Monday, February 20, 2012

GOP Deceptions about Gas Prices

Well, here they go again. With nothing positive to campaign on, GOP strategists have decided to launch a messaging war against President Obama, blaming him for the high price of gasoline. According to the New York Times, the GOP argument is that when Obama took office in 2009, gas was $1.89 per gallon. Today, the price for that same gallon is $3.52. So it must be Obama's fault. Rick Santorum even says that the Democrats "want higher energy prices."

But as I teach my undergraduate students on their first day in class, it is easy to make statistics lie. And you can bet that as the GOP unleashes its attack dogs on the White House, they'll do just that. What they won't tell you, for example, is that under George W. Bush, the price of gasoline increased from $1.60 per gallon when he took office in January, 2001 to $4.40 per gallon in July 2008, a jump of 275%.

Now it's true that when the economy crashed, the price of gasoline decreased temporarily, in part because the economic meltdown suppressed demand. When Obama took office in January, 2009, the economy was at its low point, and as a result the price of gas was at a low point as well. As the economy improved under Obama's direction, the price of gas returned to its pre-crash baseline.

So the GOP deceptions are based on conveniently forgetting that: (1) the low, 2009 price of gas was simply a reflection of the economic meltdown that they helped cause; (2) before the crash, gas was even more expensive under Bush than it is now; and (3) rising gas prices are a reflection of our economic rebound.

Even worse, the GOP critique glosses over that Republicans have torpedoed every attempt to try to wean the country off of its oil dependency, which is of course the only long-run solution to higher gas prices and global warming.