Thursday, June 19


I've been kind of surprised I haven't heard more about Obama's take on higher gas prices in the media. It's gotten some traction among the right-wing bloggers, but nothing like I'd have expected.

Barack Obama: "I think that... we have been slow to move in a better direction when it comes to energy usage. And the president, frankly, hasn't had an energy policy.* And as a consequence we've been consuming energy as if it's infinite. We now know that our demand is badly outstripping supply with China and India growing as rapidly as they are."

CNBC's John Harwood: "So could the (high) oil prices help us?"

Barack Obama: "I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment. The fact that this is such a shock to American pocketbooks is not a good thing. But if we take some steps right now to help people make the adjustment, first of all by putting more money in their pockets, but also by encouraging the market to adapt to these new circumstances more rapidly, particularly U.S. automakers..."

The obvious inference is that Obama doesn't object to $4 a gallon gas per se, just how rapidly the price increased. Most Americans hate it and want gas prices to go down as rapidly as possible. Obama wants to "help people to make the adjustment" to "new circumstances."

Is reducing the price of a gallon of gas a policy priority for Obama? Or does he, like Thomas Friedman, believe that the president should "guarantee people a high price of gasoline — forever."

Or perhaps he's like Andrew Sullivan, who regularly laments that "gas prices are too low," periodically forgetting to remind readers that he never learned how to drive (at least as of 2004).

* Says the man who voted for President Bush's energy bill.
[Emphasis mine]

Now, I'm a liberal Democrat, and I was shocked when I heard him say it. My immediate reaction was, you THINK you'd have preferred prices rose GRADUALLY? But that you have no problem with them rising in general? Man, talk about being out of touch with the working man and woman. All anyone does anymore at the office is talk about relative gas prices and mileage, who gets what. The Sage and I both have Honda Civic hybrids that we purchased before gas prices started soaring -- our idea was to help the environment. But now our kids always want to borrow them when they go on trips, and we get cards from our car dealer asking if we'd like to sell them. People are really starting to change their driving habits because of the costs, and everyone except the well-to-do is feeling the pinch.

Now I realize that many liberals and environmentalists have long maintained that until gasoline prices rose to an untenable level, Americans would refuse to conserve, and for many progressives, conservation has been seen to be the key to energy independence, NOT more resources, so they don't object to higher prices; indeed, they have championed them. But sorry, folks. The reality is that moderate to low incomes can't afford groceries bought at Whole Foods, which is more expensive than what you find at the corner grocery, and they cannot support high energy costs. Their cars are not the new, expensive, fuel-efficient models; public transportation in most towns and cities is inadequate or even non-existent, and people DO still have to get to work. In cities the size of Dallas, where I live, affordable housing may be 20 miles or more away from job centers, and many of our suburbs have no bus service at all. People are actually sacrificing food in order to keep their gas tanks full. And don't talk to me about car pooling. People aren't all working in manufacturing jobs anymore where the whistle blows and the whole workforce begins or ends their day.

So to say, "I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment" doesn't sound very sympathetic coming from a guy who voted for the Bush/Cheney energy plan.

There's going to be a lot of suffering between now and when The Chosen One gets new, more robust CAFE standards passed by Congress. And just how many low and moderate income people does he think will be able to rush out and buy a new vehicle anyway? It sounds very offhand, detached, and unsympathetic to the plight of the Democratic base, frankly.

Oops. I forgot. Obama's campaign has a new coalition of Democratic voters. And it doesn't include the non-AA working class.

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