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Mitt Romney's misrepresentation of gas prices

Republicans love to talk about gas prices.
End-of-summer gas prices in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Sue Ogrocki/AP Photo)
End-of-summer gas prices in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Republicans love to talk about gas prices. During Tuesday’s presidential debate Mitt Romney said, “When the president took office, the price of gasoline here in Nassau County was about $1.86 a gallon. Now, it's $4.00 a gallon.” You know what, Mitt Romney is right -- but there is an important reason why.

The simple answer is demand. When President Obama came into office we were in the midst of a credit crisis. Everything in our economy was stalled. No one was buying. No one was selling. This means the transportation of goods nearly ceased. If there are no goods bought or sold there's no need for transportation resulting in no demand for gasoline. And there goes the price of gas.

Obama countered Romney's argument at the debate. “Think about what the governor just said. He said when I took office, the price of gasoline was $1.80, $1.86 -- why is that?" He added, "Because the economy was on the verge of collapse; because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression."

The president finally set the record straight, telling voters what he believes a Romney White House would do to gas prices. Obama said, “So it’s conceivable that Governor Romney could bring down gas prices, because with his policies we might be back in that same mess.”

Let's look at the price of gas in July, 2008. It was about $4.20. At that time, crude oil prices were skyrocketing to record highs due a speculative bubble, which in turn created record high gas prices. So when the economy crashed it brought everything else down with it.

So, yes, Romney is right. Gas prices are much higher today than when President Obama took office, but the main reason why is he came in as the economy was at its lowest point during the great recession.

This is a factual truth the GOP has adored to manipulate. The truth is neither a Romney nor an Obama White House really has the ability to effect gas prices one way or the other. That fact, though, never seems to stop politicians from exploiting the issue.