has no bearing on the validity of the exchange, though it surely will affect its price.

                What you are really saying is that gouging is when someone charges more for an item than YOU are willing to pay, to which the answer is remarkably simple: you don’t buy it. (See above.)

                1. Let’s add that, in all (free) transactions, it is the *buyer* who sets the price.
                  The seller is limited to asking $X, not forcing the buyer to hand over that amount of money.
                  So, CMW, I repeat: There is no such thing as “price gouging” regardless of your lame ‘reasonable people’ bullshit.

              3. “I am gonna ignore the personal insults for now, since you seem incapable of communicating without them.”
                Goodie for you, shitbag.

                “The concept of price gouging is very easy to define. It means charging more for a good or service than most people would find reasonable in a civil emergency, compared to the market price of the good or service before the emergency.”
                I see you have no idea what “define” means. It does NOT mean what you think a word means.

          2. BTW, given your reading comprehension is as pathetic as your supposed logical abilities, please re-read my comment.
            I made clear to all who can read that the ‘concept’ is bogus.
            I’ll bet a cave man can do it; try real hard to figger-it-out.

            1. The concept is bogus to people who believe in free markets. Unfortunately, not everyone believes in free markets. Since that is true, the concept is definable.

              As a believer in free markets, I define price gouging as: the term that people who believe in controlled markets use to describe market prices of a good or service exceeding a price which they consider ‘fair’ in light of a perceived need for that good or service. The term is typically invoked when desire for goods and services increase so rapidly as to outstrip the market’s ability to supply them near the usual market price.

              For those who believe in government-controlled markets, the definition is something along the lines of: when a seller sets prices unconscionably high in response to a situation that causes great need for a good or service.

              It’s also a legal term in some jurisdictions, and is defined within those jurisdictions laws.

  4. Cuomo bitching about mob practices is cute.

    1. He’s a good guy now.

  5. In practice, I suppose they’ll in effect make viral videos of outrage porn to be replayed on Facebook and the evening news – “Watch Congressman Clyburn TOTALLY PWN a price-gouger!”

  6. “Clyburn has said that the House will similarly avoid probing President Donald Trump, who has been criticized by both sides of the aisle for his initial response to the virus.”

    Translation: “There’s plenty of videos of Democrats saying dumb stuff about this virus, and the Republicans will make a big deal of these videos if we go after Trump. We feel it’s safer to bolster our re-election bids with video clips of us being outraged at ‘price gougers.'”

    1. Any remotely perceptive Democrat has to understand that when the full extent of Biden’s dementia became apparent that the Democratic Party essentially conceded the race to Trump. For a brief moment at the beginning of Y2Flu there was a flicker of resistance but then Trump’s poll numbers bounced and NYC become the epicenter so the dems just threw in the towel.

      Clyburn is basically warning Cuomo- don’t get any ideas you’ll get your change to lose to Gavin in 2024.

      1. Their single reply to Biden’s dementia is, “we will fix that with a running mate”. Warren gets another chance at bat.

  7. If the house committee actually investigated the fedgov response, does anyone really believe it would accomplish anything useful?

    Because I’m just imagining another Orange Man Bad shitshow.

    1. Impeachment 2.0!

      1. Aren’t we already on 3.0?

  8. Maybe now we’ll get to the bottom of how exactly Trump benefited from shipping all those medical supplies to China!

    1. “Maybe now we’ll get to the bottom of how exactly Trump benefited from shipping all those medical supplies to China!”

      Maybe you’ll find a brain-cell in the scum you swim in.

      1. You mean this wasn’t sarcasm? I could have sworn it was sarcasm. I mean, is there anybody who is really that dumb? [Don’t answer – we’ve all met Sanders supporters]

    2. You’ve gotten dumber. This is amazing.

  9. Well as long as Congress sticks to its usual ineffective and partisan ways they can do less damage. It’s when they get together and agree that you should be worried. Because never let a good crisis go to waste, right fuckers?

  10. People who price gouge do not create anything. They simply buy up all of X they can that are publicly being sold at stores or other places, then selling them a huge markup to others.

