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Price-gouging?
The Washington Times ^ | 9-29-05 | Richard W. Rahn

Posted on 09/29/2005 11:36:23 AM PDT by JZelle

If you bought a home 10 years ago for $100,000 and just sold it for $300,000, have you engaged in price gouging? Most people would say "no," provided there were willing buyers and sellers of both sides of the transaction merely responding to the market at the time. As a result of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, some politicians have demanded prosecution of "price gougers." In many states, like Florida, "price gouging" is illegal. The Florida statutes say, "It is illegal to charge unconscionable prices for goods or services following a declared state of emergency." Hmmm, I know what the law means when says burglary or murder are illegal, but an "unconscionable price"? So I looked in Webster's Dictionary, and found unconscionable is defined as "excessive; extortionate" and gouge is defined as "to extort from or to swindle." As an economist, I know prices allocate scarce resources (like gasoline) and motivate future production. At some price, the quantity demanded and the quantity producers are willing to supply come together. If that price is high enough to provide producers a profit, they will be motivated to produce more.

(Excerpt) Read more at washingtontimes.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: fuel; gas; hurricane; katrina; pricegouging; richardrahn; rifinery; rita
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1 posted on 09/29/2005 11:36:24 AM PDT by JZelle
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To: JZelle
If you bought a home 10 years ago for $100,000 and just sold it for $300,000, have you engaged in price gouging?

If the lender charges you 35% interest per annum for your mortgage on that house, the gov't would nail it for usury under the same principle. The free market isn't allowed to work in many facets of the economy.

2 posted on 09/29/2005 11:47:29 AM PDT by peyton randolph (Warning! It is illegal to fatwah a camel in all 50 states)
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To: JZelle

if oil companies were working within a total capitalist system, id buy it, but they arent. government subsidies need to stop for oil companies.


3 posted on 09/29/2005 11:48:40 AM PDT by philsfan24
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To: philsfan24
government subsidies need to stop for oil companies.

What are the subsidies?

4 posted on 09/29/2005 11:51:21 AM PDT by Cobra64
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To: JZelle

It's only "price-gouging" if somebody else does it, especially if it's somebody you don't like.


5 posted on 09/29/2005 11:51:48 AM PDT by Emmett McCarthy
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To: JZelle
If it became the law that houses could only be sold through a cabal of 5 or so big real estate firms - REMAX, Century 21, etc - is that a free market??

So can we little people go out in our back yards and establish distilleries to make and sell gasoline, and perhaps alcohol, to anyone we want?

Can we go make our own guns and freely sell them, too?

6 posted on 09/29/2005 11:52:17 AM PDT by DTogo (I haven't left the GOP, the GOP left me.)
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To: DTogo
If it became the law that houses could only be sold through a cabal of 5 or so big real estate firms - REMAX, Century 21, etc - is that a free market??

Which is the cabal of 5 oil comapnies? The retail gasoline market is well diversified under any and every standard that is sued to measure market concentration.

The problem with debates about oil and gas is that 95% of people know nothing about the industry, yet feel no reason offering their opinions on it.

7 posted on 09/29/2005 11:54:28 AM PDT by Rodney King (No, we can't all just get along.)
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To: JZelle

Only large corporate entities are capable of price gouging. Sarc


8 posted on 09/29/2005 11:55:51 AM PDT by Neoliberalnot (Conservatism: doing what is right instead of what is easy)
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To: JZelle

If I was forced to buy a house every week and all of the houses were sold by a strictly limited amount of companies that colluded to set the price, then yes, paying $300,000 for a $100,000 dollar house would be price gouging. There is competition in the housing market, however, so I can buy a cheaper one. There is no competition in the oil market, so I cannot buy cheaper gas from a different station. The point this article's writer tries to make falls flat as an apples-and-oranges comparison.


9 posted on 09/29/2005 11:57:22 AM PDT by mysterio
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To: mysterio
If I was forced to buy a house every week and all of the houses were sold by a strictly limited amount of companies that colluded to set the price,

Your whole premise is incorrect. How limited do you think the number of companies is? What makes you think they collude? How many companies would need to be in on the collusion? Generally, collusion among companies is very difficult if there are more than 2 or 3. You would need LOTS of companies in on this collusion.

10 posted on 09/29/2005 12:02:58 PM PDT by Rodney King (No, we can't all just get along.)
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To: mysterio

Colluding is illegal. Please provide proof of this before accusing American companies of fixing the price.

