Gingrich Continues to Insult our Collective Intelligence

The notion that the President of the United States can guarantee a given per gallon price of gas is a fantasy (and, quite frankly, a lie).

Today I saw Gingrich interviewed and for the umpeenth time he pointed out that gas was $1.13/gallon when he was Speaker and was $1.87/gallon when Obama was inaugurated.  Of course in pointing out these facts he is not engaging in a time-based version of The Price is Right, but rather is suggesting that somehow he was responsible for the gas prices when he was Speaker and that the rise in gas prices over the last several years is Obama’s fault.

The highly annoying thing about all of this is that this isn’t how the price of gas is determined.  The thing is, Gingrich has to know this. And yet, he continues to make the assertion because he thinks it will persuade some people.  It makes me angry and Gingrich for being so transparently dishonest and it also make me angry for people who actually buy the line.  It is fundamentally depressing that anyone accepts this argument.

I also saw a commercial for Gingrich’s “$2.50 Plan” (video here) and it is similarly annoying because of the blatant dishonesty of the thing.  The notion that the President of the United States can guarantee a given per gallon price of gas is a fantasy (and, quite frankly, a lie).  Not only that, it strikes me as fundamentally opposed to alleged conservative notions about things like the market and limited government.

 

Yes, one can debate issues such as the XL Pipeline, off-shore drilling, and further domestic exploration.  But none of those things can be used to guarantee a specific at the pump price.  Further, the fundamental truth of the matter is that the market for oil is global and that any increase in domestic production would feed into that global market, not just the domestic market.

Indeed, the fact that domestic production is currently at an eight-year high and yet gas prices are on the rise underscores that Gingrich’s claim (i.e., that more domestic production will lead to lower gas prices) is false.  Empirical reality is a stubborn thing.

The main policy-linked driver of gas prices at the moment, by the way, is sabre-rattling over Iran, something that Gingrich is very much a part of.

And yes:  all politicians stretch the truth, make exaggerated claims, and even lie.  But this is not only a major pander (after all, almost everyone wants lower gas prices) but it is also blatantly, ridiculously, unequivocally fantastical.   It is the kind of thing that ought to rankle any intellectually honest individual regardless of partisan predilections.

And really, while Gingrich has done a fair job of convincing me that his intellect is far less impressive than he thinks it it, I am certain that he is no dummy and knows full well that this proposal is nothing but hogwash.  It is bad enough when politicians makes statement that are false when they don’t understand that fact, it is yet another when they tout claims that they have to know are untrue.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Gingirch’s $2.50 per gallon gas is the 2012 version of the idiotic Gas Tax Holiday that McCain and Hilary were pushing in 2008. Makes for good press, means nothing in reality.

  2. EMRVentures says:

    I don’t know why this is even a subject of analysis. Gingrich will say anything in his own interest, truthfulness is simply not an issue.

  3. @Doug Mataconis: I think this is actually several levels dumber and more dishonest than the gas tax holiday. At least with that idea, which was silly to be sure, one could at least claim a pittance of a reduction in the gas prices. He is pulling 2.50 out of his a**. Heck, why not claim a 1.00 if he is going to make stuff up?

  4. CB says:

    but ANWR! and keystone XL!

    i win the argument now, right?

  5. Lomax says:

    Everytime a president or Congress has threatened an investigation of the big oil companies, the price mysteriously starts dropping. Remember, though, that Nixon threatened to get some answers about the gas disaster of the ’70’s (price gouging, unexplainable shortages and long lines
    when there was a gas glut) and look what happened to him.

  6. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    It’s pretty hard to insult the collective intelligence of Zombieland. Have you seen some of the walking mannequins who make up our body politic?? Yikes.

    Putting that aside, this is a good post and I agree with its major premise. Gingrich cynically is playing to the lowest common denominator with bogus talking points. Not only does it have the stench of desperation it’s quite frankly unbecoming of a man who not so long ago was the 3rd ranking member in the U.S. government. Gingrich really is scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    Incidentally, and not to nitpick, but the No. 1 policy-based cause of such high gas prices is not sabre rattling with Iran. I work in the petroleum industry. There’s been a Middle East war-related risk premium built into oil futures since 9/11. War with Iran to a large extent already is priced in and has been priced in since Bush 43’s term in office. The price of oil and the price of gas are not completely tied together. Not to the extent you probably think.

