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“Dishonest Craven Panderer”: Mitt Romney Joins Gas Price Demagoguery

For someone running for office on the strength of his knowledge and experience in the free-market economy, Mitt Romney sure is spouting a lot of ignorant nonsense. Romney has used the same epithet—“doesn’t understand the economy”—against both President Obama and Newt Gingrich.

But Romney is contradicting basic economic facts on the campaign trail this week. He has adopted Gingrich’s demagogic strategy of blaming President Obama for rising gas prices. On Sunday Romney told Fox News there is “no question” Obama’s policies are responsible for prices at the pump. “He said that energy prices would skyrocket under his views, and he selected three people to help him implement that program. The secretary of energy, the secretary of interior and EPA administrator. And this gas hike trio has been doing the job over the last three-and-a-half years, and gas prices are up.” Romney has repeated those comments at campaign events on Sunday and Monday.

Romney, of course, is pulling a bait-and-switch when he claims Obama stated a goal of raising gas prices. Obama did say that his cap-and-trade proposal would raise prices of electricity, which Romney conflates with gasoline by collectively lumping them as energy. But cap-and-trade did not pass. Romney fails to specify which policies Obama has enacted that have raised the price of petroleum, because there aren’t any. The only argument Republicans such as Romney and Gingrich can muster is that Obama has rejected some proposals to drill for oil or build pipelines in environmentally precarious locations.

Aggregate domestic oil drilling has actually risen under Obama. But that doesn’t matter. Suppose it had declined. Oil is a global, fungible commodity. As demand increases in industrializing nations such as China and India, prices are sure to rise eventually. Global supply of oil is finite, so there is no way that global demand can increase indefinitely without prices going up.

You’d think from listening to Romney and Gingrich that they were ideological fellow travelers of Hugo Chávez. After all, their proposal to reduce American gas prices would help only if we nationalized the oil industry. If we continue to operate as a free-market economy, then ExxonMobil will sell the oil they drill here to the highest bidder, not necessarily the American consumer.

Even if we did nationalize the oil industry, increased drilling would have a limited impact on prices. We account for about 25 percent of global annual oil consumption, while we have only 2 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves.

So there are two possibilities: either Romney doesn’t understand how the economy works, or he is just a dishonest craven panderer. Considering that he holds two advanced degrees from Harvard, counts on Harvard professors as economic and foreign policy advisers and cites Harvard professors in his speeches—while bashing Obama for “taking advice from the Harvard faculty lounge”—my guess is that the answer is the latter.

 

By: Ben Adler, The Nation, March 20, 2012

March 21, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Energy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Natural Born Drillers”: Republicans Are Just Plain “Full Of Gas”

To be a modern Republican in good standing, you have to believe — or pretend to believe — in two miracle cures for whatever ails the economy: more tax cuts for the rich and more drilling for oil. And with prices at the pump on the rise, so is the chant of “Drill, baby, drill.” More and more, Republicans are telling us that gasoline would be cheap and jobs plentiful if only we would stop protecting the environment and let energy companies do whatever they want.

Thus Mitt Romney claims that gasoline prices are high not because of saber-rattling over Iran, but because President Obama won’t allow unrestricted drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Meanwhile, Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal tells readers that America as a whole could have a jobs boom, just like North Dakota, if only the environmentalists would get out of the way.

The irony here is that these claims come just as events are confirming what everyone who did the math already knew, namely, that U.S. energy policy has very little effect either on oil prices or on overall U.S. employment. For the truth is that we’re already having a hydrocarbon boom, with U.S. oil and gas production rising and U.S. fuel imports dropping. If there were any truth to drill-here-drill-now, this boom should have yielded substantially lower gasoline prices and lots of new jobs. Predictably, however, it has done neither.

Why the hydrocarbon boom? It’s all about the fracking. The combination of horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing of shale and other low-permeability rocks has opened up large reserves of oil and natural gas to production. As a result, U.S. oil production has risen significantly over the past three years, reversing a decline over decades, while natural gas production has exploded.

