Ron Paul vs. Rudy Giuliani (And Lay Off the Rich Oil Companies!)

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Hello folks, this is one of those articles where I don’t have anything profound to say, but the issues are important and I felt I had to do my part to restore balance in the lopsided "debate." Today I’d like to (1) share my musings on the Ron Paul/Rudy Giuliani face-off and then (2) poke fun at a really silly article calling for higher gas taxes.

"Two Men Enter, One Man Leave!"

It’s no secret, I am not a big fan of the Iraq occupation. However, Rudy Giuliani’s rhetorical jab didn’t bother me because it was pro-war. No, the thing that really irked me was that it was so utterly dishonest. Giuliani couldn’t possibly mean what he said — namely, that he had never heard before the claim that America’s bombing of Iraq motivated the 9/11 hijackers — and everybody knew he didn’t mean it. After all, the "blame America first" canard is standard fare among today’s conservatives; they’ve clearly heard this before.

Probably in the grand scheme, it was better for Ron Paul to have answered the way he did. But wouldn’t it have been delicious if he met Rudy’s assault by saying:

No, Mr. Giuliani, I won’t retract my statement. But I will give you a chance to retract yours. Do you honestly mean to tell the American voters that you are running to be the next Commander in Chief, and you haven’t even read Osama bin Laden’s public statements about why 9/11 happened? How can you fight the War on Terror if you don’t understand the first thing about how our enemy thinks?

The moderators probably would’ve jumped in at that point and moved along to another topic, but still that would’ve been great. Giuliani might’ve sputtered something about "I meant it was the first time I’d heard it coming from a fellow Republican" but his caveat that "I don’t think I’ve ever heard that, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11" would’ve blocked that escape route too. No, Giuliani was actually claiming that he had heard crazy conspiracy theories — such as the Pentagon staging the 9/11 attacks — but that Ron Paul was the first person who had ever suggested that the US treatment of Iraq had anything to do with it.

As I said above, what irks me is this huge farce whereby Giuliani keeps assuring us of his sincerity, when we all know he is lying. Look at this clip where he commiserates with Sean Hannity. Immediately after telling us how sincerely he meant it when he said he had never heard that before, he explains that he had considered the alternate statement that Ron Paul voiced the same theory that "the Saudi prince" did (who offered $10 million in aid that the proud Giuliani refused). So there you have it, folks: Giuliani sincerely meant it when he gave Ron Paul the chance to retract his novel theory that Giuliani had never heard before, and also Ron Paul reminded Giuliani of the Saudi prince who had offered the same theory. (Also, if you watch to the end of the clip I’ve linked above, Giuliani says "usually I hear this from the Democrat side." Yet more people whom Giuliani has heard voice the theory that Giuliani never heard before.)

Before leaving this matter, I just want to bring to your attention the alternately chilling and hilarious reaction of the Fox crews to Ron Paul’s standing in their viewer polls. If you haven’t seen these clips before, really you should take the four minutes and watch. Just to give you a hint: Apparently the wily representative from Texas knows how to mobilize voters more than veteran governors and senators.

Gas Taxes Are Good for You

Yes, we’re all upset by how high gas prices are, and I admit that it’s surprising me too — the pump wasn’t so expensive last summer, when oil was several dollars higher per barrel. It’s a stumper and I understand why people are suspicious.

But this article proposes that what we need is a good tax hike, just to show them oil companies we mean business! And no, I’m not talking about a windfall profits tax, or a measure that restricts Exxon executives from making more than a certain amount per year. On the contrary, the way we’re going to punish the oil companies is to raise taxes on US motorists. So there!

You folks think I’m exaggerating to be funny. No I’m not:

Motorists are already paying well over $3 a gallon, and there are signs that it’s beginning to cut into demand and hurt consumer spending.

But if a big gas tax was levied — like the $1 or $2 tax Europeans have to keep prices permanently over $3 or $4 a gallon — how could that possibly help American consumers?

One argument says a tax would crimp demand, lowering wholesale prices.

“Anybody with any brains has advocated that, but not the politicians,” said Fadel Gheit, an energy analyst at the financial services company Oppenheimer.

Lower wholesale prices, which would mean less profits for oil firms, combined with a higher tax could transfer money from Big Oil to the government, which could then use the cash for public programs.

Consumers would have to pay the same amount — or even more than now — but at least that extra cash could be returned to them in some way.

What can I say? We might as well chop off everyone’s right arm. After all, most people are right-handed, so the extra inconvenience of pumping gas might reduce our consumption of foreign oil.

Look, I’m not naïve. I understand that oil executives are probably not the nicest guys in the world, and they certainly don’t wake up every morning thinking, "How can I make the world a better place today?" But there’s one group whom I trust even less, and that’s politicians. Why in the world would we trust them with our money?!

And as far as our much-ballyhooed dependence on foreign oil — if you want your "gas dollars" to help with that problem, then they’re already going to the people most likely to eliminate our dependence: namely oil companies. To reduce our dependence on the Middle East, we need companies to find new sources and lay new pipelines and build new rigs. This is what billions of your gas dollars fund.

Or, you could hand it over to the government and hope that their subsidies for electric cars pay off. I’m sure the experts in Washington will take good care of that money.

Bob Murphy [send him mail] has a PhD in economics from New York University, and is the author of Minerva. See his personal website at BobMurphy.net.

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