The IUSB Vision Weblog

The way to crush the middle class is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation. – Vladimir Lenin

Letters to the Editor

Posted by iusbvision on August 27, 2007

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18 Responses to “Letters to the Editor”

  1. Man and I glad this summer is over. While I may miss the free time with my family and the down time I was able to enjoy, I definitely will not miss the record high gas prices we saw this summer. Have you ever wondered why, despite record profits from oil companies, that we are still paying so much at the pump? Lobbying groups, like the American Petroleum Institute, will cite problems at two refiners in Oklahoma and Texas, while conservatives and Republicans, long backers of the oil industry, will tell you it is just the free market at work, and cite some obscure statistic that we have not built an oil refinery in several decades. But the answer is really more sinister than most of us would like to admit. The oil market is not controlled by the disciplines of supply and demand because it is not an actual “free market”. For those economics geeks out there (like me), it is called an oligopoly. According to industry analysts, the big oil companies all store their crude oil and gas in the same tanks, and since they know how much each other is storing, they don’t have to meet to orchestrate prices amongst themselves to reap record profits we see today. In years past, when the market was more competitive, some oil refinery companies would try to guess when its competitors would run into slowdowns or bottlenecks, ramp up production of their oil inventories, and supply the market with oil at a lower price, and capture a large market share from their competitors. This is what Microsoft would do today if their was a problem with one of Apple’s products. In fact, up until 1957, oil companies had to go before a governmental regulatory body, much like the Utility Regulatory Commission, if they wanted to raise the prices at the pump. But another Republican, Dwight Eisenhower did away with that. But today, the oil companies all benefit from keeping supply low, in the form of record profits. Many people believe that the oil industry has deliberately sought to keep refining capacity low, so that the price of oil is artificially kept high. Instead of meeting in secret backrooms in some dingy hotel somewhere to keep the market tight, they don’t have to do this, since they already know the inventory, capacity, and internal pricing structure, of other companies in their industry. (continued)

  2. This is in clear violation of Clayton Anti Trust Act of 1914. The Act intention was to prevent “Fixing prices in agreement with other businesses offering competing products.” Today, crude prices merely set a floor for gasoline prices. According to a study done by an independent research group, the power that oil companies have over retail gas prices is alarming. The oil industry has long been backers of the Republican Party, giving some 80-90% of its contributions to Republican candidates, the majority under the Bush administration. The industry has also sought to shield Republicans from public anger over high gas prices in time of elections. According to this study, between 2000-2006, it found that during non federal election years (2001, 2003 and 2005), retail gasoline prices did not decline during the month before the election (October). However, the study found, retail prices did decline significantly in October in years of federal elections, or the years of 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006. The most significant decrease in retail prices came in October, 2006, despite the fact that in that month crude oil prices rose significantly. In addition, the study shows that prices rose sharply after the elections were over. Mark Zandi, of Economy.com says “the only logical explanation for these set of events is collusion in the market.” This collusion makes Bush and the Republican arguments for drilling in Alaska, building another refinery, or letting up on environmental regulations sound silly. The oil that is brought up from Alaska will be set to Saudi prices, not American, and this oil will not have much, if any, effect on American gas prices. Next, as for building new refiners, why would a company spend billions of dollars to build a new refinery, and sell their oil for less than they are now? It just does not make good business sense.

    In the long run, high gas prices may benefit us as a nation. Perhaps the laws of supply and demand may actually peak through, and force consumers to cut back on gas consumption and use public transportation, and that could have an effect on greenhouse gasses and global warming. Although gas prices in Europe are considerably higher than here, the higher prices come in the form of taxes, which are then directed into public transportation and social programs that benefit many people. In the U.S, the higher prices only go into the coffers of already cash happy companies’ bottom line, leaving public transportation and healthcare programs struggling to meet the demand of citizens, and leaving the working poor to struggle to pay high gas prices for their cars just to get to work everyday and survive.

    Until we as public demand accountability from our lawmakers, as well as the companies which supply our energy, we will continue to get ripped off at the pump with the illusion of a competitive and free market for energy.

