Michael Gerson complains that Obama wants to tax oil companies:
High oil prices, like a walk under the summer moon, can drive normally rational people to do foolish things they later regret. For Barack Obama, it is a fling with a windfall profits tax on American oil companies - one of the most thoroughly discredited economic policies of the past few decades.Fair enough. I doubt that the tax would cause harm, but to me it seems like pandering - awfully similar to the gas tax holiday Obama was quick (and correct) to criticize. It would be much more sensible, for example, to instead repeal the billions of dollars in subsidies G.W. Bush has channeled to these energy companies. As you might expect, Gerson is silent on that possibility. But he makes it plain as day - once you pay your money at the pump to a domestic oil company, it's theirs.
Gerson goes on to whine that high oil prices are enriching "Persian Gulf states". (Don't forget Venezuela, Michael.) And those nations are doing crazy things, like investing the money, buying land overseas to ensure their future food supply, or, alas, exporting their way of life. Gerson then announces,
It should not surprise us that oil producers pursue their interests, excesses and ideologies with our money.No, Michael. Once we buy a barrel of oil from another country, our money belongs to them. That is, it becomes their money, just like when we buy gas from a domestic oil company.
But the massive transfer of wealth to some of the world's least responsible nations should disturb us. And confronting this problem - with rapid increases in auto fuel efficiency and the urgent encouragement of alternatives to oil - will involve a cost and commitment more general and more serious than a misguided windfall profits tax.Forgive my lapse of memory. Where was Michael Gerson when Dick Cheney declared, "Conservation may be a personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy"? Oh yeah....
You know, if those inside the Bush Administration at that time had through to increase auto fuel efficiency and encourage alternatives to oil, rather than cheering consumption and subsidizing the oil industry, we might not be having this discussion. It's nice that Gerson's eyes may be finally starting to open, seven or so years late, but really - what's his excuse for the lack of commitment and seriousness in the White House while this problem was developing?