Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Word About Gas Prices

Newt Gingrich released a stream of lies, half-truths and twisted facts in his oddly triumphant failure speech on Super Tuesday. But it wasn't his twisting of the truth that bothered me. It was the truth, out of context. And that is, gas prices when President Obama took office on January 20, 2009.

Yeah, $1.61 gas lasted a long time, didn't it? Image from
Newt said gas prices were below $2 per gallon on Inauguration day, and he wasn't wrong. But he wasn't fair either. Because that was the nadir of gasoline prices during a very volatile time. During President Bush's last year, gasoline prices soared to--as yet--still unprecedented levels. The average price got as high as $4.12, and I personally paid over $4.65 in California in June of 2008.  But take a look at that chart. Gas prices plunged in a never before seen way. From north of $4 to below $2. It then hit an uptick at the end of December, 2008. The direction changed three weeks before Obama was inaugurated.

So, when you hear the line that gas was cheap, and "Obama's policies" made it go up, you can chalk some of that up to timing more than policies. No way did an Obama policies make gas go above $2 in his first three months. And in no way can you take January 2009's average gas price as some sort of baseline, or usual price. It just wasn't. Context is everything, but perception unfortunately often rules the day.

Conclusion: Newt knows all of this, but doesn't provide context because he thinks the people listening to him won't know the difference. That--to me--shows a contempt for his audience: us. I don't like that, do you?

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