Michelle Bernard

Like most of the American public, I have stood at the pump at my local filling station and cursed the cost of gasoline. Yet, after filling my tank I inevitably drive to Starbucks to stand in line with other women seeking a reprieve from morning mommy detail, handing over $4.24 without batting an eye as I order my beloved venti, soy chai latte.

The other morning I had, as Oprah might say, an “aha” moment. After paying for my cup of tea, I thought “What’s wrong with this picture? Why am I complaining about the price of gasoline while forking out what is arguably a lot of money for a cup of hot water and spices?”

Mothers and fathers beware – if certain members of Congress have their way, you will not be standing in line at Starbucks any more because you’ll be too busy waiting in mile-long lines to get gasoline. Every year as summer vacation drive time nears and families get ready to hit the road for vacations, politicians and the media heighten the emotional sensitivities of an American public willing to spend large sums of money on coffee, or in my case tea, but infuriated by the thought of what they spend on a gallon of gasoline.

To highlight their empathy before a frustrated public, Democrats and Republicans alike in the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Federal Price Gouging Protection Act. According to a study recently issued by American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF), the likely impact of this legislation and others like it is the imposition of price controls on gasoline similar to those in the 1970s which caused major supply disruptions, rationing and endless waiting lines for gasoline. History is set to soon repeat itself if these bills become law.

If I were to put my legal hat on, I would say that terms included in the legislation such as “unconscionably excessive” and “unfair advantage” should be declared as void for vagueness. Even worse, penalties include up to 10 years imprisonment, $150 million in corporate fines, $2 million in fines against an individual if anyone can claim prices to be “unconscionably high ” — this must have plaintiffs and criminal defense lawyers, many of whom I consider friends, licking their lips.

First off, why are gas prices so high?


Michelle Bernard

Michelle D. Bernard, a lawyer by training, is the president and CEO of the Independent Women’s Forum and author of Women’s Progress, How Women are Wealthier, Healthier, and More Independent Than Ever Before.
 
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