    If would make sense if the original makers charged more, who in turn used the extra money to expand production capacity to meet the demand. But that’s not happening.

    1. Yeah, those gouged-up prices are a tax on stupid, and that probably would not be good for you.

    2. The “price-gougers” you describe seem to be individuals and not retail establishments, correct? By significantly increasing prices, such individuals create strong incentives for purchasers to moderate the quantity of their purchases, thus helping to ensure more evenly distributed supply of goods. In the absence of retailers raising prices or limiting purchases by their customers, price-gougers are providing a valuable service: rationing.

      1. ^^ EXACTLY – I came to this hard realization during this so called “emergency”. Hoarders do actually level demand spikes. They take a gamble what they are hoarding will be needed more tomorrow than today. They assume the risk of that gamble and thus get the reward IF and ONLY IF the demand does actually go up.

    3. You are a shallow-thinking moron. If you thought at all.

      A. There’s a hurricane in the Carolinas. You, in Tennessee, buy up a truckload of generators an drive them to sell in Carolinas, your exorbitant prices are no deterrent, you sell them all in 30 minutes, and drive back to Tennessee for another cycle.

      B. There’s an earthquake. Trees down all over. Freeways collapsed. You manage to bring in your tanker truck of gasoline or propane, routing around all the damage, risking flat tires and blocked routes. People are eager to pay your exorbitant prices because they have run out.

      Are those price gougers?

      What exactly does “risk” mean to you? “Hazard”? Any of those words mean anything to you other than “price gouging”?

    4. JeremyR
      April.6.2020 at 6:41 pm
      “People who price gouge do not create anything…”

      You.
      Are.
      (both an ignoramus and)
      Full.
      Of.
      Shit.

    5. “People who price gouge do not create anything…” — UM… So whats your excuse when it comes to government????

  11. Long live Al Kaline.

    1. Hate to say it, but I didn’t realize he was still alive. Lot of memories listening to Ernie Harwell call the games on WJR and a lot of good players there. Kaline, Norm Cash, Bill Freehan, Willie Horton, Mickey Lolich and Denny McClain, Jim Northrup, Don Wert.

    2. AL’s youngest batting champ!

    3. Removes Expos cap in honor.

    4. Meh, he was so basic.

  12. 20 years living under the threat of biological terrorism and the government has been exposed as woefully unprepared.

    1. Bruh. We’ve paid $40-50 B a year for The Department of Homeland security. I’d say that’s more than enough preparation.

  13. “Government’s Failed Pandemic Response
    Donald Trump, who has been criticized by both sides of the aisle for his initial response to the virus. “

    Wow, that monster… but let’s read on.

    Though the president spent several weeks downplaying COVID-19,”
    You mean like every prog politician who said closing the border was a hate crime? Or like your peers here on the pages of Reason even now? Or you yourself in early articles?

    turning down meetings with experts on the matter,”
    They’re not meetings if they’re not scheduled. Millions of people across the country want to give a President advice, many of whom claim to be ‘experts’ at stuff.
    This is weasel wording, Binion. But I think you know that.

    and pushing false statistics…”
    What false statistics? The ones that the various government departments give him? I’d ask for some cites but I know already where you got this bullshit from, and it’s just a big pile of innuendo and assumption and implication used to assert opportunistic outrage.

    1. Hmm, what WAS the topic consuming all the politicos and talking heads back in January?

      1. Was is it our unsustainable national debt? Deficit spending? I know, opioid deaths? Vaping? Watercooler rumors being used to accuse the president of doing his job?

        1. Yeah, it’s weird huh? The vaping pandemic basically disappeared overnight. Ain’t that some shit!

          1. I can’t even remember what everyone on the internet was an expert about before this. But I do know that besides being an expert in epidemiology, everyone also became an expert in naval affairs last week.

    2. “…Though the president spent several weeks downplaying COVID-19,”
      You mean like every prog politician who said closing the border was a hate crime?…”

      Shame on him! He still hasn’t panicked to the proper degree! He needs to PANIC at least two or three degrees more, except then he’s probably PANICKED too far!
      Because TRUMP!

