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Bill Straub: No matter the problem, the President is to blame, says James Comer, and he’s sticking to it

Rep. James Comer, a burgeoning right-wing media darling, has appeared on the telly more frequently than the Kardashians in recent days, contributing almost as much to meaningful discourse as that entire, sorry clan.

The Tompkinsville Republican’s areas of expertise know no bounds, hopping from subjects like gas prices (bad) to baby formula (terrible) to the House special committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection (even worse), dumping as much bilge water in the lap of President Biden as humanly possible while paying little heed to the accuracy of his pronouncements.

To hear Jamie tell it, gasoline prices have hit $5 a gallon and are headed even further into the blue sky because Biden, axe handle in hand, is standing in the doorway, keeping the financially strapped oil industry from digging even deeper into American terra firma. The answer, in Jamie world, is drill, drill, drill.

“…the simple solution to the problem of high gasoline prices is to release the potential of the American energy companies and let us drill more, let us process more,” Comer said on Fox Business News on June 9. “But the Biden administration will not do that.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com

“We have an energy crisis in America created by the bad policies of the Biden administration.”

Since its onset, Comer asserted in another far-right appearance, this one on some joke called “Wake Up America’’ on Newsmax, that Biden has “already declared war on the American energy companies.”

If it is Biden’s wish to do battle and destroy the nation’s fuel producers, it seems he is having about as much success as the Light Brigade at Balaklava.

But before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s approach something most can agree upon – on the political stage, when things head south, the president gets the blame, regardless of whether he (or, hopefully in the near future, she) has actually done anything to make the situation worse.

That’s a non-partisan statement. A simple fact. In 1982, after almost two miserable years in office, President Ronald Reagan, saddled with a recession that was not of his doing, saw Republicans lose 26 House seats in the off-year election and there was plenty of grumbling about the old man in the White House. Two years later, his bacon having ultimately been saved by Fed chairman Paul Volker’s tight money policies, Reagan was re-elected in a historic landslide.

So it goes. When things grow dark, everyone points at the president for failing to provide the light, even if he’s out of matches. Hail the American system.

Biden and his administration have little real impact on the price of gasoline. Oil is a global commodity, meaning the price of a barrel of oil is set on the world market. About 67 percent of the pump price depends on the price of crude oil, which has skyrocketed by about 70 percent over last year. Currently, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude goes for about $117.80 a barrel, which is abnormally high, forcing gasoline prices to rise not just in the United States but around the world.

Despite Comer’s hints to the contrary, domestic oil production is on the rise and expected to even reach record highs sometime next year. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported on Wednesday that output recently hit 12 million barrels per day and is approaching the all-time high of 12.9 billion barrels per day, set in December 2019.

U.S. crude oil production dropped precipitously as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic when demand cratered in 2020, falling by 8 percent, the largest annual decline on record. U.S. crude oil production averaged 11.3 million barrels per day during that period, a time before Biden assumed office. Producers are still trying to catch up.

Even during periods when production is high, refiners find it difficult to keep pace. The U.S. currently features 135 refineries, two fewer than it did in 2009, and other facilities are aging. Regardless, the nation’s capacity still outpaces every other country in the world.

And there is the issue of profit taking. Refiners didn’t bank as much dough during the pandemic and there’s reason to believe they’re making up for lost time by gouging at the pump. Shell Oil’s earnings for the first quarter of 2022 hit an all-time high of $9.13 billion. Exxon/Mobil earned $5.48 billion during the same period while Chevron hauled in $6.3 billion.

Nice, tidy sums, wouldn’t you say? But, according to our boy Jamie, the high pump prices are all Biden’s fault. Perhaps he can explain the policies that are expected to raise production to all time highs in 2023 and the fact that Big Oil is hauling in billions and billions of dollars while pump prices catapult to going on $6 per gallon.

And baby formula. There’s a shortage. Citing the rule defined before, Biden is president, so it’s his fault.

Comer, I’m sure you’ll be surprised to learn, agrees.

“This is another example of the incompetence of the Biden administration,” Comer said during an appearance last month on Prime News, again on Newsmax, which seems to love the guy.

Okay, to begin, there are only four major baby formula manufacturers operating in the U.S. — Abbott, Nestle, Mead Johnson and Perrigo. The shortage began, yet again, during the pandemic due to the now notorious supply-chain issue. The problem was further exacerbated when Abbott, which controls about 40 percent of the market, recalled some of its infant products after the Food and Drug Administration initiated an investigation based on reports that children in Atlanta and Memphis were hospitalized after consuming Abbott products.

The company closed its Sturgis, MI, production plant – voluntarily, according to the FDA – to review the process, ultimately determining that samples of cronobacter, a bacteria linked to several baby illnesses and deaths, were discovered in a space removed from the production area. Abbott said “a thorough review of all available data” showed no link between its formulas and the illnesses. The company nonetheless took remedial action to address the existing bacteria.

The plant reopened June 4, but it was forced to close again less than two weeks later after severe storms flooded the plant.

Perhaps that’s Biden’s fault too, Jamie. Get on it.

Regardless, the administration has taken steps to address the crisis. Invoking the Defense Production Act, which requires suppliers to dispatch ingredients to formula manufacturers before any other customer who requested the product. And it initiated Operation Fly Formula to transport the product in from abroad.

“This  administration continues to drop the ball and this is another perfect example,” Comer said.

Now, it’s worth noting here that the federal government itself is not in the business of manufacturing baby formula. That would be socialism, something Comer and his cronies consider worse than Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” running on a constant loop.

The crisis, and it should be raised to that level, pre-dates Biden and involves supply chain issues. Which raises a question, if Jamie is so concerned about getting formula and other goods efficiently to market, why did he oppose The Open Shipping Reform Act of 2022, a bipartisan measure passed in the House this week, which among other things, prohibits marine terminals from refusing to fill available cargo space, thus allowing for the more efficient transfer of goods while reducing shipping costs.

The bill also addresses the truly real problem of inflation, another area of Comer’s expertise, which, as he knows, is also an issue that presents the president with all the blame even though he holds few cards.

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One Comment

  1. Ruth Bamberger says:

    Comer is a part of the problem, as well as the majority of members in Congress lacking the guts to deal head on with problems demanding immediate attention– climate change, immigration, economic inequality, criminal justice reform, et al. Republicans have no agenda to address these problems; Mitch McConnell has even stated that there will be no legislative agenda from his congressional leadership until after the midterm elections. Any president can do only so much when leaders like McConnell and his underlings act only to obstruct. Maybe that’s all they are able to do if guys like Dr. Oz, Herschel Walker, JD Vance and other Trump allies who know nothing about the art of governing are elected in November.

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