Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Gas prices and presidential politics

Always sharp-eyed and observant, I try not to let too many things escape my attention.

Especially licence plates and bumper stickers.

I have always been intrigued by so-called "vanity plates" because I have no idea what many of them mean. They must mean something or people wouldn’t pay the extra fee for placing a message on the rear end of a car.

But some of them are really puzzling, because they seem to have meaning only for the owner.

I know the license bureau won’t allow anything dirty on vanity plates, so bad words are strictly forbidden.

I have two vanity plates, and I know exactly what they mean. One says THE NH and the other says LKLND 67.

You can probably figure them out. If you haven’t come up with the answers yet, the first one refers to the newspaper you are now holding in your hands (assuming you are not holding a blog in your hands) and the second is a reference to the year in which Lakeland Community College was chartered.

The lady of the house doesn’t have a vanity plate, but she has a licence that starts out DWB followed by a string of numbers. I told her it stands for "Driving While Blonde." She thinks that is OK.

But I digress.

About bumper stickers. I totally eschew bumper stickers, even in the hottest of political campaigns, although I would consider renting space on my rear bumper for a reasonable compensation.

Other than that, I am not crazy about bumper stickers.

There is one I see quite often in the faculty/staff parking lot at Lakeland that says, "When Bush took office, gas was $1.49 a gallon."

My suspicion is that it is not so much an economic message as it is a political message. The implication is that Bush never did anything right, including getting control over gasoline prices.

Well, my bumper sticker-type response would be, "How do you like gas prices now under Obama?"
The other day gas was $3.89 a gallon — and rising.

That is probably no more Obama’s fault that the previous prices were Bush’s fault.

Asking a president to take full blame for gasoline prices is a bit silly. But if you really want to hold presidents responsible for gas prices, give me good old "Give ‘em Hell Harry" Truman any time.

When I was a senior at Willoughby Union High School, I drove a delivery truck for Snyder Furniture in Downtown Willoughby. Truman was president at the time.

Walter Snyder was a great boss. But he was also careful with money. Which does not speak unkindly of him.

If our presidents were as careful with money as Walter Snyder was, we wouldn’t be arguing about shutting down the government. We would have plenty of money to operate every branch of government with a lot left over for incidentals.

Remember the words of Ronald Reagan: We don’t have an income problem in the government, we have a spending problem. In other words, taxes are already too high. We just spend too much.

Which brings us back to Harry Truman — and Walter Snyder.

Truman, as noted, was president when I drove the furniture delivery truck. Whenever the truck was low on gas, Mr. Snyder would give me a one dollar bill and tell me to go down to the Sohio station on the corner by the high level bridge.

The bridge is no longer called the high level bridge, but that is another story.

"Get five gallons of gas," he would say, "and bring back the dime change."

Yes, when Harry was president, gasoline was 18 cents a gallon. At least, at the Sohio station it was. I presume it was everywhere else, also.

So if we must blame presidents for gasoline prices, let’s forget about that outdated bumper sticker in the college parking lot that advertises what it was selling for when Bush took office.

Maybe it’s time for a new bumper sticker that says, "When Truman was president, gas was 18 cents a gallon."

It’s time for a new attitude as well as a new bumper sticker.

Bush will never be on the ballot again. Give him a break.

But Obama will be on the ballot again. Must we remind voters what gas prices were when he took office?

Of course, that would not be a political message. It would merely be an economic observation.

Better yet, we should have a bumper sticker that lists what we were paying for gas under all of our presidents, not just Bush.

It would be a rather large bumper sticker. It would be more like a billboard,

Anybody want to guess how much gas was under Coolidge?

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