Democrats, economics and the politics of oil

Published 2:00 am Monday, May 8, 2006

By By Tray Smith
For years, Democrats have supported an increase in the federal gas tax. By increasing the price of gas, people would drive less frequently. That would reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil and stop the working class's irresponsible driving habits (i.e. taking their own car to work instead of the government provided bus). It would also help us reduce the effects of global warming, which apparently has something to do with the fact that temperatures have increased 2 degrees F over the past century. The overall theory was that gas was two cheap, and the government should intervene to make it more expensive.
So forgive me if I am skeptical of believing liberal political opportunist who now blast the Bush administration for high gasoline prices. Of course, it may not be as easy to doubt their sincerity had they had not also opposed oil exploration on federal lands in Alaska, reduced regulation for the construction of new oil refineries, nuclear power, offshore drilling, and anything else that might possibly have a chance of reducing the price of gasoline. It appears that the Democrats main complaint is that the increased profits are going to businesses instead of government bureaucrats and politicians in Washington, D.C.
While they make these positions seem as if they have something to do with their environmental concerns, the truth is their environmental concerns will only be meet when everyone is driving around on bicycles and mopeds. They find some environmental concern about every form of energy that comes along. The truth of the matter is their concerns lie only in satisfying the radical environmental lobby and bashing the Bush administration for political gain.
In any free market economy, prices are decided by the laws of supply and demand. Those are laws that cannot be repealed unless we want to institute communism, but that did not work so well when the Russians tried it. Thus, any meaningful solution for rising gas prices must increase the supply of energy resources, decrease the demand for energy resources, or both. So far, the best the Democrats have been able to come up with is a ludicrous "windfall profits tax" on oil companies, which would do absolutely nothing to solve either supply or demand problems. Instead, it would decrease the incentive that energy companies have to explore and produce more fuels, and actually reduce the supply of gasoline.
However, don't try to explain that to a Democrat. "While Exxon Mobil executives are popping champagne and celebrating their record profits, American families are popping antacids under the strain of searing gas prices," said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.
Senator Menendez either slept through his high school economics class or forgot that the main responsibility of a business is to make a profit, not to satisfy America's families. If that were the case, every business would go broke. (I must also add that I have never seen anyone popping antacids because of gas prices, but things might be different in New Jersey. That would explain how they ended up with Senator Menendez.) To single out the oil industry for a windfall profit tax while the insurance, software, banking, and pharmaceutical industries each have higher profit margins simply because people rely heavily on gasoline is unfair and undemocratic. But Democrats cannot wait to punish anyone for making a profit. As soon as President Bush came out against their insane tax, he was labeled a "friend of big oil." That is probably true. Republicans are the party of people who work hard in life, become successful, and make a lot of money. Democrats are the party of people who drop out of high school, sit on their government provided couch, and live off of everyone else's money.
There are several differences between our two parties, but the debate over gas prices illustrates them best. The truth is, there is little to nothing that the government can do to address energy prices in the short term. In the long run, increasing our production and refining capacity, raising automobile fuel standards, investing in alternative sources of energy, and doing anything else that the Democratic Party is officially against may have a significant effect. The sooner those policies are implemented; the sooner oil prices will be reduced.
While gas prices may be putting pressure on your pocketbook, until we as a people begin to change our driving behavior, we cannot complain. Carpooling, not buying gas on Sundays, reducing unnecessary travel and considering a hybrid vehicle the next time you purchase a car will help save you money, send a powerful signal to the gas companies, and reduce demand. Those efforts will also lead to cheaper gas prices. I turn sixteen in August, and high gas prices worry me as well. However, it is time we all work together to help solve this problem instead of blaming energy companies for making money. And it is time our leaders in Washington start putting forward realistic solutions instead of political rhetoric. That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a freshman at Escambia Academy. He can be reached for comment at

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox