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A Bad Case of the “What Ifs?”

A looking at profiteering in times of crisis.

Never let it be said that a natural disaster should stand in the way of a healthy profit.

The triple-whammy that recently rocked Japan (earthquake/tsunami/nuclear power plant damage) has inspired commerce to take necessary precautions, lest their bottom line suffer along with the inhabitants of that beleaguered island nation.

In a recent story from the Associated Press, consumers were alerted that prices on certain popular cars, manufactured in Japan, are on the rise due to the “potential” of shortages arising from that nation’s recent inconvenience.

Similarly, the “potential” for oil shortages because of political unrest in Middle East, most notably in Libya, has forced prices at the pump to jump higher and faster than the title character from Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

Apparently, the mere hint of trouble is reason enough to gouge consumers, even in these recession-plagued times.

Of course, the wonder of it all, is that every business everywhere hasn’t yet caught on to the ruse and implemented their own “what if” scenarios to boost their own profits.

What if the recent increase in solar flare activity prevents your ISP from granting constant access to the web? The potential for lost tweets and clogged email should be reason enough to hike prices, don’t you think?

What if national health care reform really has a snowball’s chance of passing? That, of course, would cause corporate profits to take a noteworthy hit. Imagine paying benefits to everyone who works for you? But, hey, this is America and crazier things have happened. Just to be safe, let’s boost prices now, on the off-chance that it might actually be voted into law.

From the perspective of my world-weary eyes, it seems that everywhere you look, greed is not only showing its ugly face but grinning at you like a Cheshire cat.

It used to be that, in America, making a good living was enough. Now, everybody wants to be millionaires — at your expense. The erosion of the middle class in this country may well be traced back to corporate greed and the quest for record-breaking profits.

Local business, which was previously the backbone of national commerce, has taken a beating along with the consumer. When corporations decide to pay executives a king’s ransom just to go away, for instance, they often simply raise prices across the board to pay for their largess. The trickle-down effect hits local businesses in the till and, in turn, local consumers in the wallet.

Some possible “what ifs” to watch out for:

1. What if there’s an “artic freeze“ in Florida this August? Would that mean that the price of orange juice at would bypass that of a gallon of gas at the Mobil?

2. What if the NFL doesn’t play their season due to a strike? Would that raise the price of buying a football at retail? Having kids actually play the game instead of simply watching it could result in a massive pigskin shortage.

3. What if scientists prove that the moon is really made of green cheese? That might be reason enough for the dairy industry to raise prices, reasoning that the increased competition calls for bolder and more expensive marketing campaigns. A double-cheese pizza at could end up costing more than your house.

4. What if we discovered that pigs can, actually, fly? Think about it. Given the sheer volume of their gastronomical emissions, this isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. Of course, this would immediately impact the airline industry. Owing to the fact that it might be expensive to upgrade to an entire fleet of oinkers, it’ll cost more to travel.

5. What if pharmaceutical companies successfully lobby to have aspirin classified as a controlled substance? In order to cure a headache, you won’t find your Bayer on the shelves at . You’ll be required to visit your doctor at your HMO which, in turn, will have to check with your insurance provider who, no doubt, will automatically decline the request, due to the rising cost of pain medication, which makes anything short of an exploding head an unnecessary procedure.

And, lastly: “What if we all come to our senses and realize that unchecked greed is like a cancer, eating away at the American ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?"

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