    The main driver of high gas prices in this day and age is a lack of refining capacity. That’s a result of policies which date back to Carter’s EPA. We went decades without building a new refinery anywhere in the country and now we’re paying the price. Literally.

    Lastly, getting back to Gingrich and his ludicrous pandering on gas prices, the one saving grace about Santorum’s ascension to 2nd place is that it came at the expense of Gingrich. With Gingrich mired distantly in 3rd we basically can ignore him. That’s a good thing.

  7. Racehorse says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II: I do think if Truman was around, he would have the ceo’s of the oil companies toeing the line or they would be locked up. He would not put up with this foolishness.

  8. John Peabody says:

    George Bush installed the gas price dials in the Resolute desk in 2002. The price of gas is unchanged; Obama has just been dialing it up and pocketing the difference! (hey, it makes just as much sense as Newt!)

  9. JKB says:

    As this post over at Carpe Diem reveals, oil is under it’s historic average in gold. So unless gold comes down, gas will be going up.

    Now, why is it that gas prices are going up, well, because the FED flooded the economy with paper. So the only solution is for a massive hike in wages and entitlements to keep up with the inflation. But, of course, wages can’t rise with so much unemployment and entitlement payouts can’t rise without breaking the government even earlier that now projected. So, things will just get tighter and tighter for wage earners and retirees. Spending will contract, the recession will renew and the death spiral will continue.

    Now, Obama does have responsibility for blowing all the cash (reserve debt) on boondoggles and giveaways for special donors. And, he is on the record wanting higher gas prices, as in gas prices higher compared to wages. So he just might get a bit of the blame.

    The Keystone pipeline and domestic production that has been interfered with will be the reason we have to bear the brunt of the Iranian uncertainty increase. And if a hot war breaks out in the ME, well, then it will be a real big told ya so.

  10. Hugh says:

    OK, pick a number. Would fuel prices be lower with more oil drilled?

    The President’s “we can’t drill our way out of this” is another crazy straw man…almost nobody is arguing for drilling only, but to argue that drilling our own oil isn’t a partial solution and a benefit to Americans is, well, silly.

  11. Jenos Idanian says:

    Is anyone else having flashbacks to 2008, when then-candidate Obama called for a gradual increase in gas prices, and Secretary of Energy then-nominee Steven Chu said that he wanted the US to have gas prices more in line with Europe, which are currently running about $1-$3 higher than ours.

    If Obama can’t influence gas prices, why did he suppor the “gradual” raising of the price, and appoint an Energy Secretary whose explicit goal was to jack it up?

    But you’re right. It’s foolish to blame Obama for events occurring just like he promised to make happen.

  12. An Interested Party says:

    After reading some of the comments on this thread, it’s obvious that Gingrich isn’t the only one insulting our collective intelligence…

  13. Rob Prather says:

    Steven,

    Not to step on your headline, but every time Gingrich speaks, he’s insulting someone’s intelligence.

  14. Jenos Idanian says:

    @An Interested Party: I sincerely apologize for reminding you of what your guy promised back in 2008, now that it’s an inconvenient truth. I didn’t mean to insult your intelligence.

    You did that just fine on your own, without any help from anyone else.

  15. @Rob Prather: There is that.

  16. Ron Beasley says:

    In reality Steven, Gingrich is talking to people who have a collective intelligence – but those who will buy anything they want to hear. The Newsters not talking to us.

  17. David M says:

    @Jenos Idanian: That’s almost believable, but to really tie it together, you have to include something other than some old speeches. Maybe something how demand is up, imports are up and domestic supply is down due to the Administration’s actions…then you’d really have something. Unfortunately, demand is down, imports are down and domestic production is up, so for most of us, that would seem to move the cause of higher gas prices away from the Administration.

  18. ernieyeball says:

    The highly annoying thing about all of this is that this isn’t how the price of gas is determined. The thing is, Gingrich has to know this.

    Does he? Maybe he is just as deluded as Tricky Dick.

    in 1971, in response to rising inflation and a weakening economy, President Nixon imposed a series of economic measures including controls on wages and prices throughout a wide swath of the American economy.

