“It’s about the dumbest thing I’ve heard in an awful long time, from an economic point of view,” Bloomberg told reporters at City Hall. “We’re trying to discourage people from driving and we’re trying to end our energy dependence … and we’re trying to have more money to build infrastructure.”
Gail Collins: A funny, sarcastic, and perhaps most insightful angle on this:
All this actually tells us something about the Democratic candidates, which has nothing to do with fuel prices. Obama believes voters want a sensible, less-divisive political dialogue, that the whole process can become more honorable if the right candidate leads the way. Hillary really doesn’t buy that. She has principles, but she doesn’t believe in principled stands. She thinks that if she can get elected, she can do great things. And to get there, she’s prepared to do whatever. That certainly includes endorsing any number of meaningless-to-ridiculous ideas. (See: her bill to make it illegal to desecrate an American flag.)
Paul Krugman: A Princeton Economist and rabid Clinton supporter (one of my favorite columnists for his Iraq war stance, but I find him rather incoherent lately) who includes the sentence that the Gas Tax Holiday is a bad idea, and has also said so on his blog. I wonder if he’s hoping for a Clinton administration cabinet position. He says:
“To be clear, both Democratic candidates have been saying things they shouldn’t; Hillary Clinton shouldn’t have endorsed the bad idea of a gas tax holiday.”
The McCain-Clinton gas holiday proposal is a perfect example of what energy expert Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network describes as the true American energy policy today: “Maximize demand, minimize supply and buy the rest from the people who hate us the most.” Good for Barack Obama for resisting this shameful pandering.
Neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. McCain have explained the inconsistency in their positions. We know pandering when we see it. We also know that suspending the gas tax for the summer won’t solve this country’s energy problems or even reduce the price of gas.
As I’ve said before, Clinton deserves the hits she’s taking on this issue — I’ve yet to see a single expert who thinks her proposal would do Americans any good… One of the principal objections to the holiday proposal has been that because the tax is not actually collected at the pump, there’s no reason to believe that the oil companies will actually pass on to consumers the full savings from the suspension of the tax.
Sam Stein from the Huffington Post did some investigative work and failed to find any expert or stakeholder who supported the idea besides the Clinton and McCain administrations. This included requesting experts favoring the plan from the Clinton camp (no response). In a typical quote Roger Tauss, the International Vice President for the Transport Worker’s Union, said:
First of all it is pocket change and it doesn’t do anything short term. It will just put more money in the oil companies pockets. It is typical Washington beltway crap. It is just like typical. They make a big fight over a small, nothing issue, and nothing will ever get done.
And the NYT had an article this week about how the high gas prices are creating significantly more demand for smaller fuel efficient vehicles. In other words, the high prices are working – we’re starting to get more efficient (there’s a long way to go though).
Finally we have a real policy issue difference between the candidates, and one that touches on the critical problems energy policy, national security and climate change. I think the Obama campaign should be more pointed in their response to the McCain-Clinton Gas Tax Holiday. After all if there’s consensus that this is a useless policy, what does it mean that McCain and Clinton are basically trying to buy voters’ support for a $28 that they will most likely not even get? Isn’t that more than a little bit condescending to the voters? I’ve lived in the Midwest, people there are not dumb, but they may feel alienated from the East and West coast (rightly so oftentimes). As the pundits have pointed out: this just a case of Washington politics trying to pander to those midwest voters, not provide meaningful policies and vision. As for the comments that McCain and Clinton have otherwise suggested energy and climate change proposals: Why do would we want to take a big step backwards on both energy and environmental fronts before going forwards? Considering that we are exceeding the worst case scenarios for fossil fuel consumption, we need real leadership and vision. This is pandering, not leadership.