Last Thursday the price of oil inched above $55 dollar a barrel, which is at least $15 barrel more than it was a year ago. On Friday, the oil story was buried on page six of the New York Times business section. Apparently the price of of oil is not considered significant news, even when it goes up five dollars a barrel in the span of ten days.
On Friday evening, CNN reported that the Dow shot up over one hundred points because of favorable employment numbers issued by the government and also because there were no signs of inflation in government-reported price data.
Stock markets are generally understood to behave on the basis of a consensus among traders about future prospects. Apparently stock traders in America think there is no connection between the price of oil shooting up ten percent in little more than a week, and the price of things that depends on oil for their manufacture or distribution — which is to say, virtually everything.
Our inability to process information is reaching an impressive level.
I, for one, would be concerned about the price of oil and inflation — that is the loss of purchasing power in the dollar. The recent price jump in oil is happening in March, you see, a couple of months shy of the so-called spring driving season. Typically, in recent years, oil prices have seen their biggest bumps around Memorial Day, when Americans resume long-distance motoring in earnest after staying close to home all winter. If oil stays in the low to mid $50 range for a while, it would not be unreasonable to expect $60 a barrel oil in May. And that is assuming that no untoward geopolitical shock will occur, say the assassination of a Saudi prince, or an attack on an oil installation.
On Sunday, the New York Times ran a roundtable discussion (in the Book Review) between three prominent young “liberal” intellectuals (Katrina vanden Heuvel, Michael Tomasky, and Peter Beinhart) about what the Democratic Left can do to reclaim its place as a credible opposition. None of these hotshots mentioned the fact that the nation faces a defining crisis over our energy supplies. I don’t think the word “oil” was even mentioned by this clueless trio. They have no idea what kind of convulsion we are heading into.
Somebody ought to bring this to the Democrat’s attention. America has a problem bigger than social security, or the price of prescription drugs, or gay marriage. America is heading into a situation in which it will no longer have an economy. The Republicans at least have an excuse for their willful blindness — they’ve already taken the position that the life of extreme car-dependency and everything it implies is not negotiable. They are committed to defending that position, no matter how foolish it may be.
The Republicans will certainly be disgraced by the coming vicissitudes that they allowed the nation to sleepwalk into. But the Democrats may have less credibility in the future because they were not obligated to defend a foolish status quo, and they did anyway.
I wonder if Howard Dean ever thinks about these things.