Paul Jacob

We have more to fear from a crisis than the crisis itself. For what are the politicians going to do?

Regarding economic policy, the answer is . . .

  • In a crisis, if a major company fails, the government bails it out.
  • But if a big company keeps making profits, then the company's managers get hauled before Congress and politicians start the drumbeat for a ritual lynching.

Can rewarding failure and persecuting success make for anything but disaster down the road? No.

But that's not stopping Congress. This week five executives from major oil companies were dragged into a congressional hearing room so that Senators could ask them stupid questions.

The Senate is pretending that there's some great mystery to the price spikes — and the recent (if somewhat slighter) price drops. But of course there isn't. Demand for oil has been rising steadily in recent years as the Chinese become major gasoline consumers. Further, a war in a major oil-producing region destabilized supplies and further increased demand, making planning more difficult. And then, of course, came Katrina.

Senator Barbara Boxer decided that the moment called not for learned discourse but class warfare. She hauled out a nice chart showing how much money the oil executives had made. "Working people struggle with high gas prices," she pointed out. "And your sacrifice, gentlemen, appears to be nothing."

Next she'll be quoting the classic apophthegms of socialist literature.

Of course, during the past five years a lot of people have struggled to rebuild their wealth. We are, after all, coming out of a recession. During that time, Senator, what sacrifices have you endured? Oh sure, you may boast with the rest of your Honorable Sirs and Madams that you declined the latest automatic pay raise; but you overpaid folk have taken raise after raise for years, good times and bad. And let's not forget your extravagant pensions that remain the envy of all those struggling people you regularly trot out as props.

So went the attacks. But think about it: the oil companies still delivered oil, even when surrounded by chaos, and did so with enough efficiency that prices have been able to fall back a bit from their impressive highs. The oil execs should have been applauded, not treated with suspicion and contempt.

You can't expect that from Democrats, of course, whose history of anti-capitalism is — even after the fall of Communism — just a wee bit too strong.

But Republicans?

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.