I don't believe in price gouging. We are a market based economy, if the price isn't what you are willing to pay, then don't buy it.

You can't buy cheaper gas, because if someone had cheaper gas, he/she would be sold out instantly. It's called Arbitrage.


11 posted on 09/29/2005 12:04:25 PM PDT by IL Republican
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To: peyton randolph
If the lender charges you 35% interest per annum for your mortgage on that house, the gov't would nail it for usury under the same principle.

But credit cards and advance payroll lending institutions can charge as much or higher. One place will get you for 300+%.

12 posted on 09/29/2005 12:04:32 PM PDT by Centurion2000 ((Aubrey, Tx) --- The government seems to be rewarding stupidity lately.)
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To: mysterio

"There is no competition in the oil market, so I cannot buy cheaper gas from a different station. The point this article's writer tries to make falls flat as an apples-and-oranges comparison."

Maybe where you live, but not around Houston.

Today, I can pay $2.56/gal at Sam's Club, or I can drive less than a mile and pay $3.09 at Shell station.

Maybe you need to shop around more.


13 posted on 09/29/2005 12:04:49 PM PDT by chaosagent (Remember, no matter how you slice it, forbidden fruit still tastes the sweetest!)
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To: mysterio
so I cannot buy cheaper gas from a different station.

People say that all the time, and it just baffles me. As I drive home today after work, I will pass 10 gas stations. They all have different prices. 7-11 tends to be the most expensive. Albertson's is cheaper than everyone else, so the station is always jammed. If I want, I can go a little out of my way and get it even cheaper on the highway by stopping at a truck stop like Pilot or Flying J.

14 posted on 09/29/2005 12:04:59 PM PDT by Rodney King (No, we can't all just get along.)
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To: mysterio

I agree with you. Also, a home if taken care of, appreciates in value. Gas, when you purchase it, burns up and is gone forever once you use it. So I agree. There is no comparison.

If you bought a home 10 years ago for $100,000 and just sold it for $300,000, have you engaged in price gouging?


15 posted on 09/29/2005 12:07:51 PM PDT by WasDougsLamb (Just my opinion.Go easy on me........)
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To: IL Republican

I'm replying to myself.

In my last line, I am directly answering a question as to why there are not gas stations with cheaper gas than their neighbor.


16 posted on 09/29/2005 12:07:53 PM PDT by IL Republican
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To: IL Republican

The whiners always hit and run these threads.


17 posted on 09/29/2005 12:11:51 PM PDT by Rodney King (No, we can't all just get along.)
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To: Rodney King

I also wonder who is forcing him to buy gas. Some consider it a need, but in reality, it is a luxury. Unless you drive 30 minutes or more to work, you could ride a bike. if it is 10m, or less, you could walk.

People survived for the vast majority of human history without gas, why is it necessary to have it now?


18 posted on 09/29/2005 12:13:06 PM PDT by IL Republican
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To: Rodney King

People say that all the time, and it just baffles me. As I drive home today after work, I will pass 10 gas stations. They all have different prices. 7-11 tends to be the most expensive. Albertson's is cheaper than everyone else, so the station is always jammed. If I want, I can go a little out of my way and get it even cheaper on the highway by stopping at a truck stop like Pilot or Flying J.


Not having to wait in line is worth something to me too. I hate how the gas pump area is treated as a parking lot.


19 posted on 09/29/2005 12:14:56 PM PDT by JZelle
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To: IL Republican

In the last thirty years the cost of a Mustang has gone up twice as fast as inflation. This increase matches the increase in wages of an auto worker. Is the auto worker gouging?


20 posted on 09/29/2005 12:16:08 PM PDT by JLGALT
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To: Rodney King
Actually, FTC Data show that all but four states had wholesale market concentrations greater than an HHI score of 1000, and four of the five Petroleum Administrative Defense Districts (PADDs) had refinery market concentrations greater than 1000. The East Cost (PADD I) had an HHI of 1943 in 2003. USDOJ merger guidelines characterize HHIs greater than 1000 as "Concentrated" and those above 1800 as "Highly Concentrated". I would argue that, since demand is inelastic in the short term, firms get more power at lower levels of market concentration in the gasoline industry than in others. I don't have data on retail market concentrations, but given the fact that in most states there are large numbers of either franchised or corporate retailers (as opposed to independents), that the retail market is not easily separated from the wholesale market (both are simply "downstream").
21 posted on 09/29/2005 12:18:24 PM PDT by NYFriend
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To: peyton randolph

>If the lender charges you 35% interest per annum for your mortgage on that house, the gov't would nail it for usury under the same principle. The free market isn't allowed to work in many facets of the economy.<

Usury threshold is defined in advance.Give us a profit rate above which gouging occurs.


