Sunday, March 11, 2012

New piece in Philadelphia Inquirer: Speculators smooth out the rough spots

My new piece with Grover Norquist in the Philadelphia Inquirer starts this way:

With regular gas prices topping $3.70 last weekend, angry politicians are blaming the higher prices on speculators and greedy oil companies. On Monday, The Hill newspaper reported that 23 senators and 45 congressmen, all Democrats except for one independent, called for urgent action against the "speculators" they hold responsible. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania demanded, "Consumers shouldn't be forced to pay higher prices at the pump because of speculative bets on Wall Street."

These politicians want the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to use its new regulatory powers under a law signed by President Obama two years ago to limit the amount of oil that speculators can buy.

This isn't a new concern. Last April, when regular gas prices hit $4 a gallon, the president launched a Department of Justice investigation into what he called "manipulation in the oil markets that might affect gas prices."

Unfortunately, neither the Democrats in Congress nor Obama appear to have a clue how markets work. The policy reminds one of Richard Nixon's attacks on speculators during the 1970s. . . .

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