With gas prices at an all-time Christmas high (according to AAA), motorists will likely welcome \$40 they can drop in their tanks; but it is not going to buy an entire “tank of gas,” at least not for most people. Let’s gather some facts and do some math.

Using the national average for a gallon of gasoline, which is about \$3.20, basic math tells us we could buy 12.5 gallons of gas for \$40. Of course, gas prices vary by state; so in New Mexico you could buy 13.5 gallons, whereas in Hawaii you could buy just 9.9 gallons.

(There are not good, readily available statistics on what cars have the aforementioned fuel capacity, so we’ll just throw out some names for illustrative purposes.)

How small would a car have to be to fill up for \$40? Well, here is a hint: the Mini Cooper’s fuel tank capacity is 13.2 gallons! Yes, you read that right: it would take \$42.24 to fill up a Mini Cooper. But do not despair, because you do have some options: the Honda Fit (\$33.92); Hyundai Accent (\$36.48); Smart fortwo (\$27.84); and Toyota Yaris (\$35.52).

These may be fine cars, but you will be hard-pressed to find a comfortable, family-sized car, an SUV or even one of those ubiquitous crossovers that fills up for \$40. President Obama may want to remind his Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, that filling up for just \$40 becomes even harder if they “figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.”

Most observers understand the White House is engaged in a high stakes game, seeking to gain a political advantage at the expense of so-called “tea party extremists.” If President Obama calls on Harry Reid to come back and negotiate a one-year extension of the payroll tax cut (among other things), he loses the ability to demagogue conservatives. Americans have given up hope that things will change in Washington and are no longer surprised by the misleading and desperate rhetoric peddled by the White House.