The Gas Price Blame Game: Can “Tit for Tat” Ever End?

There’s an amusing page up at Buzz Feed that has an audio of Senator Barack Obama raking the Bush Administration (in 2006) for the $3.40 gas. Also on the page : a video of Nancy Pelosi, while Speaker of the House, attacking the Bush White House for the same problem. Applying the well-worn unethical practice of “Tit for Tat”, also known as “You Did It To Us, So We Can Do It To You and Nobody Can Blame Us,” the Republican presidential hopefuls (Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo) are making similar accusations against President Obama, since that $3.40 cents gas looks like the Good Ol’ Days now.

Is the Republican criticism of Obama for this round of high gasoline prices any less unfair, dishonest and irresponsible than the Democratic version six years ago, because Obama was part of it? No, it’s exactly as unfair, dishonest and irresponsible. Of course, the Democrats were only following the lead of the Republicans in the 70’s, who had vocally blamed President Jimmy Carter the first time the gas prices soared…all the way to a buck-fifty. It is certainly satisfying, I’m sure, for Republicans to watch the Pelosi video: the term is “hoisted by one’s own petard.” (Pelosi, of course, being habitually shameless and devoid of any integrity whatsoever, is now trying to blame Bush for this round of gas price spikes, but never mind.  Go make some stock trades, Nancy.) Satisfying or not, recognizing how foolish Pelosi looks in retrospect should, one would think, discourage Republicans from doing the same thing…but no. Despite the fact that both parties share responsibility for refusing to take various obvious steps, all requiring foresight, collaboration and political courage, to reduce oil consumption, encourage transportation changes and develop domestic sources of energy, they think “Tit for Tat” not only permits them to make dishonest political fodder out of rising prices at the pump, they think it’s their right. “They did it to us…why should we be the ones to have to be fair? No, they deserve a taste of their own medicine!”

Yes, they do deserve it, but it’s unethical to give it to them anyway. The only way to end the “Tit for Tat” cycle, which is unethical by nature and justified only by a slew of rationalizations—“everybody does it,” “they started it,” and so on—-is to end it. The ethical response by Republicans would be to say,

“We’re sick of seeing Americans squeezed by high gas prices, and our party has been just as irresponsible and negligent as the Democrats to let it get to this point. This is the result of a collective botch by many Congresses and many Presidents, plus the business sector and yes, the public too, and it stops here. We accept our part in this fiasco. Now we want to work together for long-term solutions. We’re through pointing fingers, except at ourselves. Today we challenge the Democrats to do the same.”

Oh, I know; this has as much chance of happening as I do of getting asked to be a model for Clairol. Still, “Tit for Tat” is stupid, unproductive, and juvenile conduct, and we should hold whichever party is continuing the cycle of idiocy responsible.

Today, that means you, Republicans.

11 thoughts on “The Gas Price Blame Game: Can “Tit for Tat” Ever End?

  1. That would be an ethical response by any party anywhere on this planet but, even if I stand just a tiny bit more chance of being a model for Clairol than you Jack, I sadly concur that the chance of us hearing a statement like that is sadly negligible.

  2. This is one of many issues that are like that. This is where it gets frustrating and humorous at the same time. Frustrating….because they won’t work together. And humorous because they act like kids and you wonder if anyone will stand up and be the adult or bigger person and take some responsibility.

  3. Or maybe a responsible statement would be “gas prices are set by the laws of supply and demand, not by either political party. We can artificially change gas prices, for example with subsidies either to lower the price or to lower the cost of drilling; but that costs taxpayer dollars, so it’s essentially a transfer of money from those who use less gas to those who use more gas. We can also open up more places for drilling, but it will take years for that to have an effect on gas prices, and the effect will be marginal, not major. Accepting those limitations on what’s possible, we should have a national discussion of if that’s what we want to do.”

    But it’s hard to imagine any party or politician who is out of power, resisting the impulse to use gas prices to attack their opposition.

  4. I’ve always found the gas price hand-wringing from government to be disingenuous in the first place. If they are REALLY so concerned about gas prices, why not temporarily lower the taxes? Boom. Gas prices fall immediately.