  3. Jarrod Brigham said

    Mr. Rex,

    Your anger with the gas prices is not fixated on the right target. The oil industry has been able to keep prices down since the 1970s. If gasoline prices followed inflation, they would be well over 5 bucks per gallon today. The free market has been able to keep prices down, not artificially raise them.
    The oil industry does make a hefty profit on gasoline, but that is because they are the ones that have the biggest investment. They have to search out land that is on top of oil. They have to go through miles of red tape in order to drill. They have to pay someone to do the drilling. They have to pay someone to haul that oil to the refinery. They have to pay someone to refine it. THey have to pay someone to haul it to the gas stations. They have huge investments in thier product. The government does not look for land, nor haul it to refineries, nor refine it, nor haul it to the gas stations. They do however tax every single step of that progress. Their taxation amounts to nearly 20% of the cost. They get nearly 20 cents on the dollar for doing nothing. Do you think the oil companies are going to eat that tax? Not a chance. By the way, neither does Honda, Planned Parenthood, or any other “Green, Liberal” companies. They pass it along to the consumer. If you are truly upset with gas prices, you will go after the true robber barrons, politicians who raise taxes. What party is it again that constantly wants to raise taxes? That’s right, its the Democrats. If you truly are as angry as you say you are, you would be angry with the Democratic party.
    You have a conspiracy theory about Republicans and the oil companies. Tell me, who benefits from higher gas prices? The Republicans get blamed for the higher prices, as do the oil companies. Republicans are not going to help a group that when it prospers, that prosperity reflects negatively on them. The Democrats benefit when prices go up. It gets more people angry with the Republicans. There is your conspiracy theory. Ask yourself who stands in the way of building refineries; the refineries that would allow for more supply and less demand and thus lower prices? It is not the Republicans. Who stands in the way of off-shore drilling; the drilling that would allow for more supply and less demand; thus lowering prices? It is not the Republicans. Who wants to remove the tax incentives for oil companies, forcing them to divert money away from development of new alternative energy sources; thus keeping us dependent upon foreign oil? It is not the Republicans. If we are to develop new energy sources it will come from the free market. Can you name me one piece of technology that was ever created by the government? It does not happen. Oil companies are not stupid. They know that oil is a limited resource. Eventually we are going to run out, it is in thier best interest to develop new technologies, but government taxation keeps getting in the way.
    Finally, ask yourself what of the Presidential candiates are speaking about alternative fuels? It is the Republicans. The Democrat’s answer to the energy crisis is to blame Republicans and big oil. You have fallen for it. Mrs. Clinton wants to raise taxes on big oil, which will raise your taxes at the pump. Surely you cannot be a Hilary supporter. While I share your discomfort at the pump, you are looking at the wrong source for the problems.

  4. Chuck Norton said

    There are six problems coming together that have caused the problems we are seeing in gas prices.

    The first is that we have a lack of refining capacity, congress and so called environmental groups (who use the environment moniker as a vehicle for anti-capitalism) have been very successful at stopping new, cleaner and more efficient refineries from being produced.

    The second is, that the USA is the Saudi Arabia of coal. We have a massive supply of energy that once again, the government and anti-capitalist groups have had great success in preventing construction of new coal plants that utilize clean coal technology and coal gasification. If these groups really cared about the environment, they would support these technologies because they are far cleaner than traditional ways of using coal and are a huge step forward. Because we cant use these technologies to their potential, we have to rely on fossil fuels more.

    Third. The USA has oil wealth as well, but congress and so called environmental groups try to stop us from getting it. Now Mexico and China are building oil wells just off our shores to get the oil, of course the so called environmentalists have no problem with China or Mexico getting it, just the USA.

    Fourth. There is a much larger international demand for oil. Now that China and India are emerging from the third world to a more modern one they are using those fuels. Demand is now higher than ever.

    Fifth. Boutique gasoline mixtures that are mandated my the government have created a distribution nightmare. Now if we are short on gas we cant get gas from Arkansas for example because the federally mandated blend is different. New rules were implemented by president Clinton’s EPA Chief Carol Browner shortly before Clinton left office. In most cases the blends are not helpful to the environment in a measurable way.

