We look at the dark gray digital numbers against the light gray background and as much as we’d like to reminisce of the days when filling our gas tanks was nothing but an afterthought, our mind is dragged back to reality as the numbers tick up faster and faster…40 dollars…50 dollars…100 dollars.
Today, pumping gas is something of a painful experience as families do the math in their heads, “If I put 10 gallons in my car it’ll cost almost $31.00, its five miles to the middle school, 10 miles to work, and 15 miles to soccer practice, these 10 gallons will get me through to my next paycheck…hopefully. I should have just enough to go grocery shopping this week.”
There is no doubt that something needs to be done about our energy dependency, and although some might argue that the recent increase in gas prices is something of a political fabrication as opposed to the recent rising tensions between the United States and the largest oil producing countries; the bottom line is this, if gas prices continue to rise at this rate, Americans will soon have to face a very difficult yet simple reality: The American lifestyle, as we know it will no longer be sustainable.
In today’s political environment of fear-mongering and finger-pointing it is no surprise that the republicans have criticized President Obama for his inability to control gas prices and now his ineffectiveness at bringing gas prices down. President Obama himself has come out and said, “You know there are no quick fixes to this problem, and you know we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.” (To read the rest of the President’s weekly address, click here) This acknowledgement that there are no quick fixes to our energy woes, specifically at the gas pump has, not surprisingly, drawn stinging criticism from the Republican candidates running for office.
Some simply criticize the President on his inability to lead, others are more specific. Newt Gingrich, for instance, has said this, “If you would like to have a national American energy policy, never again bow to a Saudi king and pay $2.50 a gallon, Newt Gingrich will be your candidate; if you want $10 a gallon gasoline, an anti-energy secretary, and in weakness requiring us to depend on foreigners for our energy, Barack Obama should be your candidate.”
Let us ignore the obvious lack of details in Newt Gingrich’s plan to bring down gas prices to $2.50/gallon, (To read his more detailed remarks on how he plans to bring the price of gas down, read this article on msnbc.com), and let us focus instead on the more fundamental question.
The most conservative republicans, and most certainly all of the Republican Presidential candidates with perhaps the exception of Ron Paul, have spent the better part of President Obama’s presidency criticizing him for increasing the role of government in the private sector, employing regulations and regulatory agencies that Republicans claim have stifled job creation and the growth of small business.
Attempts to regulate Wall Street, raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and the attempt to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire have all received extraordinary criticism from the GOP. President Obama has been called a socialist who wants to stifle business growth and kill jobs.
The President admits that there is no quick fix to rising gas prices. Sure, he could fine Exxon if the price of gasoline were to go above, say, $3.00/gallon, who according to the New York Times, “…reported a 53 percent increase in its fourth-quarter profit on Monday, helped by an improving world economy that has increased energy demand and crude prices.”, if gas prices go over three dollars per gallon.
Obviously, this would be considered a gross intervention by government into the free market and would not be tolerated, especially by the Republican Party; but the point is that there is very little the President himself can do to substantially lower the price of gasoline in the short-term.
The fundamental question is this. How does a political party that is vehemently anti-regulation and pro-free-market criticize a President for not intervening in the gross rise in gas prices when the only way to do so would be through government intervention through regulation?