A few days ago, I got an e-mail from a right-leaning sort suggesting everyone leave post-it notes reminding people that gas was $1.86 a gallon when Obama took office with the tagline “How’s that for hope and change?” Then today I get this piece of spam, somebody looking to profit on this idea by selling pre-printed post-it notes of the same ilk.
Got me to thinking what really ought to be on the post-it note. Something like this, maybe?
When Obama took office, gas prices were at $1.86, down from record highs of nearly $4.00 only six months early. Gas prices had plummeted, along with stock prices, home prices and lots of other prices because the US economy was cratering. Our GDP was shrinking for consecutive quarters for the first time in decades, the one bright side to which is that recessions drive down commodity prices because demand shrinks since neither businesses nor consumers have money to spend, nor do they have the confidence to spend it. Steel prices were down, oil prices were down, cotton prices were down, every agriculture commodity price was down. So, yeah, gas was down.
Now, our GDP has grown for grown for 10 consecutive quarters, the unemployment rate has dropped for five straight months, the consumer confidence index has increased from 30 when Obama took office to 70 currently, so demand is returning to normal levels. Business and consumers are spending money again, which drives demand and is reflected in increased commodity prices, including gasoline. Gasoline, being a particularly volatile commodity that fluctuates more wildly than most, especially in reaction to political developments in oil rich countries like Iran, is also spiking currently due to events there. But, overall, increases in oil and other commodity prices are signs of improving economic health, both in the US and globally.
Gas prices are market driven, and the market right now is reacting to uncertainties on the supply side due to the situation in Iran. Frankly, if we were pursuing the more aggressive approaches that most of the Republican candidates are proposing in regards to Iran, that conflict would be intensified and gas prices, in all probability, would be higher still. The fact that our “allies” in Israel insist on fanning this flame at every opportunity, and that Netanyahu has implied that he hopes the pressure of higher oil prices will push America into supporting Israeli military action against Iran (polls in Israel are heavily against any such action unless it has clear US support, and barely support it even with US support) have some analysts wondering if Isreal isn’t purposely fanning the flames in order to try to manipulate US foreign policy.
Consider, too, that the US is competing in a global market for oil, and that oil consumption exploding in developing parts of the world. China alone has more than doubled its consumption of crude oil since 2000 and is using five times more oil than it did in 1980. India’s oil consumption has increased four-fold over that period and Brazil’s has more than tripled. In all three cases, there is no current evidence that demand for oil in any of those markets is slowing. Conversely, US oil consumption has actually declined since 2000 and has barely changed since 1980. The oil companies that are pushing unfettered exploitation of every oil resource anywhere aren’t doing so in order to more efficiently serve energy demands in the US, as this is not a growing market. They want more oil to sell in those markets that have growing demand.
So, would something like the Keystone pipeline do anything to reduce oil prices in the US? Maybe, a little. But the fact is that pipeline would end at the Gulf Coast, making it very easy for the oil to be loaded onto tankers and shipped overseas – and I have little doubt that’s where most of it would end up. Any oil that would stay in the US would stay because we outbid other markets for it, not out of any patriotic impulse on the part of its owners. Not to mention that the Canadian tar sands oil the pipeline would carry is of very low quality (i.e., is very viscous) and thus must be diluted with a variety of chemicals to move it through the pipeline (the Keystone people haven’t yet revealed which chemicals they will use, but many of those used for such purposes are highly toxic and/or carcinogenic). Even with dilution, the oil in the pipeline with be thick compared to higher quality oils, and so would have to be moved through the pipeline under higher pressures. Given that the pipeline will cross the largest single aquifer in the US, and that all pipelines leak, it’s just a matter of how much, insisting on an ecological review of Keystone to determine how much of what will be filtering down into the drinking water of a large stretch of the country before signing off on the pipeline strikes me as rational due diligence, not impetuous use of presidential power.
Back to that post-it note. Yes, let’s cast out minds back to those Halcyon days of yore, January 2009. Our GDP and employment levels were in freefall, consumer confidence was at near all-time lows, more than $10 trillion in household wealth reflected in everything from investments held in retirement plans to the price of your home was on its way to disappearing, but gas was cheap. Yes, by all means, let’s bring back those good old days.
Anyone buying Gingrich’s claim that he’ll reduce gas prices to $2.50 might as well think that he can provide them calorie-free chocolate bunnies for breakfast and unlimited mistresses, congress with whom bears no moral taint. I mean unless he plans to just slap government-mandated price controls on the stuff, but a free-market constitution loving guy like himself would never do that, right?
I guess you could stick all this to the gas pump, too. Of course, you’d need a bigger post-it note.
Hmmm . . . maybe rational political discourse can’t be conducted on an inch-square piece of sticky paper. Anyone with even a layman’s grasp of economics and market pricing who uses the post-it notes promoted in that spam is a hypocrite pushing what they know to be a flawed argument in hopes of winning votes through intellectual fraud and fear. Anyone using one of these notes and believing the argument is, well, an idiot. Unless their actual plan is to plunge the US back into a horrible recession just to lower gas prices.
The post-it note idea is just one more example of the right’s insistence in trading on fear. Honest commerce in ideas frightens them. Open inquiry into the medieval superstitions of religion undermines their moral authority. They are uncomfortable with nuance, with honest argument, with ideas too big to fit on post-it notes. They rail on about liberty, but they want to control who you sleep with, how you prevent pregnancy, who you marry. Where liberty argues for pluralism they strive for homogenous orthodoxy. Increasingly, the most significant difference between them and, say, Iran or the Taliban, isn’t mindset or policy, it’s the brand of god they worship.
So, what would Jesus do? Since the right seem to think they have a monopoly on Christian thought, evidently he’d promote using lies to win an election, and make a little money on the side selling post-it notes to do it.