22 posted on 09/29/2005 12:24:27 PM PDT by Blessed
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To: chaosagent

Not like that around here. They ALL are within 2-3 cents of each other and ALL raise their rates on the same day. Within a few hours even.


23 posted on 09/29/2005 12:24:37 PM PDT by pas
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To: Cobra64
I want to know that too.

Best I've heard of is the occasional tax break (reduction). Production taxes, lease sales, federal/state royalties, 'windfall profits' taxes, transportation taxes, fuel taxes, permit fees, reclamation bonds, etc., etc., etc.

The industry is one of the few taxed on par with tobacco, but it is taxed from prospect to the gas tank.

SO what are the subsidies?

Ethanol? NOT oil.

24 posted on 09/29/2005 12:24:42 PM PDT by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly.)
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To: IL Republican

Sure, you can buy cheaper gas. Any day there is a 15cent differential in price/gal. Consumers could force the prices down, if they would shop for price, but they don't.


25 posted on 09/29/2005 12:36:19 PM PDT by ClaireSolt (.)
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To: philsfan24
government subsidies need to stop for oil companies.

I don't know about subsidies, but government roadblocks to exploration and development of gas, oil, and other energy resources need to be removed.

26 posted on 09/29/2005 12:36:54 PM PDT by meyer (The DNC prefers advancing the party at the expense of human lives.)
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To: Blessed
Give us a profit rate above which gouging occurs.

Indeed, "unconscionable" leaves the door wide open. How much profit is acceptable? 10%? 50%? 100%? Should present CGS be the basis of the markup or future CGS?

27 posted on 09/29/2005 12:39:02 PM PDT by meyer (The DNC prefers advancing the party at the expense of human lives.)
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To: WasDougsLamb
I agree with you. Also, a home if taken care of, appreciates in value. Gas, when you purchase it, burns up and is gone forever once you use it. So I agree. There is no comparison.

The gasoline retailer does not burn up the gas before they resell it, thus the comparison of buying and reselling a house is correct.

28 posted on 09/29/2005 12:45:33 PM PDT by Niteranger68 ("Spare the rod, spoil the liberal.")
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To: Rodney King

5 Companies in the US with refining capacity over 1M bbl/day:
Conoco Phillips: 2,198,400
Exxon Mobil: 1,846,500
BP: 1,504,500
Valero Energy: 1,449,528
Chevron Texaco: 1,006,901

8 Companies with refining capacity over 500K bbl/day
Marathon Oil: 948,000
Sunoco: 900,000
Premcor: 768,400
Koch Industries: 763,126
Motiva Enterprises: 746,500
PDV America: 719,300
Royal Dutch Shell: 597,200
Tesoro: 562,500

Source: www.eia.doe.gov


29 posted on 09/29/2005 12:45:45 PM PDT by DTogo (I haven't left the GOP, the GOP left me.)
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To: JZelle

I don't believe in the price gouging argument. However, I do believe that oil companies are not trying very hard to increase the gasoline supply to meet the nation's demand.

If any law should be passed, it should be strictly limited to requiring oil companies to increase their supply to meet the nation's demand.

IE - if the current refining capacity of US oil companies is 17 million barrels/day and the US demand is 21 million barrels/day, then the oil companies should increase their capacity by 4 million barrels/day.

And if, after a set timeframe (let's say... a year), the oil companies cannot show a sizeable increase in refinery construction or expansion, then the law should mandate that the oil companies be required to spend a set portion of their profits (let's say... 25%) into increasing their supply production. For Exxon, 25% would mean that they would spend $10 billion/year into increasing their refining capabilities, leaving $30 billion for their shareholders. Even with the insane environment regulations, $10 billion would easily cover the cost of building a new refinery (and grease the palms of stubborn lawmakers). Once supply then meets demand, the law should then go into remission.

The biggest problem right now is that the oil companies are abdicating their free market duties. Which is to increase supply to meet demand. And all the talk of 'windfall profit' taxes just adds more ammunition for them not to increase supply.


30 posted on 09/29/2005 12:50:03 PM PDT by gogogodzilla (Raaargh! Raaargh! Crush, Stomp!)
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To: IL Republican
I also wonder who is forcing him to buy gas.

