Fox host Brian Kilmeade announced on the November 8 edition of Fox & Friends that he doesn't "blame the gougers" who are jacking up prices for gasoline in the wake of superstorm Sandy. But price gouging after a natural disaster not only takes advantage of humanitarian crises, it's also illegal in both New York and New Jersey.
Kilmeade's expression of sympathy for price gougers occurred in a discussion of the difficulties victims of Sandy and the current "nor'easter" face in obtaining gas, which many desperately need for transportation, electricity, and heat. As reported by CBSnews.com:
Six days after a superstorm devastated parts of the northeast, the recovery -- and frustration -- continues.
At least 111 people are known dead. Nearly two million homes and businesses remain without power, down from a peak of over eight million -- most of them in New Jersey and New York.
There's still a scramble for gas and housing as temperatures drop.
Along the coast in Rumson, N.J., an old fashioned iron hand pump is the only way to get gasoline out of its underground tank.
The gas is fueling generators in a town largely without electricity.
One person in line said they were using the gas to power their house, take hot showers, feed their family -- in other words "the real basics like 100 years ago."
In the face of this demand - described by co-host Steve Doocy as "gas-amageddon" - some vendors in possession of gas and gas cans are charging exorbitant prices. This windfall, however, is clearly illegal under both New York and New Jersey law that prohibits such price gouging, a fact unmentioned by Kilmeade. Both the Republican Governor of New Jersey and the Democratic Attorney General of New York have warned that this practice, described by the conservative New York Post as "sleazy," will be prosecuted to the fullest extent.
From the New York law:
During any abnormal disruption of the market for consumer goods and services vital and necessary for the health, safety and welfare of consumers, no party within the chain of distribution of such consumer goods or services or both shall sell or offer to sell any such goods or services or both for an amount which represents an unconscionably excessive price.
From the New Jersey law:
It shall be an unlawful practice for any person to sell or offer to sell during a state of emergency or within 30 days of the termination of a state of emergency, in the area for which the state of emergency has been declared, any merchandise which is consumed or used as a direct result of an emergency or which is consumed or used to preserve, protect, or sustain the life, health, safety or comfort of persons or their property for a price that constitutes an excessive price increase.
Kilmeade is not the only Fox personality offering sympathy for those who are engaging in illegal price gouging at the expense of victims of this natural disaster. Fox contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano took the same extreme "free market" stance on Fox Business' Varney & Co, and announced that as a "practicality," he "doesn't believe in any government regulation of the economy." As reported by Fox Insider:
[Fox's] Stuart [Varney] believes if the stations were allowed to charge what they wanted, there would be a revolution, and Judge Napolitano thinks that is the practical way to go. "If buyers were willing to pay what they agreed to pay, there would be enough gas to go around," said Napolitano.
"The free market can allocate resources better than the government can," according to the judge, and gas station owners should be able to charge what they want.
From the November 5 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co.:
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From the November 1 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co.:
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Fox figures claim that many federal disability benefit payments are fraudulent because the number of people in the program has increased under the Obama administration. In fact, improper payments of disability benefits are minimal and experts agree the higher levels of disability benefits are a direct result of the recession.
From the October 25 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co.:
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Following the first presidential debate, Fox has enthusiastically echoed Mitt Romney's call to end public funding for Sesame Street and other public broadcasting. Fox's attacks on public broadcasting have focused on criticism of Big Bird.
Fox News is seizing on high gas prices in California to push for opening up new areas, including the California coast, to drilling, ignoring the real factors driving up prices at the pump. But experts say increasing U.S. production will have no impact on gas prices, and that the only way to protect against price spikes is to reduce consumption.
Gas prices in California hit near-record highs this week as a result of supply disruptions at several key refineries in the state as well as the shutdown of a contaminated pipeline. Fox & Friends devoted an entire segment to the California price spike this morning without once mentioning these factors. Instead, Fox's Charles Gasparino blamed President Obama for implementing "policies that discourage drilling." While Gasparino acknowledged that "some of this is out of [Obama's] control," he said the President should know that "we could have lower gas prices, lower oil prices if you start drilling."
Later on Varney & Co., Fox Business' Charles Payne blamed California policies, saying: "They won't take advantage of natural resources, they won't allow drilling, it's just economic suicide."
Local media are misrepresenting the solutions to the price spike as well. An OC Register editorial claimed that drilling off the coast of California would drive down prices:
Gasoline prices in reached a record high in California this week, making us wonder if it might be time to revisit energy policies in the state. Determining what causes the rise and fall of gas prices isn't easy - there are whole industries devoted to it. However, there are a few things that certainly don't help and ought to be corrected.
Let's begin with supply. California artificially constricts fuel supplies by banning oil drilling along the coast. The Federal Energy Information Administration estimated in June 2011 that there were some 15.4 billion barrels in the Monterey Formation off the coast of California. "If the EIA estimate is reasonably close to the mark, the Monterey Formation would be in a class with oil fields in Saudi Arabia," wrote Tom Gray for City Journal. To put that in perspective, that's roughly quadruple the estimated reserves in North Dakota's Bakken shale formation. By Gray's count, those barrels would be worth about $1.5 trillion in today's prices, and prices are expected to rise.
But because the price of oil is dictated by the global market, expanding U.S. production would not protect against price spikes. A recent analysis by the Associated Press found "[n]o statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump."
Fox Business host Stuart Varney argued that cutting the federal subsidy to public broadcasting would not harm programming, because "Big Bird would still be around." In fact, cutting funding to public broadcasting would put many public broadcast stations in peril and do almost nothing to stem the tide of federal debt.
