Walter E. Williams

What assumptions do congressmen make about the American people? Do they assume that we're dumb or ill-informed about the energy problems we are experiencing? Every time there has been a huge spike in gasoline prices, Congress hauls oil company executives before their committees to accuse them of greed, obscene profits and price-fixing. One federal investigation after another of supposed oil company misconduct turns up nothing to substantiate congressional allegations. Unfortunately, the congressional hearings make front page news and lead the evening television news, but the results of federal investigations that follow are only casually mentioned deep in the body of newspapers and get little or no time on the evening television news. If news media people had an ounce of integrity, they would highlight the federal investigation findings that undermine congressional charges of oil company misconduct and they would question the congressmen who made those charges.

Americans might prefer heroes-and-villains explanations to problems to reality-based explanations. A politically satisfying explanation for today's $4 a gallon price, when it was less than $2 a gallon a couple of years ago, is because oil company executives have all of a sudden become greedy in their pursuit of "obscene" profits. As such, congressmen, as our heroes, should call these greedy men on the carpet and take sanctions against them in the forms of windfall profits tax, price controls and other measures to take away their ill-gotten gains -- never mind the effects of the 1980 windfall profits tax. According to the Congressional Research Service, the 1980 windfall profits tax had the effect of decreasing domestic production by 3 percent to 6 percent, thereby increasing American dependence on foreign oil sources by 8 percent to 16 percent.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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