After years of Republican rule in Illinois, one would think a reasonable, easy-to-understand law on gasoline price gouging would exist.
So why would anyone with an ounce of sense be content to hear Denny "J. Dennis" Hastert and President 33% talking tough about dealing "firmly" with the problem?
Don't buy it. Republicans have a history that dates back to Nixonian America of doing nothing about what you and I might call criminal activity. And the effect of the only thing a Republican president ever did about an oil crisis was when Nixon and Ford fucked it up even more by imposing price controls, which caused a wider panic.
The only Nixon to ever do anything about the problem is a Democratic Attorney General in Missouri. And he's going to town.
So how do we deal with the problem today with our Do-Nothing Leaders? How about lining some of these sons-of-bitches up in front of a fruit stand and letting the public take aim with some rotten apples and tomatoes? I mean the dealers themselves, not necessarily Do-Nothing Republicans.
Two years ago, I spotted an interesting trend. The difference on many days between the price of gasoline in Sandwich, Plano, Yorkville and Oswego was as much as 25 cents. There was no reason for it. None. So I started asking around after I noticed this happening over several weeks.
One station attendant said they would receive a fax that indicated the price change was required. This would often happen after the morning rush hour. Commuters would see as much as a 20 cent increase on the way home.
Other attendants would tell me that their price was simply reactive to the guy across the street.
And in Sandwich or Plano, where the prices were often 20 cents lower for days at a time, the dealers (sometimes the owners) would respond that the other guys were acting out of line. Keep in mind, however strong the hint, it was always short of saying the other guy was breaking the law.
Still, there were periods of several days at a time when prices in Kendall were higher than in Cook County, where there are considerably higher local taxes tacked on to each gallon.
But the really big trick occurred afterward, when after 1-4 days of seemingly maximizing their profits, dealers would -- almost in unison -- lower the price by 75-85 percent, leaving an increase of maybe 3-5 cents by the end of the week.
While interesting, this does not meet the standard for price gouging in Illinois. Why not?
Until this Executive Order was issued in 2004 by Gov. Blagojevich, there was quite literally nothing on the books to cause the Illinois Attorney General to act on suspicious price increases, unless prices were way out of line with a community- or area-wide, standard.
Remember that when you're casting your vote in November. Because Blagojevich, a Democrat, is the first governor of Illinois to do more than acknowledge the problem and give you lip service.
Look at what the AG in AZ says, for instance, where the AC is on all the time. Sorry for the alliteration.
So here's what you can do about it in Illinois.
• Keep your eyes peeled on 3 or 4 stations every time you drive past. You probably drive past these places twice or more a day if you drive to work. They're probably stations you don't buy from anyway, because their price is maybe higher than where you buy.
• Leave yourself voice notes on your phone each time, noting the location (the date and time is on your phone). When you get to your destination, transcribe the information and keep good records.
• When you see an unusual spike, then drop, like the ones I described, report it here.
This is bound to happen again this year, as it has the past two years, but don't count on anyone else to do something about it. It's your wallet: protect it the best you can.
And here's what Democrats can do elsewhere, where you have local Democratic representation that will actually act.
• Call or write your Democratic Governor, State Rep. or Senator, State Attorney General. Demand that they act at the state level, because it's clear the federal government will not.
• Demand that they subpoena Big Oil executives and hold hearings in every state capital where there's a Democrat in charge, and force those executives to explain every aspect of their business and the process of getting oil through the refinery and into your gas tank, and why billions in profits are acceptable in your state while people are beginning to pawn precious belongings to buy gasoline.
• Ask that oil executives bring experts to describe in great detail the "expensive" chemical mixture so mysterious and costly for drivers in ethanol-friendly states. (If you didn't know, this is utter bullshit: The tanker simply fills 80% under one terminal, then pulls up to another spigot to top off. That's your "expensive" 80-20 blending process.)
Chances are that this crisis will be with us for a long, long time as China begins to overshadow us in the world market. But having Democratic leaders act in unison -- at your request -- is something that can be pounded over the heads of the Republicans we'll be throwing out in the Fall. And hopefully for the next generation, who will surely bear the cost of this useless, reckless, all-Republican federal machine.