On Hurricanes, Gas Prices and Wars: Yes, We Have No Agenda

By: Robert E. Meyer

Hurricane Ernesto “mysteriously” spared Florida late last month, yet just over a year ago, Bush could do nothing to prevent Katrina from bearing down on a population that included preciously few of his constituents. Neither did Bush act with a sense of urgency (or so they say) in the disastrous aftermath following the merciless storm of the century. I wonder if his brother being governor of Florida has anything to do with the uncanny good fortune of the sunshine state.

In this same manner, the conspiracy theorists weave their perpetual web of relentless self-deception and utter absurdity. The common thread in these sorts of claims is that any dastardly fabrication about President Bush, by default, is not merely possible, but also probable.

Gasoline prices are falling, and expected to go lower still in the next two months. Why is this happening now you ask? Bush is getting his oil buddies to drop prices in order to impact the mid-term elections where Republicans have trailed badly in the polls. If the House goes Democratic, Bush knows he is sure to be impeached.

That is the sort of ho-hum analysis that passes for thought-provoking critical examination of current events. It is as if the individual offering this synopsis presumes to have uncovered something artfully camouflaged in cultural landscape.

Now I’m not about to tell you that neither the oil companies nor the individual retail station owners have never gouged anyone. But is it really a “strange” coincidence that gasoline prices are falling in September? Last year we had a similar phenomenon and there were no elections to account for it. I believe that in 2004, the price of oil rose during the election season, though it was rumored that Bush had a secret deal with the Saudis to keep oil prices down.

We have had the abatement of many factors which put pressure on keeping the prices high; the tensions with Iran, cessation of hostilities in Lebanon, the discovery of a large oilfield in the Gulf of Mexico, the approaching peak of the hurricane season without a serious strike in the U.S., natural curtailment in demand at the conclusion of the summer driving season, and short covering by oil futures traders who forecasted higher September prices earlier in the year. Let’s also keep in mind that refinery capacity and construction hasn’t expanded to meet the demands of a growing population. That is most keenly noticed in the summertime–during the highest automotive usage months.

A few months ago, we had strong condemnation of oil companies, particularly from the liberal wing of Congress. Their promise was to bring the offenders to justice. But what was ever done about any alleged gouging? One begins to see that the liberals seem desirous of keeping the gas crunch as a campaign issue, much like the epic battle over the minimum wage. There is no real impetus to solve the problem if it can be perpetually used to generate dissatisfaction among the voting population.

Some people want to look at the recent profits generated by “big oil” and say that it is evidence of gouging. But when you look at the profit margin, it is smaller than many other industries. People frequently confuse profit margin with aggregate profit, and that sometimes creates a false economic picture. The movie Titanic was the biggest box office producer of all time, grossing over $600 million. It far eclipsed earlier classics in cash receipts, largely due to the prices of movie tickets in the late 1990′s, not necessarily because the viewing audience was that much larger. There is a parallel in prices of a commodity. The actual dollar profits an oil company makes when gasoline prices are high will be greater than when the price is lower, even if the profit margin never changes. If oil companies make 8% profit, then they will earn 16 cents per gallon at a gasoline price of $2, but 24 cents per gallon at a gas price of $3. This is part of the explanation for record profits (along with increased demand, and the fact that gasoline doesn’t account for all profits reported), but it doesn’t suffice as a reasonable rationale or quell the anger of those who have their minds made up about conspiracies and collusion.

The final line of a sarcastic editorial I called into a local paper read as follows…

“Do you really care that the democrats have no domestic agenda, or plan to fight so-called terrorism? Just vote for liberal candidates who are against Bush. Let’s get Bush and his cronies out of the cockpit, and we’ll worry about finding a pilot to land the plane after the revolution.”

That statement satirically underscores another of the “urban legends” spawned by those leaning left. Terrorism isn’t a threat of any great proportion. 9-11 doesn’t justify a change in our approach and attitude toward terrorism. Terrorist attacks are just isolated incidents that raise their ugly heads from time to time. When it happens, we will react to it as we do any horrendous crime. They may not always say this is what they believe, but they certainly act as if it were true.

As for me, I’m enjoying the falling prices, not politicizing them. For the Democrats, considering their negative campaigning, the political slogan ought to be “Yes, we have no agenda.”

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