Sunday, May 23, 2010

Where Have You Gone Wall Street Journal?

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, in the latter segment of the round table discussion on Meet the Press (May 23, 2010), criticized President Obama for failing to push a comprehensive medium- and long-term energy plan. Its objectives would be to wean the U.S. from its oil addiction, ship fewer dollars to oil producing countries thereby helping to maintain a strong dollar, and develop green and renewable technologies. This would be, in his words, a multiple win strategy.

Wall Street Journal editor Paul Gigot followed: “If you want to reduce oil, you can do it pretty--you can start to do it very quickly. You can put a $3 or $4 tax on gasoline.”

Friedman: “Well...”

Gigot: "I know you’re for that."

Friedman: “Yeah”

Gigot: "I, I, the president is not."

Friedman: “I know.”

Gigot: “There’s no politician I know who is. But that’s the answer [emphasis mine].

Pity the late Paul Tsongas (1941-1997), who must have turned over in his grave. Tsongas ran for the Democrat party presidential nomination in 1992, losing to Clinton. His proposal to increase gasoline taxes by fifty cents a gallon to reduce the federal budget deficit led critics to call him Paul Tax-on-gas, which hurt his campaign.

To repeat, Gigot said “that’s the answer,” “a $3 or $4 tax on gasoline.”

Perhaps Gigot only meant that Friedman’s goals could be quickly achieved with such a tax, but that was not clear from watching Meet the Press, replaying that exchange on Meet the Press’s web site, or reading the transcript. As an economic answer to reducing oil imports and developing energy alternatives that are cost competitive with gasoline, Gigot is correct.


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