Saw a bit in yesterday's Grand Rapids Press that Alaska's two senators are going to try to use the current economic situation and the potential for $4/gallon gasoline to once again push for oil drilling in ANWR. First, will everyone STOP talking about $4/gallon gasoline? You're just giving "them" permission to go ahead and raise gas prices that high, because it's what "everyone" is saying is going to happen, so it's not "their" fault. Uh-huh. Second, even if common sense left the room and we as a nation decided to go into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and start poking and prodding around for oil, does anyone really believe that any appreciable amount of oil will get down here before 2018 or 2028? If any of the oil comes down here anyway. A lot of the Alaskan oil currently is sold to Japan, freeing us up to buy oil from overseas, as I understand it. So pumping oil out of ANWR isn't going to end or prevent $4/gallon gasoline from coming. Third, even if they could get oil out of ANWR quickly and used if for domestic use, it only really becomes economic to buy and use ANWR oil only IF gas is like $4/gallon. Or more.
Forgetting the environmental issues, I haven't seen any economic analyses yet which make sense to go into ANWR for oil.
You're Not Doing Your Part -- Spend More, Dammit
Yesterday's paper also had a sidebar saying that consumer spending dropped something like 0.2 or 0.6% in February even with seasonal adjustments. Now seasonal adjustments are designed to take into account things like Christmas and seasonal jobs. But what I want to know is how much the weather is taken into consideration. After all, during the sixteen weeks of February 2008 (grin), we had a lot of weekends with horrendous weather and I don't know about you, but a lot of people stayed home rather than go shopping here in West Michigan and in both the regular and unusual snow belts all across the country. So either there was a slight drop despite the cruel February weather or else there was a slight drop which might be explained away just by not completely taking into account the waves of storms after storms after storms.
Or... people could be holding onto their remaining bits of money because they don't like where the economy is going. There's a strike at an axel company nearby and a number of auto plants are having to shut down nationwide. That on top of the rest of the usual economic stuff.
Oh, and remember that the Consumer Price Index doesn't include "volatile" things like food or gasoline, so it can't possibly be that inflation is eating into discretionary disposable income spending.
So Is It or Isn't It?
The last time everyone was sent checks from the IRS as an economic stimulus, no one mentioned at the time that it wasn't free money, but an advance on the next year's tax refunds. So that a year after spending the money, people either were facing a smaller tax refund or had to cough up the money and write a bigger check to the IRS. Nice.
You'd think with a history like that someone would bother to mention the 2008 economic stimulus checks and whether it's free money or an advance loan against your next year taxes. But no. As it stands, I had almost convinced myself it was different this time around because of the way people were using the words "rebate" versus "refund", but recently I began to have doubts. If nothing else, these economic stimulus checks will count as income, so it will affect your taxes next year one way or another.
Not to worry though. Any confusion or financial hurt that occurs in April 2009 is so far off... that it's after the November elections. (double-entry-grin) That way the people who count won't get hurt at all. (triple-witching-hour-grin)