It’s easy for political junkies to forget that the majority of Americans don’t think the way they do. The average man on the street doesn’t spend his day obsessing over constitutional issues or arguments about the effect the Federal Reserve is having on housing prices. They don’t while away their hours dissecting foreign affairs, breaking down polling data or bickering about the Founding Fathers. It’s unfortunate, but most people are simply too busy living their lives to get involved with the day-to-day nuts and bolts of their government.
In part, this is because people have a hard time seeing how issues affect them. For example, most people’s concern over economic policy is directly related to their level of involvement in the financial system. Those on the low end of the income ladder are generally less critical of the administration’s fiscal choices, since they wrongly assume the impact on their lives will be negligible. Trying to convince them otherwise involves making heady, sometimes hypothetical, points.
Unfortunately for the president, the record cost of gasoline marks the end of the hypothetical. Everyone buys gasoline, everyone needs it and everyone is hurt when its cost jumps. Barack Obama’s policies are now firmly taking hold in the realm of the tangible.
On Monday, Obama said that “as long as gas prices are going up, people are going to feel like I’m not doing enough.” The statement came in the wake of new polling that showed his approval rating had plummeted five points due in large part to pain at the pump. His attempt to convince citizens that he can “feel your pain” flies in the face of reality. Obama has an undeniable history of promoting the high energy prices that Americans are currently enjoying.
Beginning in 2008, then-Candidate Obama led a charge designed to increase the cost of nearly every kind of energy Americans currently consume. At the time, people chose to ignore his stated goal of limiting consumption, but the quotes are now coming home to roost. “Under my cap and trade plan,” Obama said, “electricity rates will necessarily skyrocket.” He even threatened to bankrupt anyone stupid enough to build a coal plant, saying that “if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can — it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”
Where oil is concerned, the president has an even longer, equally dismal record. In 2008, noted physicist and vocal global warming advocate Steven Chu told The New York Times, “Somehow, we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” His goal was to increase the cost slowly, over the course of 15 years. Parity with the Europeans would have Americans paying between $8 and $10 a gallon. Shortly after his New York Times interview, Chu was appointed U.S. energy secretary and the administration started implementing his recommendations.
Since then, Obama has kept his boot on the throat of the oil industry in every possible way. After taking office, the president drastically slowed the rate at which deepwater drilling permits were issued, forcing oil rigs and the jobs they create to abandon the Gulf of Mexico. Later, using the BP disaster to justify his actions, the president imposed a complete moratorium on such permits — a ban the Louisiana courts eventually found to be illegal. Obama’s administration refused to comply with the court ruling, was found in contempt and was eventually forced to begin issuing permits again. Still, the administration has done so at a diminished rate, and has imposed a massive swath of new regulation.
More damaging to the president is his refusal to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, the $7 billion project which would have created over 20,000 jobs and brought oil to the United States from Canada. The rejection of the pipeline baffled even many Democrats, with former President Bill Clinton calling it something “we should embrace.” Most recently, the president personally lobbied congressional Democrats, urging them to kill a bill that offered the pipeline a second chance.
All of this has happened as the retail cost of gas has risen to a national average of $4 per gallon. If the usual trends hold, that price will continue to rise throughout the summer. Some experts now predict that by the end of the season, we could be paying as much as $6 at the pump. If true, filling a 15-gallon tank will set Americans back a whopping $90.
High gas prices diminish one of our most basic freedoms: mobility. Sadly, the president views high gas prices as just another part of his plan to curtail consumption. In February of this year, Energy Secretary Chu was asked if lowering gas prices was a priority. “No,” he replied, “the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil.”
Through his statements, appointments and actions, the president has provided voters with a crystal clear understanding of his intent. In order to minimize its usage, energy should be as expensive as possible. This isn’t some vague, difficult-to-define argument that only affects a certain segment of the population. Nor is it a matter, as Obama would like us to believe, of him “not doing enough.” On the contrary, he’s done far too much — all of it is detrimental, and all of it is by design.
The pain you feel at the pump? It’s not Obama’s problem. It’s his goal.
Robert Laurie is a Michigan-based conservative columnist and freelance writer. He also runs a daily political commentary blog at RobertLaurie.net.