    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/how-dick-cheney-donald-rumsfeld-helped-richard-nixon-implement-the-worst-idea-ever/

  19. al-Ameda says:

    Even George Will weighed in on Gingrich’s idiocy

    “Allen West from South Florida, a Republican, said he was outraged this week because it cost him $70 to fill his car,” Will said. “He drives a Hummer. Newt Gingrich said the American people have a right to demand $2.50 gas. They have a right to demand lobsters grow on trees. This is economic nonsense.”

  20. An Interested Party says:

    @Jenos Idanian: @ernieyeball: Awww, you poor egocentric dear, assuming that comment was all about you…

  21. An Interested Party says:

    Not quite sure how that happened, but obviously the previous was directed at Jenos only and not ernieyeball…after all, I’m sure Jenos wouldn’t want anyone else to hog all the attention…

  22. ernieyeball says:

    @An Interested Party: It must be the squirrels…

  23. Kylopod says:

    One thing I’ve noticed about Gingrich throughout this campaign is that he talks like someone who doesn’t have to worry he’ll ever become president. He’s been talking that way the whole time. Even when he was riding high in the polls in December, he said stuff like promising that his Secretary of State would be John Bolton. (He didn’t list Bolton as one possible choice for the position; he said that would be his Secretary of State, period.) It’s the kind of talk you associate with weird, marginal candidates such as Mike Gravel in 2008, who told a Jewish magazine that if he becomes president, and I quote, “I will bring peace between the Israelis and Palestinians and thereby diffuse the entire confrontation between the Islamic world and the West.”

    I’m not suggesting that serious candidates never make campaign promises they have no intention of keeping. What I’m suggesting is that if it sounds pie-in-the-sky enough, you’re likely dealing with a candidate who has the luxury of knowing he’ll never be held to his words, and therefore he can say whatever the hell he likes. What’s striking is not that Gingrich is like this, but that a candidate like him has enjoyed front-runner status multiple times in this race and even won the South Carolina primary, which up to now no Republican has ever won without going on to be the nominee. This fact more than any other confirms the feeling that we’re seeing the strangest presidential race in some time.

  24. Jenos Idanian says:

    @David M: OK, let me spell it out to you: why are Gingrich’s remarks such an “insult to our intelligence” when Obama’s quite similar comments from 2008 given a pass? Both men, as candidates, made promises to influence the price of gas.

  25. matt says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II: I would almost believe you if not for the fact that the number one export of the USA last year was fuel.. You know gasoline diesel etc…

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @matt: Never let it be said that Tsar let facts get in the way of a good argument.

  27. Ben Wolf says:

    @JKB:

    As this post over at Carpe Diem reveals, oil is under it’s historic average in gold. So unless gold comes down, gas will be going up.

    Gold does not affect oil prices

    Now, why is it that gas prices are going up, well, because the FED flooded the economy with paper.

    The Federal Reserve does not control the money supply.

    So the only solution is for a massive hike in wages and entitlements to keep up with the inflation. But, of course, wages can’t rise with so much unemployment and entitlement payouts can’t rise without breaking the government even earlier that now projected.

    So you want an inflationary event to somehow counter inflation.

    Now, Obama does have responsibility for blowing all the cash (reserve debt) on boondoggles and giveaways for special donors.

    There is no such thing as “reserve debt”. The federal government never runs out of reserves because spending creates reserves, it doesn’t drain them. Because of this the banking system always trends toward reserve excess.

  28. Kelsonus says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    But Obama promises gov’t intervention to substantially increase energy costs
    Mr Newt promises to get gov’t out of the way
    Marxism vs. Capitalism; a clear choice

  29. grumpy realist says:

    Better to increase gas taxes slowly to bring prices in light with those of Europe while taking the cash gained and using it to repair infrastructure and put $ in transportation and carbon sequestration.

    Why Americans think we have a god-given right to cheap gas makes no sense to me. The only way we’re going to get back to cheap gas is if the world’s economy crashes.

    I prefer high gas prices. High prices will squeeze out inefficiency.

  30. Hey Norm says:

    Was there ever any doubt that Gingrich could appeal to the Jenos vote…er…I mean…stupid vote?
    We are at an all-time high of oil production and prices continue to rise.
    The PPACA is reducing Medicare costs.
    10 years of historically low taxes have not created a lot of growth or jobs.
    Are Republicans ever right about anything? And given that they are evidently not…why do we keep listening to their BS?

  31. Dave Schuler says:

    No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.

