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Non-Economist Begalka Says Obama Lowers Gas Prices, Hates America

Last updated on 2012.11.11

District 4 Senate candidate Steve Street says his opponent, Senator Tim Begalka, posted the following nonsense on Facebook Tuesday:

"Just as I predicted a couple months ago when gas was at its highest, Obama has seen to it that gas prices keep falling before election day. If that America-hater somehow gets re-elected, I GUARANTEE [we] will see the highest gas and electricity prices ever. Our security, productivity, wealth, and economy will be crippled [Sen. Tim Begalka, Facebook post, quoted by Rep. Steve Street, Facebook post, October 30, 2012].

Oh, Tim, where to start?

First of all, Begalka is correct that gasoline prices are down:

Gasoline Prices, Canada and U.S., October 2012

Hey, what's that blue line? Oh, it's Canada's gasoline prices, which have dropped just like U.S. gasoline prices. I'm sure Tim will explain to us that parallel decreases in Canada's gas prices just show that President Obama is controlling our northerly neighbors' gasoline market as well.

Gasoline prices did drop a bit more Friday because of direct action by the President: he issued a Jones Act waiver to allow foreign tankers to haul fuel from domestic ports to the East Coast to mitigate the shortages caused by Hurricane Sandy. Gee, Tim, that doesn't sound like America-hating political manipulation; that sounds like responsible crisis management.

But on the whole, Begalka is just peddling the same economic lie that his fellow Republicans U.S. Senator John Thune and District 16 Senator Dan Lederman have trotted out at various points this year that the President controls gasoline prices. Mitt Romney himself punctured that lie in March (oh, the irony, using Mitt Romney to fact-check Republican double-talk).

Tim fails to recognize that over the last 20 years, according to Energy Information Administration data, October has brought an average decline in gasoline prices of 2.7%. The 8.1% decline on the Gas Buddy chart is larger than average, but not greater than October declines seen in 2001, 2006, and 2008. Demand is down in October, and gasoline producers are shifting to the cheaper winter blend of gasoline.

The fluctuations in gasoline prices result from much broader economic forces than the machinations of the man in the White House. But suppose President Obama could somehow change the numbers on the BP signs. If you were the CEO of BP, would you fall for it? If gasoline prices could decide an election, wouldn't the CEO of BP call up his pals at Exxon, Shell, etc. and say, "Hey, fellas! Jack 'em up, and we can get Romney in to let us drill everywhere!"? Wouldn't you buck the market for just a month to get four years of blissful crony-capitalism?

On top of his economic cluelessness, Begalka bares his bumpkin teeth by declaring the President an "America-hater." He's not quite putting up a new sign for the Circle H Motel in Lake Andes, but he's playing to that nasty, fearful, and wholly counterfactual sentiment that Barack Hussein Obama can't love America. We can disagree on the wisdom of various policies, but Tim Begalka has no more power than I to see into any man's soul. We can only look at the words and actions of others. At every turn, President Barack Obama's words and actions make clear that he loves and believes in America as much as Tim or I or anyone else.

District 4, you deserve better. Don't pick a state senator who panders to the unthinking and hateful. Lower Tim Begalka's gasoline bill by sparing him any more drives to Pierre. Maybe taking him out of the political pressure cooker will help him realize that accusing your opponents of hating America is a cheap and wrong-headed political tactic.


  1. Bree S. Post author | 2012.11.03

    Well I don't think you could say that it would be impossible for him to find a way to affect gas prices. After all he does have friends in high places, and the oil supply and refining industries are oligopolies. Let's not forget that Obama is the only President in history to bow to the Saudi King. Now whether or not this is an entirely natural market effect or whether there is a purposeful uptick in supply or refining - I don't personally care. But you can't imply that Begalka is crazy for believing the second view, because it is possible. And the America-hater comment is probably an over the top reference to the "Obama is an anti-colonialist" theory posited by the 2016: Obama's America movie.

  2. Stan Gibilisco Post author | 2012.11.03

    Oh yah, Obama hates America all right. Just see how the hate oozes from his every pore toward Americans in the wake of storm Sandy.

    Obama forcing gas prices down? In bed with the oil companies, is he? Seems to me that the big oil companies would more likely raise gas prices in an attempt to hurt him.

    If Obama is in bed with big oil, then Romney would ... ooooooo, me and my filthy mind. (Shame on me. Good fodder for a bad novel, though.)

    That chart with the pretty lines: How do I know it isn't completely made up? In today's brave new media world, such is as likely as not.

    I haven't noticed any drop in gas prices in Lead. I simply drive as little as possible.

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