It’s Presidents’ Day as I write this, so if you were lucky enough to have the day off, give some thanks to Washington, Lincoln and all the other chief executives — even stinkers like James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson. Of course in modern American politics, every day is really Presidents’ Day — so central is the occupant of the White House to the perceived state of the nation. Good news or bad news, foreign or domestic, the President gets the credit — and he gets the blame, whether he actually deserves either.
That goes for one of the most importantly economic indicators — psychologically at least — that’s out there: gas prices. A gallon of gas now costs an average of $3.53, already up 25¢ from the beginning of the year, and the highest price it’s even been at this time of the year. (Gas prices are usually lower in the winter, when the cold weather and lack of holidays curtails some driving.) With the U.S. economy strengthening — driving up demand for gasoline, and price as well — and the situation in Iran and the rest of the oil-producing Middle East looking uncertain, analysts believes gas could be well over $4 a gallon by the prime driving months of the summer.
You can bet that gas prices will be a major campaign issue during the 2012 presidential election, just as they were in 2008 — better known as the summer of “drill, baby, drill.” Republican candidate Newt Gingrich — who wants to “drill here, drill now” — has been promising that he could bring gasoline to $2.50 a gallon or less if he takes office, while the other candidates are concentrating their fire at President Obama, blaming his policies for the pain at the pump. But does a President really have that much control over how much it costs for you to fill your car?