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Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's the Gas Prices, Stupid

Remember when Al Franken said he would run for office on the campaign theme of "No more ATM fees?" Well, somebody ought to be running on the theme of "No more $4.00 gas!" It's time to start talking about mandatory price limits on gas and utilities.

MSNBC is the latest in a long line of news outlets to run a story on how gas prices are affecting Americans budgets.

"The slow and seemingly inexorable rise in gas prices over the past two years has reached a fever pitch in recent months. That's taking its toll on many Americans, especially when coupled with weakness in the housing market and increasing costs for things like groceries. Faced with paying more at the pump, some say they are cutting back on restaurant outings, shutting off cable or Internet access, paring clothing budgets and even scrimping on necessities such as food.

Economists say there’s no doubt that Americans are tightening their budgets."

It's not hard to figure out, everybody knows it, and yet there isn't a politician who has addressed it in a substantive manner. Obama is starting to creep in the right direction by blaming our economy on the War in Iraq. Polls show that most Americans agree with that sentiment. Now is the time to act with a bold new plan that people can get behind. I'm no New Dealer, but I think something drastic is in order.

Yes, there should be a free market and yes, there should be price competition. However, when something as vital to our existence as oil is on the line, I think it's time to step in. It's not as if we haven't seen price controls put in place by the federal government before (see 1971-1973). The argument against this is that a price control causes shortages in your supply. However, as the American populace has aptly proven recently, the sky's the limit for what they're willing to pay at the pump. This isn't out of some gluttonous desire to consume as much gas as possible. This is out of necessity. You have to buy gas. You can't not buy gas. A lowering of the price of gas, especially if it's understood that the price limit will be in effect for a number of years, will not cause a shortage at the pumps.

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