Flat Hat blogger Beth Sutherland continues her posts on the 2008 presidential election. See all posts from the Election 2008 blog.
The following is the first of a three-post response to a Barack Obama supporter’s complaints about the George W. Bush administration.
The argument was played out via Facebook messages (talkin’ ‘bout my generation …) but is too relevant to stay tucked away in my inbox. My friend’s complaints were as follows: (1) we’ve lost countless jobs, (2) prices on food and energy have gone up, (3) oil companies are making a huge profit. Apparently, everything that’s wrong with the world today is Bush’s fault — and each of those things has a solution in Barack Obama.
This is utterly and incomprehensibly wrong, and voters need to know it. Stay tuned to this blog for the rest of my argument.
Your first complaint is that “we’ve lost countless jobs” during Bush’s administration. Melodramatic, false, and disingenuous. During Clinton’s administration, unemployment was at about 7.5 percent. During Bush’s, it has been very low, at about 4.5 percent. Recently, it has risen to about 5 percent, making about 2.5 percent the “countless” margin to which you refer. (A), that’s asinine. That’s the kind of increase that wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow under Clinton, (B) give credit where credit is due; thanks to Bush, we’ve lowered overall unemployment by about 3 percent, thanks partially to his tax cuts, (C) the socialist governments of Europe (lauded by American liberals, in their ignorance) have unemployment rates of about 12-15 percent, varying.
Come on. Put things into perspective. Better yet — don’t even put things into perspective, and things come out looking good for the Bush administration. I don’t think that I can convey to you (or anyone) how sick I am of the positively erroneous slander the Bush administration has endured. Thanks mostly to the media, but also to oversimplified liberal propaganda and average Americans’ ignorance and unwillingness to look beneath the surface. It’s times like these that I wish I hadn’t given up my government major, because the casual apathy masked as emotional passion taken up by your run-of-the-mill college student is so lazy and not-thought-through, it’s embarrassing. By the way, to clinch the point, an unemployment rating of either 3 or 4 percent (I can’t remember which) is almost unavoidable because that’s low enough that it inevitably ends up including people who choose not to work or cannot work — due to a comfortable reliance on welfare or to unavoidable disability. So, taking that into consideration, there are hardly any ‘lost’ jobs for which Bush is responsible. And guess where those lost jobs and the rest of this economic slump comes from?
The oil crisis.
Which brings me to your second complaint. That of rising food and oil prices. They go hand-in-hand, so we’ll deal with them together. The economic slump has been due almost entirely to the rising cost of oil. (Not due too much to war, despite popular misconception, though we have been borrowing tons of money where instead we could be asking the people to sacrifice. Like we used to. But Americans are unwilling to sacrifice anymore, because we’ve become spoiled and a little decadent). Your basic food item travels about 1,500 miles to your kitchen table. It takes oil to get it there. Because food/other companies have to pay for this increasingly expensive transportation, they have to raise their prices. Okay, so that accounts partially for food. But why the oil increase? According to you and many Democrats/liberals, it’s because of a corrupt Bush administration and greedy oil robber barons. Asinine. I can’t believe people get away with spewing these ridiculous accusations. If the average American did any research at all, opinions would change at the drop of a hat. (Actually, they’ve begun to change. Only about twenty percent of Americans still think that oil companies are to blame for rising prices).
Oil prices have increased due to a number of economic factors. One is the increased demand for oil coming from China and India — rapid, up-and-coming, industrializing nations that require oil to fuel their growth. Another reason is the dollar has declined in value. This decline, though, ultimately benefits us, because while it might suck to privately go shopping in London (and it does) — this still benefits our trade balance. More nations buy more goods from us now, because they can afford to.
No. Oil companies are not reaping these bountiful benefits from increased oil prices. You said that Mobil reported its second-best quarterly profit in history. That means nothing! Of course they did, because of rising prices. It’s profit margin, not profit that dictates what the companies actually get to keep. Come on. This myth of the greasy oil robber baron, growing rich at the expense of the average American is just that: absolute malarkey.
Think about it. US oil companies only run 2-4 percent of the oil market. They don’t have a monopoly — certainly not enough to control prices. In fact, we’re dwarfed by state-run oil rigs — run by dictators now in countries where we helped build their oil infrastructure. Like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. While their governments are inextricably linked to their national oil businesses — ours is not. (And Republicans want to keep it that way; more later). When suppliers raise prices on oil, our oil companies have to raise prices simply to maintain a profit. ‘Profit’ is what you make; ‘profit margin’ is what you keep. Well, the extra that they make, thanks to higher prices, goes to pay for replacement oil, now more expensive. They have to raise prices in order to keep supplying customers. Goodness gracious. They do not get to keep all that is their profit. They keep the same amount. Occasionally, because the market shifts, they have a windfall profit. They did the work to get the oil here; they supplied it; they transported it; they dealt in business transactions with other nations. They should get to keep that profit! When it happens. Your Democrats would take those windfall profits for the government. I have such a moral/political problem with that. What the heck did the government do to supply the U.S. with that oil — that they can rob the oil companies of that occasional profit? It’s unfair. It’s not capitalism. Anyway, it’s a question of misusing economics terminology, and misunderstanding the system.
Keep reading this blog for the rest of my argument.