Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bart Simpson Obama

I have been amused in recent days about the discussion of the President's inability to influence gas prices (although a raft of politicians are harumphing that they should be able to control prices through regulating speculators).  By the way I think the President has very little power to moderate gas prices and that the power that he does have is mostly negative - i.e. the more he does the more the system will get screwed up.  Most voters, according to the polls, put a great deal of faith in the power of the presidency to move markets.  But their belief is mistaken.

That is except for those parts of federal policy which can influence the amount of oil produced in the country and the amount imported into the country.   For example, if the EPA and the Department of Energy encourage the production of all sorts of known oil reserves in the country the price of oil will decline.  Likewise, if they discourage the energetic search for sources of oil in this country, the price will increase.   The Secretary of Energy, before he took his current job was quite explicit about raising the price of oil to "european levels."  The president during the last campaign was quite explicit about two things - first that the Bush administration was responsible for high gas prices and second that we should make a transition away from petroleum as a source of energy.

My amusement comes from what I think will be an eventual discussion in the campaign.  He clearly will try to thread the needle that energy prices are beyond his control.  He will also take a lot of credit for the economic recovery - even if the American people realize that the recovery is at best puny.  At the beginning of his administration the President said I have four years to clean up the mess in the economy.  He repeated that several times and argued that if he was not successful he should be a one term president.   For the first couple of years he then commented frequently, that a good part of the mess he was trying to deal with came from George Bush.

At that point he reminded me of Bart Simpson (It's not my fault, I didn't do it.)   But here is the transition I expect to hear soon on the broader issue of the economy.   The economy is in great shape, but any problems that are left are George Bush's fault.  He won't be the first politician to use that line of logic but you can see it coming well before he starts to bring it out of the playbook.

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