Paul Jacob

The way politicians talk, it's as if we all agree on oil. And we're all stupid.

They talk as if we all demand low prices, for starters. You may want lower prices and I may want lower prices, but most of us know the difference between what we want and what we may ask from our government. Unfortunately for you and me, we don't make a quorum, much less a consensus.

Late in April, President Bush, our Oilman-in-Chief, had the chutzpah to order a federal investigation into soaring oil prices. He didn't have the honesty of Charles Krauthammer, whose column on why "Gas prices shouldn't surprise us" provided a heady mix of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide, in breathable proportion. Why have prices risen? "Supply is down and demand is up." Yup. That's about right.

Krauthammer ignored one reason for the supply crunch in his column, though: war. Iraq is not exactly at peak oil production.

George W. Bush, more concerned, perhaps, about the war of public opinion, went so far as to call higher gas prices a "tax." And then he quickly spoke of how hard he's working to reduce those taxes.

But this is one form of "taxation" that the market should take care of. And if our leaders would honor that division of powers, that would give them time to continue to work on the area that the market can't quite solve, the seeming inability of politicians to reverse their spending habits. Wouldn't it be something were our president and congress to tackle the issue of future taxes, by cutting spending now?

A few days later, the Senate Finance Committee announced it would do something, too: Investigate the actual, factual, non-metaphoric taxes paid by oil companies.

The fact that oil companies are making money as prices rise has scandalized the nation . . . a nation that has apparently forgotten that it is the business of business to take profits. And that when businesses don't make money off what they sell, then they go broke. And then those same people call on the government to bail out the businesses and . . we get the vicious (or, seeing as it's about oil, should I say "viscous"?) circle of out-of-control government.

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.