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Tommy Carcetti

Tommy Carcetti's Journal
Tommy Carcetti's Journal
October 18, 2012

The ignorance and idiocy on the right regarding Obama's comments on gas prices is astounding.

So I'm on Facebook and I see a conservative friend of mine "like" a graphic from a group called "Conservative Women Rock!" (who apparently must be those women in binders that Mitt had been talking about.) Curious, I chose to check it out.

I'll spare you having to go to their idiotic site yourselves, but the graphic had a picture of President Obama during the debate and has a quote of his, "Gas prices were $1.86 when I took office because the economy was on the verge of collapse." At the bottom of the graphic, they add their own cutesy editorial comment, "Oh. Thanks. $4.00 is so much less collapse-y."

Essentially, they want to spin this as some sort of huge gaffe by the President and claim he is a complete out of touch moron for saying this. The problem is.....well, where do you start? First--and as much as I hate to say this, but this even applies to George W. Bush when he was president--the president cannot directly set the price of gas or oil, nor can he easily influence the price of gas or oil without enacting measures that conservatives would no doubt claim is horrible government intrusion on the precious oil companies. The price of oil and gas are controlled mainly by the oil companies themselves as well as market speculators who influence the trading price of oil based on what they see as global market conditions. That we are completely beholden to the oil companies and market speculators when it comes to the price of gas is disgusting, but that's how the game currently works.

So what's so special about January 2009 when President Obama took office? Well, for everyone alive and mentally cognizant at the time, and not living under some sort of rock, they would know that we were in the middle of a horrific economic collapse. The stock market was in a free-fall, and we were hemoraging jobs by the million every month. This collapse started in earnest in October 2008 and wouldn't bottom out until the end of the first few months of the Obama administration. In the Summer of 2008, gas was at an all time high of $4.10 a gallon. That all changed when the levies broke. Stocks were a mess. Because of massive unemployment, people were driving less to jobs, not taking long road trips. Oil market speculators saw this, and like the rest of Wall Street, they panicked. Hence, the price of oil plummetted on these fears. It certainly had nothing to do with the health of the economy.

Flash forward four years later, and the unemployment numbers are back to where they were when the President took office. Those numbers have slowly but steadily risen over almost the entirity of the Obama administration. The stock market is back to pre-recession levels. We are in recovery. Market speculators see this, and doing the dirty work that they do, they feel comfortable raising the trading price of oil. So what President Obama was entirely, 100% correct.

Not that I necessarily think that President Obama couldn't do things better in this respect. He could attempt to take measures that restricts or even eliminates market speculation on the price of oil. But you just know if he tries to do that, the conservatives will turn around and cry bloody murder that he is trying to nationalize the oil companies and you'll hear endless b.s. talk about socialism and communism and every other type of -ism. Because the sad fact of the matter is, when faced on one side with supporting oil market speculators and oil industry tycoons on one side, and a Democratic president on the other side, conservatives will by instinct choose the market speculators and tycoons who willfully stick it up the rear of the lower and middle classes when it comes to gas price rather than supporting a president trying to offer relief from the price at the pump. Simply because the guy is a Democrat.

But those in the right are living in the now. Blinded by crass partisianship, they cannot for the life of them see the forest through the trees. To them, the economy on January 19, 2009 was vibrant and robust, all ruined the moment President Obama raised his hand to take the oath of office. To them, the economy now is worse than it was in January 2008. To them, gas prices during the Bush administration were always rock bottom.

What took me back the most was the complete ignorance in some of the comments. I pointed out that gas had been over $4 well into the summer of 2008. One person shot back that gas was never over $4 during Bush's presidency. So I responded with an article from June 2008 by Consumer Reports that showed in clear black print that the average price of a gallon of regular gas was $4.10. Didn't hear anything back from that poster. Other posters, however, claimed that those prices were the fault of the Democratic-lead congress. So to believe that logic, we have to say that gas prices from January 2007-October 2008 were high because of actions of congressional Democrats, and then the sub $2 prices from October 2008-January 2009 were the result of economic brilliance of the Bush administration (despite the fact that the economy was simultaneously in a free-fall collapse), but that once President Obama took office, the slow increase in gas prices was once again the fault of the Democrats.

Another person said--apparently without a hint of sarcasm--that oil companies and oil speculators don't control the price of oil and gas at all. Instead, it was the gas station owners in her mind who controlled the price of gas. Her big "proof" was that one gas station down the street from her was selling at $3.60 a gallon, whereas another gas station was selling at $3.70 a gallon. I responded by asking her if gas stations could control the price of gas, why she didn't see a gas station in her town sell it at $1.50? Surely, that gas station would have lines a mile down the street. But no such gas station exists, because they don't get to control the price like that. Again, I never heard anything back from her.

After reading these comments, I was truly at a loss for words. The rhetoric reminded me of the scene from the movie "Idiocracy" where the main character--a man frozen in time for centuries only to awaken to a society where humankind had grown exponentially more stupid--tried to explain to the President's cabinet that watering plants with a flavored sports drink was killing them. In response, they kept on shouting out the various commercial slogans of the sports drink without any actual thought or logic to what they were saying. One of them claims that the only thing they used water for was for flushing toilets, and "I ain't seen no plants grow out of no toilet."

But apparently in their own world, the economy is worse than it was in January 2009. In their own world, the President can control the price of gas with a waive of a magic wand and without any negative political reprecussions. In their own world, gas was always super low during the Bush years. In their own world, the price of gas always acts as a perfect barometer of the greater economic situation, and that lower gas prices always means that the economy is healthy. In their own world, nothing that President Obama does can ever be correct, or logical, or the right thing.

If it wasn't just so heartbreakingly sad, it would be funny. If only....

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