Ahhhh, yes. The Summer of 2008. I remember it so well. Michael Phelps was spending more time in the water than he was pouring bongwater. The Milwaukee Brewers were on their way to their first playoff appearance in 26 years. Brett Favre was in the midst of the second of what would become his six retirements from football. George W. Bush was still president, but Republican candidates at all levels were pretending that his name was as obscure as the leader of the German Bundestag.* (“George Bush? Never heard of him. Is this some kind of trick question?”)
You may also recall the one issue that had America in the grips of panic, as the economy chugged along at a weaker, but still resonable pace. Gas prices hovered at over $4.00 per gallon, causing riots in the streets. Elected officials broke into tears when telling the story of “price gouging” by big oil. Congress planned on rewriting the U.S. tax code to stick it to gas companies. Local television stations routinely broke into their prime time lineup to announce that an area gas station had lowered their cost of gas per gallon by a nickel. The public couldn’t believe that Big Oil would have the onions to charge them what they would gladly pay for a gallon of gas. America was in the grips of mass hysteria.
But a strange thing has happened since that national nightmare. Gas prices have been cut nearly in half. At one point, they were down to about $1.50 a gallon. And suddenly, nobody really cares about gas prices anymore. Nobody makes any effort at all to understand why the price of gas has dropped – we only care when the dog is barking, and gas prices are high. Clearly, Big Oil is only useful to our elected officials when they are there to be the subject of demagoguery.
Back in the Summer of 2008, we saw article upon article about why gas prices were up. Has anyone seen a single article trying to explain why prices are now down? Do we even care, as long as we’re paying less?
As I see it, oil companies did one of two things:
1. Dropped prices in response to global demand and world economic conditions, or;
2. They decided to stop being greedy d-bags.
Which is your guess?
So while we blame oil companies for gouging us when they increase gas prices, I would like to take a moment to thank Big Oil for keeping gas prices down. Here’s a big atta-boy. Your willingness to forgo record profits over the past nine months has kept money in the pockets of working class people, allowing them to buy more groceries and lottery tickets. Your perfectly reasonable and rational response to a bad economy (lowering prices) has saved regular folks the headache of learning how supply and demand works, and allowed them to store up their energy to start complaining again when the market forces prices back up.
Now we can all get back to watching American Idol.
*Answer: Dr. Norbert Lammert