(I spiffed up my categories a little, got rid of the stupid “fiction or essay” one and split it out into separate ones, because it was annoying to keep throwing every post into “humor” or “writing.” This one is an essay, by the way.)
There’re so many things that greatly piss me off about modern life, that I feel compelled to rant about them, even though it will probably accomplish nothing except that I’ll lose my small, yet greatly appreciated, fan base who read me for my fiction or my stabs at humor. I was going to call this series (assuming I ever do more than one) of posts “My Unabomber Manifesto” after the one published by the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, even though I hate the guy for being evil and a murderer. I won’t bore you with the details of his story; look up “Unabomber” if unfamiliar. I always wanted Bob Ross, from “The Joy of Painting”, to call one of his everpresent little creekside or mountain cabins “a happy little Unabomber cabin”, though. That’s how he was caught; the NY Times and Washington Post published his insane ramblings, commonly known as “The Unabomber Manifesto”, then his brother recognized the style of writing and thinking and turned him in. But then I actually read a little of it, and not only was he evil, but his ramblings were so idiotic (apparently, leftists are responsible for all modern ills), that I have to call this my “Non-Unabomber Manifesto.”
Anyway, the discussion of gas prices. Some of you may have noticed that the price of gasoline in the U.S.A. has doubled, even tripled, in the last, what?, 8 to 12 years, and that it fluctuates wildly here, usually going up, or occasionally down, in 10 cent/gallon increments (or multiples thereof). The price of crude oil is often higher when the price of gas jumps, but not always. The price jumps do not seem to follow any typical rules of supply and demand. Any searchings I’ve done, any news stories I’ve read or watched, bring sketchy results at best as to what causes this, though some mention is made of commodities trading, conducted on Wall Street and elsewhere (wherever computers roam).
Personally, I think that 98% of the cause of the huge price increase in gas in this millenium is due to commodity trading in crude oil. People, some in the oil industry, but many outside of it who do not “add any value” to the production or refining of the product, are making HUGE bucks by betting on the price of crude oil rising, and buying and selling it at the right times.
How do shoes fit in? Well, if you ever read a Sunday paper cover to cover, you may notice that some have a small “magazine” in them, say a “USA Weekend” or a “Parade” or some such thing, which had some size when I was a kid, but now are about the same size and thickness as a postage stamp. An article I read in one of these publications a year or two ago spotlighted a woman and her huge shoe collection; she even made money blogging (or was it a book?) about her love of her shoes, where and when she bought them, what memories they brought her, etc. Nothing at all wrong with that; doubtless her kids are properly fed, cared for, and, I dare say, shod. And now her writings probably pay for most or all of her shoe purchases.
However, late in the article, the author casually mentioned that the shoe lady’s hubby makes a living trading in crude oil options. There’s where my blood boiled a little, that people (who cares if it’s man or woman, or what their extravagant purchases are?) are able to make extravagant purchases due to the income brought into their house because of the artificially inflated pride of crude oil, caused by people trading in it. Every dollar he is able to spend on their mortgage and other expenses, by you and I paying more at the pump, is a dollar she can spend on pumps. (Ha, didn’t see that coming, did you? Neither did I till halfway through the sentence.)
What the news stories never seem to mention, though, is the effect that the obscene gas price increases have on every good and service we buy. Every product, every Quarter-Pounder, every pound of hamburger at the store, every diaper, loaf of bread, bag of chips, case of beer, new Bible, flat screen TV, or package of asswipe, hell, every SHOE, costs more, in part due to increases in transportation costs, largely due to increased fuel costs.
I believe the high price of gas (and diesel) is strangling our economy more than any other factor. Consumers simply can’t afford to buy as much, hell they can’t possible plan a budget, not knowing if their gasoline costs are going to change 20-200 dollars a month, depending on length of commute or other travel. We, the working poor, are subsidizing the profits of oil commodities traders, as well as oil company honchos, who wouldn’t be able to make as big a profit per gallon if the price were set strictly on the basis of supply and demand.
Do I believe that every penny over the 1999 price of, say, $1.20 a gallon, is the result of crude oil trading? Hell, no. Geopolitical factors, demand in China and India, health care costs for oil company workers, state gas taxes, demand for other petroleum-based products, etc., and other factors probably bring the actual fair price of a gallon of gas in the United States to about $2-2.50 a gallon. The rest, I firmly believe, is due to futures trading.
Why do we allow futures trading? I’m pretty sure there’d still be a demand for crude oil, and refineries would buy it and sell gas, diesel fuel, and other products to buyers. I did read in my bit of internet research on the issue about something I’d call the “Onion Factor”, which is the argument that, since for some reason farmers way back decided that they didn’t want any futures trading done in onions, that the price fluctuates too wildly. I don’t buy that we actually need to have futures, or commodities, or options, or whatever you call it, trading in crude oil, in order to regulate the price of oil. Obviously it isn’t working as a regulator of prices, and obviously there would still be a great demand for oil and the products it is refined into. I could live without the bad breath and tears of cooking and eating onions, but I have to have gasoline to get places. The U.S. needs to completely do away with this trading. But that will never happen.
Why won’t the U.S. do away with futures trading in oil? Too many wealthy people are invested in it and love it and depend on it to become even wealthier. I don’t believe whatsoever in conspiracy theories; I think that people who believe Oswald didn’t act alone are “missing a couple beers from their 12-packs”. But it’s quite tempting, and unfortunately not too far-fetched to believe one theory I read, that many of the financial institutions that nearly went belly up in 2008 have been given the “carrot” (by the Fed?) of using the world of oil commodities trading as their own little money tree. It really wouldn’t surprise me, and that’s sad. Too many lobbyists make their money keeping such institutions in place also. Expect me to yap about lobbyists and ”fat cats” at a later date. Thanks for listening.