07 May 2008

A "Band Aid" for Gas Poisoning

One of our local TV news readers fancies himself a writer. He publishes a weekly column in one of the local newspapers. This week's column is a plea in favor of a Republican scheme to suspend the state tax of gas, which was approved today by the GOP-controlled state senate.

Our writer tells a harrowing anecdote about a woman in a grocery line having to unload her shopping bag, leaving behind a bag of Oreos, because she was short on cash. "People are hurting," he notes, "Families are having to choose between buying prescription medicine or meat."

He adds:

Thirty two cents a gallon would make a huge difference immediately to people as they struggle to pay their rising bills. Democrats [are] quick to say it's not a solution and would just create a new set of problems. You know what, they're right but I say do it anyway. Cut the gas tax at the local, state and federal level and give people relief. We'll deal with the financial fallout later.
I like our new governor [David Paterson] but listening to him explain how cutting gas prices is not going to help you just made me angry. I feel like we're bleeding, standing in the emergency room and the doctor on duty is explaining how putting a band-aid on the wound will not help us in the long run. For now I think we need to stop the bleeding.

At no point in the column does our anchorman suggest an option that would provide the relief he begs for without creating the problems predicted by skeptics: price controls on gas. This might create a problem of its own if it leads to overconsumption, but people are predicting that if the gas tax goes away. So it would seem to hurt only the oil companies, in the way that life often hurts a spoiled child until it grows up. Yet our author doesn't propose this sensible measure. Since he quickly disclaims any Republican loyalties, I guess this is less due to ideology than to a basic lack of imagination -- the kind of political imagination that gets stunted in our culture of freedom. For some people, however, simple survival instinct is bound to kick in soon, and more imagination is sure to follow in its wake.


chrymethinc said...

If everyone who has a choice boycotted Mobil/Exxon until they went out of business, then we, the consumers, would have the power to impose price control on oil corporations.

Note, I say the boycott must last, not until Mobil reduces prices, but until they go out of business as a lesson to the rest of them the consumer, when standing together, still controls the market.

Also, if everyone who complains about the gas prices contacted their lawmakers and insisted on legislation that would cease all arms sales to OPEC nations until they raise production, well, those people wouldn't have to complain for long.

And finally, if our politicians just got off their collective high horse and start dealing with Chavez and Putin on the same level that they deal with the Saudi royal family or the rulers of Kuwait, we would no longer have to even deal with the middle-east for oil.

Michael Ejercito said...

Price controls on gas in New York would reduce deterrents to consumption of gasoline and reduce incentives to produce gasoline.

If people in California are willing to pay more for a gallon of gas than people in New York, guess where the gas will be going.

Samuel Wilson said...

Michael: your point is a good argument for simply keeping the gas tax. That will keep consumers deterred while the producers keep their income, at least until consumption is deterred too long.

Of course, it's an open question whether the people of any other state are "willing" to pay more than New Yorkers for a staple many have no choice but to consume. The ultimate measure of willingness might well be Chrymethinc's suggestion of boycotting a selected company into oblivion. If such a thing should ever happen, it might well prove a deterrent to the profiteers.

crhymethinc said...

Rather than eliminate the gas tax, it should be transferred to the oil companies. They should have to pay the gas tax and should not be allowed to raise prices to make up the difference.

There is nothing in the constitution that guarantees the oil companies the right to maximize their profitability when doing so adds to the hardship being experienced by most working class Americans. The fact that these oil companies are claiming record profits proves my point.

And it really makes my blood boil when I hear some oil company exec, like the CEO of Exxon/Mobil claiming that it's not the oil companies' fault that gas prices are high. Since they control the supply, they control the prices.