Friday, April 20, 2012

Obama as Inspector Javert

Obama's attempt to demonstrate that he is doing something about oil prices is to once again blast mysterious speculators. But he doesn't have any evidence to back up his demagoguery and calls for investigations and regulation. As the WSJ terms it, his strategy is Seinfeldian.
Nowhere in his remarks did the President claim that speculation is doing any harm. He did not cite any negative impact on the oil market. He did not say that speculators are manipulating oil prices, nor did he describe in even the vaguest terms the individuals or institutions that might be involved. He didn't cite any research. Mr. Obama didn't even, well, speculate about whether oil prices would be higher or lower if not for unnamed actors who may or may not be affecting the markets.

But the President did make clear that if speculators were manipulating markets, that would be bad. "We can't afford a situation where speculators artificially manipulate markets by buying up oil, creating the perception of a shortage, and driving prices higher—only to flip the oil for a quick profit," he said. "And for anyone who thinks this cannot happen, just think back to how Enron traders manipulated the price of electricity to reap huge profits at everybody else's expense."

The Enron scandal happened more than a decade and two major financial-regulation laws ago.

Jim Geraghty did the research for us to demonstrate how, year after year, Obama has launched the same, exact initiative to find market manipulators in the oil market. One day, Obama's Javert-like search for these shadowy speculators will either find them or piddle out as everyone realizes that there is no evidence of manipulation of the markets, just as every investigation into such allegations concludes that it's all just hot air. Unfortunately, hot air won't power our cars.