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Why Republican talking points on gas prices are so embarrassing

The problem is not just that Republican talking points on gas prices are foolish. It's also that they made the exact same mistake a decade ago.


One of the first signs of trouble came in April, when Donald Trump held a virtual town-hall event with a Republican congressional candidate and devoted a fair amount of time focusing on gas prices.

As far as the former president was concerned, he and his team "had 'em below $2" per gallon, but now that he's gone from the White House, that's no longer the case. A month later, through his defunct blog, Trump pushed the same line, writing ahead of Memorial Day weekend, "I'm sorry to say the gasoline prices that you will be confronted with are far higher than they were just a short number of months ago where we had gasoline under $2 a gallon. Remember as you're watching the meter tick, and your dollars pile up, how great of a job Donald Trump did as President."

Some of his allies are picking up on the same line of attack.

Rep. Jim Jordan's name was trending Monday night on Twitter ... and once again it was for all the wrong reasons. The Ohio Republican attempted to pin a recent rise in gas prices on President Joe Biden.

The far-right congressman argued via Twitter that comparing June 2021 to June 2020, the average price for a gallon of gasoline has increased 86 cents. Jordan concluded his missive, "President Biden's economy!"

This really shouldn't be necessary, but in case anyone's confused, let's explain why this GOP talking point is such an embarrassment.

For now, let's put aside the nagging detail that American presidents have limited influence over the prices of global commodities. Instead, let's remind Jordan and Trump about Capitalism 101.

It's true that gas prices dropped last year, and they even fell below $2 per gallon in April 2020. But this wasn't the result of the then-president's visionary work on energy policy, it was because the economy had collapsed in the midst of a pandemic-driven recession.

This isn't complicated: when supply goes up and demand goes down, prices fall. And in 2020, demand fell sharply as more Americans worked from home, traveled less, and used fewer resources. Simultaneously, demand for other products slowed transportation of goods, which further depressed prices.

As the economy started to recover, gas prices climbed again. As conservatives really ought to understand, that's how the free market works.

In effect, Trump and Jordan are complaining about the effects of an economic recovery that intensified after Joe Biden became president -- and they're apparently expecting the public to ignore the relevant details.

What's more, as the White House has been eager to point out, gas prices in June 2021 are about the same as they were in June 2018, just as prices in May 2021 were about the same as they were in May 2018.

Would Republicans have us believe these details are evidence of Trump's failures as president in 2018?

Making matters just a little worse is the familiarity of the nonsense. In 2008, as the Great Recession took its toll, gas prices fell. It was entirely predictable: there was a global economic catastrophe, which naturally reduced demand for gasoline. As such, when Barack Obama first became president, gas cost about $1.81 a gallon.

Then, as the economy grew, demand increased, and prices grew -- at which point conservative Republicans blamed Obama.

It was deeply foolish. The fact that the same nonsense has re-emerged a decade later is worse, since the right really should've learned the basics the first time.