Published on July 16th, 2008 | by Timothy B. Hurst4
Should President Bush Be Telling Americans to Conserve Gas?
At a Tuesday White House press conference that focused mostly on the current economic downturn, President Bush indicated that he has no intention of calling on Americans to conserve gasoline, according to a report at Politico.
President Bush said, “They’re smart enough to figure out whether they’re going to drive less or not…the consumer’s plenty bright.”
The President explained the justification for his position by saying, “It’s a little presumptuous on my part to dictate how consumers live their own lives.”
But past examples show that President Bush has had no problem dictating how “consumers live their own lives,” at least when it syncs with his own political agenda. Surely you remember December of 2006, when teetering on the brink of a national economic recession, the President implored Americans to shop more:
“As we work with Congress in the coming year to chart a new course in Iraq and strengthen our military to meet the challenges of the 21st century, we must also work together to achieve important goals for the American people here at home. This work begins with keeping our economy growing. … And I encourage you all to go shopping more.”
Of course, there was also the notorious Bush call to go shopping in the time after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when President Bush insisted:
“Americans must get back to work, to go shopping, going to the theatre [sic], to help get the country back on a sounder financial footing.”
I am not arguing that it is necessarily the President’s job to recommend that consumers drive less, nor urge us to find other ways to conserve gasoline (though that would be nice). I am not looking for my government to become a so-called “nanny state” that micromanages all the details of my daily economic life.
I am arguing that the President of the United States is supposed to be a leader – sort of a ‘first citizen,’ if you will – that has the ability to send signals (both subtle and overt) that can have an appreciable impact on what we do and how we do it. Even a Lame Duck President with a 28 percent public approval rating has the ability to influence someone, right? Yes, the American people are smart, but economically determined aggregations of individual rational choices do not always work out to be the “best” ones at the collective level.
The problem is that President Bush cannot reconcile our need to cut carbon emissions with his belief that we cannot do so without “crippling the economy.” And remember we are talking about a (former) Texas oilman. Perhaps President Bush’s affinity for “product,” as he sometimes refers to it, creates an internal conflict that prevents him from suggesting that we somehow use less of it, when all he wants to do is drill for more of it.
The fact that Mr. Bush can’t recognize Americans may need some political leadership to help stabilize energy consumption and rein-in carbon emissions has stood in the way of any substantive action on climate change in the seven and a half years President Bush’s tenure.
- “Bush Lifts Ban on Offshore Drilling: Why it Matters and Why it Doesn’t”
- “Just Like Bush, McCain Doesn’t Know the Price of Gas”
- “McCain Calls for More Offshore Drilling – What Else Would He Say in Houston?“
- “How Many Hours do You Have to Work to Fill Your Gas Tank?”