    The sixth issue is where I have a problem with oil companies. It seems that they have realized that since external forces have caused the price to go higher, the result is higher profits for them. So as a result the oil companies are not screaming to build new refineries like they used to. Why should the oil companies fight government and so called environmental groups because in the long run if the oil companies are successful, the result will be lower profits for them as demand is met more easily.

    So anti-capitalists, if you want to know why we are having energy problems and why prices are so high, I suggest that a good first step would be to stand directly in front of a mirror and point at it.

  5. Since the early days of Goldwater, conservative ideals have always been thought to be out of the mainstream, and to some extent, far more radical than most Americans care to be. To compensate for being out of touch with Middle America, conservatives and Republicans in particular, have always had to have an “enemy”, someway to hide the failure of conservative policies and politics. During the cold war, it was the Soviet Union. Conservatives claimed that we had to stop the “domino effect” of the spread of communism, or the communists would come and take our children away from us. But history has now shown that all the hype of the former Soviet Union’s strength was overblown, and they were never really a threat to the United States, either economically or militarily. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, conservatives needed a new enemy, so they turned to Iraq and the Middle East. Since we all know how that turned out, there is now reason to elaborate and pour salt on an open wound. But there is a new challenge to American dominance in the global marketplace, and one to which conservatives and Republicans have conveniently overlooked and dismissed. It is called the European Union.
    For over 3 decades now, we have been told by conservatives and Republicans that we cannot have strong social programs and universal healthcare because it would destroy our economy, “just look at the poor economic growth in Europe” they would say. Well, just like everything else the Republican Party has ever told us, it is wrong. And Europe has proved it. (continued)

  6. But the real key to understanding this disparity between the U.S and the E.U is income distribution. Young people in America are less likely to get a college education, and those that do go to college are more likely to have to work part time, and take on large amounts of debt than those of their European counterparts. On the other side of the coin, pensions in the U.S are neither as broad or as generous as those of the European Union, so instead of getting ready to retire at age 65, some people, particularly poor people, are forced to work.
    Many Americans boast that taxes are significantly higher in Europe, and this is why the E.U has such slow growth. But if you look at the numbers, they tell a different story. Many economists agree that Americans are forced to put away more of their paycheck to cover expenses like healthcare, and retirement benefits, which are covered by European taxes, so in the end, “taxes”, defined as anything other than disposable income, are actually higher in the U.S than in Europe.
    In the end, comparing data like unemployment and GDP is not a complete picture of the economic competitiveness of the U.S or the E.U, and may be very misleading. In addition to the issues raised above in this essay, another grim scenario is being painted by the way U.S growth is being financed. U.S growth, unlike that of the European Union, is being financed by huge sums of debt. This debt has been the driving factor behind consumer debt in the U.S, and is responsible for the U.S housing bubble, allowing consumers to spend more than they make. It is ironic that this very growth that the U.S boasts about is financed in part by the E.U.

  7. Kevin C. said

    The only way forward in Roseland is through a surge of South Bend troops of about 30,000 until January. Only then can South Bend begin to drawdown its troops in Roseland. The new Roseland police force is corrupt and being overrun by the anti-Snyder militia, and their leader Charlie al-Sheilds, who is diverting the flow of traffic and turning it into revenue in the form of Roseland speeding tickets. South Bend’s new commander General Weis is a good leader, but who can blame him for having no military accomplishments so far this campaign when the neighboring province of Roseland is on the brink of civil war. Some have suggested dividing Roseland into three parts with the Snyder’s in the north, Penn’s in the south, and Schield’s in the middle occupying the capital (King Gyros). But this solution is not enough. There must also be a governing council in place to split Roseland’s powerful source of revenue, speeders on 31.

  8. Jarrod Brigham said

    That is very clever. I wish this would have been left before Friday night, I would have put in the print copy coming up.

  9. Hahahahaha…
    *takes a breath, literally*
    hahahahahahahaha….
    I love it. King Gyros. Brilliant!

  10. My friends at the IUSB Vision,

    As someone who has worked at the Vision, as someone who has spent the better part of a decade involved in some way with the field of journalism, and as a student and consistent reader of this publication, I have to express my disappointment in how politically skewed this last issue of the Vision has been.

