What Private Enterprise Does for Disaster Relief

Mitt Romney is arrogant enough to believe private enterprise could provide disaster relief better than the federal government. Fortunately, New York’s Attorney General knows better.

Quick to point to looting during a disaster (before it even happens), I haven’t heard conservatives using that same outrage to condemn price gouging.

More than 400 possible cases of price gouging of gasoline and other essentials, including a $10 box of matches and $7 loaf of bread, have been reported in New York before and after Superstorm Sandy.

Reports are being investigated in New York City, the Hudson Valley and on Long Island by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Schneiderman said Monday that he’s investigating an increasing number of reports of spikes in prices for essential goods including gasoline, food, bottled water, generators, batteries and flashlights.

In one report, the cost of a bag of potatoes jumped to $7, up from $3 before the storm hit. The cost of the box of matches appears more than three times the usual cost, and the loaf of bread is more than double the usual cost.

Price gouging is illegal, but the charges are difficult to prove.

Vendors may defend higher prices if they can show an increased cost of obtaining goods from wholesalers or in delivering services, making prosecutions difficult.

State business law prohibits an “unconscionably excessive price” during an “abnormal disruption of the market” that unfairly takes advantage of consumers.

Expect Romney to praise capitalist price gouging as soon as the election is over. Profits are Mitt’s thing; ethics just get in the way.