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Your Take: Do You Blame Presidents for Gas Prices?

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Politics is a funny game. Every time gas prices go up, the party that’s out of power blames the part that’s in power for the increase. President Obama’s a Democrat and so the Republicans blame him for higher gas prices. When President Bush was in office, Democrats blamed Bush for higher gas prices. When prices go down, one party will take credit and the other will try to argue that President’s can’t affect gas prices. In reality, only one thing is true – Presidents can do very little to affect the short term price of gasoline. It’s just the reality of the global marketplace, foreign exchange, and a litany of other factors that one person, let alone one country, cannot change.

But how many people actually believe the rhetoric? It’s like soccer players falling after being barely touched and crying foul – almost everyone knows it’s just a ploy (especially once they get up and continue playing like nothing happened).

Do you think a President can affect gas prices and if so, why?

{ 80 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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80 Responses to “Your Take: Do You Blame Presidents for Gas Prices?”

  1. Traciatim says:

    If you believe anything a politician says ever, then you are an idiot.

    • money says:

      Ha – I like that.

      Seriously, the reason gas prices are so high is because of the fiscal policy being pursued by the president and the need for monetary policy to accommodate it. In other words, since the administration spends more than the government can tax and borrow, the Fed must in effect print the rest, which means the dollar is going to lose value. So higher gas prices are a tax – the inflation tax – just as are rising food prices and everything else that is going up.

      So if you want big government but don’t want to pay directly for it through taxation, you will have to pay for it with higher prices.

      The president can do something right now to affect gas prices. Stop spending so irresponsibly.

      • John Doe says:

        You are an idiot. Why don’t you blame the speculators instead of the president. You must be a republican.

  2. tom says:

    Not at all.

    Republicans are idiots for trying to post blame to Obama and Democrats are idiots for blaming Bush. Anyone with half a brain would know that instability in the Middle East causes short term swings in market pricing. Just a year or so ago, people were saying that oil prices could reach $200 a barrel.

    Here’s the biggest problem: You think that almost everyone knows it’s a ploy, but that’s not true. Most Americans are not as logical or intelligent as you or your readers. Let’s be honest here, most Americans are swayed by stupid political ads and are too lazy to do any research on their own. They’ll believe the moon is made of swiss cheese if you put it on TV. The average American is lazy and stupid.

    So… I don’t believe Obama is responsible, but I do believe most Americans do.

    Man, do I sound cynical or what? Ever see the beginning of Idiocracy?

    • partee875 says:

      I wholeheartedly agree with everything you just said!

    • Jim says:

      Idiocracy is scary, I hope it remains a parody and doesn’t become a documentary. :)

    • cubiclegeoff says:

      I only watched Idiocracy because it looked weird and I was in a weird mood, and it has been referenced a lot over the last few years (and I referenced it just the other day). The rest of your comments are right on.

    • Gary says:

      I agree we have been down this road before.
      People are so stupid to think one person has
      the power to control the price at the pump
      do not even realize how dumb that is.

    • govenar says:

      But what causes instability in the Middle East? Some people would probably argue that it’s related to decisions made by the US. (just to play devil’s advocate…)

    • Heather says:

      Nice set of charts, that helps thanks. Interesting that us supply of oil has ticked up significantly during Obama administration, while dependence on foreign oil has gone down. So looks like global demand is to blame. Though after Enron, I’m always suspicious of other factors like futures trading. I realize this kind of trading is necessary for some businesses, but I am suspicious that it has gotten out of hand and is just a leech on the economy.

      • Gary says:

        Good point and we now have more oil rigs
        pumping then any place in the world.
        drill baby drill will not bring down the
        price alone even though we are using less the rest of the world is using more.

  3. Bart says:

    Traciatim,
    You are 100% correct.

    Sure, tensions in the middle east cause price swings, but I think the biggest driver of increasing oil prices has to do with massive government spending. This out of control spending weakens the dollar which drives up the cost of everything.

