THE VINE APRIL 28, 2008
Barack Obama's talking sense on gas prices:
Obama spoke out against halting a tax on gasoline during the summer months, a move supported by Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, saying it may not bring down prices and would deplete a fund used for building highways.
"The only way we're going to lower gas prices over the long term is if we start using less oil," Obama said in Anderson.
As noted before, Obama's right on the merits here—a gas-tax holiday won't lower gas prices much, if at all, and it cuts against attempts to curb America's dependence on oil (for starters, those high gas prices already seem to be steering folks away from SUVs). But can Obama swing this politically? McCain's camp is already laying the demagoguery on thick: "Gas prices are at the all-time high, and instead of taking a strong stance for hard-working Americans, Barack Obama has backed away from his support for gas tax relief." Well, so much for any pretense of leadership from McCain on this issue—not to mention backbone.
So how does Obama navigate the gas issue? The pain at the pump isn't illusory, after all. Matt Yglesias recently suggested that Democrats talk up policies that make it easier for people to cope with higher prices, such as better public transit or stricter fuel-efficiency standards. All commendable ideas, but they won't do much for anyone in the short term—public transit, after all, takes years to build. If Obama actually can convince Americans that the era of cheap gas is over—that it's time to adjust rather than wish for things to go back to how they were—that'd be astounding, though it's easy to be skeptical...