As you know, the Obama Administration recently rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, a head-scratcher given that gas is expected to rise upwards of $4 a gallon in the coming months. It’s also odd given the dire need for jobs, and the pipeline would have certainly aided those efforts.
Oddly, however, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday that his boss, President Barack Obama, wasn’t to blame for the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. According to the White House, congressional Republicans are to blame:
I was puzzled by the recent news that PresBO has decided to release 30 million barrels of oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve and several days later, my confusion remains despite reading a number of articles addressing this surprising move. It occurs to me that it is just indicative of the current administration’s leadership strategy, which is frankly equal parts reactionary and political, but always misguided.
So here are my thoughts on this current attempt to ease the high prices Americans are facing at the gas pump…
First, this move is too little too late. The fact is oil prices were at their peak around April of 2011 and have been steadily declining over the last few months so that prices were already easing slightly. So why release this oil now? Particularly when we are in the beginning days of hurricane season, and we realize how beneficial it is to have the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), for example, in the days following Hurricane Katrina, when supply was majorly disrupted. So, instead of maintaining the SPR until a real crisis occurs, the President has opted to release 30 million barrels of the Reserve for seeming little more that earning political brownie points with the American people.
According to the Lundberg Survey last week, while the national average for gasoline is approaching $4/gallon (prices having increased for 35 straight days), the highest gas prices in the nation are to be found in Chicago, which is reporting an average price of $4.27/gallon, with some stations charging as much as $4.60-$4.70 per gallon. I am tempted to feel sympathy for them, at least until I remember that they are the ones responsible for politically nurturing and elevating the current occupant of the White House to that esteemed position, a man that adores a statist, command-and-control economy where government dictates the terms under which goods and services are exchanged. When I think about that, I lose my religion and think they have not suffered enough.
Barack Obama, channeling his inner Bill Clinton (you remember him, the first black president), now tells us that he feels our pain but that, unfortunately, there is no “silver bullet” that will make gas prices come down in the short term. That may be the closest he has come to making a true statement on the subject since he told us as Candidate Obama that his policies would “necessarily cause energy prices to skyrocket”. Now faced with declining poll numbers and rising anger at the cost of gas, Obama does what every political charlatan does best…find a scapegoat.
In his latest budget, President Barack Obama called for the elimination of tax deductions for oil and gas companies. This industry has been a constant target of the administration over the last four-plus years, so it’s not surprising that the White House would, once again, resort to the same old attacks.
While Americans may not understand the economics of this particular proposal and the impact it would have on them at the gas pump, showing how susceptible they are to the rhetoric of President Obama, they are clearly opposed to raising the gas tax at the state-level.
Maryland recently passed an increase in its gas tax, which will hit drivers with anywhere from a 13- to 20-cent increase in gas prices over the next three years. Other state legislatures may eventually try to pass increases of their own.
But according to a new Gallup poll, Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to gas tax increases in their states that could be used to finance road projects and expand mass transit options:
Two-thirds of Americans would oppose a law in their state that would increase the gas tax to help pay for road and bridge repairs, according to a new national poll.
In what was probably the most unsurprising story from last week, Reuters noted on Wednesday that retail sales had slowed in January. Why? Because of President Barack Obama’s tax hikes and rising gas prices:
Retail sales barely rose in January as tax increases and higher gasoline prices restrained spending, setting up the economy for only modest growth in the first quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday retail sales edged up 0.1 percent after a 0.5 percent rise in December.
The small increase suggested the expiration of a 2 percent payroll tax cut on January 1 and higher tax rates for wealthier Americans were hurting the economy.
While some economists were encouraged that consumers had maintained purchases despite a reduction in their disposable incomes, they cautioned sales could remain weak over the next months.
“By no means are we completely out of the woods when it comes to the impact of higher taxes,” said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan in New York. “Evidence from past episodes suggests it could take up to two quarters for spending to fully adjust to new tax realities.”
