BY CHARLES MEMMINGER – I don’t know much about economics but one thing has become abundantly clear in the past few weeks: gas that costs more than four bucks a gallon burns up a lot faster than three-buck-a-gallon gas. Man, my truck is like a boozer on a binge, sucking up gas like a wino sucks up Muscatel. (Muscatel, by the way, has remained steady at about $4.45 per gallon and, while it reeks hell on human internal organs, it makes an internal combustion engine purr like a cat.)
Commenting on the extraordinary rise in gas prices, President Obama blithely opined: “If you’re complaining about the price of gas … you may wanna think about a trade-in.” Putting aside the obvious condescension from a fella who likely hasn’t pumped his own gas in the past 10 years, the statement sounded hauntingly familiar to one made by Marie Antoinette who, upon hearing that the French masses could not get bread, helpfully suggested “they may wanna think about eating cake.”
With a national election coming up, I’m not sure anyone running for president, including the current resident of the White House, should be telling the masses that unless they drive a $40,000 hybrid vehicle they shouldn’t be complaining about the price of gas. If I could afford a “green” car, I’d be rich enough not to care about how much gas costs.
I’m not sure what I could trade my Toyota pickup truck in for that would get better mileage. Maybe a donkey. But have you seen the price of hay recently? The Organization of Hay-Exporting Countries (OHEC) has driven the cost of hay to almost two dollars a bale.
I’m not really complaining about the price of gas, just making a few observations, like expensive gas burns up faster than cheap gas. It just does. So I’ve just started cutting back on the amount of gas I buy. The other day I went into the little gas station mini-mart and said something to the cashier that I never dreamed would come out of my mouth: “Just give me sixty dollars on number three because I can’t afford to fill it up today.” I hate to get nostalgic, but there was a time when $60 would not only fill up my gas tank but also the back of my pickup truck. That was in the year, let’s see, nineteen … nineteen … heck, I think that was just a few months ago.
I don’t want to dump on Obama but he better get out of the house a little more and get more in touch with the little people. He’s been an academic for so long I think he truly doesn’t understand what life is like in 3-D. It reminds me of when we found out that President Bush The Elder didn’t know the cost of a gallon of milk and didn’t know supermarket checkout lines used scanners.
Unlike a lot of the political gasbags (pun intended) inside the Washington D.C. beltway, average citizens don’t really follow esoteric debates on Medicare, debit ceilings or bank bailouts. They learn about the economy at ground level, where it stares them in the face.
And the thing that stares them in the face on a regular basis is a gas pump. When they see that the cost of filling up their car is cutting into their beer money, they aren’t happy. Yes, their outlook may be unsophisticated and short term but it is what it is. And they take their unhappiness out on whoever happens to be in power at the time.
Of course, those in power are usually deaf to growing murmurs of discontent by the populace. (I suspect that if Marie Antoinette had paid more attention to the whole bread situation she might have remained capitated.) An example of this out-of-touchness with the people is that the Honolulu City Council actually is considering increasing the tax on a gallon of gas. With gas prices approaching five dollars a gallon, some council members actually think it’s a swell idea make it even MORE expensive for the general population. These are folks who apparently don’t have any long-term political goals.
If Social Security is the third rail of politics – the rail that dare not be touched – the price of gas at the pump is the fourth, fifth and sixth rail. Politicians fool with it at their peril. While the war in Libya might be blamed in part for increases in gas prices in Hawaii, Honolulu residents know that it’s not Moammar Gadhafi who’s going to raise taxes on gas here. City Council members might wanna rethink this one or heads will (metaphorically) roll.