Posts tagged ‘Jeff Flake’

This is the Basic Idea Behind Opening Up Cuba to American Business... Though It Would Be Nice to See Internet Access from a Company That Doesn't Roll Over to Authoritarian Censorship

The idea of opening up Cuba is NOT to somehow reward or even ignore their bad behavior but to open them up to the world.  Google wants to be in the forefront of providing Internet access, but given their history of rolling over on censorship to the Chinese, it would be nice to see someone less evil in the vanguard.

I meant to post this a while back, but Jeff Flake totally gets it on Cuba, and I appreciate his leadership among the Republicans on this.  I absolutely loved this quote:

Flake has long said that Americans should be free to see for themselves the stunted fruit of socialist policy. He tells the story of meeting with Lech Walesa, the great activist who challenged Soviet domination of Poland. "I have no idea," Walesa complained, "why you guys have a museum of socialism 90 miles from your shore and you won't let anybody visit it."

After three generations, I think one can safely call a policy like our embargo "failed" and try something else.

Kudos to Jeff Flake on Cuba

I missed this story originally but saw it pop up on our local news again.

Mr. Flake, who has spent a decade in a lonely battle against his party to push for easing restrictions on Cuba, is the chief Republican defender of the new Obama policy. White House officials are counting on him to make their case to his party’s rank and file, even as Republican leaders and Cuban-American lawmakers, like Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, threaten to keep the president from appointing an ambassador or funding an embassy in Havana.

At a Capitol Hill hearing presided over by Mr. Rubio on Tuesday, the two men sat next to each other, somewhat awkwardly, as Mr. Rubio grilled administration officials on a policy he has called a “concession to tyranny.” But even before the hearing, Mr. Flake had moved ahead: Last week he filed a bill to end the decades-old ban on American travel to the Communist island nation.

Good.  The Cuba embargo has been a big, obvious, sustained failure.  While we have embargoed them they have moved no closer to freedom, while scores of countries with which we actively engage have become more free, in large part due to the effect of engagement by their citizenry with the West.

Flake really is an engaging guy.  I watched him at a taping of the NPR game show "Wait, wait, don't tell me" and he charmed an audience of NPR Democrats.

Wherein I Almost Agree With Thomas Friedman on a Climate Issue

Thomas Friedman outlines what he would do first to attack climate change

Well, the first thing we would do is actually slash income taxes and corporate taxes and replace them with a carbon tax so we actually encourage people to stop doing what we don't want, which is emitting carbon, and start doing what we do want, which is hiring more workers and getting corporations to invest more in America.

Friedman is a bit disingenuous here, as he proposes this in a way that implies that deniers (and probably evil Republicans and libertarians) oppose this common sense approach.  Some may, but I would observe that no one on the alarmist side or the Left side of the aisle is actually proposing a carbon tax that 1:1 reduces other taxes.  The only person I know who has proposed this is Republican Jeff Flake, who proposed a carbon tax that would 1:1 reduce payroll taxes.

As I said back then, I am not a big fan of taxes and think that the alarm for global warming is overblown, but I could easily get behind such a plan.  Payroll taxes are consumption taxes on labor.  I can't think of anything much more detrimental to employment and economic health.  So Flake's proposed shift from a consumption tax on labor to a consumption tax on carbon-based energy sources is something I could get behind.  I probably would do the same for Friedman's idea of shifting taxes from income to carbon.  But again, no one is proposing that for real in Congress.  The only plan that came close to a vote was a cap and trade system where the incremental payments would go into essentially a crony slush fund, not reduce other taxes.

Of course, since this is Friedman, he can't get away without saying the government should invest more in infrastructure

 the federal government would borrow money at almost 0 percent and invest it in infrastructure to make our cities not only more resilient, but more efficient.

In TARP and the stimulus and various other clean energy bills, the government borrowed almost a trillion dollars at 0% interest.  How much good infrastructure got done?  About zero.  Most of it just went to feed government bureaucrats and planning studies or ended up as crony payments to well-protected entities (Solyndra, anyone?).  The issues with government infrastructure investments, which Friedman has never addressed despite zillions of articles on infrastructure, are not the borrowing rate but

  • The incentive and information problems the government has in making investments of any sort.
  • The vast environmental, licensing, and NIMBY factors that make it virtually impossible to do infrastructure projects any more, at least in any reasonable time frame.

Is Occupational Licensing Meant to Block Competition from Ethnic Minorities?

