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Paying More At The Pump? FOX News Says That's So Irrelevant!

Reported by Ellen - August 22, 2005 -

Saturday's opening segment of Forbes On FOX (8/20/05) was devoted to telling you why the high price of gasoline is nothing to worry about. Of course, nobody offered to pay YOUR bills. You're just supposed to shut up and be grateful it's not going to hurt the economy.

David Asman opened the segment by exclaiming, with his usual caffeinated chipperness, "Gas prices are ridiculously cheap! In case we didn't catch that, the screen said, "Gas is dirt cheap!

Asman added that "A strong minority think there is a real pain at the pump" but as usual, he began and ended the segment with those who took a more Republican-favoring point of view.

First up was Mike Ozanian who said, "Let's have some perspective here. Gas prices have fallen from $3.11 to $2.69 adjusted for inflation."

Comment: I think Ozanian and FOX are the ones missing the perspective. According to The Center For American Progress:

Middle-class Americans feel a growing squeeze from higher gas prices. On Tuesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that inflation-adjusted weekly earnings fell in July by 0.2 percent while prices at the pump simultaneously broke through the $2.50 mark in many parts of the country, mirroring an 18 cent increase from the previous week alone - the largest weekly increase since January.

High gas prices contribute to the troubles of a middle class already weighed down by growing costs for education, housing, and health care. Almost six in 10 people report that higher prices cause hardship, including 15 percent who categorize the hardship as "serious," according to a recent Gallup poll. Although the price increase is felt most strongly by low-income families, it also affects many middle-class families.

Most of the panel, however, agreed with Asman.

John Rutledge said oil is so last century. "Another buck a gallon on gasoline is only a 1% increase in budgets."

David Asman asked Rutledge how gas prices came down during the Reagan Administration. Rutledge said it was because Reagan removed price controls. "And the only risk we've got here from gasoline prices is if some politician gets the stupid idea to either have price controls or have rationing... This economy's going to do fine with these oil prices. We need to quit whining and get back to work."

Lea Goldman was the only one to focus on the consumer's perspective. She called the panel out of touch Gordon Geckos because not only are individuals hurting from the high prices, but there's a trickle down effect. As usual, Goldman was called on during the middle of the discussion so that it began and ended with more Republican-friendly points of view.

Rich Karlgaard immediately got with the program when he said, "Oh Come on, Lea. You know when you have no facts and you play the class card, you have a future in the Democratic Party." Everybody laughed. He added that gas and oil prices are "not hurting this economy whatsoever" because our economy is "electricity-driven. "It's technology and services."

Elizabeth MacDonald said we need more alternative energy sources and complained that the recently-passed energy bill did nothing to address that.

Karlgaard said he thought politicians WERE addressing the issue. He seemed to think the problem was environmentalists. "I think we should be drilling in north alaska. I also think we need to tell the environmentalists to relax a little bit."

Funny, but environmentalists, along with the lower and middle classes seem to be the only ones who should sacrifice. Nobody talked about the windfall to oil companies and executives. As the Center For American Progress put it, "Middle-class families' pain, however, was oil companies and executives' gain. Oil companies posted record profits and oil executives saw the largest pay increases of any group of executives in 2004. To add insult to injury, policymakers rewarded oil companies with billions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies in the recent energy bill, while offering little relief for middle-class families."

Furthermore,

With oil prices showing no signs of slowing, oil companies are enjoying highly lucrative years. Last year, ExxonMobil reported a profit of over $25 billion, breaking all previous records. Profits were up for other oil companies as well, including Shell with $18.54 billion, ConocoPhillips with $15.7 billion, BP with $15.7 billion, and ChevronTexaco with $13.3 billion. Second quarter 2005 profit figures show that the trend continued in 2005. Profits were between a third and a half higher than during the same period last year. Exxon has already made $7.6 billion this year, BP $6.7 billion, and Shell just over $5 billion. High profits also padded oil executives' pay with an average raise of 109 percent in 2004, according to The Wall Street Journal. The average oil executive received total compensation of $17 million in 2004.

Somehow those facts never made it into the discussion.