Barack Obama didn't back down yesterday in his opposition to a so-called gas tax holiday this summer, becoming more vocal in calling it political pandering and slamming John McCain and Hillary Clinton for proposing it.
He told voters in Winston-Salem, N.C., that suspending the 18.4-cents-a-gallon federal gas tax between Memorial Day and Labor Day would save them only about $25 to $30. Some economists, he said, believe the proposal could backfire and actually raise prices by increasing demand. "We don't know that the oil companies will actually pass on the savings," he added.
And by taking revenue away from the Highway Trust Fund, which finances road and bridge repairs, the gas tax holiday could delay badly needed improvements and cost thousands of construction jobs, including 7,000 in North Carolina, he told voters.
"This is the problem with Washington," Obama declared. "We're arguing over a gimmick that will save you half a tank of gas. It's not an idea to get you through the summer. It's an idea to get them through an election."
Clinton, however, launched a TV ad in Indiana and North Carolina attacking Obama for saying "no" to the gas tax holiday. "People are hurting," the announcer says in the ad. "It's time for a president who's ready to take action now."
Campaigning in Indiana yesterday, Clinton said she has both a short-term plan, the gas tax holiday, and a long-term plan, energy efficiency and green-collar jobs, to deal with high gas prices.
She also highlighted her proposal to levy a windfall profits tax on oil companies to pay for the gas tax suspension. "The oil companies keep making out like bandits," she said. "They're making the highest profits in the history of the world. . . . It's high time that they relieved the burden of high gas prices."
"Senator Obama won't provide relief, while Senator McCain won't pay for it," she added.
Gas prices hit yet another record, a national average of $3.61 a gallon for regular unleaded, AAA and the Oil Price Information Service reported yesterday.