Random Observation: Cigarettes are Very Cheap in VA


Gasoline Witch Hunt

Much like 2008, we find ourselves witnessing another gasoline witch hunt. President Obama recently ordered the Justice Department to investigate the seemingly endless increase in gasoline prices at the pump for fraud and manipulation by everyone’s favorite villain: speculators.

Once again, though, it’s nothing more than a political ploy. President Obama recently lamented to the well-heeled attendees* at a fundraiser out in San Francisco that his poll numbers rise and fall with gas prices. And who can blame voters? I certainly don’t like the fact that it costs me over $80 to fill my car ever week down here in Virginia where prices are even below the national average. But the fact of the matter is that the President has little, if any, control over the price of gasoline- at least in the short run.

As long as crazy dictators continue to be threatened by their weary people in the Middle East, the markets will push the price of oil up. After all, removing and transporting that oil has become more dangerous and uncertain, while there could be major disruptions in supply at any moment if a group decides to take an oil field or block a port. Hence, higher prices. Also, the dollar continues to plummet in value. A cheaper dollar buys less oil. Again, higher prices. The President cannot easily control either of these market drivers, which must be incredibly frustrating to him.

Ironically, the one concrete plan he has proposed this week will likely result in even higher prices for consumers. He wants to reduce or eliminate the billions of dollars in federal subsidies that oil companies receive in the U.S. and put that money towards reducing the deficit. Again, he’s simply trying to brush all the current political issues on the minds of voters with the deficit being among the most heavily discussed. But, once again, we have nothing more than sound-bite. Now, I’m not defending these subsidies.
Neither is Speaker Boehner. But, the issue certainly isn’t going to lead to lower prices at the pump any time soon.

So, will voters fall for the bait? I don’t think so. Voters, though largely ignorant (not meant in a demeaning way-
see Wikipedia article on rational ignorance), are smart enough to see turmoil in the Middle East on the news and understand that the situation over there drastically affects prices at the pump, not some dorky number-cruncher “manipulating” the markets in his gray cubicle.

Will they continue to blame Obama? Probably. This is just one issue in a line of many for which voters hold the President accountable, including health care, unpopular wars, unemployment, etc. It’s a lot easier for voters to lump gas prices together with these issues and hold it against Obama than it is for them to believe that his investigations will have any meaningful effect on the cost of filling up our beloved trucks and SUVs.

* Who certainly don’t worry about the cost of filling their Bentleys, Teslas, or Prii (Wikipedia claims the
plural of Prius is Prii. If Wikipedia says it, it must be true.)

The College Check in the Box

Anyone who has spoken with me about education knows I believe that college is useless for many, if not a majority, of Americans who attend it these days. The relaxation of standards for admissions and overall performance has made college a mere check in the box for most students. This is so much so that in order to appeal to many businesses today you need to have obtained your masters or MBA just to stand out from the competition. In addition to college itself having become a check in the box, college classes focused around liberal arts have also become so. Students are forced to take classes throughout their four years that don’t appeal to their personal or professional aspirations and end up dejected about higher learning in general or taking away from the experiences of those students who are interested in those subjects.

So, what should be done?

Students should be encouraged to take classes that develop their strengths and inspire them. The brainiacs can stick to mathematics and sciences, the B students can invest their class time in entrepreneurship or other classes that appeal to them. Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic piece, tells his awesome story of discovering entrepreneurship in an article worth reading in the
WSJ a few days ago, titled “How to Get a Real Education at College”. He blatantly states, “Why do we make B students sit through these classes? It’s like trying to train your cat to do your taxes- a waste of time and money”.

Speaking from personal experience, Entrepreneurship was undoubtedly the most valuable class I took in college. Forget Calculus 101. I learned skills that I use on a daily basis and will continue to use throughout my life, no matter what sector I find myself in the future. These include speaking and presentation skills, time management and prioritization, and dealing with failure. I’m grateful for these skills almost every day.

It is my hope that people continue to discover the value in thinking outside the box with both education and in the real world, and encourage those disenchanted with their classes or career to move beyond striving for that check in the box.

I'm back?

It’s been a while since I last posted. Apologies. Things are winding down a little bit here in Quantico, so it’s my goal over the few weeks to get back into the rhythm of at least one post a week. Keep up the pressure if I stumble.