It took less than ten minutes after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new jobs numbers this morning for Fox to start promoting conspiracy theories about the reported drop in unemployment.
Commenting on the jobs report as the numbers first came in this morning, Fox Business host Charles Payne speculated that "some people will be very cynical that a government number will come out this great on the eve of the election." Indeed, "some people" at Fox -- including Payne himself -- have subsequently spent much of the day trying to cast doubt on the numbers, with several Fox personalities and guests openly speculating that the BLS may have cooked the books to bolster Obama's chance at reelection.
In fact, much of Fox's coverage today has focused on the "questions" surrounding the supposedly "fishy" and "convenient" jobs report that the New York Times described as "unexpected good news" for President Obama.
Veteran economics journalists have dismissed these conspiracies as "implausible" and "unfounded."
From the September 18 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Company:
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Over the past year, Fox News has repeatedly taken President Obama's remarks out of context or distorted his words in order to attack him. The Romney campaign has amplified several of these attacks, and in turn, Fox News has at times hyped those attacks.
The Daily Caller's dubious report suggesting a connection between a David Axelrod tweet about Gallup's polling methodology and a Justice Department lawsuit filed against that company found its way to Fox News, which embellished the already problematic story by fabricating the existence of direct communications between Axelrod and Gallup's employees.
On his Fox Business program this morning, Stuart Varney claimed that Axelrod, "reportedly furious" over a May Gallup poll unfavorable for President Obama, "personally contacted some Gallup employees who now say they felt threatened."
Here is the sum total of Axelrod comments cited, directly or indirectly, by the Daily Caller article Varney was pushing. Note how "furious" Axelrod appeared to be.
The Caller article did not show that Axelrod directly contacted anyone at Gallup at any time. While it alleged that internal Gallup emails show him "attempting to subtly intimidate" the firm, it provided no direct or indirect evidence that he actually spoke to anyone there. The piece referenced the tweet, and an email in which a Gallup employee mentioned that "the White House 'has asked' a senior Gallup staffer 'to come over and explain our methodology too," with another Gallup employee making a Godfather joke about Axelrod.
Given that the story is clearly being pushed by someone at Gallup who wants to attack the Obama administration, if such direct communications existed they would surely have been given to and then reported by the Caller article's author.
Even conservative bloggers have pointed out that the timeline the Caller article lays out regarding the DOJ's lawsuit against Gallup debunks the article's suggestion of a connection between that lawsuit and Axelrod's single tweet from four months earlier.
A new report from the Energy Information Administration finds that U.S. carbon emissions are at a 20-year low, in part because energy companies are transitioning from coal to natural gas. Fox is seizing on that news to claim that "the free market [is] cleaning up our air," and that the current availability of cheap natural gas undermines the need for government action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But experts say that a variety of factors contributed to the emissions drop, and that shifting to natural gas is not a long-term solution to climate change.
The Energy Information Administration announced earlier this month that U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in early 2012 were the lowest measured for a January-March period since 1992. The report attributed the decline to a combination of three factors: reduced household heating demand during an unusually warm winter, a decline in coal generation due to low natural gas prices, and low gasoline demand as a result of a slowed economy and the shift towards more fuel-efficient vehicles.
But Fox is ignoring the confluence of factors and touting the decline as a triumph of the free market. A Fox Nation headline today declared: "Free Enterprise Makes the Air Cleaner." On Varney & Company, Fox Business contributor Charles Payne said: "The free market, cleaning up our air. Says a lot about the free market, doesn't it?" And on Money with Melissa Francis, Fox Business reporter Tracy Byrnes called the EIA report "proof that free markets can work better than government overregulation." Byrnes went on to ask her guest why carbon dioxide emissions -- which are not "poisonous" or "inflammable" -- are even a problem in the first place:
Members of the right-wing media have promoted the claim that President Obama has "gutted" Medicare in order to fund health care reform, while GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is attempting to preserve the program. In fact, though Obama and Ryan have advocated similar spending reductions, the Affordable Care Act would not affect Medicare benefits, while Ryan's plan is projected to harm current and future seniors' care.
During his Fox Business program today, Stuart Varney used deceptively edited video of President Obama praising government action on General Motors to wonder if Obama is advocating "bailouts for everyone." However, Fox didn't play the portion of Obama's remarks in which he made clear he wasn't proposing bailouts or government control of private industry. Obama instead proposed to keep jobs in America through tax code reform and "tax breaks to companies that are investing here."
Varney began the segment by asking, "Is President Obama really saying bailouts are good for everyone?" and then played Obama's remarks at a Colorado Springs, Colorado, event in which he said "the American auto industry has come roaring back" and "what we did with the auto industry, we can do it in manufacturing across America":
VARNEY: Is President Obama really saying bailouts are good for everyone? Listen to what he said yesterday and you decide.
OBAMA (VIDEO CLIP): I said, let's bet on America's workers, and we got management and workers to come together, making better cars than ever, and now GM is number one again, and the American auto industry has come roaring back. So now I want to say, I want to say, what we did with the auto industry, we can do it in manufacturing across America.
Varney responded by asking: "Really? Bailouts for everyone? More government help, that's the answer? Is that what the president is implying and saying?"
If Varney was unclear about what Obama was proposing to helping boost jobs, he probably shouldn't have cut off Obama's speech. Obama said moments later: "I don't want to outsource. I want to insource. Let's reform our tax code and let's make it simpler. And let's make sure that we're providing tax breaks to companies that are investing here in Colorado Springs, here in Colorado -- not overseas."