Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fluff and Substance, God and Gas

I know the world turns on the words of Jeremiah Wright, and so the presidency, but I find it difficult to get very excited about any of this. Here's Obama on Wright, in case anyone cares:

(One comment is perhaps warranted. Though we can never speak of this issue--or at least not until Obama is president, there's a strongly racist slant to everything having to do with the Wright controversy. Many pastors say impolitic things. I have heard them. The Wright controversy isn't about a pastor's impolitic language; it's about a black pastor saying things that alarm whites. Whites say things that alarm blacks all the time--Wright has referenced them, ironically--but since blacks are in the minority, their outrage isn't mainstream. But Wright's words are fair game because they alarm whites. And the alarm whites feel is reason to roast Obama day after day, week after week. You see where it leads, don't you? To angry, embittered blacks, who say slightly unhinged things in church. And round and round we go.)

But how about substance?--McCain's gas-tax summer holiday. Hillary, now determined to Lieberman herself to power, has signed on. Obama rebuts:
This is the problem with Washington. We are facing a situation where oil prices could hit $200 a barrel. Oil companies like Shell and BP just reported record profits for the quarter. And we’re arguing over a gimmick that would save you half a tank of gas over the course of the entire summer so that everyone in Washington can pat themselves on the back and say that they did something.
Obama is right, of course. As our man Patrick Emerson details:
Let's start with the fact that refineries are essentially operating at capacity. In summer, when travel is at its peak, this is especially true. This translates to a completely inelastic supply curve. What does economics 101 teach us about taxes and completely inelastic supply curves? It teaches us that there will be virtually NO price effect at the pump. You will just be transferring the tax revenues to the oil companies. So the claim that this would stem the public's pain is absurd.
What it would do is reduce revenues (about $10b) that support infrastructure--and we know how bad our infrastructure already is.

1 comment:

iggir said...

yeah, and the refineries are working at peak capacity because oil companies have been closing them to keep prices high. this is a bit older, but i remember reading about this not too long ago in Harpers or something: