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Cutting to the Core

It's the price of gas, Stupid!

Back in the early 1990s the Clinton campaign coined a phrase, "It's the economy, Stupid."

It worked well and took down Bush I, who months before the 1992 election had one of the highest approval ratings for an American president ever.

Fast forward to 2011 and the U.S. economy is in the tank, although it's slowly climbing back out. But things are looking like it might be dragged back into the gutter again.

Massive lay-offs are expected at Hanford when the stimulus money Obama gave them runs out. The price of oil is at a two-year high because of tensions in Egypt. What's going to happen? Tough times, I suspect.

I don't want to sound like a Republican tea-bagger, but I hope Obama is done handing out stimulus packages. I also hope that the current continuation of unemployment benefits ends. Six months is enough. If a person can't restart their career in that time, it's time to look for jobs in fast food restaurants or delivering pizza.

Why I am taking this hard-line Republican tea-bagger attitude? It's because bailing out banks, car companies and the American public isn't going to work.

Sure, earlier this decade banks were greedy and preyed on the weak. The American public, in turn, mortgaged their futures with credit card debt and put themselves into homes they couldn't afford. And although those ingredients can be a recipe for disaster, it's not what brought America to her knees in 2008.

It's not Bush either, nor the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

What caused the recession/depression of 2008?

It's the price of gas, stupid.

I know I've harped on this before. Heck, I've harped on this several times, and I'll keep doing it.

Ask yourself, what's changed in the past seven years when regular unleaded was $1.18 a gallon in the Tri-Cities? Has the price of milk tripled? Has your rent tripled? My rent hasn't been raised since I moved into my place in 2005.

Has the price of a dinner at a restaurant tripled? Has anything tripled, besides the price of gold and oil? No.

The price of gas caused the recession and the housing crisis. Here's how it happened.

Person A works as a server in a restaurant. The place is usually busy and the server makes good tips. Person A decides to buy a home. Sure, it's a little more expensive than her monthly rent at Person A's apartment, but people need to eat and the server is making decent money. Also, it's easy to move from one place to another in the restaurant industry if Person A gets laid off.

Person A buys their house and begins to make payments. Then, the price of gas goes through the roof. Instead of paying $60 a month in gas, Person A is now spending $180 per month.

That extra $120 begins to take its toll. Soon, Person A is five days late making the mortgage payment. The mortgage company then raises Person A's interest rate and the mortgage payment increases, turning that $120 monthly deficit into something larger.

Soon, Person A can't go to a restaurant. Person A can't go to a bookstore or go see a movie. Person A can't keep up with the latest fashions.

Person A is broke and barely making it. And Person A is not alone. Soon, thousands of Person A's are now not going to movies, restaurants or buying cars. Soon, these places start laying-off employees and it all rolls downhill from there.

If President Obama wants to get the United States out of its economic slump, then it's time to lower the price of gas.

Some people think the government should stay out of it. I don't agree. There's too much at stake, mainly my happiness.

How do we lower the price of gas? We could go Hugo Chavez on everybody and just take over the oil companies, but I don't think that's the answer.

I would like to see our government contract with oil companies to drill for oil on government owned land. That means land owned by the American people. Accept bids and tell these companies they can drill for all the oil they want but they must sell it to us at pre-2004 levels.

It doesn't have to be an American company. I don't care if it's an Iranian company, as long as they meet the bid specifications. I would even accept Halliburton.

We have plenty of oil. I've been told that American oil fields produce almost 70 percent of what we need, but export most of it. This means we have to import more oil than we need to keep up with demand.

Drill in Alaska, drill in Florida, I don't care. They can even drill in my back yard if it would lower the price of gas.

If we get gas back down to 2004 prices, the recession will end within six months. I have no doubt about it.

Even if we couldn't get companies to bid on oil contracts at 2004 prices, we should at least stop importing oil. If we have to pay $90-plus for a barrel of oil, I'd rather pay it to an American company than a bunch of terrorists.

So let's stop talking about 'job-killing' health care reform or too much spending and focus on the real problem, the price of energy.

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