In Texas, prices for water, gasoline and hotel rooms have skyrocketed in the wake of Tropical Storm Harvey, which flooded Houston and is expected to remain on the Gulf Coast for a few more days.
People are reporting that a case of water costs $99 and gas costs as much as $10 per gallon. This past weekend, there were more than 500 complaints about price gouging, or raising the cost of goods to an exploitative price, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told CNBC.
A Best Western near Corpus Christi was charging $321.89 a night, almost tripled from the room’s normal rate of $120, KXAN reported. The attorney general’s office has delivered a subpoena to the motel in question after finding that nearly 40 guests were similarly over-charged.
The state has a penalty of $20,000 for those found guilty of price gouging, and the fine can be as much as $250,000 if the victim is age 65 or older.
The state defines price gouging as:
- Selling or leasing fuel, food, medicine or another necessity at an exorbitant or excessive price; or
- Demanding an exorbitant or excessive price in connection with the sale or lease of fuel, food, medicine or another necessity.
While price gouging is illegal in Texas, it’s an undecided question for some conservatives who value the free market. On radio Tuesday, Glenn and the guys debated the ethics of price gouging and whether or not there is a benefit to letting the market stay unregulated even during a disaster.
Stu was alone in being certain in his opinion.
“Stu is just a pure capitalist, ‘screw ‘em all, let ‘em eat each other,’” Glenn joked about Stu’s perspective.
Estimating that a case of water had 24 bottles, Stu pointed out that you would be paying around $4 per bottle, which is roughly what you might pay at a baseball game. “That’s not even price gouging. That is event pricing,” he said.
Glenn couldn’t quite get past the fact that water is the most fundamental human necessity.
“I’m really torn on this because I mean, water is water. … It’s life-saving,” he said.