The ironies abound, everything was going so well. The media was having a field day with Rick Santorum’s nuttiness, expressed in private moments among those who shared his language. Satan and birth control, and all that. If there were any unncongenial analogies to Reverend Wright’s fiery sermons, full of race-hatred and seething resentments, or to bitter clingers of guns and religion, they were not drawn.
Then the governor of Virginia had the temerity to back a bill that required a better look at what it was that was being destroyed in utero. In response, trans-vaginal sonograms were analogized as virtual rape to those who violently attack any theory that abortion might represent actual murder. On the radio yesterday I heard a woman from the pro-choice camp label this as a stealthy attack against “abortion care.”
Add that to your list of oxymorons, alongside “giant shrimp,” “military intelligence” and “country music.” Let us not forget “communist intellectual”, “postal service” and “feminist sensitivity.” For the aviators among us, just to keep things fair, I throw in “crash landing”.
These are the kinds of things that whip passionate partisans of a certain camp into, well: Passion. As though they needed any further goading. But they also concern the vast, muddled middle, the deciders of elections, those who’d rather not make a value decision, or follow someone else’s to its logical terminus. Those who live their quiet and sheltered lives in the passively cultivated fields of “well, I just don’t know,” and “who’s to say?”
But then the prices at the gas pump jumped, and changed the dialogue entirely. A president who had surveyed his challengers and then cheerfully assured the media that he’d be hanging around the Oval Office for the next five years, suddenly found himself on the defensive. It is an election year after all, and while some may be passionately pro-choice, and some may be passionately pro-life, and some may not quite be sure, everyone pays for gasoline, whether at the pump or at the market. Rising gas prices are a tax on just about everything that moves towards your household further than the backyard garden to the table. And even then you have to buy the seeds.
It has been the goal of the Obama administration all along to make petroleum-based fuels more expensive. Whether by increased federal taxes, or by federal subsidies to alternative sources of energy that are not now economically competitive. When I say “federal”, by the way, what I really mean is your money. The government may print money, but it sure as hell doesn’t make any. Or perhaps, given our generation’s fiscal indenture to China, and our patent inability to pay that down, your children’s money.
Sorry, dears. Mummy and daddy went on a social spending binge and left you with the tab. It was great for us while it lasted, now run along and pay your college loans, we’ll be calling on you later.
But what’s driving oil prices now has less to do directly with supply and demand – supply is up, due to policies put in place by the president’s predecessor, and demand is reduced, due to the latest cycle of economic distress – but with forces outside of our control. There is instability in the Middle East of course. There is the gross deflation of the oil market currency represented by repeated bouts of quantitative easing of the US dollar. “Printing money”, they called it in Weimar Germany, and we know how that wound up. And there are speculators in the free market. This is apparently a novel discovery, as is the realization that what goes up may come down, and crashingly so. Leaving some risk-takers richer, and others destitute, such are the consequences at playing markets.
And this is what must really rankle: The extra moneys going towards the pump are not going towards the latest green energy enthusiasm. They are not paying the salaries of the latest green energy czar, his banner bearers and their thralls. No. They are going towards all the wrong sorts of people, people not even in government. They may even be going to bitter clingers. And it’s all in the news, there’s no hiding from it. People know.
Which is why it’s so important to get ahead of the story:
Obama spoke as gas has reached the highest price at the pump ever for this time of year: an average of $3.58 per gallon. White House advisers see it as a cyclical occurrence but knew Obama had to address the topic, one of deep concern to consumers and growing fodder for Republicans seeking to unseat Obama.
Obama said gas prices were “like a tax straight out of their paychecks.” He promoted an energy agenda of oil, gas, wind, solar, nuclear and biofuel energy.
And he took aim at Republicans.
“You can bet that since it’s an election year, they’re already dusting off their three-point plans for $2 gas. I’ll save you the suspense: Step one is to drill, step two is to drill, and step three is to keep drilling. … We’ve heard the same thing for thirty years. Well, the American people aren’t stupid.”
Oh, but he’s counting on the fact that they are. Or if not stupid, then preoccupied and forgetful. This is, for better or worse, a petroleum-based economy. A preponderance of experts in the field will tell you that if you want more oil, you will have to drill for it. It isn’t just laying about.
Just last year we were told that a pipeline from Canada to Louisiana could bring us jobs and help secure us from foreign disruptions. But gas pump prices were momentarily unobjectionable, there was an election forthcoming and the right class of pets had to be petted. In 2007 the oil markets were roiled, and there were those on the left – our president among them – who said that drilling now would not bear fruit for five to seven years. And yet here we are, five to seven years later. Blame speculators if you’d like, but there is no upside to speculative risk when there is domestic surplus. We have none, and so the American people pay taxes to the mad mullahs of Iran, as well as interest to the Communist Party of China. There’s no future in any of that.
For thirty years people have said that nuclear energy, despite its risks, was the only hope of reducing our dependence upon foreign tyrants and their associated lunatics. In return the president’s party put on their Three Mile Island fright masks, and thus the only significant sources of domestic nuclear energy ply the seas launching strike fighter aircraft, or swim beneath them, quietly awaiting Armageddon, when they aren’t lying peacefully pierside in Norfolk and San Diego.
Solar power, yes, fine. Wind, wonderful. Thermal, even. Some day, if things remain on their current trajectories, and oil prices continue to rise, these may well keep our compact fluorescent light bulbs dimly burning in our freezing hovels during scheduled hours of service. While the political class jet-sets back and forth from Copenhagen and Davos, trying to sort out how to pry what’s left in our first world purses and hand it over to third world kleptocrats.
In the meantime, pay up. And if it hurts, lie back and think of the flag.