I agree - one doesn't absolutely NEED to buy gas to survive, but they do need to buy it if they wish to maintain the lifestyle that they now enjoy.

Some consider it a need, but in reality, it is a luxury. Unless you drive 30 minutes or more to work, you could ride a bike. if it is 10m, or less, you could walk.

I'm not sure that luxury is the right description today, given the distances one must travel to work, school, shopping, and all. We have essentially built our cities based on the freedom of movement brought about by the automobile. The car has allowed us to move out of crime-ridden neighborhoods to the sanctity of the suburbs. It has allowed us to have a reasonably large yard. It has allowed us to get our children out of dysfunctional city schools (and arguably into dysfunctional suburban schools in some cases). It has given us our own space, away from the closeness of the city, while still allowing commuting into and out of the city.

In my own situation, I drive about 17 miles to work - the trip is about 20 minutes. There are no busses, especially considering the hours I work (24/7 operation). Walking is out of the question, given the distance and time constraints. Likewise, bicycling is a bit dodgy given that there is quite a bit of big elevation change on the way downtown each day. That, and I'd need a good hot shower when I got to work. I average nearly 60 mph on my trip to work including parking time - cycling, assuming I were in excellent shape and a bit younger, would put me at about a 10 mph average, given the hilly/mountainous terrain.

Of course, one could move back into the inner city and that would alleviate the need for daily commuting to work. Shopping might be another situation depending on the city. There's not a great abundance of low-priced stores in the downtown area here. There's a lot of other things people can do to reduce the need for gas, and I would hope that prices would guide people in their driving decisions.

31 posted on 09/29/2005 12:54:27 PM PDT by meyer (The DNC prefers advancing the party at the expense of human lives.)
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To: mysterio

32 posted on 09/29/2005 12:55:45 PM PDT by Protagoras (Call it what it is, partial delivery murder)
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To: Smokin' Joe
Ethanol? NOT oil.

My neighbor is a chemist for Amoco. He says that ethenol is not the holy grail as a gasoline substitue. The process required to get ethanol to market consumes energy... fossil fuel.

As for subsidies, the oil companies are paying taxes on their untapped oil reserves!

I get fed up with some liberals I know who spout off with unfounded statements.

My wife worked for Texaco for 30 years in their World headquarters in NY.

She said what the feds are, and have been doing to the oil companies, is unconcienable.

Oil companies are hog-tied from building new refining capacity.

She goes ballistic when I mention the "Federal Government" and "energy" in the same sentence.

33 posted on 09/29/2005 12:56:06 PM PDT by Cobra64
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To: pas

"Not like that around here. They ALL are within 2-3 cents of each other and ALL raise their rates on the same day. Within a few hours even. "

You just live in an area with a more efficient market.


34 posted on 09/29/2005 12:57:49 PM PDT by Sunnyflorida
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To: mysterio

35 posted on 09/29/2005 12:58:46 PM PDT by Protagoras (Call it what it is, partial delivery murder)
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To: Sunnyflorida

>
You just live in an area with a more efficient market.<

The Retail margin for Gas is so tight their is no room for competition on gas.Costco and the grocery chains are selling at almost cost and using gas as a loss leader.Convienence stores compete corner by corner.If their are four small chains at one intersection they usually manage to make $.10-$.15 margin.If one corner has a large chain like Quick Trip,Hess or RaceTrac the margin is bet back to $.10 or less.


36 posted on 09/29/2005 1:07:24 PM PDT by Blessed
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To: Cobra64
I don't blame her--I have been working wellsites since 1979 and have seen some nutzoid stuff. I was up on a hill near a location in Wyoming, just taking a walk and a couple of pictures of the rig, when I noticed three suburbans coming down the rig road at a high rate of speed, at motorcade spacing...raising an unholy cloud of dust.

I just sat on an outcropping there and watched them pull up on the wellsite, slide to a stop (fanned out formation), guys pop out of all the doors with clipboards in hand, and deploy like some sort of strike force, (as I was later informed) looking for infractions.

It looked like a SWAT operation. Just unreal.

I just sat up there and watched the show.

One fresh water tank had overflowed when it was filled that morning, spilling three or four barrels of water, and the company was fined heavily for spilling water on the ground--that came out of a private pond about five miles back up the road (where it had been in contact with the ground...).

37 posted on 09/29/2005 1:09:34 PM PDT by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly.)
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To: DTogo
Well, you were talking retail initially, but if you want to shift the discussion to refining:

Are you claiming that all 14 of those companies are colluding together?

