The Corner

Gas Price Problem, Mr. President? The Most Politicized Justice Department in History Is at Your Service!

As the “Arab Spring” spooks the market, and Obama’s economic, monetary and energy policies increase inflationary pressure, gas prices keep pushing upward, now well over $4/gallon in many places. So, rather than look in the mirror, President Obama has reached again for his dog-eared copy of Rules for Radicals and searched out a culprit to demonize. And the winner is … those bad “traders and speculators,” who, he suggested yesterday, could be “taking advantage of American consumers for their own short-term gains.”

In order to carry out this farce, he has directed his ever accommodating attorney general, Eric Holder, to head up a “task force” to “look into any cases of price gouging.” Thus, yet again, we have the Obama Justice Department putting the public’s law-enforcement power in the service of the White House’s political agenda — this time, deflecting blame.

There is no need for a task force on gas price gouging. The Federal Trade Commission already is a task force on gas price gouging. As the Congressional Research Service reported in 2007, the FTC has long been responsible for monitoring gas prices. In 2005, the Energy Policy Act tasked the commission to investigate whether gas prices were being “artificially manipulated by reducing refinery capacity or by any other form of market manipulation or price gouging practices.” Following Hurricane Katrina, the gouge-hunting mandate was further enhanced. And the extensive FTC scrutiny is separate and apart from investigative action in most states, which already have gas price-gouging laws.

What the president gave us yesterday was pure theater: Make a show of aggressively investigating a phantom — one that is already scrutinized to a fare thee well — in order to obscure the real problem: the president himself. It was Barack Obama who told us, back when he was a candidate, that he doesn’t have a problem with high gasoline prices and that they are caused not by “traders and speculators” but by increasing demand on a limited commodity supply — one that his policies adamantly refuse to allow us to replenish, let alone increase. 

If Mr. Holder is looking for some real work to do, maybe he could start up a task force to prosecute Islamist organizations that have used charitable fronts to funnel money to Hamas and other Muslim terrorists. There seem to be a number of those cases wrapped up and ready to go — they’re just waiting for a Justice Department willing to do them.

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