The other day a co-worker went past my office talking loudly (as this particular fellow is wont to) and complaining about gasoline prices (also as he is prone to do).
“And you saw how those gas prices went down right before the election, didn’t you?” he said. “Then they shot right back up. Funny how that happened, isn’t it?” (I might not have the quote EXACTLY right, but it’s pretty darn close. The meaning hasn’t been altered one whit.)
I pointed out that I had been watching gas prices but didn’t remember it happening that way. He then went off on a rant about gas prices, OPEC, ties between politics and big oil, and blah blah blah. I actually happened to agree with almost everything he said then, as a matter of fact. Like most people, he’s irritated by high gas prices. But he realizes that the real impact that they have on typical drivers is not all that significant.
However, unlike most people, he also runs a small charter boat business on Lake Michigan that consumes a rather large amount of gasoline. Thus, price increases hit him pretty hard. And he doesn’t get to pay the pump price you and I pay, either. The marina exacts a noticeable “handling” fee, and of course he can’t just head across town to someplace cheaper.
This is all well and good, and I sympathize with him and all small (and even large) businesses that suffer from high gasoline prices.
But the thing about gas prices and the election just bugs me. It’s just plain not true.
My friend and co-worker isn’t ignorant. Not at all. (And if you want fish, you want to be on his boat in July or August.)
But rightful skepticism of Bush and Cheney’s ties to big business, and oil business in particular, have turned into a generally irrational state of mind. One person says something about Bush manipulating oil prices right around the election and a lot of folks are going to be buying it.
For the record:
Click for closer look. Data from eia.doe.gov
This chart is for all grades and all formulations over the past thirteen months.
If there was going to be any conspiracy talk, something might actually be warranted. But it ain’t what most Americans would think.
Last May, I wrote about why I thought gas prices would be down by the election if (repeat: “if”) there was any way we could really control them. Up until October, I was almost convinced that I was right AND that we had enough influence to drive them down. But it didn’t work out that way.
Almost anyone on the street will tell you that Bush manipulates gas prices, and I’d bet that most of them, if asked, think he probably did so to help him win the election.
Ask a few people. Let me know what they said.
UPDATE: And if anyone says “Well, Bush drove prices UP right before the election just to deflect suspicion about his control of gas prices and help him win the election” I’m going to invoke the $5 Rule.