  14. Democrats don’t want a backward looking investigation because this was a bipartisan screw-up. The Obama admin didn’t replenish the National Stockpile supplies used in 2009 for the H1N1 pandemic. Neither did the Trump admin. Democrats were busy fiddling The Impeachment Concerto while the virus was traveling around the world. Republicans couldn’t chew gum and walk at the same time — handle impeachment and still run the government. Democrats labeled Trump a racist when he banned travel from China. Trump failed to make the case that banning travel early and widely was the smart thing to do. And on and on and on.

    1. We can go back further than that. Was it Clinton or Bush Jr that allowed China to join the WTO and granted them most privileged nation trading status?

      1. And Kissinger opened them up.

        Hopefully, close them up again.

  15. I think we should take a page from Ronald Raygun and declare the Chinese communist party illegal- bombing starts in 5 minutes…

  16. The CDC will probably never be ready for another biological epidemic, but just wait until the next epidemic of trans-phobia or racist dog-whistling.

  17. You people are dumb – I’m fairly confident that Congress is indeed going to be looking forward and preparing properly for the next time in a completely bipartisan manner. The Democrats of course are going to be pushing for free healthcare for all but fortunately the more frugal and responsible Republicans will negotiate them down to Medicare For All fixing Obamacare in a rational, sensible, sustainable manner that eliminates out-of-pocket expenses for our most vulnerable citizens – all the people who need healthcare. We’ll call it Americare. It’ll be great, you’ll love it.

    1. “the more frugal and responsible Republicans”

      Hahahaha, cute!

      1. And I’m sure the party of the lying POS who told us we could ‘keep out doctors’ and who promised millions of pork to the Kennedy Center for the Arts in the virus relief bill is ‘more responsible’, right, lefty fucking ignoramus?

        1. We both know they’re not, you triggered pathetic piece of shit!

        2. You can always keep your doctor by paying cash. If you depend on govt assistance (as you apparently do) then maybe the plan would steer you do so other network of doctors.

  18. Investigate the Chinese.

    Do some real work losers and go after the country that put us all in this mess.

  19. “Price-Gouging” = Just more cries for a communist country…
    Where does the U.S. Constitution hand the economy over to the federal government again?

    1. In the Wickard v. Filburn clause, of course.

      1. Part of FDR’s New Deal of packing 6-Democrats to 2-Republicans into the Supreme Court… Seems Democrats have hated this country since clear back to 1942. The Anti-Constitution party.

  20. The House doesn’t need to investigate the government’s failed pandemic response. They already know it’s all Trump’s fault.

    1. Oh, yeah. And the commenters on Washington Post articles are also accusing him of colluding with certain drug manufacturers to make a killing off drug sales. I’m sure the House will look into that.

      1. Are you crazy? Dear Leader has never made a mistake in his life. We need more Trump. Give him more power. Trump is the best president ever or that will ever be. I’m so happy you Republicans choose him. America has never been stronger. Let’s get Don Jr in there next.

    2. Democrats – Pushed and Passed the Federal Reserve Act
      Democrat Supreme Courts – Gave federal unlimited powers

      We can blame Trump for supporting economically disastrous bail-out bills; but the FDR Democrats made it all possible, and Obama set the premise.

  21. These “price gouging” laws constrain retailers. So what happens is, wily individuals buy up all the supplies cheap and start price gouging out of their garages.

    Congratulations, you’ve turned a transparent market into a black market.

    1. But then they can be arrested. And their supplies confiscated by the government. C’mon eyeroller, It’s like you’re not even paying attention.

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  23. If the pols are going to start cracking down on so-called price gougers (defined as charging more for X in an emergency that the so-called market price before the emergency), then wouldn’t the pols also have to crack down on those employees who are price gouging their employers and calling it “hazard pay?”

  24. “We’re not going to be looking back,” said House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn. Except on reparations on that he wants to go WAYYYY back!

  25. May I own 100,000 N95 face masks? No? The government will seize them if it finds I own (and hold) them? So much for property rights.
    May I accept outrageous (price) offers for them? No? So much for freedom of contract.
    So much for all freedom. Virus, hell!

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