If Democrats truly have a hard time understanding why the inevitability of a Democrat in the White House in 2009 is looking less certain these day, consider the debate regarding the gasoline tax holiday.
The Moveon.org bunch, egged on by their candidate, Barack Obama, believe that Hillary Clinton is pandering to voters by proposing a summer holiday from the federal taxes imposed on each gallon of gas. Maybe, but isn’t pandering to voters pretty much the first entry under the politician job description? Thus, criticizing a fish for swimming is as useless as it is unnecessary.
The real issues with Clinton’s proposal appears to be two-fold. First, it aligns her with John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate in waiting. Apparently, bi-partisanship is the worst thing that can happen, not the best. There may be differences, even significant ones, between McCain’s and Clinton’s proposals on the gas tax, but figuring them out is a waste of time. Neither proposal stands a chance. On the political scale, there’s a better chance of getting Vladimir Putin and LeBron James together to personally wash each and every car in Washington, D.C. then of getting gas tax holiday enacted.
Second, it doesn’t make much economic sense, or at least the theory goes. Back-of-the-napkin calculations put the potential savings at around $30 a driver, assuming all else remains equal. But as we’re being told, particularly but not exclusively by Obama, all things won’t remain equal. There is the chance, for example, that the oil companies will raise prices. True, but that’s what they do. It’s pretty much in the keeping a fish from swimming category. Moreover, even if oil prices rise, that will be related increase to global demand than the temporary suspension of a federal tax. In other words, as the price of oil rises the impact of a tax holiday rises, not falls, at least until that tax is reinstituted later on.
But the larger issue is one of detachment—from the electorate in general and from those suffering economically in particular. Even if the savings is around $30 a driver, so what? By essentially conceding the money, even at such small levels, to the federal government at the expense of taxpayers pockets, the Democrats who criticize Clinton on this issue only play further into the hands of Republicans. The one criticism of the Democrats that they’ve never been able to shake is that they never met a tax they didn’t like. It’s why McCain made the proposal in the first place. He thought both Democratic candidates would oppose it. Obama played according to script. Clinton threw him a curve ball.