  4. Glenn Lasher says:

    It really depends on what the President is doing, and whether or not that exacerbates or relieves the problem.

    The problems in the 70′s were failed foreign policy.

    More recent fuel price problems, however, have been due to dwindling supplies, and instabilities elsewhere in the world.

    • Jim says:

      That said, I think we’d all agree that there’s very little in the short term a president can do. Imagine if we really were energy independent and relied more heavily on the stuff we had in abundance (natural gas, wind, solar) starting in the 1980s… but then it couldn’t be used a political football by either party.

    • timparker says:

      Although it hasn’t been proven beyond doubt, speculation in the investment markets has contributed to the problem. The amount of oil futures contracts bought and sold grossly surpasses the amount of physical supply on the market. It wouldn’t solve the problem but margin requirements on oil need to be even higher.

    • Aaron says:

      Gas prices in the 1970s were NOT because of failed foreign policy. It was fallout from US demand outpacing its domestic production capacity. The choice was made to try to try to reduce demand instead of succumbing to a reliance on foreign oil.

      There’s plenty of debate as to if that was a wise policy decision or not. But to be clear, the problem wasn’t caused by poor foreign policy choices.

  5. mannymacho says:

    I think with every policy (efforts of Congress and the Executive Branch) there are winners and losers. Just depends on the policies that affect oil companies and gas prices are pushed by a certain party or not. Taxes are paid on every single gallon of gasoline, so sure, these can be manipulated to affect the price.

    • tom says:

      Incorrect… That is what politicians want you to think. Look up gas price breakdowns. 71% is oil prices, 14% is taxes, and 15% is refining/shipping/selling.

      Politicians cannot do anything to adjust this ratio, other than the taxes and they can’t and won’t agree on that. Today’s politicians cannot pass any legislation to affect any oil prices. It all comes down to the market and how investors perceive middle east stability.

  6. Lee says:

    In 2008, Steven Chu stated (notice the quotes), “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.”

    In 2009 Obama taps him to be the new Secretary of Energy. Since becoming our Energy Czar, he has also said that he’s not interested in lowering gas prices but rather he’s interested in weaning us off of oil.

    So is this administration unhappy about high gas prices? Nope. Do they want them to go up even more? yep.

    And this stays out of the news. Why? B/c the news is slanted in a very bad way.

    Lately, secretary Chu has recanted all of this. In an election year, he changed his mind on this hot topic. Big surprise. But during this change of heart, he didn’t state any plans to help alleviate high gas prices. No opening reserves, nothing. He just no longer thinks it’s a good idea. But he won’t be behaving any differently.

    This administration is making decisions (or passively not making them) that will keep the prices high without any relief in sight.

    • cubiclegeoff says:

      Actually it was in the media recently, on NPR the other day. Having said that, it’s ridiculous to think as a strategist that he would want higher gas prices since higher gas prices, regardless of what has been said by him or his administration in the past, hurts an incumbent president. And I doubt he wants to give up his job.

      Also, most factors, as others have said, related to gas prices are out of the control of the president in the short term. In the very long term something can be done, but we refuse to think long-term.

      • Jim says:

        Here’s an interesting dynamic – higher gas prices are usually caused by higher oil prices. Oil prices are affected by demand and the thinking is that greater demand means greater economic activity. So in some respects, you want higher oil prices if they’re driven by demand, not by activities in the Middle East and other oil producing countries. So you don’t want higher gas prices, but you’re ok with higher oil prices if it’s driven by increased demand as a result of economic activity.

        • cubiclegeoff says:

          Interesting way of thinking about it, and I never thought about it that way, but its true. And it emphasizes that we need energy from ways that are more in our control and less susceptible to global market demand if we want to have the energy we need for a growing economy.

          • cubiclegeoff says:

            Having said all that, it’d be interesting to see someone write an article about why economic growth is necessary and what the point of it is. I can see you need it to support a growing population, but I’m not sure what the whole point is of need continual economic growth into perpetuity.

