Not Underestimating the Stupidity of the American People

Nope. Republicans of the current era could never, ever be accused of that. The uninformed electorate is our best customer, to paraphrase a New York area men’s clothing store’s tagline. Thus, it should come as no surprise that some of the brilliant ideas for dealing with high oil prices that have emerged from the geniuses in the Republican majority in the senate include a $100 “gas tax holiday” (in the form of a Treasury sponsored rebate check… thank you for driving an SUV) or more funding for “alternative fuels”… the President, down on the Gulf Coast for another photo op suggested drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Ironically, the President’s suggestion is the only thing that effects the actual mechanics of oil prices, to wit, “supply and demand,” in that ANWR will, at least, improve our domestic supply, albeit a little, at tremendous cost (environmental, social, etc.) and a long time from now… but at least it’s something.
Once again, of course, this is a big shell-game. We know why gasoline prices are going up… even the populist blaming of “greed” won’t cut it, because we can presume that oil refiners and gasoline retailers and everyone else in the chain always wants to maximize their revenues and profits… but are limited by what the traffic will bear and what the other guy will charge. The underlying fundamentals here, of course, are increased demand from industrializing nations in Asia (that would be mainly India and China, but there are others), and fear of uncertainty in oil supply (that would be because of horrendously irresponsible American foreign policy, mostly associated with Iraq and Iran right now, but overall… not providing much comfort to international markets or anyone else.) Billmon has this wonderful discussion of the long term implications of our national military aggression energy policy.
To their credit, the Republicans have recognized a big source of possible public discontent, and are trying to “do something.” Notice that what they won’t do, for example, might be a dreaded windfall profits tax… no, no… can’t do that. Nothing that might, for example, help close the deficit, even a little, or help steer market incentives even slightly away from consuming as much oil as fast as possible… no, no… unthinkable.
Of course, Democrats have an easy answer, if they want to play it. (They won’t, of course: the word chickenshit comes to mind.) Yes, my idea is simply to fund the entire defense budget at the pump… think of it as a user fee. While gas prices would increase, of course, the income tax refund to taxpayers would be self-funding (unlike the Republican plan, which, as always, would be funded by Beijing) and market mechanisms would quickly force Americans to conserve and seek cheaper forms of fuel.
And Democrats can, as a group, vow that if they obtain the majority (especially in the all-important House– far more important than the Senate– though only Republicans understand that), that they will impeach (not necessarily remove– but not necessarily not remove) the twin-cancers at our nation’s head named “Bush” and “Cheney”, or at least tie Mr. Rove up with committee subpoenas every day for the remainder of the Bush presidency which would have the same effect. But of course, that would involve ignoring the expensive consultants and professional chattering asses, and actually listening to the voters… and hence, is about as likely as my defense funding measure.
Oh well… how will you spend your $100 gas tax holiday?