In one shot at Republican pols that no fair-minded observer would dispute, the president yesterday accused GOPers of “cheering” higher gas prices. Not since the days of the mindless “Drill Baby Drill” chants have we seen so much excitement over pain at the pumps.
As Matt Yglesias calmly explains today, it really takes an amnesiac to yell, as John Boehner has been doing, that gas prices have doubled since Obama took office:
Gas prices are indeed way higher than they were on Inauguration Day. That’s in part because the winter of 2008-09 was the cheapest moment for gas prices that we’ve seen in years. Do we remember what else was going on back then? That’s right—a global financial crisis that tipped the entire world into recession. It turns out that driving to work, ferrying stuff from the warehouse to the store, hauling containers across the Pacific Ocean, and flying around to meetings all takes oil. If you manage to orchestrate a situation in which millions of people lose their jobs, retail sales plummet, stores close, and economic activity generally grinds to a halt, this frees up a lot of extra oil. Cheap oil leads to cheap gasoline, so if you did have a job at the depths of the recession your commute got cheap.
With the global economy beginning to recover, even as countries like China continue to modernize their transportation systems, yes, oil prices are headed back up (helped along, of course, by fears of a war involving Iran, which Obama’s GOP critics are daily blasting him for failing to encourage). But what do you want, asks Yglesias?
[N]othing Santorum or Boehner or Gingrich or Obama says is going to change the fact that the United States is an increasingly small part of the global demand picture. When China, India, or Brazil get richer, their citizens start trading bicycles for scooters and mopeds for cars. They’re flying more airplanes. This increases the global demand for oil and pushes prices up. All else being equal, this is inconvenient for American drivers. But it’s far from clear that it’s on net harmful to the American economy. American firms are hoping to export goods and services to rapidly growing economies. Every time Boeing sells a plane to an Asian airline, that increases the demand for jet fuel and makes driving marginally more expensive. But we’re better off in the fast-growing world than in the slow-growth, cheap-gas world of three years ago.
Unfortunately, turning back the clock to Inauguration Day 2009 is a pretty common GOP objective—when they aren’t trying to turn the clock back to 1964 or 1937.
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