Pay no attention to those gas prices

We’ve all noticed rising gas prices. I have no doubt Obama will be blamed for this. Funny thing is demand seems to be down and prices seem to be up That’s not how things are supposed to work. For some time now the price of gas seems to have had little or no connection to the old “supply and demand” thing. This item is dated May of 2011:

I doubt I’m alone in thinking that gas prices are manipulated for political or profit making purposes. Bush had promised to keep prices down by simply “jawboning” his friends.

That didn’t work so well, and we had high gas prices during his administration. Now we have gas prices creeping up again as we head for another election. This link covers pretty much all the facts and opinions being expressed around this repetitive problem.

The Republican plan was to run against Obama on the economy, but that seems to be perking up and that may not play in their favor. Then we turned attention to the social issues, but that doesn’t seem to be helping them either. What to do?

Gas prices going up could be due to a legitimate concern over what may happen with Iran, or it could be that the oil companies don’t want their tax credits and subsidies to end. Perhaps it’s some of both. However, given that our domestic oil production is up, and has been up, it can hardly be honestly laid at Obama’s feet. I believe it is being manipulated for the sole purpose of helping defeat Obama. I wish I didn’t believe that, but history gives me reason to.

Following is a chart of gas prices for the last 6 years. Notice the creep up under Bush and the rapid downward spike as the 2008 election was in view.

How is one not to think these prices were manipulated by the oil industry in an effort to influence the election? Some of the price fluctuation came simply from stock market Gas prices are a political football. No president seems to have much control over them, but they will be used against any sitting president by the opposing party. I find it hypocritical of those seeking power to use gas prices as a political “weapon” when presidents of their party have fared no better at controlling them. There is a history of oil companies fighting for their “territory”. Los Angeles was offered 43 miles of a monorail system for free. Oil money prevented it from happening. http://www.monorails.org/tmspages/la1963.html

We are all aware of big money influencing our political system. We know about lobbyists, special interests, and Super Pacs. We can debate what actually influences gas prices, but it is certainly clear that supply and demand have not fluctuated so rapidly or in ways that would produce this chart. We can buy into the theory that Wall Street speculation influences this chart. We can buy into the theory that Middle East problems influence this chart. We can view this chart as the oil companies trying to influence political decisions by scaring the public. We can view this chart as a product of a combination of those things. One thing we do know is auto advertising of late has emphasized fuel efficiency, hybrids are in wider use, and it stands to reason that demand is down, but prices keep going up.

Gas prices are one thing a president has little or no control over. Many presidents have warned us that our gluttonous use of energy and our reliance of oil make for a dangerous combination for our future. We, the people, were warned:

That speech dates back to the late 70’s. Little heed was paid to it. Since that speech we’ve seen scientific evidence of global warming and the problems it might cause. Little changes. It appears little will change. The first thing that must change is not blaming the president for the behavior of the oil companies.

Elsewhere on the internet, on another forum, one poster reminded us that this president inherited a huge deficit from a president who had inherited a surplus. A second poster responded, “When are you going to stop blaming Bush?” I felt compelled to respond with, “When we stop blaming Hitler for WWII and the holocaust.” We frequently hear “accountability” and “responsibility” in our political discussions. I’ve coined a new term: rhetorical responsibility. This is when a politician takes “full responsibility” for something, but it costs him nothing. Generally speaking, when I take, or am given, responsibility for something, I have to write a check.

To bring all of this back into the context of my intent, I am all for holding politicians accountable. Bill Clinton signed the bill that repealed Glass/Steagall, and that puts blame for the consequences of doing so on his shoulders. Obama is responsible for increasing cost and efforts in Afghanistan. Time will tell if this was something for which he’ll deserve blame or credit. We, as a people, seem to have a strong innate desire to blame someone. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that desire other than we all too frequently blame the wrong people.

Those of us who’ve been around for a while will remember Reagan saying people were homeless because they want to be. More recently candidate Cain told us if we are not wealthy or we don’t have a job, it’s our own fault. We have seen unions blamed for budget shortfalls. We have been told to blame the minorities, the teachers, the immigrants. “Blame the other guy” and get the people blaming each other. Divide and conquer. Nobody liked negative ads, but history shows them to be extremely effective.

I believe we have not just the right, but the duty to hold our politicians accountable, and hope we do so. I simply hope that we do so within the world of reality. It may be easy to blame a sitting president for rising gas prices, but it’s really hard, in an honest way, to connect those dots. If one doesn’t mind being dishonest, then it’s not so hard to connect the dots.

I’d like to end this with two questions: Why, all these years after Carter’s warning, are we still so dependent on oil? What does the country gain if we place blame on the wrong people?

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I've sailed around the world and I've finally found home.
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