Maybe Iran didn’t do it directly, but it is a member of OPEC. OPEC is at fault. The surge in gas pump prices, caused by a weak dollar due to unsustainable trade and government deficits as well as speculation on oil and gas futures, has become a political football. Hillary the populist wants to bring the price down so that working people will be able to gas up their SUVs to go to Wal Mart to use their unemployment checks to buy things made in China. She also wants to confront the bad guys at OPEC who are engaged in price and supply fixing, forcing them to pump more oil. Hillary no doubt sees her hard line as an effective electoral ploy for two reasons. First, the OPEC bad guys are mostly Muslims and a good boot up their rear ends would send the signal that she is not backing off from her pledge to obliterate Iran. Second, blaming OPEC means not having to criticize Congress, Democrats, Republicans, George Bush, or even, GASP!, the American People for the current economic mess. Blaming foreigners, particularly swarthy guys who wear towels on their heads, is a much better option.
In yesterday’s Washington Post, Steven Pearlstein jumped on the Hillary bandwagon, suggesting that the US Congress could pass a law declaring price fixing by foreign governments illegal. It could then deny visas to officials of those countries, block investment by US companies in their oil and gas development, and make it illegal for investment funds from those countries to place money in the United States.
Think about all that for a minute. First of all, both for Hillary and Pearlstein it suggests that the United States has unique extraterritorisl rights. It also reflects an assumption that Washington can do anything it wants anywhere and at any time, a mind set that has brought nothing but grief over the past seven years. And there is the constitutional and legal question. How can the US pass laws regulating other countries? It is a neocon concept if there ever was one, and it most punishes countries that have supported US policies in the Middle East and beyond. If the Saudis and the Emirate Sheikhs were to respond by curtailing their shopping trips to New York, Tiffany’s would undoubtedly go out of business. But they might also question the unfairness of it all and it might make them mad. They might think of gettin even by ending the link of their petroleum exports and currencies to the dollar, switching to the stable euro instead. The US Treasury would no longer be able to print currency knowing that central banks must acquire dollar reserves to pay for oil, leading to the meltdown everyone fears.