Gasoline fuels more than cars

As gas prices rise, so do political excuses


Gas prices at the Lexington Sheetz have risen to nearly $4. Photo by Elena Lee , ‘25.

Kamron Spivey

Before I left home after February Break, I told my dad to fill up his tank at the cheapest gas station in town. Prices had already begun to rise as Russia surrounded Ukraine in preparation of their invasion. But for some reason, people are still surprised to see gasoline’s astronomical cost.

About half of America is not surprised, though. They predicted it in the 2020 election. Those same people are still reminiscing on what feels like an ancient memory of gasoline that cost less than $2/gallon. Of course, everything was cheaper then.

But anytime you bring up the tremendous economy of the Trump administration, critics are fast to offer two responses. They might bring up the COVID-19 pandemic, which shattered the economy in the final year of Trump’s term. Critics always seem to forget that the economy was ruined by supply shortages and mandatory shutdowns – which were highly opposed by Republicans – but not the virus itself. At any rate, Trump is credited only with the pandemic economy, not the successful one before it. 

Critics might also suggest that even though the economy flourished under Trump, “such is the price of democracy.” And they are absolutely right. Democracy caused the economy to fail because a (slight) majority of Americans voted to leave fiscal policy in the hands of a party that believes unregulated and massive spending will solve every problem.

I would not call record-high inflation a “solution,” however.

Then comes the next defense, that the president of the United States is not responsible for the economy and the cost of gasoline. Obviously, nobody thinks President Biden has been signing bills in the Oval Office that raise the price of gas to over $4/gallon. But the sitting president has always been held responsible for the economy. Herbert Hoover took the blame for the Great Depression, while his replacement, Franklin D. Roosevelt, took all the credit for fixing the economy. (Although, it should be noted that Roosevelt’s unregulated spending – still a trademark of the Democratic Party – caused a massive recession in 1937 that was in many ways worse than the Great Depression).

Economic issues aside, the president has also always been held responsible for the outbreak of conflict. James Buchanan is remembered as the lame-duck who enabled Southern secession and the Civil War, while Woodrow Wilson is slandered for bringing the United States into World War I.

It seems natural to follow this logic and blame Biden for Russia’s war against Ukraine, when clearly Biden could have intervened on behalf of America and the Western world. I will not go as far as to blame the president for Putin’s unprovoked aggression, but I will note that there was no war when Trump was in office.

All I ask is that people follow the same logic through all their analyses of different presidents. If we can fault particular politicians for economic disasters in the 1920s, and commend particular politicians for economic recoveries in the 1930s, we must do the same in the 21st century: even when gasoline fuels these partisan divides.