Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Consumers are more depressed about the economy than they have ever been in the past three decades, according to a Reuters-University of Michigan consumer-confidence survey released Friday. The nosedive in the national mood is most striking in the fact that only 21 percent think better times are coming in the year ahead. A rudderless administration presiding over the expansion of counterproductive leftist public policies has suffocated hope.
The survey's chief economist, Richard Curtin, pinned the sour attitude on three specific factors: the rise in gas prices, more expensive food and the widespread understanding that real incomes are going to remain flat. As has been widely discussed, the Obama administration's anti-drilling policies have thwarted development of America's vast oil reserves, ensuring this country remains unnecessarily dependent upon unstable foreign sources of crude. That makes things more expensive at the pump, but longer-term forces are also at work. Since 1995, car-hating liberals claiming to be saviors of the environment have required refiners to produce dozens of boutique fuel blends that change based on region and season. Previously, the Environmental Protection Agency mandated use of a substance known as MTBE to adulterate gasoline and create these blends. Never mind that this groundwater-polluting additive is a carcinogen.
Ethanol has mostly supplanted MTBE, transferring billions out of the pockets of drivers and into the hands of large agribusiness firms like Archer Daniels Midland, the largest producer of the corn-based substance. With the government lavishing subsidies on this useless product, less crop land is available for food production. That not only drives up the cost of corn flakes but beef and all the other products that depend on corn for feed.
In despair, Americans have looked to the Oval Office for a message of growth and prosperity. …