May 2 (Bloomberg) — Hillary Clinton and John McCain are both pushing a “gas-tax holiday” to give consumers an 18.4- cent-a-gallon price break. Clinton says the plan will take excess profits from oil companies. McCain says it will help families buy school supplies.
Economists have a different take: They say the oil companies may end up the biggest beneficiaries, while the aid to families wouldn’t be enough to buy a $35 backpack.
The trouble with the plan, they say, is that oil prices are rising because of low supplies, and companies will continue to charge the average $3.60 a gallon and just pocket the money that would have gone to federal taxes.
“That’s $10 billion, and it’s going into the pockets of oil refiners,” said Leonard Burman of the Tax Policy Center in Washington. “The last time I checked, they didn’t need it.”
Supplies are “being cleared at the current price,” said Donald Parsons, an economics professor at George Washington University in Washington. “If you take away the tax, you’ll have the same number of consumers willing to buy the gas at the same total price.”
Or how about Tom Friedman’s take in the Times yesterday:
It is great to see that we finally have some national unity on energy policy. Unfortunately, the unifying idea is so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away. Hillary Clinton has decided to line up with John McCain in pushing to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for this summer’s travel season. This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.
When the summer is over, we will have increased our debt to China, increased our transfer of wealth to Saudi Arabia and increased our contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit.
I sat and listened to several so-called expert pundits this morning on cable “news” channels telling me how smart Clinton and McCain are on this and how Obama, who opposes the gas tax holiday, just doesn’t understand what “blue collar voters” want. They said this, even though most agreed it’s a thin gimmick that won’t have much impact on anyone and could even be harmful.
I think it’s an insult to working people to assume they’re not smart enough to figure out when they’re being hoodwinked. You can’t call them bitter, but I guess It’s OK to assume they’re stupid.