Are you claiming that these companies could have colluded 5 years ago, but only recently decided to?

Are you claiming that the other independent refiners out there (and there are a lot of them)aren't able to make a killing by undercutting these guys a little?

38 posted on 09/29/2005 1:09:44 PM PDT by Rodney King (No, we can't all just get along.)
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To: DTogo
According to the following chart, refining has become less centralized. In fact, the big 5 oil companies have been selling refinging capacity to independents. (Note: FRS in these charts are the majors that report through the governments Financial Reporting System). So, if it was more controllable in 1990, then now, why did they wait to raise prices? Were they stupid? Or perhaps maybe the price increases are a function of the market.


39 posted on 09/29/2005 1:15:50 PM PDT by Rodney King (No, we can't all just get along.)
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To: Protagoras

You can read that book online for free now. One of the best books ever.


40 posted on 09/29/2005 1:17:05 PM PDT by Rodney King (No, we can't all just get along.)
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To: gogogodzilla
And if, after a set timeframe (let's say... a year), the oil companies cannot show a sizeable increase in refinery construction or expansion,

Uh, they can't. Do you have any idea how hard it would be to get a refinery past the regulators, environmentalists, and the courts? Perhaps you should do it, you can make a fortune.

41 posted on 09/29/2005 1:18:37 PM PDT by Rodney King (No, we can't all just get along.)
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To: NYFriend

Well, I guess I'd like to see that data if you can find it. It's not that I don't believe you, its just hard to comment on.


42 posted on 09/29/2005 1:19:11 PM PDT by Rodney King (No, we can't all just get along.)
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To: JZelle

Here's the most major thing wrong with your analogy: The republican party isn't going to get massacred in the 2006 elections because of what might have happened to the prices of houses in the last five years.....


43 posted on 09/29/2005 1:22:07 PM PDT by tamalejoe
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To: Rodney King
I've read it a number of times. I have several copies. I give them to intelligent but ignorant people from time to time.

It was my first real introduction to freedom issues after I was old enough to actually think.

It was a long, long time ago.

44 posted on 09/29/2005 1:25:32 PM PDT by Protagoras (Call it what it is, partial delivery murder)
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To: Rodney King

From Consumer Union here
http://www.consumersunion.org/pub/0407-CU-CFAGasReport

Also See GAO 04-96 Energy Markets Effects of Mergers... from www.GAO.gov


45 posted on 09/29/2005 1:45:18 PM PDT by NYFriend
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To: NYFriend
Well, I read the first page and can tell you that it is junk. In addition to discussing gasoline prices, the guy claims that natural gas wellhead prices are also being increased because of market concentration, etc.

That is so off-base as to make me think the guy knows nothing. I used to work in corporate finance for a major natural gas producer. The idea that there is collusion is totally nuts. Not only is it very competitive, but there are even secondary trading markets to ensure such. Plus, there are endless numbers of natural gas producers. It is one thing to allege collusion in refinery production, but quite another in natural gas production.

46 posted on 09/29/2005 1:53:38 PM PDT by Rodney King (No, we can't all just get along.)
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To: tamalejoe

Here's the most major thing wrong with your analogy: The republican party isn't going to get massacred in the 2006 elections because of what might have happened to the prices of houses in the last five years.....



Dude, I didn't write the article. I merely posted it.


47 posted on 09/29/2005 1:55:58 PM PDT by JZelle
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To: mysterio
If I was forced to buy a house every week and all of the houses were sold by a strictly limited amount of companies that colluded to set the price, then yes, paying $300,000 for a $100,000 dollar house would be price gouging. There is competition in the housing market, however, so I can buy a cheaper one. There is no competition in the oil market, so I cannot buy cheaper gas from a different station. The point this article's writer tries to make falls flat as an apples-and-oranges comparison.

Excellent response, and I agree 100%.......

48 posted on 09/29/2005 1:55:59 PM PDT by eeriegeno
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To: tamalejoe

If the Republican party gers massacred over the price of gas it is our own fault for not making a bigger issue out of enviro-wackos and their democrat partners. The Republican's should have been pushing for more refineries and drilling all along.


49 posted on 09/29/2005 1:57:33 PM PDT by Sunnyflorida
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To: chaosagent

Every gas station in my area is charging exactly the same price. To the cent. About 40 gas stations. Hell of a coincidence.


50 posted on 09/29/2005 2:00:43 PM PDT by mysterio
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