Looking at this map of state licensing regimes (darker is more onerous, with AZ being the worst), it is hard to correlate with states being Republican or Democrat.  That doesn't surprise me, because I have always thought the urge to restrict competition and protect incumbents has always been a bipartisan enterprise.

click to enlarge


So I sat and thought for a minute about my home state of AZ.  Why is it the worst?  We have a pretty good libertarian history here, from Goldwater onwards.  We have at least one fairly libertarian Senator (Jeff Flake).  So what is the deal?

My hypothesis is that it is related to immigration.  The same majority Republican legislators who are generally open to free markets simultaneously have an incredible fear and loathing of immigration.  Perhaps our onerous business licensing regime is driven by nativists wanting to protect themselves from competition by new immigrants, immigrants who would struggle to compete onerous licensing requirements?

So what does this map look like vs. immigrant population density?  Via Wikipedia, here are the states on density of Hispanics

click to enlarge


Hmm, we might be getting somewhere, but its not a perfect fit.  So instead, let's hypothesize that business licensing is aimed at non-white, non-hispanic groups in general (similar to early justifications for the minimum wage as a way to keep black workers migrating from the south out of traditionally "white" jobs).  I cannot get it by state, but the map below by county looks pretty dang similar to the licensing map.  Areas in blue have above average percent of non-whites, red is below average.

Not a perfect fit certainly (one would expect Texas to be more onerous), but perhaps close enough to treat the hypothesis seriously.  I had always thought that I would be the last one to play the race card in a policy analysis, but business licensing tends to have an inherently base motive (protect one group from competition from another group) that is pretty easy to square with racial and ethnic fear.


My Plea to Stop the White House From Closing Privately-Funded, Privately-Operated Parks

Here is my letter to my Congresspersons:

Senator John McCain

Senator Jeff Flake

Representative David Schweikert


Help! Administration Orders Shut Down of Privately-Operated Parks in National Forest

Parks that require no Federal money, and actually pay rent to the Treasury, are being required to close



My company, based in North Phoenix, operates over 100 US Forest Service campgrounds and day use areas under concession contract. Yesterday, as in all past government shutdowns, the Department of Agriculture and US Forest Service confirmed we would stay open during the government shutdown. This makes total sense, since our operations are self-sufficient (we are fully funded by user fees at the gate), we get no federal funds, we employ no government workers on these sites, and we actually pay rent into the Treasury.

However, today, we have been told by senior member of the US Forest Service and Department of Agriculture that people “above the department”, which I presume means the White House, plan to order the Forest Service to needlessly and illegally close all private operations. I can only assume their intention is to artificially increase the cost of the shutdown as some sort of political ploy.

The point of the shutdown is to close non-essential operations that require Federal money and manpower to stay open. So why is the White House closing private operations that require no government money to keep open and actually pay a percentage of their gate revenues back to the Treasury? We are a tenant of the US Forest Service, and a tenant does not have to close his business just because his landlord goes on a vacation.

I urge you to help stop the Administration from lawlessly taking arbitrary and illegal actions to artificially worsen the shutdown by hurting innocent hikers and campers. I am not asking you to restore any funding, because no funding is required to keep these operations open. I am asking that the Administration be required to only close government services that actually require budget resources.



Warren Meyer


My Votes in 2008

Should I Vote?  Yes, probably.  Many libertarians refuse to vote.  They refuse to be party to a choice between Coke-brand statism and Pepsi-brand statism.  I sympathize, and respect their decision.  You won't hear rants form me about the beauty of the right to vote.  But I see two reasons for libertarians to vote.  One is to find ways to register our existence, to try to communicate that just because we don't riot at WTO meetings doesn't mean that a great well of dissatisfaction does not exist among us.  The second reason is ballot initiatives.  While candidate A and B may be equally bad on the freedom scale, there is often a right answer for protecting freedom in the ballot initiatives, and they need your vote.

President:  Libertarian Party Guy.  Yeah, I know his name is Bob Barr.  I don't even care.  I am casting the vote for the idea, not the guy, in hopes that the Republicans, as they rebuild themselves over the next 2 years, might notice there are some libertarians out there looking for a home.  It would be nice to be as excited about a politician as some folks are about Obama, but really, they are excited by their own vision, not his.  We really know little about him, but my sense is that his every instinct about government run counter to mine.  McCain is hardly better, perhaps going Obama one further by matching him on tax increases and economic nuttiness but also throwing in a dollop of conservative restrictions on non-economic civil liberties.  And I think many of us are exhausted by the prospect of another 4 years of foreign-policy-as-penis-extension that McCain promises.