        • Gary says:

          Your right but do not forget about big banks
          making billions by speculating in oil futures.
          I see it adds another 50 cents to a gallon of gas.

    • freeby50 says:

      “And this stays out of the news.”

      Really? Its not plastered all over Foxnews.com?

    • ScorpioLady says:

      Did YOU not read the article numnuts.

      Presidents can do very little to affect the short term price of gasoline. It’s just the reality of the global marketplace, foreign exchange, and a litany of other factors that one person, let alone one country, cannot change.

  7. Alan says:

    Gas prices are mainly affected by what’s going on over in the middle east and these stupid speculators who drive up the price when nothing has really happened.

    One of the ways the president can lower gas prices is to release a large amount of reserves into the market. See Clinton, those where the good old days where $0.99/gallon was considered expensive :(

    • Jim says:

      I’d like to think reserves, like emergency funds, are for emergencies… not just to relieve a few cents off at the pump.

      • Alan says:

        Yup, which is why they’re not going to release it.

        However, Obama did release a little bit to quell the prices last year. Since its an election year, who knows…They might release more right before the election just to get more votes.

        • David M says:

          I do not think that would be a good political move.

          I think he would be MORE likely to release if this was NOT a election year, just my opinion.

  8. cubiclegeoff says:

    I’m surprised no one has specifically mentioned China and other developing countries and their thirst for oil. This is a big part of what’s going on.

    • David M says:

      The US uses much more per person than China does. There increased demand may be a cause for gas prices to go up – however, I would definately never agree that they are to blame for gas prices going up.

      We have no one to blame but ourselves.

  9. David says:

    Oil is a world-wide commodity so its price is largely set by world-wide demand. Other other things will have a big effect on the price, such as wars and political (in)stability. Obviously wars and political instability in oil-producing regions can effect the ability to ship the oil which will be manifested at the pump. If a currency loses its value (for example, through inflation), the price of oil in that currency will increase. I think any President’s policies can effect the price of oil to the extent that the policies impact on inflation, war, and political instability in the oil-producing regions. Probably a few other things, too. Even if the Keystone pipeline doesn’t change the price to us of a world-wide commodity, I think it should be built and that we should drill, for the simple reason that we need our own easily obtained supply of fuel to safe guard against a major interruption of the supply. Can you imagine how much the price would increase here if the supply from the Middle East were cut off, that is, if the world-wide commodity were not available? Then the price would be dictated by local supply and demand.

  10. Budtillery says:

    Supply and demand, simple and true.

    • Casavvy says:

      Agree 100%. But we have our own supply of oil here in the U.S. In the oil rich countries, for example, Venezuela, gas is around $0.18 per gallon (this is a conversion) and this is because they have an abundance of supply. Yes they probably do not have the demand that the U.S. has but it would still help a lot if we created our own supply therefore eliminating our dependancy on other foreign countries.

  11. Wen says:

    I do blame the president. his monetary policy inflates the currency making everything more expensive.

    And since oil is traded in dollars, the price of oil has to go up.

  12. David M says:

    I might blame President Obama for 5% percent of the increase in the gas prices – definately no more than that.

  13. kadota1 says:

    When a president restricts drilling/exploration on federal land like obama has done, yes he is responsible for price increases. Just the fact of allowing off shore and in Alaska drilling psychologically keeps prices down as there is expectation of more US generated oil. This is merely one of this guys’ many failures. When you elect an anti-American who wants to totally change our culture and beliefs–you get and deserve this.

    • Aaron says:

      We greatly increased supply of oil by making the choice of accepting foreign oil dependence in the 1980s post-Carter. And here we are today, complaining about gas prices.

      The world isn’t as simple as you’re making it sound. You can’t just drill, and prices will go magically down.

