David Lias nicely dissects Senator John Thune's deceptive decrials of rising gas prices. Of all possible numbers, gas prices are the one economic indicator posted prominently in every town in America (well, except for Norris, South Dakota, where apparently you can't keep a gas station open without also resorting to the culture-wrecking force of alcohol). When we see gas prices everywhere, politicians can too easily associate them with everything.
(Just curious: how might our lives and economic perceptions be different if we posted the unemployment rate and GDP on the corner of Main Street in every town in America?)
Perhaps Senator Thune should take a cue from his pick for the White House, Mitt Romney. The eventual nominee said on CNBC Wednesday that "I think people recognize that the president can't precisely set the price at the pump." (Funny that Romney couldn't just state the facts without running it through the filter of both his opinion and the recognition of people in general... but then that inflated rhetorical structure perhaps indicates something about Romney's conditioned responses.)
Lias cites Rob Perks, who makes Romney's point more forcefully:
The fact is, as a global commodity, gas prices rise and fall due to a number of factors: crude oil prices, refinery capacity, increasing demand and political unrest in oil-producing countries. It seems like some people think the Constitution guarantees Americans the "right" to cheap gas, but the only price that is right is whatever the market will bear. That's why no president can control what we pay at the pump. Any politician that says otherwise is trying to sell the public snake oil [Rob Perks, "Empty Promises, Empty Gas Tanks," National Resources Defense Council: Switchboard, 2012.03.06].
Wishing for $2.50-a-gallon gas won't make it so. And blaming the President for $4-a-gallon gas won't make the causal connection true.