US Congress:  John Shadegg
.  If it weren't for Jeff Flake and Ron Paul, I would say Shadegg is about the best we libertarians can hope for of a major party candidate.  Not perfect (he was one of the ones who knuckled under on the second bailout vote) but pretty good.

County Sheriff and City Attorney:  Whoever is running against Joe Arpaio and Andrew Thomas.  Seriously.  I don't even know their names and I am voting for them.  I am sick and tired of Arpaio's schtick (index of articles here).  Anyone who can go on a crime sweep into the 99% all-anglo tony suburb of Fountain Hills and come out with arrestees who are 75% Hispanic is not even trying to be fair.  Andrew Thomas has had Arpaio's back for years, fighting many (losing) civil rights cases for him and prosecuting his critics in the media.

PROP. 100 Protect Our Homes:  Yes.  I am not sure this is even that relevant.  Prevents the imposition of taxes or fees on the sale of real estate  (e.g. no real estate sales tax).  Not sure if this is even a threat,  but I will usually vote to limit the power of government.

PROP. 101 Medical Choice for Arizona:  Yes.  This proposition would effectively prevent state health care laws like that in Massachusetts that require medical coverage and mandate certain types of medical coverage.  In Massachusetts, my current insurance plan (which I pay for and did a lot of research to uncover) is illegal (because it has a higher deductible that politicians want to allow).

PROP. 102 Marriage:  Big No.  I don't expect to change anyone's mind on this, but I am not in the least threatened by civil marriages of gays, and in fact have a number of friends and family members who have taken advantage of the brief window of opportunity in California to get married to their partner.  I am not sure how this can be a threat to me -- last I checked, my marriage is as strong today as it was before gay marriage was allowed.  This issue is sort of the conservative equivalent of the left's obsession with income inequality.  Conservatives tell folks (rightly) that they should be concerned with their own quality of life and not feel somehow worse if there are people who are wealthier.  But, then they tell us all our marriages are going to be worse because somebody over there who we never will meet is going to marry someone of the same sex.

PROP. 105 Majority Rules "” Let the People Decide:  Haven't Decided.  This is a weird one.  This would require propositions raising taxes to be passed only if the "yes" votes they receive equate to 50+% of the total registered voting population, not just of the people who voted that day.  Basically, it makes it impossible to have tax increases in propositions, which I like.  But it is a terrible precedent -- this is simply not how we count elections.  In particular, the "registered voter" number is almost meaningless.  Requiring a super-majority of those voting would be much better law.  I may well vote yes, because I suspect the next 2 years are going to be a heyday of taxation, but I will sort of feel guilty about it.

PROP. 200 Payday Loan Reform Act.  Yes.  Would un-ban payday loan companies in Arizona.  I have always supported choice, even for the poor and unsophisticated.  Payday loans are expensive, but as we have learned from subprime loans, maybe credit to borrowers with no income or assets should be expensive.  More here.

PROP. 201 Homeowner's Bill of Rights.  No.  Created by a pissed off union in a fit of pique as an FU to homebuilders.  Mandates decade-long warranties on homes, and offers a myriad of opportunities for trial lawyer hijinx.  And what problem is it solving?

PROP. 202 Stop Illegal Hiring Act.  Yes, I think.  Again, this is one of those confusingly worded initiates that like to use triple negatives.  But I believe it is a softening of the Immigration / hiring law that I have long opposed.  (related:  E-Verify reviewed here

PROP. 300 State Legislators' Salaries.  No.  Changed my mind on this.  At first, I thought current salaries were unreasonably low.  But now I think that they should all go out and get real jobs, and make the legislature part-time.  Maybe they'll meet less often.

Maybe Its 1850 Again

In 1850, the hottest topic in politics was slavery.  But an awkwardness developed in the political parties.  The Democrats were pretty clearly the pro-slavery party, or at least the conservative maintain the status quo party.  But the Whigs, their opposition, were internally split on slavery.  What that meant was that there was no obvious home for the voters who were against the expansion of slavery into the territories, or more radically, were for slavery's abolition.  A Free Soil third party emerged, but the US has always seemed to seek out a two-party equilibrium.  In just a few years, the Whigs collapsed, and the anti-slavery wing merged with the Free Soilers to form the Republican party.  In the end, having no real contrast among the two major parties on the major issue of the day was unstable.

