On Sunday, the national average price for a gallon of gas reached a new, previously unthinkable milestone of $4.00/gallon. Americans are struggling — and drivers in some parts of the US are spending up to 16% of their income on fuel.
But we didn’t just wake up one morning to find gas prices this high. Although the cost of a gasoline can be attributed to a variety of factors, we sometimes forget that in 2000 when George Bush took office, gas was only $1.51/gallon. It is also remarkable just how thoroughly out of touch Bush has been on this issue, and how little substance he has put forth to deal with it over the years.
In 2000, Bush assured Americans that he would “bring down gas prices through ‘sheer force of personality.’” Lo and behold, the initial jump in fuel costs occurred during Bush’s first term.
Fast forward four years to 2004 when gas prices passed the $2.00 mark — sending shock waves through the economy. Former Treasury Secretary John Snow acknowledged the problem but had little to offer in the solutions department. “Higher gas prices are creating a financial hardship for millions and millions of Americans,” he says. “We know that. Those higher gas prices, in a way, are becoming a proxy for how they feel about the economy.”
Push ahead now to 2006 — two years ago and two years into Bush’s second term. According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, gas prices rose 97% between 2006 and Bush’s first inauguration. At that point, American consumers were paying on average $2.91/gallon, Bush’s approval rating dropped to 32 percent, and the vast majority of Americans agreed that the rising gasoline prices were causing severe or moderate hardships. In April of 2006, the president’s stance was still one of inaction. “I know gas prices are high. There’s no magic wand to wave. We’ll make sure the energy companies are pricing their products fairly.”
And here we are today — $4.00 gas with $5.00 on the horizon. George Bush was shockingly unaware of how high gas prices had climbed as recently as last February. In a White House press conference, Bush had an interesting conversation with CBS news Radio Correspondent Bill Maer:
MAER: What’s your advice to the average American who is hurting now, facing the prospect of $4-a-gallon gasoline, a lot of people facing …
BUSH: Wait, what did you just say? [...] You’re predicting $4-a-gallon gasoline?
MAER: A number of analysts are predicting $4-a-gallon gasoline.
BUSH: Oh, yeah? That’s interesting. I hadn’t heard that. [...] You just said the price of gasoline may be up to $4 a gallon — or some expert told you that. That creates a lot of uncertainty.
It’s too bad, for his own sake, that President Bush that he didn’t pay more attention — he might have noticed that as the price of gas increased, his approval rating plummeted.