Choose-Your-Own Economic Data Doom

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 29 2012 3:31 PM

Choose-Your-Own Economic Data Doom

The great Amy Gardner tweets a photo of a new Gingrich campaign sign. The candidate has been asking people to tweet "Newt = $2.50 gas," but what's a tweet compared to this?

Screen shot 2012-02-29 at 2.37.15 PM

And a friend tweets this: A post-it stuck on a gas station pump. This is part of a micro-trend that dates back, at latest, to 2011.

Screen shot 2012-02-29 at 10.34.11 AM

Where does the new wave of gas price anger come from? Well, it comes from higher gas prices. But we should be used to those. They were high one year ago, spiking because of new uncertainty in the Middle East (which hasn't really ended) and because of seasonal demands. Commodities economists could take politicians into a nice, air-conditioned room and explain this stuff to them, but they wouldn't listen. High prices are proof, for Republicans, that the Keystone Pipeline should have been approved yesterday and built at double-size. They are proof, for Democrats, that the Koch Brothers are truly heinous, "keeping oil off the market, storing it in offshore tankers and waiting to cash in when the cost of oil rises."

But most of the carping is coming from Republicans. They have a killer line: Gas prices have doubled since Obama was inaugurated. The first indication that this might be misleading: Michele Bachmann coined it. The second indication: Actual data. Look at a chart of gas prices since 2008:

Screen shot 2012-02-29 at 10.35.53 AM

This is a true statement: At the end of 2008, gas prices were half of what they are now. The twist is that the end of 2008 was also the apocalypse. The day that Obama was sworn in, the Dow plunged to 7,949. It's now above 13,000 again. The month that Obama was sworn in, the economy shed around 600,000 jobs -- the third consecutive month with a loss that size.

Three years ago, if you wanted to point to data and say "See? This is how Obama is failing us," you had a lot to choose from, but you couldn't choose gas prices. Today, you can't really attack Obama on stock prices; the argument about unemployment is complicated, and involved discussion of the "real unemployment rate." Instead, you have to argue that commodities of all kinds -- gas prices especially -- are more expensive because of Obama's botch-ups. And that's one reason we're hearing so much about this.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.