The administration is not concerned about the rise of crude oil prices and the possible harm to our still slowly recovering economy, you will be comforted to know. The price of a barrel of crude oil dipped just below $100 late Thursday afternoon. This week, oil prices have been at the highest levels since October 2008. Many energy advisers predict $4 a gallon gas by the peak summer driving season.
Texas native Austan Goolsbee, the chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, said the White House is "obviously monitoring" the oil price hikes prompted by instability caused by citizen rebellions in North Africa and the Middle East. But he told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor that "short-run variation" in energy costs would not damage "long-run, sustained" growth.
Goolsbee cited three reasons for his optimism: That American businesses have been hiring in recent months; overall consumer inflation remains low; and energy costs are a smaller percentage of the U.S. economy than they were during the price spikes of the 1970s, which triggered a pair of recessions.
Goolsbee, you may remember, also thinks all the stimulus spending was just swell.
One concern is the turmoil in the Middle East and northern Africa. We are a nation that consumes far more energy than we produce. We are under the thumb of dictators in dangerous places and the continued foot dragging of Congress and the president to make sound energy policy does us no favor. To compound our uneasiness, the Obama administration is still hell-bent on shutting down the oil drilling business in this country. After going back on his word to open up drilling off the coast of Virginia and other spots previously stymied, he jerked that agreement off the table after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. He over-reacted and Secretary Salazar was only too happy to put into place his far left ideology. The devastation to the Gulf coast economy is not overstated.
President Obama has been slow to evacuate American citizens out of Libya. It is no secret that Qaddafi is a madman and American evacuations should have begun immediately. There is clearly little Obama can do to influence events in Libya. They are not so friendly as Egypt was to us. But, Obama can demand the cooperation of the government to expedite the evacuation of Americans and tell Qaddafi to resign. To continue to say such pablum as violence is unacceptable is naive.
And why is there no military carrier on the water there?
Higher crude oil prices are of interest to everyone. Not only will gas prices rise as families take summer vacations - in cars and on planes and trains - but the slow rise in grocery prices is already apparent in many parts of the country. Many none of this is of concern to Goolsbee or the Obama administration but it is to the voter on whom Obama will be counting for re-election.
Of course Goolsbee is concerned. It is his job to be concerned.
The normally reserved journalist Chris Wallace remarked on the president's lip service paid to the violence in Libya.
“Well, all hell is breaking loose and I just want to say one thing about President Obama and I understand that it’s awfully hard to calibrate this and when you’ve got what certainly seems to be a madman in charge of the country, you don’t want to do something to set him off and cause him to do something else crazy and barbaric,” Wallace said. “But one of the things, words that the president or speech writers ought to take out of this lexicon is ‘unacceptable.’ Yesterday, he said the events in Libya are unacceptable. He’s going to accept them. What does unacceptable mean? Unacceptable would mean I’m not going to accept it, but he’s not going to do anything about it. It’s like what he said about Korea or Iran, it’s unacceptable.”
It is time for President Obama to step up and at the very least join with other western nations in strong statements to the mad man of Libya.