🎶“Let it flow, let it flow. Can’t vote us out anymore! Let it flow, let it flow. Turn it ON, and let the gas pourrrr!”🎶
Apologies for the tuneful indulgence. Thanks to my daughters, my mental soundtrack is composed exclusively of “Frozen” songs. One more admittance, for which, like Mitt, I offer no apology (except for that awful slant rhyme): I framed my Trump stimmy checks. Like my late mother’s “Bush Frightens Me, Vote Dean for America” Halloween button (proudly on current display) and Ted Cruz mullet tank-top, I’m a sucker for political kitsch.
As any dramaturgy enthusiast, I love eleventh-hour schemes of desperation. Just as Donald Trump tried to boost his election chances with paper payoffs emblazoned with his ubiquitous surname, President Biden is making a last-ditch effort to nudge gas prices down before the midterms.
Bloomberg reports that the Biden Administration plans to decant “10-15 million oil barrels” from the nation’s stores to curb climbing pump prices. This release rounds out the 180 million drums of crude the Administration authorized discharge of back in March when Russia rattled energy markets by fatefully invading Ukraine. The announced petrol infusion isn’t new per say, or an addition. Which raises curiosity as to why the move was broadcast in the first place—unless you grasp how the energy-futures market work. The Biden Administration—that is, the unnamed officials running the op, not the slug-brained headship—is attempting Wall Street legerdemain. By reminding speculators of incoming supply, White House officials are hoping the upcoming dump is priced in now. As in, ahead of Election Day.
You can’t help but admire the fiendish floater. Initially, the Administration proposed tapping the Strategic Reserves over six months—from March to September. Any later, as in October, or a sly slip into November, would be flagged as electioneering on the public fisc. But two months before the biannual congressional contests? Well it was war! And Americans were taking it on the chin at fill stations. Six months seemed like a symmetrical period to land on. Who would ever suspect a suffrage shucking?
Recall: this is an administration that, despite being (re)stocked with Washington experts, failed to spot the incoming inflation gut-punch. Its official letterhead scribes can’t correct pronouns fast enough for the Twitter hounds. Would even the most cynical, most Menckenian observers assume a half-year ruse was fashioned by these improvident amateurs just to juice the market before an election?
The Biden Administration has been a victim of circumstance within and beyond its control. But doling out dollars—or, in this case, black gold—to bait voters? It’s a political machination as old as time. Palm-grease ploys predate Plato. Like the mass student loan debt write-off put forth when Democrats were at their polling nadir, the Biden White House is scrambling in these waning weeks to save its party’s prospects.
Why wait until mid-October? To paraphrase Honest Abe, it’s the public sentiment, stupid! The tide is noticeably shifting from blue to red. Recent New York Times/Sienna College polling shows an abrupt swing of five points in favorability to the Republicans. As Matt Yglesias explains, the “Shy Republican” voter is poised to yet again shock the DC media mandarins. Professional polling consistently undercounts GOP electoral support. But even mainstream enthusiasm measures are moving the needle red, including in Pennsylvania and Nevada.
Call it James Carville’s revenge. Voters can’t ignore the inflationary elephant in the room, sucking away at their disposable income. The FDA requires us to carry the following medical warning: do NOT check your 401k’s performance over the past fiscal year. Doing so may cause angina, brainstorms, acute anxiety, and fainting spells.
Where does the teeter-totter of rising prices and falling savings hurt most? In the rattletrap you have to navigate modern life with, whether it’s to battle highway halfwits to get to work, pick up overpriced groceries, or schlep your crying kids to school. Biden can’t credibly claim to “feel your pain” because it’s unclear whether his nerve endings feel anything at this point. But he can temporarily jig market prices to make it feel like the wallet pinch isn’t so tight. And maybe, just maybe, save the ass party’s behind.
It’s a longshot move, but isn’t any political move that tries to buck historic trends?
Here’s the full-circle, feel-good ending to the Democrats’ chancy third act: the American people are unlikely to fall for it. Just as the Trump checks didn’t save his re-election, the Biden Administration’s half-baked gas price cutter won’t shore up the blue ballot. Voters are callow, selfish, arbitrary, and easily amused. But they easily see through wool cast before their eyes.