Thursday, May 11, 2006

Today's gassiness 

Late late night the Elder went to his TV in search of visual Sominex.
After a week of listening to many Republicans demonstrate embarrassingly low levels of economic literacy in a futile attempt to score a few political points on high gas prices, I tuned in to C-SPAN last night and was reminded once again that, when it comes to ill-informed economic demagoguery, nobody does it better than the Democrats.

You haven't seen half of it, Chad. Get a load of S.F. No. 3799, a bill to punish "grossly excessive prices" for gasoline. Who gets to decide what "grossly exceeds"? The Commissioner of Commerce, but s/he is required to look at the price at which gasoline is sold currently by others and "the average price at which motor vehicle fuel was sold in this state in the 21-day period immediately preceding a sale of the gasoline." This is introduced by Steve Murphy, the Senate majority whip and head of the transportation committee. (h/t for this one goes to Larry Schumacher.)

What fresh hell is this? We already have rules that do not permit prices to fall very fast when market conditions change, so as not to infuriate the gods of minimum prices. Now we are going to cap the maximum price too? Do you people like lines at the gas pumps?

Of course Senate candidate Mark Kennedy is still deciding that sops to corn growers aren't the thing holding up gas prices, though Ben Muse offers one reason why reducing tariffs on Brazilian ethanol might not help increase supply as fast as we'd like. Mark Thoma asks the right question: Why is the market price suboptimal? Not why it is high -- high is good if oil is relatively scarce -- but why the price is wrong.