  14. syekiM says:

    If you must blame someone look to the speculators. Any comment/action from an oil supplying country drives the oil price up. What I’d like to know is what American oil companies DO with all the subsidies our government gives them. And if the proposal to cut off those subsidies were to pass, the price of oil & gasoline would surely jump up. Not a pleasant prospect. We need to become less oil dependent as a country. Wind power, solar power but NOT these coal-fired plants being pushed by the conservative segment of the energy market. And this pipeline for oil from Canada heading south will NOT benefit this country enough to matter, either. See NPR’s report on that.

  15. No way. The Prez doesn’t own the oil companies, so he doesn’t set the prices. Sure, he may factor in a little bit, but greed is the biggest factor without a doubt.

  16. ImpulseSave says:

    I think it would be pretty simple-minded to blame just one person in a government and economy as complex as our’s is. Sure, politics have something to do with the gas prices, but the small fluctuations we see even over a couple of months probably have very little to do with a specific action from one man. It takes a while for economic policies to trickle down and affect something like gas prices – and I find it ridiculous how politicians still try to take credit or place blame like this. How simple do they think we are?

  17. Adam Fist says:

    This is a good example of how anyone can pick any data set to make it fit their argument. Most readers on this website know that blaming the president for higher gas prices is just smoke. Why aren’t the gas price critics also bringing up where equity markets were in 2009 vs now?

    Regarding the use of the SPR, I agree that it should be used in emergencies. The most recent emergency that comes to mind is the petroleum supply disruption after Katrina.

    I think increased prices are being driven by the effects of Iran sanctions in the face of increasing world demand. So if the strategy was to isolate Iran then someone would have to expect higher oil/gas prices as a side effect.

  18. Ben says:

    The Democrats crucified Bush/Cheney over this same issue and Obama PROMISED HOPE AND CHANGE.
    The only change was for the worse and hope for a different administration is what we now have.

  19. Peter says:

    I don’t think the President can have much effect on short term gas prices. Any influence they can have would be more long term I would think in allowing more drilling, more refinery capacity and so forth.

    I saw it said on another site somewhere; If the President had any power over short term gas prices we would know because we’d see $1 gas every four years..

  20. NateUVM says:

    Do I blame the President for the US having some of the lowest fuel costs in the Western world?

    http://money.cnn.com/pf/features/lists/global_gasprices/

    No, no I do not.

    Of course, I’m also one of those nuts that thinks it would be GREAT if fuel prices DID go up. Not only would it be indicative of hightened economic activity (as Jim previously mentioned), but it might start to drive more innovation in “alternative” energy and energy conservation, which I’m all for.

    I’m also for ending the subsidies that the Oil Industry receives on the back of those that have to suffer the burden of budget cuts to social services, all while it turns out billions in profit.

    • Kyle says:

      Now, this is what everyone should be afraid of. Idiots like this.

      • NateUVM says:

        Someone who acknowledges that, relative to the rest of the world, we don’t pay that much for our energy consumption? Someone that doesn’t think it makes sense to keep giving Big Oil tax breaks on the back of John Q. Public? Right…

  21. freeby50 says:

    No.

    I do not blame any President for the price of gasoline in general. Nor should any President be given credit if gasoline prices happen to go down during their term.

  22. Ben says:

    Green energy is currently more pricey than fossil fuels. One of the stated goals of the administration is to make fossil fuels costly enough that Green options are more feasible.

  23. Prairie says:

    One of the few things I learned in Economics 101 was supply and demand drives prices. We have no control over the world-wide increase demand for oil products and gasoline but we do have control over how much we use. Although less demand would lower prices it would also increase our demand for more gasoline and more demand equals higher prices. It’s a no win situation.

    The President has no more control over gasoline prices than he does over the price of a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk or the beer you may enjoy after a long day.

  24. Mike says:

    I believe that if we have an abundance of supply like we have in natural gas, prices will eventually go down. Short term Obama can’t probably do much. Over the long term, an increase in supply here at home will mitigate any Geo-political headlines in the Middle East. Unfortunately for Obama, nothing he can do now will probably bring prices down before the election.

    • Matt says:

      Natural gas can not replace oil, it is to difficult to get from the ground (and bad for the environment)and we dont even now how much we have.


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