    Of course, they NEVER talk about doing something like that. (And that doesn’t even get into the ones who WANT high gas prices because they fundamentally don’t like oil as an energy source.)

    Getting back to “Tit for Tat”, there is some legitimate criticism to be made in that the State Department, and perhaps the President, should always be in the business of maintaining good relations with OPEC countries (and oil-producing non-OPEC countries), so that they don’t decide to create artificial shortages to drive up the price. If the criticism strays outside of that, then they’re definitely out-of-bounds.

    But like Barry said, gas prices are more driven by supply and demand than anything else. So unless there’s been some new 2-dollar-a-gallon gas tax imposed in the last year, blaming government is just hogwash.

    –Dwayne

  5. One party consistently supports policies that lead to higher gas prices and the other party does not. Why would it be unethical or unfair to point out these policy differences when the public’s attention is focused on the issue?

    • That’s partisan nonsense. Have the Democrats supported a higher gas tax to suppress demand and encourage alternate fuel technologies when prices were absurdly low? Who decided to cut off the Alaskan oil fields? Who put a stop to off-shore drilling? Pollution and safety standards add to gas consumption, vehicle weight and inefficiency. The Democrats have taken credit for those, There’s no “consistently” about it, and neither party can claim clean hands.

      Knock it off. Knee jerk partisanship is not welcome here; it contributes nothing to the discussion because it’s bias and nothing more.

      • Have the Democrats supported a higher gas tax to suppress demand and encourage alternate fuel technologies when prices were absurdly low?

        No, and why should they?

        Despite the fact that both parties share responsibility for refusing to take various obvious steps, all requiring foresight, collaboration and political courage, to reduce oil consumption, encourage transportation changes and develop domestic sources of energy

        As Bill Bonde aptly put it put it years ago.

        It isn’t folks on the right who are complaining that we aren’t switching
        to alternative energy sources while simultaneously insisting that the
        sorts of prices for energy that are needed to motivate those changes
        must not happen. There is simply a manifold disconnect on the left
        between their reality and their rhetoric.

  6. How much of the price increase is due to the increasing scarcity of oil, and how much is it due to the fall of the dollar in comparison with oil? For example, gas prices in Germany in the early 1920’s shot up, but this was not due to an increases scarcity of gasoline, but due to hyperinflation.

    In 1962, a gallon of gas was, on average, $0.28/gal. Gold was $35/oz. Gas was 0.008 Au oz/gal. In other words, an ounce of gold could purchase 125 gallons of gasoline.

    Was that cheap? Currently, gold is $1,759.30/oz Translating 0.008 Au oz into dollars yields $14.07. But even in California, where gas prices are about $4.39/gal., that translates to 0.0024953 Au oz./gal. – less than a third of what it was in 1962. Or translated into what dollars were worth in 1962, that translates to $0.087/gal. An ounce of gold could buy, in California, 400 gallons of gas.

    Consider the other items in the article. Had their prices with respect to gold ounces remained constant, a gallon of milk would be $52.27. A loaf of bread would be $10.55. A new car would be $146,976. A new house would be $630,834.

    The reason for the price decrease in gold ounces is because productivity for goods and services have increased, and unlike German marks, gold can not be produced in printing presses. It therefore takes less gold to buy goods and services today than it did in 1962.

    Wages relative to gold have also fallen. But the reason wages were higher back then was because for at least twenty years, America had a monopoly on manufacturing, due to the fact that WWII destroyed European industry, meaning that workers there were not as productive as workers here. A smaller supply of labor translated to higher wages.

    In fact, according to this article by George Reisman, gasoline was about 0.005 Au oz/gal, which is more expensive than today. The question is why is the dollar going down relative to gold? What is causing the currency to be devalued?

  7. You forgot Gummo.

    Or maybe Gummo was Herman Cain? Or Stephen Colbert?

    And since I’m dropping in, how ethical is it for an ethics blog to re-run as a “lost weekend catchup” a bunch of its most wildly popular posts ever?

    Oh, never mind. It probably is.

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