18 cents a gallon? Whoop-de-do. Desperate Gas Tax Gamble Shows Biden’s Powerlessness on Energy

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Have you recently played the exciting new American game, Gas Tank Gamble?

You know this one: drive past your local train station hoping to reach somewhere with a slightly lower price.

I won big this weekend, spending the $4,799 a gallon at my local station, walking into Costco with a half gallon spare, and saving 20 cents per gallon.

I drove feeling like a millionaire. But then I did the math: My fill-up would have cost $3 more closer to home.

Expect a similar reaction nationwide if President Joe Biden persuades Congress to suspend the federal gasoline tax for three months, an idea he was expected to announce Wednesday afternoon.

President Joe Biden makes a motion before boarding Air Force One at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, NM in June. (TUSEN Photo/Evan Vucci)

Federal taxes add 18.4 cents to a gallon of unleaded and 24.4 cents for diesel. (In Texas, state taxes add 20 cents per gallon to either). The The US Express News calculates that at a national average of about $5 a gallon, people would save about 3.6%.

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Let’s be clear about one thing: every little savings helps, especially for the poorest families. Rapid inflation is crushing people, and there is often little they can do to save fuel. Economists say, however, that such a modest reduction might not even be noticed – especially against the rapid rise in prices since Biden took office.

The move is clearly aimed at stemming the tide of anger and pessimism among Americans, which has Biden’s approval ratings at Trumpian levels and Democrats panicking over huge midterm losses in November.

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And yet, if Congress passes its plan, the tax is expected to return in late September — a sudden spike as voting begins in some states. Clever!

But Biden has to try something, because the blame-all strategy isn’t working. The White House is still trotted out the sad “Putin price hike” framework, as if people hadn’t noticed higher prices before the invasion of Ukraine. He attacks the oil companies and asks them to cut their profits – without acknowledging that he has practically invited them to take short-term profits by taking measures to cut long-term production.

Next month he will go to Saudi Arabia and also implore it to increase production. What if the leaders of the state he has condemned as “pariahs” ask: Why should we do this?

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Energy prices underpin all inflation due to shipping costs. And the effect is cumulative; farmers warn of possible food shortages if diesel prices continue to rise. It’s one thing when people are stressed about the cost of feeding the family; it’s another if they can’t even get groceries.

Like most of the economy, gas prices are complex. No, it’s not all Biden’s fault. But people aren’t buying his blame games, and for many voters weak measures like the suspension of fuel taxes only underscore that it’s time someone had better answers.

In the meantime, keep that Costco card handy.

Editor’s Note: A version of this column originally appeared in our opinion piece, Worth Discussion. It comes every Wednesday with a fresh take on the news and a roundup of our top editorials, columns and other opinion content. register here.

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