    And it’s not just because it’s crashing to the right – I am a person with pro-life convictions, and am still uncomfortable to have it so partial in any direction.

    I know trying to keep the Vision fair and balanced in the past academic year has been trying, not in the least because of the problems in getting enough material from the left for a proper op-ed. But I always thought that those trials and those frustrations were vindicated by the end product of a publication that showed how hard students can work to cover the issues, listen to opposite opinions and anticipate how best to truly live up to a diversity of all students’ reflections. I may be naive, but I thought that it was that effort that at least in part made the IUSB Vision the Student Club of the Year.

    To have political satire under the banner of “Fun and Games” on page 6 is not only unbalanced, it is thus factually inaccurate and misleading. No journalist worth his salt would ever approve. Never mind that quotes are taken entirely without the context in which they originated.

    To have pro-choice defined as “pro-infanticide” on page 5 not only preaches entirely to the loudest screamers in the choir, but also makes it difficult for the ones who like to sing a gentle tune to be heard to those who might be thus convinced. And I’m not even going to really get into discussing the so-called “exclusive right of marriage” which I feel is dismissive of the spirit of campus diversity.

    And I strongly suspect that the choice of the “True American Hero” on page 4 was not made without some idea of how the answers would turn out, though these are of course, just my instincts speaking.

    It pains me, it really does, because I personally respect as people those who have penned many of the examples cited above. I know from personal experience that these are good people who want to do the correct thing, and I can only hope that I have not lost friends in writing this letter to the editor. I just feel it my duty to you as a former colleague and as someone who feels a lingering investment in your efforts towards success to tell you that you can do so much better than these pages which I have in front of me. Why, in the first place, should a campus publication give away half of its pages to national politics instead of campus affairs like the upcoming theater productions, the new resident string quartet, Titan productions, or the newly opened Hammes Information Commons?

    Yours sincerely, and regretfully,

    Andrew Filmer, B. Comm. (Hons)

  11. iusbvision said

    Andrew,

    No loss of friends here. The IUSB Vision blog should always be a place where we can accept and respond to criticism without an emotional blowup. Let me address your concerns one by one.

    First: the quotes on page 6 were not taken out of context. Every single one of them came from direct verbal assaults on our troops. There is no excuse for liberal members of our government to vote to send our men and women to war and then destroy their moral and embolden the enemy with thier constant undercutting of the military. I would point you to the blog discussion under the Fun and Games thread. Next week, I am looking for something to poke some fun at Republicans. We normally have suduko, but I did not have anyone who could give me the answers (I cannot do them), so I did not print it and I had to go with something else.

    Second: There is no one who has no opinion on abortion, at least none that I have met. Either one wants to see the slaughter of innocent children in the name of a “right”, which is not found in the Constitution, or they want to save human life. Sometimes strong words such as “infanticide” are used to incite discussion and debate, which was the reason for the term in that article. The crux of the ariticle was why a pro-life conservative should not vote for Rudi Guiliani, so I believe the term was adequately used.

    Third: I cannot speak as to your instincts on the interview with a soldier. I will have to refer that question to Marcus. Hopefully he will address your concern on his thread.

    Fourth: The back half of the Vision has always been for opinion articles, ever since its inception. This half is used to inspire debate and banter among students. The front half is for campus life. I’m not sure if you noticed, but the Vision was only 6 pages this time, that is because we did not recieve half of the campus life articles. I wish that was not the case, but it was. We tried to cover the Hammes Info Commons, but the article we recieved was terrible. You may have read it in the Preface. After we rejected it and demanded a re-write, the writer submitted it to the Preface. I guess they don’t have the same demands on their writers as we do. We have tried to contact Titan Productions, but they do not return emails. I will see about writing on the new string quartet, thanks for the heads up.

    Keep up the criticism, we don’t hide from it. Hopefully next time you can mix in some compliments too :). Normally I don’t have to ask, but because of the amount of respect I have for you, any problem with me printing this comment?

    Jarrod Brigham

  12. Jarrod,

    Thank you for your reply. We’ve always had a healthy and professional discourse despite whatever differences in opinion we may have had, and I appreciate that it continues.

