Market forces and new technologies have created a growth in the supply of oil that has drastically reduced its price. With the price of oil “falling briefly below $50 per barrel for the first time since April 2009,” consumers have seen prices at the pump drop to $2.55 per gallon nationally. Lower gasoline prices might be fleeting, or they may linger for a while. But, lest the public spend the money they save on themselves and their families, Democrats are already pushing an initiative to snatch that money away. It’s incredible.
How much money are we even talking about? $550. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), “the average U.S. household is expected to spend about $550 less on gasoline in 2015 compared with 2014.” Heaven forbid. Democrats think the sudden windfall may spoil us. And, it is only $550 if current prices are static. Does anyone think gasoline prices won’t eventually rise again?
Anyway, no less than Lawrence Summers, a seasoned veteran of the Clinton and Obama economic teams, has seized on the drop in gasoline prices as another excuse for a carbon tax. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Summers calls a carbon tax “desirable” because “those who use carbon-based fuels or products do not bear all the costs of their actions.” Really? The market price plus the existing state and local taxes don’t cover the cost? How does anyone know that? American families – who have had Washington’s foot on their neck for most of the last decade – have stumbled upon some good fortune that will provide a little relief through lower gasoline prices, and what do the “smart people” want to do? Essentially, they want to grab that money and kick you to the curb. In other words, Summers and his ilk believe the government needs the money more than you do.
This may sound like a little demagoguery or hyperbole, but politically, I think this issue is a no-brainer. I would love to see some polling on whether or not people want to keep the money they are saving at the pump or pay more in taxes. And, I’m eager to see the ads that will run against candidates who support a higher gas tax just when a little relief has shown up. But it’s not just Democrats. Republicans should not be tempted either. Remember, as my friend Haley Barbour always says, we are not taxed too little, we spend too much.
There could be no better illustration of the liberal mindset than their quest to use falling gasoline prices as an excuse to raise taxes. They have an elitist notion that voters don’t deserve to keep their own money when Washington can take it and do more of whatever it is the government does.