The only faint hope from this election for libertarians, particularly those concerned with economic freedom issues, is that it may finally highlight to lack of choice we have on these issues between the two major parties.  A few examples like Jeff Flake notwithstanding, the Republican party under GWB and McCain have become virtually indistinguishable from the Democrats on most economic freedom issues.  While I might have had hope 15 years ago that the Republicans could reinvent themselves as classical liberals, I now think this is demonstrated to be hopeless.  Unfortunately, an 1850's style breakup of the party seems unlikely too.  So I guess I don't have much hope after all.

Postscript: Remember, it was Republicans who did this:

The chief executives of the nine largest banks in the
United States trooped into a gilded conference room at the Treasury
Department at 3 p.m. Monday. To their astonishment, they were each
handed a one-page document that said they agreed to sell shares to the
government, then Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. said they must
sign it before they left.

"They weren't allowed to negotiate.
Mr. Paulson requested that each of them sign. It was for their own good
and the good of the country, he said, according to a person in the

At least one banker objected. "But by 6:30, all nine chief
executives had signed "” setting in motion the largest government
intervention in the American banking system since the Depression."

I Think I am Voting for Obama

I am tired of watching the free markets trashed by people who claim to champion capitalism and free enterprise.  Better, I am starting to think, to have free markets trashed by someone who does not pretend to support them.  Besides, the Republicans in Congress tend to be much stronger supporters of small government, low taxes, and light regulation when they are in opposition.  Except possibly for Jeff Flake, who always seems to have his head in the right place.


it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some other country where
they make no pretense of loving liberty - to Russia, for instance,
where despotism can be taken pure, without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

            -- Abraham Lincoln

This Is What You Like To See: AZ Last in Pork-Barrel Cash

Arizona can be a weird place, politically.  Sometimes it can be among the most libertarian, part of the Goldwater legacy, and sometimes it can be absurdly statist, for example in the huge popular support our individual-rights-abusing Sheriff Arpaio enjoys.  But this is certainly good to see:

Arizona has some powerful lawmakers in Washington, including Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

But when it comes to pork-barrel spending, otherwise known as earmarks, the state isn't very powerful. In fact, it ranks last.

That's mostly because three of the state's 10 lawmakers in Washington,
McCain and House Republicans Jeff Flake and John Shadegg, refuse to ask
for any federal money
for local projects. Another Arizona Republican, Sen. Jon Kyl, strictly
limits his earmark requests. They all say the earmark process wastes
taxpayer money and desperately needs reform. But other Arizona
lawmakers counter that their colleagues' stance hurts the state.

rizona, one of the fastest growing states in the nation, will receive
$18.70 per capita in federal earmarks this fiscal year. By comparison,
Alaska, with roughly a 10th of Arizona's population, is set to receive
$506.34 per capita, the highest in the nation, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group that tracks earmarks.

Alaska receives about three times as much as Arizona in actual dollars,
$346 million to $119 million. That means Arizona gets less money for
water projects, bridge repairs, road construction and rural clinics.

Good for us.  While I have my problems with McCain, Shadegg and Flake are two of my favorite people in Congress. 

The article, since it comes from the Republic, of course fails to really explain the issues well.  It tries to get the reader confused into thinking that zero earmarks means zero government spending in the state:

"When you have reformers and purists, you end up not getting a
reasonable share of money coming out, which hurts the state," said
James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and
Presidential Studies at American University. "When you're holier than
thou, you don't get much of the money."

This is, of course, silly.  Having no earmarks merely means that the huge amounts of money the Feds spend are doled out by existing statute and by the bureaucracy, rather than the whim of individual Congress persons trying to pay back favors to large donors.

update:  see the bad half of AZ here.

Arizona's Sometime Libertarianism

Arizona has a pretty strong libertarian streak, and we done some pretty good stuff, like electing Jeff Flake to Congress.  But from time to time, this weird code-of-the-wild-west streak comes out, and we elect a ridiculously self-promoting sheriff.  Or we give someone 200 years in jail for having for possessing (not producing) child pornography.  Or we take away the free speech rights of academics.  As to the latter:

The bill, whose chief sponsor is the Republican majority leader in the
Senate, would ban professors at public colleges and universities, while
working, from:

  • Endorsing, supporting or opposing any candidate for local, state or national office.
  • Endorsing,
    supporting or opposing any pending legislation, regulation or rule
    under consideration by local, state or federal agencies.
  • Endorsing, supporting or opposing any litigation in any court.
  • Advocating "one side of a social, political, or cultural issue that is a matter of partisan controversy."
  • Hindering military recruiting on campus or endorsing the activities of those who do.