Given this expansion, it’s hard to claim that excessive regulation has crippled energy production. Indeed, reporting in The Times makes it clear that U.S. policy has been seriously negligent — that the environmental costs of fracking have been underplayed and ignored. But, in a way, that’s the point. The reality is that far from being hobbled by eco-freaks, the energy industry has been given a largely free hand to expand domestic oil and gas production, never mind the environment.

Strange to say, however, while natural gas prices have dropped, rising oil production and a sharp fall in import dependence haven’t stopped gasoline prices from rising toward $4 a gallon. Nor has the oil and gas boom given a noticeable boost to an economic recovery that, despite better news lately, has been very disappointing on the jobs front.

As I said, this was totally predictable.

First up, oil prices. Unlike natural gas, which is expensive to ship across oceans, oil is traded on a world market — and the big developments moving prices in that market usually have little to do with events in the United States. Oil prices are up because of rising demand from China and other emerging economies, and more recently because of war scares in the Middle East; these forces easily outweigh any downward pressure on prices from rising U.S. production. And the same thing would happen if Republicans got their way and oil companies were set free to drill freely in the Gulf of Mexico and punch holes in the tundra: the effect on prices at the pump would be negligible.

Meanwhile, what about jobs? I have to admit that I started laughing when I saw The Wall Street Journal offering North Dakota as a role model. Yes, the oil boom there has pushed unemployment down to 3.2 percent, but that’s only possible because the whole state has fewer residents than metropolitan Albany — so few residents that adding a few thousand jobs in the state’s extractive sector is a really big deal. The comparable-sized fracking boom in Pennsylvania has had hardly any effect on the state’s overall employment picture, because, in the end, not that many jobs are involved.

And this tells us that giving the oil companies carte blanche isn’t a serious jobs program. Put it this way: Employment in oil and gas extraction has risen more than 50 percent since the middle of the last decade, but that amounts to only 70,000 jobs, around one-twentieth of 1 percent of total U.S. employment. So the idea that drill, baby, drill can cure our jobs deficit is basically a joke.

Why, then, are Republicans pretending otherwise? Part of the answer is that the party is rewarding its benefactors: the oil and gas industry doesn’t create many jobs, but it does spend a lot of money on lobbying and campaign contributions. The rest of the answer is simply the fact that conservatives have no other job-creation ideas to offer.

And intellectual bankruptcy, I’m sorry to say, is a problem that no amount of drilling and fracking can solve.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 15, 2012

March 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joplin And Natural Disasters: They’re Called “Emergencies” For A Reason

I’ve been writing a lot this week about congressional Republicans’ new approach to disaster relief funds in large part because I find it rather amazing, even for a contemporary GOP that no longer seems capable of surprising.

For all of our differences over party, ideology, and creed, we know that when disaster strikes and our neighbors face a genuine emergency, America responds. We don’t ask what’s in it for us; we don’t weigh the political considerations; we don’t pause to ponder the larger ideological implications.

We act. It’s who we are; it’s what we do.

The problem isn’t that conservative Republicans necessarily disagree with this principle. Rather, the problem is, they place other principles above this one when prioritizing how and whether to act.

While much of Joplin, Mo., is still under rubble from a devastating tornado, conservatives in Congress are starting to argue for a tougher approach to disaster aid, demanding that any funding be offset by cutting federal money elsewhere.

Disasters will no longer be considered “emergencies” if conservatives win this battle to redefine the way Congress funds aid packages for states and cities stricken by natural and man-made catastrophes. […]

Traditionally, the government has responded to disasters — hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and acts of terrorism — by using its power of the purse to aid the affected areas with “emergency” dollars that add to the debt because they don’t count against annual spending caps.

When hurricanes Katrina and Rita slammed into Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005, a vocal minority in the House called for offsetting tens of billions of dollars of spending with cuts to other programs. At the time, House Republican leaders shut them down. But now, as much of the Southern and Midwestern parts of the country have been hit by a series of catastrophic acts of nature, that vocal minority has become a controlling majority — at least in the House.

