The United States managed to survive the gas price apocalypse. But we may not survive the eventual ecological collapse due to the extraction and use of fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, politicians and pundits on both sides are still obsessed with the rising costs American commuters are paying at the pumps. The Biden administration recently reversed its policy of banning new oil drilling permits on federal lands, while tapping into national oil reserves to mitigate potential political fallout from high fuel prices. GOP officials, including Senator Ted Cruz and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis— claim, absurdly, that rising gas prices prove the folly of the Democrats’ environmental proposals, even though those proposals have been consistently blocked by Sen. Joe Manchin. Clearly, the “Green New Deal” is so powerful that just saying the words can influence the cost of oil in the United States, and in many other countries that are also seeing increases.
Outside of Congress, right-wing rage over gas prices has sparked a spike in sticker vandalism. Republican voters across the country are placing stickers of President Joe Biden pointing and saying “I did this” on gas pumps. A Pennsylvania man was caught red-handed and when asked to remove the sticker he became furious and resisted arrest. He now faces charges of criminal mischief, harassment and disorderly conduct.
But the panic extends far beyond average Americans armed with stickers. Politics Journalists Rachel Bade and Ryan Lizza, echoing the conventional wisdom of Beltway commentators, wrote that gas prices “could crush Democrats” midterm in 2022. Fear of political retaliation has also pushed local leaders to act, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who recently outlined a plan to distribute prepaid gas cards to low-income voters.
Of course, any increase in costs for the poor, the working class and the increasingly squeezed middle class is dismal, especially in a year of high inflation. But the outlandish excessive focus on gas prices alone — relative to other rising spending like rent and health care — exposes a cynical political strategy that prioritizes knee-jerk reactions, while refusing to substantially address the more constant and devastating costs of ordinary America. life.
And while gasoline can consume up to 5% of a commuter’s monthly budget in rural states, the majority of people in the United States fill their gas tanks only once a week and, as a result, are less affected when prices rise. For residents of large cities who use public transport, the cost of gasoline is even less relevant.
The costs that turn life into a financial struggle are rarely the subject of catastrophic forecasts by political forecasters.
But regardless of a person’s location and transportation needs, other costs that turn life into a financial struggle are rarely the catastrophic predictions of political forecasters.
Rent, for example, is now so high nationwide that a full-time minimum-wage worker cannot afford a one-bedroom apartment in any state. On the rise for decades, the average rent in some cities in the past year alone has climbed 40%. And it’s especially bad for renters of color, who often pay more for rental applications — while getting turned down more frequently — than their white counterparts.
Similarly, health care premiums for employer plans have climbed 47% over the past decade, with rates for individual purchasers rising by similar percentages. In addition to higher deductibles and soaring prescription drug prices, insurance premiums rarely appear in the press. Democratic proposals to reduce health care costs – including an expansion of Medicare, a cap on the price of insulin and increased subsidies for plans available through the Affordable Care Act – consistently fail due to Republican filibuster.
Over the past two decades, the cost of higher education has soared 169%, shackling millions of graduates with onerous student debt. Various debt cancellation proposals have gained popularity, but the annual tuition fee increases, which have now become an alarming routine, hardly ever receive media coverage.
The crippling costs of housing, health care and education, among other necessities such as child care, place Americans in a burning house, armed only with water balloons. From 1980 to 2020, the purchasing power of average earners, to quote a Pew Research study, “has barely budged.”
This has predictably fueled the rising level of credit card debt for the average American, which now exceeds $6,000. Analysts are nearly unanimous that the Federal Reserve’s recent interest rate hike will increase interest payments from credit cardholders, adding yet another largely overlooked burden to US household budgets.
The “Build Back Better” legislative agenda of Biden and congressional Democrats included many measures to address the painful cost of living in the United States, such as an expansion of the child tax credit, child care subsidized children and Medicare coverage for dental and vision care. . As the bill gathers dust in a dark corner of the Capitol, leading pundits are acting as if Republican callousness toward the suffering of the working class and middle class should have no political consequences.
Fixing gas prices gives the GOP one more tool to distract the public from its dangerous ambitions.
Worse still, the relentless rage over gas prices provides cover for the Republican Party’s continued assault on democracy. Investigations into the Jan. 6 insurrection continue to expose top Republican officials in the House, Senate and Trump administration cooperating with the violent mob that tried to subvert the election process and nullify the votes of millions. of Americans. Fixing gas prices, in this sense, gives the GOP one more tool to distract the public from its dangerous ambitions.
Overstating the importance of gas prices without considering the broader economic context of housing, health care, education, debt and wages also shifts the political debate in favor of toxic oil industries. and natural gas.
Scientists are increasingly desperate in their warnings that humanity is heading for disaster with its policies of pollution, fossil fuel extraction, habitat destruction and deforestation.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2022 report warns that it’s “now or never” if the world hopes to avert catastrophe.
Political preoccupation with the cost of fuel, while neglecting the far worse causes of financial hardship, is like throwing gasoline on a fire.