Friday's New York Times column by Paul Krugman is titled "Paranoia Strikes Deeper." (It's evidently a sequel to Krugman's "Paranoia Strikes Deep" column of November 9, 2009. We eagerly await the final installment of the trilogy, "Paranoia Strikes Deepest," which should come out right before the 2012 election.)
Stop, hey, what’s that sound? Actually, it’s the noise a great political party makes when it loses what’s left of its mind. And it happened -- where else? -- on Fox News on Sunday, when Mitt Romney bought fully into the claim that gas prices are high thanks to an Obama administration plot.
This claim isn’t just nuts; it’s a sort of craziness triple play -- a lie wrapped in an absurdity swaddled in paranoia. It’s the sort of thing you used to hear only from people who also believed that fluoridated water was a Communist plot. But now the gas-price conspiracy theory has been formally endorsed by the likely Republican presidential nominee.
Before we get to the larger implications of this endorsement, let’s get the facts on gas prices straight.
First, the lie: No, President Obama did not say, as many Republicans now claim, that he wanted higher gasoline prices. He did once say that a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions would cause electricity prices to “skyrocket” -- an unfortunate word choice. But saying that such a system would raise energy prices was just a factual statement, not a declaration of intent to punish American consumers. The claim that Mr. Obama wanted higher prices is a lie, pure and simple.
But is it really "a lie, pure and simple"? No. Candidate Obama said in 2007: "I think it is important for us to send some price signals, to change behavior" and that “it's not going to be painless....a lot of us who can afford are going to have to pay more per unit of electricity” to cover the higher cost of green energy production. And Obama's energy secretary Steven Chu said in 2008 (before he joined the cabinet) that he wanted gas prices to rise to European levels.