OPINION: ‘Ludicrous and terrifying’: Gas prices could determine ‘the fate of American democracy’


With the United States seeing its worst inflation since the early 1980s, Republicans are blaming President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party – and failing to mention that inflation isn’t just a problem in the U.S., but is a global problem. Some European countries have higher inflation rates than the U.S.; the EU’s inflation rate was 10.9 percent in September compared to 8.2 percent in the U.S.

Americans are especially resentful of high gas prices – an issue that, according to various polls, is a higher priority for some Americans than protecting democracy. Liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, in his Oct. 20 column, argues that it is “ludicrous and terrifying” that gas prices could determine whether or not the U.S. continues to be a democracy.

“Will the price of gasoline – a price that has very little to do with which party controls the government – nonetheless determine the outcome of the midterm elections, and quite possibly the fate of American democracy?” Krugman writes. “I wish that were a silly question, but it isn’t. This year, there has been a strong correlation between the price of gasoline and political polls.”

Krugman continues, “Earlier this year, when gas reached an average of $5 a gallon, everything seemed to point to a Republican blowout. By mid-September, with gas prices down almost $1.50, the election looked much more competitive. And some apparent recent deterioration in Democrats’ prospects coincided with an upward tick in prices in late September and early October.”

The economist goes on to make some “important points about gasoline prices.”

“First,” Krugman writes, “the most important determinant of prices at the pump is the world price of crude oil, over which the United States has little influence.

“Second, smaller fluctuations are usually driven by technical issues at the refineries that turn crude oil into gasoline and other products. The mini-surge in gas prices that began in September, and now seems to be over, was caused by shutdowns of several refineries for maintenance and a fire at one refinery in Ohio. Again, this has nothing to do with policy.

Krugman adds that in 2022, gas “isn’t expensive compared with the fairly recent past.”

“It’s hard to think of a worse metric for judging a president and his party than a price determined mainly by events abroad and technical production issues here at home, a price that isn’t even high compared with, say, a decade ago,” Krugman argues. “Yet gas prices may sway a crucial election – a fact that is both ludicrous and terrifying.”

(Reprinted from AlterNet)

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