We Still Love You Jeff

When the Democrats lost control of Congress in such dramatic fashion in 1992, many thought it would be a wake-up call for the party, forcing it to check some of its premises.  In fact, the Democrats never really changed much after 1992 and really have only recovered power because the Republicans have done such a fine job of blowing their own foot off.

Likewise, the Republicans after losing power in 2006 are showing absolutely no hints of dealing with the issues that got them tossed out of office.  In fact, they seem hell-bent on purging their brightest reformers, announcing recently that Jeff Flake will be stripped of his judiciary committee post.  Sorry Jeff, but you are still Coyote Blog's favorite Congressman.  Why?  Here is a sample:

Reason: What policies could a GOP-run Congress enact that would appeal to libertarians?

Flake: At this late date? Adjournment.

You gotta love the reliably liberal Tucson Citizen, which bends over backwards to (almost) blame Flake for his own dismissal because, well, because his uncle Jake*, a prominent state politician, once did the same thing to someone else.  Think about all your uncles and aunts -- would you want to be held accountable for all their actions?

*For an Arizonan, the elder Flake is best known as "Jake Flake from Snowflake" if you can believe it.

Congress is Nuts

The Democrats are in the process of making some really silly choices for their leadership positions, so the Republicans take the opportunity to grab the moral high ground by... bringing Trent Lott back into the leadership?  Huh?  Other than being perhaps a convoluted FU to John Conyers, who has been dissing Mississippi, what sense does this make?  I thought Jeff Flake made a convincing argument on 60-Minutes that the Republicans had blown their own foot off in this last election.  It seems that rather than putting down the gun, they are just raising their aim.

I don't know where I got the link from, but this is the best comment I have seen on the whole Trent Lott election, from Dean Barnett:

there's one message that the electorate sent the Republican Party last
week, it's that we hadn't given them enough of Trent Lott. I cannot
adequately express my delight that Senate Republicans have moved with
such expediency to right this egregious wrong.

AZ and Small Government

One of the good things about living in AZ is that it is the home of several of the unfortunately dwindling number of Republicans who consistently cast votes for lower taxes and smaller government. 

Recently Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake, who I have given props to in a number of columns on this blog, sponsored a series of 19 bills aimed at cleaning up the appropriations process and making it harder for Congress to slip earmarks through the appropriations process, at least without having gone explicitly on the record as having done so. 

The Club for Growth has a scorecard of how each Congressman voted on these bills.  In each case, a 'YES' vote is a vote against pork and a vote to clean up the Congressional appropriations process. 

My Congressman, John Shadegg, who is another reliable small government low tax voter, came through with 19 of 19 'Yes' votes.  Way to go Congressman!

No Surprise Here

Marginal Revolution links to a list of the most corrupt states, measured by the number of government corruption convictions per capita.  I bet you can come pretty close to the top three without even looking.  Here they are:

  1. Alaska.  For all those who want to believe that pork is unrelated to corruption, look no further than the king of pork itself, Alaska, which also turns out to be the king of government corruption.  Kudos to Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake, who is about the only one brave enough in that lost and floundering body to connect the dots between Abramoff, cash-filled tuperware, corruption and pork.
  2. Mississippi.  Who would have ever thought the state best known for being the #1 home of jackpot torts and the home state of the Senator who claims to be above the law would be a hotbed of corruption? 
  3. Louisiana.  Probably the only surprise on the list, since one would expect the home state of Huey Long to be in first rather than third.  Heck, in 1991 the state got to choose between a wanna-be Nazi Klansman and a serially corrupt felon for Governor.  And God only knows where the money that should have been spent on building levees actually went.

If it Passes, I'm Turning Off the Pumps

Per the WSJ($):

Last week the House of Representatives expressed its
collective outrage over high gas prices by voting as a herd, 389-34, to
make gasoline "price gouging" a federal felony.

Really. This command and control legislation reads
like the kind of law passed by the old Soviet Politburo. If an oil
company is found guilty of charging a "grossly excessive" price for
gasoline, it could face a $250 million fine and its executives face
imprisonment. Even neighborhood service station owners could be
sentenced to two years in jail and a $2 million fine for the high crime
of charging too much at the pump.

So what is price gouging?  What is the objective standard that we can all apply to our behavior to know clearly, before the fact, if our actions are legal or illegal?

