The last thing the country needs now is another irresponsible quick fix.Emphasis mine. They go on to say,
Senate Republicans have proposed to assuage the pain of high gas prices by sending many taxpayers $100 apiece — enough for about two tanks of gas. Meanwhile, a cadre of Senate Democrats is carrying on about a temporary suspension of the federal gas tax, which is 18.4 cents per gallon, the same level it was in 1993. At best, the suspension would temporarily reduce prices a fraction, causing car owners to drive a little more. That rise in demand would send prices back up again.
Lawmakers from both houses and parties are calling for investigations into any price gouging or other rip-offs by oil companies and filling stations. It's perfectly all right to look into these things, but no one imagines that the result will be much more than a series of photo-ops.But why wouldn't higher fuel economy standards be any different from a temporary suspension of the federal gas tax? Why wouldn't higher fuel economy standards simply enable car owners to drive a little more, leading to a rise in that demand would send prices back up again?
Suspending environmental safeguards — as President Bush proposed in his energy speech earlier this week — might send prices down a bit, at the price of dirtier air. It's appalling that a generation after the first oil shock, in 1973, politicians are still reacting with such hysteria.
The main problem is not environmental regulations or even rapacious oil companies. It certainly isn't the fact that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been kept off limits for drilling. Americans' outsized demand for oil and gasoline pushes up prices, and now that the economies of huge countries like China and India have taken off, there will continue to be more competition for the world's available oil. There are policy solutions for the problem of excess demand, chief among them higher fuel economy standards. But more than five years into the Bush administration, there has been only a minuscule increase in mileage standards for S.U.V.'s and no increase for cars.
Yeah, assuming the all-knowing government can pick the winners. And of course the omniscient government knows what an "extraordinary profit" is. (Hey, maybe the Times is making too much money!) Then they backtrack:
The oil companies' mind-boggling profits have produced calls for a windfall profits tax. It would not be too difficult to set up a system that would capture a percentage of the companies' extraordinary profits, and the money could be used for long-term solutions, like research into alternate fuels and mass transit. That would be fair.
But critics who say such a tax discourages investment in exploration and drilling have a point. Though they invariably overstate their case, their opposition would make a windfall tax a heavy lift politically, thereby draining effort from other, more direct, solutions, like better mileage standards and ultimately — the hardest sell of all — a bolstered federal gas tax to encourage conservation.Sure, raising the tax will cut consumption; it's a price rise. But what pork project is going to get the money? And it's not just the rich who will pay that tax. Even the Times sees this:
It's important during this debate not to discount the genuine pain being felt by the poor and middle-class families who must drive long distances just to get to work and school. But their problem is more than gasoline prices.Let's see, who shall we blame. Here it comes:
It's their vulnerability to the price increases, which results from stagnating wages and a lack of savings. If the Bush administration had devoted as much political capital in the past five years to wage and job growth initiatives as it has to cutting taxes for the wealthy, these struggling families would be better able to weather higher prices at the pump.