Republican thinking on gas prices changes so frequently, it’s tough to keep up. Take the latest from Paul Ryan, for example.
The vice presidential candidate visited Google headquarters in Montainview to hold a Google+ Hangout where he took questions from supporters at campaign offices all over the country, including a question from a senior citizen in Florida named Ruth. She asked him how he was going to “improve the situation” of sky high gas prices.
“This is not just something that squeezes family budgets, it squeezes businesses,” Ryan answered. “It also gives us a bad foreign policy in that we are so dependent on other countries for our oil imports, it’s the biggest part of our trade deficit and so what’s frustrating about the Obama administration’s policies are they’ve gone to great lengths to make oil and gas more expensive.”
Now, it’s true that gas prices have increased in recent weeks, despite an increase in production. What’s not true is that the Obama administration has deliberately tried to make gas “more expensive.”
I’m curious, why would the president and his team want this? They wouldn’t, but even from Paul Ryan’s strange perspective, what makes a Republican think Obama, especially in an election year, would go to “great lengths” to make consumers pay more at the pump?
The larger GOP pattern continues to be quite silly. Last summer, with gas prices rising, Republicans accused Obama of doing this on purpose. This odd line was pushed by Haley Barbour and the Koch brothers, among others. When prices dropped, the argument went away. Then prices rose again, and the theory made a comeback, with prominent Republicans like Newt Gingrich, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, and assorted Fox News figures insisting higher gas prices are the “conscious policy of this administration.”
This is absurd. There’s ample room for a credible debate over energy policy, but we can’t have a serious discussion if Republicans are wedded to the notion that Obama deserves the blame when gas prices go up and the market deserves the credit when they go down. There is no button in the Oval Office that controls the cost of anything, including what you pay when filling your tank.