Written by Michael F. Cannon, Director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Reason magazine has a characteristically excellent video about the gas shortages in New York and New Jersey. Which is to say, the video is really about the insane responses of officials in those states to the scarcity of gas. Reason‘s Jim Epstein writes: “Govs. Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo…threatened to prosecute any station owners caught raising prices, thus removing any incentive to truck more gas in from other parts of the country.” Here’s the video:
The Washington Post reports Christie responded with an age-old government-rationing scheme:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered…drivers with even-numbered license plates being allowed to fill up on even-numbered dates and odd-numbered cars on the other days. But several motorists said they hadn’t heard the news because they had no power at home, and gas station managers said they didn’t bother to look at the plates.
Last night, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney went toe-to-toe over issues concerning undecided voters at the second presidential debate at Hofstra University. After a dismal performance in the first debate nearly two weeks ago, Obama needed to get his campaign back on track by shifting the momentum gained by Romney.
While he may not have had a blowout last night, Obama did score a win on style. He was better prepared and clearly more comfortable in this setting than in the previous debate. Romney started strong, hitting points on Obama’s failed economic record and turning a question about energy and gas prices into a contentious back and forth that probably scored him some points. Romney was convincing and passionate when it came to the economy, and polls reflected that he won on that issue.
That’s not to say that he didn’t overstep on some of his rhetoric; particularly when it came to China and saying Obama doubled the national debt (he’s certainly increased it rapidly and significantly, but not doubled it).
Obama repeated frequently used familiar class warfare themes frequently during the debate, once again saying that a so-called “balanced approach” was needed to deal with the debt. However, Obama’s balanced approach isn’t so balanced when one looks at the math. Obama also quipped that “Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan; he has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules.” That sort of rhetoric may play well at times, even though it’s annoyingly wrong, but it didn’t seem to work all that well last night.
Despite promises to get our economic problems under control, Americans are looking at still high unemployment, an enormous budget deficit, and rising gas prices. It seems that every time government steps in to “do something,” they just make things that much worse. That is the point of this new video from Bankrupting America, who notes that if you “want to know where Washington is taking us,” then “look at where they’ve gotten us”:
In case you haven’t noticed it at the pump, gas prices have been back on the rise. In the last seven weeks, the national average for a gallon of gas has jump from $3.42 to $3.78. With that in mind, the issue is beginning to surface again national politics.
This is certainly a sore spot with many Americans, especially with the still struggling economy. There will no doubt be calls for increased production inside the United States, an idea that an overwhelming number of Americans can get behind. According to a new survey from Harris Interactive conducted for the American Petroleum Institute, 71% of registered voters support increased access to domestic sources of oil:
American voters get the importance of energy – and getting more of it here at home. A new Harris Interactive survey of 1,016 registered voters shows that more than 70 percent support increased access to domestic oil and natural gas resources. More than 9 in 10 of those surveyed said producing more energy at home and energy security are important issues as they look to the November elections.
Harris found 47 percent of those asked said they strongly support increased access to oil and gas resources at home. Another 24 percent said they somewhat support more access. Just 9 percent strongly oppose that as a goal. Eighty-five percent of Republicans, 72 percent of Independents and 60 percent of Democrats support increased access to domestic resources.
It’s been a few days since President Barack Obama told White House press reporters that the private-sector is “doing fine” and claimed that the public-sector was the part of the economy that was really hurting. Mitt Romney and Republicans have been hammering away at the remarks, and justifibly so. Even Paul Krugman, who is often serves as an apologist for Obama, criticized the remark and Joe Biden’s former economic adviser “winced” when he heard it.
But we’re still very early in the campaign and, as I’ve noted before, voters have a short memory. Just because a candidate said or did something very stupid months before an election doesn’t mean that it will be remembered on election days — in fact, most elections boil down to what happens 60 days prior.
Over at Outside the Beltway, my good friend Doug Mataconis argues, noting opposing commentary from Chris Chris Cillizza and Mark Halperin, that it’s unlikely that Obama’s comments will have any lasting effect and complaining that the media spends too much time on the dumb things politicians say: