Friday, January 02, 2015

Sen. Mike Lee predicts $6 a gallon gas and fails

In 2012, Sen. Mike Lee predicted that we would see $6 a gallon gas before the end of the 2nd term of Obama's presidency - if Obama were re-elected. Too bad he's not an economist, or he might not have made that prediction. I note also that I don't see him apologizing for his error or explaining to his constituents (I'm one of them) that he was wrong and that he might have known about that when he was grandstanding in the Senate.

Mr. Lee isn't the only one. Several others made bold predictions of Obama's second term and they were wrong. The point here is that when we look upon Mr. Lee, we need to remember that despite his pontifications, he's not an economist.

Conservatives like Mr. Lee are not merely wrong on their contentions about gas prices, they are spectacularly wrong. In many states across the country, people can buy regular unleaded gasoline for less than $2 a gallon. Today, according to the AAA, the national average for gas is $2.24. How could they be so bold and not be held accountable?

It seems to me that Mr. Lee's prediction had more to do with scoring points with constituents than scoring points with economists - no surprise there. First, let's dispense with any theory that President Obama had or has any power over gas prices. The price we pay at the pump has more to do with worldwide demand and supply than with our puny oil production capacity. The fact is, even with fracking and other advanced oil extraction technologies, our oil production capacity pales in comparison with OPEC countries, even the smallest of them. Apparently, unbeknownst to Mr. Lee, there are economists who do the math to figure this stuff out. Did he even bother to ask anyone else, or is he just making this stuff up?

Now we come to the main point I want to make. If Mr. Lee can be so wrong about gas prices, with evidence all around him to contrary, even with his favorite search engine clearly at hand, can we trust him on any other policies he offers to help the economy? Ok, maybe he was using Bing, but he is a powerful and onerous opponent of Obamacare. He has told us many times that his party has an alternative plan, one that is better for consumers. But for some reason, that plan is really, really hard to find. Many doubt the existence of such a plan, and even if they did have one, given the conservative track record for the last 30 years, I doubt it would have any positive impact at all. His error on gas prices seems indicative of his accuracy on Obamacare, too.

I notice that Republicans (including Senator Lee) have been rather silent on the latest CBO projections on health care costs. Perhaps they are not willing to admit their hyperbolic predictions turned out to be wrong. To put it differently, if they were right, they'd be pouncing on Obamacare with every press conference they could muster. But since health care costs are down, and at least some of the credit can be attributed to Obamacare, they would rather be mum about it.

Mr. Lee may be sincere in his beliefs, and he may have good intentions. But he is not an economist and from what I can tell, he has no serious solutions to help keep the price of oil down, or to help contain the costs of health care. It would be nice if he could admit to at least that.
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