You can tell people are filling up their cars with gasoline by the scowls on their faces. Nearly three years into Obama-Nation and the term "gas pain" is something that Tums just can't erase.
It's the culmination of the most anti-oil, anti-energy administration this country has seen since the failed presidency of Jimmy Carter. But the American media are doing their best to hide that fact.
When Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009, gas was $1.84 a gallon. It topped $2 a gallon on March 26 and has never looked back. The lowest gas has been in the past year was $2.85 and that was nearly a year ago. Today, gas costs $3.39 a gallon. Not only is $2 gas a fond memory, $3 gas may be as well.
According to recent reports, we may set a new record high next year. "AAA also believes that prices could soar to $4.25 to $4.50 a gallon in 2012 thanks to crude oil volatility and increased demand due to positive economic indicators," wrote Patch.com. "This would be a far increase from the record-high average of $4.11 a gallon, set back in 2008."
Surely, were George Bush, R-Evil Oil Guy, still in the White House, the old-school media would be screaming about the high prices. And rightly so. To paraphrase New York's Jimmy McMillan, the gas price is too damn high.
Only it's not covered like that. Several times in 2011, media so-called "experts" have predicted that gas, which nearly hit $4 a gallon this year, would be dropping. Oh sure, it has dropped - a whopping 56 cents since the May 12 high.
The Associated Press was overly optimistic. They wrote back in May to "expect a drop of nearly 50 cents as early as June, analysts say." That didn't happen until September. USA Today told readers on June 24 that gas would be hit $3.40 or lower by July 4. That happened today four and a half months late.
But that's what happens when your president goes on a jihad against American energy. Obama has opposed coal, he wants to be punitive against the oil industry, won't allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and, in a politically cowardly move, stalled plans for the Keystone XL pipeline. The only energy Obama seems to support is the mass anger of Occupy Wall Street.
It's times like this to remember just how bad the hype around high gas prices was for the Bush administration. In August, 2005, John Blackstone of the "CBS Evening News" worried: "Across the nation, gas prices went to record highs today ... Will it get to the point that only the privileged can afford gas?" Gas was around $2.60 a gallon. Gas is almost 80 cents higher right now, yet media types aren't screaming about the 1 percent being the only ones who can afford gas.
In 2008, when gas prices really did spike to incredible levels, CBS's Kelly Wallace was blaming them for cutbacks in services and even deaths. "In one rural California case, according to the president of Meals on Wheels nationwide, cutting back from daily deliveries to one every 14 days proved fatal. Two seniors were found dead."
But when it spiked to a record $4.11 that year, gas dropped just as rapidly - more than $2 in a few months. And when that happened, CBS's Mark Strassmann called that "a grim time for alternative energy champions."
That's right. High gas prices were awful. And when the price dropped, that was awful too. That's the media politics of gas prices. Whatever the price is, it is used against Republicans and, if possible for Democrats.
Earlier this year, during the near-record price spike, the network news shows hardly treated higher prices like a big story. They produced just 40 percent of the gas price stories than they had during the 2008 price increase. Of course, that one happened under Bush. To top it off, they linked "skyrocketing" gas prices to Bush 15 times more than Obama.
Someone who's naturally skeptical might draw the conclusion that the news media use gas prices to make their economic arguments. And they'd be correct.
Gas prices are the single most visible economic indicator in our lives. Drive down a highway and you see signs declaring the price 2-feet tall or more. In addition, we often buy gas on its own, so there's nothing else in our shopping cart to confuse us about the price.
During the Bush administration, fluctuating gas prices were a persistent way media types depicted a struggling economy. Now under Obama, they largely dodge their own indicator because it would make their man in the White House look bad.
Journalists may be a lost cause on this issue. But for the rest of us, the message is clear. The Obama presidency has resulted in a regressive tax of more than $1 a gallon - one that harms our most needy, in the most difficult of economic circumstances. It's time for Obama to do what we all do when stop for a fill up - gas up and go. Especially go.
Dan Gainor is the Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center's Vice President for Business and Culture. His column appears each week on The Fox Forum. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.