Too Much Price Gouging

RECEIVED Wed., Sept. 17, 2008

Dear Editor,
    On Tuesday, Sept. 16, I heard President Bush urge us to give to those affected by Hurricane Ike. He warned us not to suffer from "disaster fatigue" and give to charitable organizations such as the Red Cross to help those displaced by the storm. After touring the devastated areas of our state, he also urged those evacuees not to return to their homes or businesses until local authorities deemed it safe to do so. I started thinking about “disaster fatigue” and couldn’t help but think of an even greater national tragedy we as Americans face.
    Every time there is a natural disaster, whether it be a hurricane or even a tsunami, I see average Austinites, Texans, and Americans come together to help those in need. Not surprisingly, many politicians often use these opportunities as little more than photo-ops to better their own careers. Even worse, many large corporations and unscrupulous small-business owners often seize the opportunity for price gouging. While this may be unethical, it is not illegal under current Texas law. I have a hard time understanding why crude-oil prices have dropped 35% over the last two months, yet consumer prices for gasoline have fallen only 7% during the same time period.
    Regarding politicians, both parties have raised considerable amounts of money for the presidential campaign. Why couldn’t they donate some of this money to help those in need instead of hitting us with another attack ad?! It almost seems to me that both parties are too busy trying to divide our country based on ideological differences rather than help unite us when we have a common cause more important than individual political ideology.
    Personally, I believe our legislators should pass a law to put a temporary price freeze on gasoline and other important commodities during a state of emergency. In my opinion, those who engage in price gouging during a disaster are as bad as (if not even worse) than looters during times of tragedy. Better yet, wouldn’t it be refreshing to see our corporate neighbors roll back prices or even donate goods and services to those affected by a natural disaster temporarily or at least until the time of need has passed? Anyway, I believe most of us would suffer much less from disaster fatigue if all of us (citizens, politicians, and corporations) worked together during a natural disaster – instead of using these tragic times for financial or political gain.
William Vordenbaum
   [Editor's note: Price gouging is illegal in Texas.]
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