"What are we gonna do about those obscene oil prices by Bush's oil buddies?"
An architect friend told me that a contractor said this to her. While the two of them discussed a commercial project, the contractor added for good measure, "Prices won't go down until Bush leaves office." When my friend told me the story, she sighed, "Can you believe supposedly intelligent people buy into that nonsense?"
Oh, I believe. Believe me, I believe.
Fifty-seven percent of people, according to a recent New York Times/CBS poll, think that Democrats do a better job at keeping gas prices down. Only 11 percent felt that Republicans do a better job. Two-thirds feel that "the increase in gasoline price is not beyond the control of a president."
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wants Bush to consider imposing on the oil companies a "windfall profits tax." Proponents of the windfall profits theory tax argue that "spiraling" gas prices unfairly profit oil companies, profits that rightfully belong to the consumers.
Here we go again.
In response to another "oil crisis" in 1979, President Jimmy Carter ordered price controls and imposed a "windfall profits tax." The result? People waited in long gas lines, as the windfall profits tax gave oil companies less incentive to use domestic sources and greater incentive to rely on foreign sources. American dependency on foreign oil increased 10 percent, while our domestic oil production fell 5 percent. Well done.
If we attack the "obscene profits" of Big Oil, what about the profits of other publicly traded companies? Of the Standard and Poor's 500 corporations, for example, almost three-quarters reported first-quarter profits that exceeded analysts' expectations. This sort of thing happens when the U.S. economy grows at a 4.8 percent clip during the first quarter of the year. Real wages also posted strong gains.