    I can accept that the Vision has had problems with getting enough of campus articles. If you’re still in need of an article on the Hammes Information Commons, the dedication ceremony is on October 23rd (requires prior registration). I still disapprove of page 6, partially because of its heading, and partially because any quote like that comes from a larger speech – John Kerry’s situation comes closest to mind, since that particular comment has been explained in earnest. Whether or not one believes the explanation is another issue, and it becomes a matter of opinion, not a journalistic and professional statement of the facts. Essentially a journalistic piece states more than one side of a case, and leaves the decision of who’s right or who’s wrong to the reader. What Page 6 has done is instead telling the reader what and how to think, which is a little demeaning not only to the reader, but to the quality of the publication. It’s not much better than David Letterman putting a Top 10 Bush-isms or the like, and Dave at least has some element of humor.

    Page 5 is less problematic in that sense; I feel different words could have been more effective, but it is after all your article, and you took responsibility for your views when you put your name on it.

    Within the editorial process, one has to take a step back, and think as a random reader, and ask oneself the questions: what is the overall reaction of a regular reader/student? Does this polarize or bring together people on campus? To what extent am I using print to push my beliefs, and to what extent am I trying to truly capture the reflections of a diverse audience?

    In other words, in which direction does journalism flow – from me through media to the many, or the many to the me thus entrusted with the media? I believe that this issue did the former, when it should have done the latter, and I say that with the only intention being a personal interest in the publication.

    I respectfully and gratefully remain friend and reader,

    Andrew Filmer

  13. Rachel said

    You could always do an article making fun of the dumb things Republicans say…there are enough dumb things said in Washington to cover the pages of the Vision for the rest of eternity. :)

    Another tip on a campus going-on: the play “Paragon Springs” which is also, I believe, the book for the One Book, One Campus program, is being put on now.

  14. Rachel,

    Doing an article making fun of Republicans would be – in my view – replicating the mistake in a different color. I’m not against Republicans, I’m against blatant partisanship in campus journalism. Besides which, political satire is not the same animal as political humor.

    Yes, Paragon Springs is on for four more shows – Thursday to Saturday (evenings) and Sunday (matinée).

  15. mvigil said

    Andrew,
    Thanks for your thoughts, it is always nice to here things from a new perspective. I can assure you that the interview was done with the utmost integrity. I asked this person the questions, and took down their answers word for word. (except for a few grammatical issues) I also think it is interesting to point out that this person had an opposite political view than me before joining. I guess experiencing the war first hand can really change your perspective. The title, “True American Hero” was chosen out of the service this person does for our country and nothing else!
    I understand that it would seem like a campus publication should cover campus events, and you might think that is closer to effecting student’s lives, but the fact is that national politics effects our lives far more and for far longer. Sparking discussion, or at least making other students aware of some of these issues has been my number one concern. I write about my opinion, and right now the Vision may seem one sided, but no-one from the other side has stepped up. If they wanted to, The Vision would welcome it.
    Again, thanks for the thoughts, hope this helps to clear some things up.

  16. Marcus,

    Thank you for your response; having worked briefly with you on an article in the last academic year, I know that you would conduct an interview professionally. I did not mean to suggest that there was any lack of integrity in the reporting of the interview – my question was more towards the following: if the interviewee had answered in an opposite fashion (supporting Harry Reid, that it was wrong to invade Iraq, supporting a withdrawal of troops, and in support of Congress), would it have been published nonetheless as the voice of a True American Hero? And was there any indication of his current political viewpoints prior to the actual interview?

  17. archangel7681 said

    I made the headline. And yes, no matter what his answers were, I still would have called him an American Hero. His political point of view makes no difference. Even if he went to boot camp and was honorably discharged after two weeks. Anyone who voluntarily put themselves in a position where they could lay down thier life in defense of someone else is a true hero. I would imagine if his answers were different, he would have been challenged in the blogs, but not in print. Disagreeing with the mission is fine, criticizing our President is fine, giving aid and comfort to the enemy is not.

    Jarrod Brigham, Editor

  18. Thanks, Jarrod. It’s a professional reassuring answer.

    My second question remains, nonetheless.

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