Where we stand

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Some urban gas stations reported they were making a bigger profit on doughnuts and candy bars on their food shelves than they were at the pump.

These disclosures arrived in a dead heat with another less startling report from the same cashier counters and the industry mathematicians: The average price of a gallon of gas, from Long Island, N.Y. to the Northwest Angle of Minnesota to Hermosa Beach in California reached $3.30 Friday. With the oil producers, the sheiks and the refiners all wearing their rally caps shooting for $4.00 by Halloween, I was beginning to wonder what took us so long to get to $3.30.

Bristling with curiosity, I drove out to a neighborhood service station this morning to fill my tank, which still measured half full. It’s one of the survival tricks now making the rounds of the internet. Waiting until you’re running on fumes is said to be counter-productive for the car owner; something about physics and relativity. Gas costs you incrementally more if you wait until you’re scraping the bottom of the tank.

I told the station’s assistant manager about the new allegation that cupcakes and candy are doing better than gas on the station’s profit sheets.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know who’s making money with gas at $3.30 a gallon. “I don’t think it’s us.”

“So are your customers gobbling up groceries as a nervous reaction to the price of gas?”

“Are you kidding? Have you looked at the price of food lately?”

So the gas stations are pleading poverty. The oil cartels are lowering production of gasoline because the price of crude keeps climbing, which means the refiners are buying less crude. The tighter the supplies of gasoline, the more it costs the befuddled working stiff in America now holding a gas nozzle in one hand and a cell phone in the other, calling to find out latest devaluation number on his house.

In the midst of all of this the Wall Street dropouts who have found a safe haven as economists in the Bush administration tell us the best way to avoid a Depression-style crash is to stop hamstringing the dynamic operation of the market with needless regulation.

This is the market that has consigned 4 million homes to no-man’s-land, dumped tens of thousands of people out of work and driven thousands more into the street by happily engaging in fraud, manipulation, greed, and economic cannibalism.

In the meantime George Bush is traveling in Europe trying to recruit more Eastern European clients to surround Russia with missile launchers.

This is said to be in the interest of promoting world peace. It comes from a president whose adventure in Iraq has killed more than 3,800 American service men and women and thousands of innocent Iraqis since he flew onto a carrier in full flight suit announcing the end of his save-the-world mission five years ago.

So here we are in an economic free fall, with the surviving Wall Street players cherry-picking the losers, and the natural question then is, if gas is at $3.30 and everybody in the industry denies making windfall profits, where is all the money going?

Some of the station operators have cleverly shifted the blame to legislators, who want to enact a gas tax increase because without it even more teachers are going to lose their jobs, more schools are closing, and more bridges will fall down. For some of those legislatures it’s all there is left after the billions of dollars once dedicated to schools, highways and public safety have been drained off by nearly eight years of subsidies to millionaires in the form of tax cuts. Some of those gas stations have installed TV screens above the pumps replaying news stories about gas tax legislation and making that a prime villain for the malaise spreading over America today.

The default answer used to be, “it’s going to the banks, naturally.”

The problem with that answer is that half of the investment banks on Wall Street are broke. Most of the others would be if they hadn’t been bailed by the country’s central bank, which made a hostage out the taxpayers’ money after talking strategy with some of the big investment houses that colluded in the mortgage collapse.

This is where the country stands after more than 7 years of the Bush Gang in Washington, as arrogant as it was in the beginning despite the financial cave-in crashing around them. This is the same crowd that recruited one of its aparatchiks to write a memo declaring that the power of the president is absolute. The president and his handlers can do what they want, and the Constitution of the United States is suddenly a relic.

And so they are beyond our reach, shielded by the Supreme Court of the United States. We are a debtor nation, not far from bankruptcy, squandering billions on defective armament with a Pentagon budget out of control while Main Street in America dies a little each day and the rest of the world looks at us in bewilderment. We have witnessed a feeding frenzy on Wall Street for most of those seven years and watched a government led by an imposter methodically turn a great country into a caricature.

Shouldn’t that be enough to make the American people people gag?

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