  32. anjin-san says:

    Gold does not affect oil prices

    You must have missed the “revelation”…

  33. gVOR08 says:

    Taylor–lighten up. If you get angry every time a Republican politician tells a lie, you’re going to blow a gasket.

  34. JohnMcC says:

    @ernieyeball: Mr friend Mr Eyeball got here ahead of me with a reflection on the previous Republican attempt to make prices fit politics. I would only add that during the roughly 3 years that the attempt lasted (being dismantled by Mr Ford’s administration) there were periods that showed inflation of 14%. The inflation that scared the Republicans into trying to control the economy was 4%.

    Now explain why any Republican can be trusted to be near economic policies, eh?

  35. ernieyeball says:

    JohnMc: “Now explain why any Republican can be trusted to be near economic policies, eh?”

    I always thought these guys were fiscal wizards. No?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whip_inflation_now

    In his book The Age of Turbulence, Alan Greenspan as the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors recalled thinking “This is unbelievably stupid” when Whip Inflation Now was first presented to the White House.

  36. WR says:

    @Kelsonus: Oh, goodie, another idiot who has no clue what Marxism is, except maybe it has something to do with that Alinsky guy.

  37. An Interested Party says:

    Marxism vs. Capitalism

    A clear choice and a stupid, incorrect characterization…

  38. @An Interested Party:

    A clear choice and a stupid, incorrect characterization…

    Not to mention that anyone who promises he can control the price of a commodity is closer to a Marxist than a capitalist (not that Marxism is the appropriate label here at all).

  39. Ben Wolf says:

    @Kelsonus: If “government” (like it’s some monster with a singular will) wants fuel prices to go up all it has to do is: nothing.

  40. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Control? Not necessarily. Influence? Absolutely.

    What’s the tax on a gallon of gas?

    What’s the price of a Chevy Volt?

    How much of the price of a pack of cigarettes goes to taxes?

    Hell, the “minimum wage” is about controlling the value of a basic commodity — an hour of a person’s labor. And Obama has not only proclaimed his intention of influencing (upwards) the price of energy, but has taken quite a few steps towards doing just that.

    So, is he insulting our intelligence (and wasting our money) in those attempts?

  41. @Jenos Idanian: As usual, you really aren’t arguing the main issue, which is whether or not a President Gingrich could guarantee $2.50/gallon gasoline and therefore, by extension, whether such promises are problematic or not (or, indeed, an insult to the intelligence of anyone who hears said claim, save for those whose intellect is exactly the right size).

    In regards to the one issue of salience, the gas tax, that hasn’t gone up in some time. The federal tax on gasoline is somewhere south of .20 a gallon, so that is hardly the driver of the price of fuel.

    Mostly you are flailing about trying to make a partisan point when really all that is necessary here is to acknowledge the folly that is Gingrich’s claim, or to explain why it is somehow a valid claim and provide evidence to that effect. Cigarette taxes and the Volt aren’t such evidence, for the record.

    I know that the current talking point is that Obama is the sole and direct cause of current gas prices and I can fully understand, from an electoral and partisan political point of view, why such as argument is made. What I don’t understand, however, is how anyone who understands at all how these things work can take the claims seriously.

  42. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: As usual, you really aren’t arguing the main issue, which is whether or not a President Gingrich could guarantee $2.50/gallon gasoline and therefore, by extension, whether such promises are problematic or not (or, indeed, an insult to the intelligence of anyone who hears said claim, save for those whose intellect is exactly the right size).

    You’re right. Instead, I was responding to your digression — which apparently you didn’t appreciate.

    And then I compounded the offense by discussing how President Obama — as Candidate Obama — made it clear that under his administration, energy prices would “necessarily skyrocket” and his chosen Energy Secretary pledged to send gas prices soaring. And Obama also railed against high gas prices — which were significantly lower then than they are now.

    How rude of me to point out how many people whose “intelligence was insulted” by Gingrich were at least equally insulted four years ago — but they’re just fine with that.

  43. @Jenos Idanian:

    How rude of me to point out how many people whose “intelligence was insulted” by Gingrich were at least equally insulted four years ago — but they’re just fine with that.

    Not rude, just poorly argued. There is a difference between opining about the fact that conservation only occurs with higher prices and promising a specific price.

    In regards to the price question, I would recommend reading about Pigovian taxes and the fact tht they are supported, in regards to gasoline, by a number of conservative, if not self-identified libertarian, economists.