“Mush From the Wimp” was the title of a Boston Globe editorial about Jimmy Carter in 1980. The title, of course, was a mistake; it had been inserted as a joke by a headline writer who assumed it would be changed when the paper went to print. But it pretty well sums up how the public–even the Boston Globe!–felt about Carter by the last year of his Presidency.
The phrase has passed into immortality; we used it for a post title here. It’s worth remembering, though, what the Globe’s inadvertently-titled editorial was about: Carter’s ineffective, hair-shirt economic policies.
I don’t think Barack Obama is a wimp, but, like Carter, when he talks about the economy what he says is mush. The reason, I think, is that Obama shares Carter’s surprising ignorance of economic matters. A case in point is Obama’s most recent salvo on gas prices: “Obama vows crackdown on energy speculators.” Only a very foolish person could believe that the current high price of energy results from the fact that traders are “speculating,” and that the solution lies in more government regulation of commodities markets. But that is the theory that Obama is trying to sell to voters:
Sen. Barack Obama on Sunday said as president he would strengthen government oversight of energy traders he blames in large part for the skyrocketing price of oil.
The Democratic candidate’s campaign singled out the so-called “Enron loophole” for allowing speculators to run up the cost of fuel by operating outside federal regulation.
As we’ve said before, if the high price of oil were caused by groundless speculation, like the high price of Yahoo stock in 1999, we could all sit back and wait for the bubble to burst and the speculators to lose their shirts. That, unfortunately, is not the case, and no amount of government regulation is going to magically increase the energy supply. On the contrary.
The foolishness of Obama’s energy program does not stop there:
The campaign said Obama’s proposal is part of his broader energy strategy that calls for reducing oil consumption by 35 percent by 2030.
Of course, if the price of gasoline continues to rise, as Obama apparently wants and expects, to $7, $12, or $20 a gallon, we will indeed see significantly reduced consumption as the economy craters. But a growing population and growing economy will demand more petroleum consumption over the next 25 years, not less, even if a larger share of our energy needs are met by coal and by nuclear power (neither of which alternative Obama favors, of course). See, for example, this summary by the Energy Information Administration.
Obama apparently thinks he can fool voters even when the policies he proposes lack the barest hint of credibility. He might be right. But the laws of supply and demand are not fooled so easily, and if Obama as President actually tried to implement the policies he now advocates, his administration might well be a worse disaster than Carter’s.
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