One small problem is that no one in Washington can seem to define what
constitutes price gouging. Under the House legislation, the bureaucrats
at the Federal Trade Commission would define a "grossly excessive"
price and then, once prosecutors charge some politically vulnerable
target, juries across the country would decide who's guilty and who's
not. A Senate version, sponsored by Maria Cantwell of Washington,
contains terms like "excessively unconscionable price increases" and "a
gross disparity" between the normal price and the price during a
shortage or an emergency.

If this passes, there are two, and only two, ways this can be enforced:

  1. The standards remain incredibly vague, such that there is no objective way to know if you are guilty of a felony until you are in front of a jury listening to the verdict.  Some juries will may decide 6 cents over cost is gouging, others may decide its 50 cents.  But you won't know until you hear the jury's verdict.
  2. In an effort to deal with the problem of having no objective standard in advance, a federal bureaucracy is created to set detailed lists of allowable prices, essentially subjecting retail gasoline sales to price controls.  The prices set by regulators will either be above the price the market would have set, meaning that the price-setting is a meaningless waste of money, or it will be less than that set by the market, such that gas shortages and lines will ensue. 

These are the only two choices.  You only have to look at past history with oil price controls, airline regulation, railroad regulation, wage and price controls, etc. to know just how bad this will end.

As Jeff Flake of Arizona, one of the brave 33 no votes, tells us: "None
of my colleagues actually believes this will reduce prices, and many
realize it will ultimately make shortages worse." Yet this is what
happens when petrified politicians allow mob rule to trump economic
common sense.

My company operates several retail gasoline outlets.  We at best break even and probably lose money on the gas, but we continue to sell it to bring people into our stores and because there are so few other local retailers (we are in very rural areas).  If this law passes, I am just not going to risk going to jail because some economically ignorant jury in the future can't figure out that gas is more expensive in rural areas or because some tragic and sympathetic figure decides to sue me.  I'm out.  And if someone observes that in the rural areas in which we operate, consumers will probably be worse off if we exit, then Congress should have thought of that before they passed this Marxist-populist legislation.

Up to now, it was for this and only this reason that I tended to vote Republican more than Democrat.  I held my nose and looked past family-values-based censorship and stupid drug law enforcement and regulation of sexual choices and xenophobic immigration policies and all the rest of the conservative baggage solely because Republicans tended to pass less stupid dumbshit socialist destructive economic regulation than the Democrats. 

I've always told people that as a libertarian for whom neither party is internally consistent, you just have to pick the issues you vote on.  If I was gay or needed frequent abortions or was Howard Stern, I would vote Democrat.  Trying to run a small business against a growing tidal wave of government taxes and regulations, I often vote Republican.   If every Republican was (were?  I always get that subjunctive thing mixed up) like Jeff Flake, I would continue to vote for them.  Right now, though, I may go back to sitting on my hands or vote for whatever goofy person the Libertarian Party has put forward.

I just can't figure out who is making all these imagined profits.  I don't know any retailers of gasoline who make any real money on gasoline sales.   For god sakes, typical gasoline margins are 5-12 cents a gallon, and the credit card processing fee alone at $3 a gallon uses up 9 cents of that!  And even the great Satan ExxonMobil, in their greatest most profitable quarter ever, made a profit of 9.7% of sales, barely above the US industrial average and well below that of most well-known consumer products companies.  If anyone is making profits they don't deserve, it is Hugo Chavez and the Saudi princes, but I don't think there is much we are going to do about that.  And, if one is concerned with pricing in emergencies, I have actually pleaded for gouging when the alternative was not being able to find gas at all.

If Congress really wants to do something about gas prices, it could consider:

  • Reducing gas taxes, which take more our of a gallon of gas than any private entity makes in profit
  • Opening up exploration in the ANWR and on the US east coast
  • Making it easier to build new refining capacity in the US
  • Restructuring rules to reduce the number of EPA-mandated unique local gasoline blends are required
  • Remove the 40+ cent tariff on important ethanol, which federal rules effectively require in gasoline and which is in short supply domestically

By the way, in the past several weeks, Congress has rejected legislation on every one of these items in favor of this silly gouging legislation.  The WSJ offers this final thought:

If service stations are guilty of extortion because their prices are
rising more than their costs, then are we to have pricing police
preventing homeowners from selling their houses for two or three times
what they bought them for, or movie theaters from charging $6 for
popcorn that costs 25 cents to produce, or Barbra Streisand from
commanding a $1 million fee for a single performance? Now that
Republicans have surrendered to the political expediency of price
controls on big oil, they won't have much standing to stop Democrats
from imposing price ceilings on pharmaceutical drugs, school supplies,
medical equipment, and the like.