It was House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) who presented the new way of looking at disaster relief. He was willing to approve a $1 billion emergency package for Southwest Missouri, but on a condition — he wanted to cut money from a clean-energy program to pay for it. His party agreed.

The callousness becomes even clearer in the larger context. If the oil industry wants taxpayer subsidies, conservative Republicans don’t blink, and certainly don’t wonder how we’ll pay for the incentives. When Wall Street needed a bailout, the entire Republican leadership was on board with writing a very large check, without much thought to fiscal responsibility.

But when working-class communities get slammed by a natural disaster, through no fault of their own, suddenly the GOP grows miserly. Republicans’ first thought isn’t, “How can we help these struggling Americans get back on their feet?” Instead, it’s, “How will we block disaster relief aid unless we get corresponding spending cuts?”

 

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, May 27, 2011

May 27, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Democracy, Disasters, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Public Health, Republicans, Right Wing, States | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Straight-Talking, Truth-Telling Machine?: Tim Pawlenty’s Version Of The “Truth”

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty formally kicked off his Republican presidential campaign yesterday, and after struggling to come up with a rationale for his candidacy, he’s apparently settled on a theme. Pawlenty, we’re told, will be a straight-talking, truth-telling machine.

As rationales go, I suppose this isn’t bad. Indeed, Pawlenty took steps to back this up, telling Iowans he wants a gradual phasing out of federal ethanol subsidies, and noting that he’s headed to Florida to endorse overhauling Medicare and Social Security. Pawlenty has spent many years saying the exact opposite, but why quibble? This is the new Pawlenty, speaking truth to power, and adopting the mantle of the last honest man in American politics — or so we’re supposed to believe.

But for a man who used the word “truth” 16 times in his campaign kick-off speech, Pawlenty is already undercutting his message with all kinds of falsehoods.

An hour after his official launch, Pawlenty talked to Rush Limbaugh, who noted in 2006 that Pawlenty said that “the era of small government is over” and that “government has to be more proactive, more aggressive.” Pawlenty responded that the newspaper article that published those remarks was wrong; the paper ran a correction; and that he was only quoting someone else.

Dana Milbank looked into this and discovered that Pawlenty “had taken some liberties with the facts.”

The article is all about Pawlenty’s efforts as governor to take on drug and oil companies and other practitioners of “excessive corporate power.” It includes his boast that many ideological Republicans “don’t even talk to me anymore” because of his support for things such as the minimum wage.

“The era of small government is over,” Pawlenty told the newspaper. “I’m a market person, but there are certain circumstances where you’ve got to have government put up the guardrails or bust up entrenched interests before they become too powerful…. Government has to be more proactive, more aggressive.”

The newspaper did issue a “clarification,” but only to say that Pawlenty’s quote about small government was “in reference to a point” made by the conservative writer David Brooks — one that Pawlenty, from his other comments, obviously agreed with.

Of course he did. In 2006, Pawlenty wasn’t well liked by the far-right, as he defended big government, endorsed cap-and-trade, wanted to reimport prescription medication from Canada, and wanted officials to be more effective and aggressive in fighting the oil industry.

Everything he told Limbaugh yesterday, just like the new persona he’s struggling to adopt, just isn’t true.

And really, that’s just scratching the surface. Wonk Room ran a fact-check piece yesterday, noting seven obvious lies Pawlenty told yesterday, on issues ranging from health care on the nation’s finances. Similarly , the AP ran a similar piece, highlighting several more of the candidate’s falsehoods from yesterday.

Pawlenty needs to realize that those who base their entire message on offering candor and uncomfortable truths face an even tougher burden — they’re inviting even tougher scrutiny. By lying repeatedly on his first day as a national candidate, Pawlenty is off to an ignominious start.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly, Political Animal, May 24, 2011

May 24, 2011 Posted by | Big Government, Conservatives, Corporations, Elections, GOP, Government, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Medicare, Politics, Republicans, Social Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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