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Rep. Cantor: ‘Obama Out of Touch on Gas Prices’

With the average cost of gasoline now topping $4 per gallon, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) — who has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate for Sen. John McCain — continued the Republican attack on Sen. Barack Obama for being "out of touch" on the hardship faced by Americans. In today’s McCain campaign conference call, Cantor said:

I had representatives from a mobile hospital that told me that the increase cost of fuel has caused them to incur an additional $100,000 in expenses in fuel use. We’ve also seen widespread reports of local law enforcement and police departments having to reassess how they are going to use their vehicles and their fleet, because of the strain that the high cost of gas is placing on their departments. So clearly it’s not just working families. It’s communities across the country who are struggling up under these high costs, and for Sen. Obama to indicate that we’ll just have to get used to them is clearly an indication that he is out of touch."

Doug Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office who is a senior economic adviser to McCain, touted the Arizona senator’s proposal to suspend the federal gas tax for the summer to help working families cope. The plan has been widely criticized because the tax — 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel fuel — is modest compared to the skyrocketing rate of increase in price, the tax pays for much-needed highway maintenance and economists say lowering the cost of gasoline only encourages more consumption. Holtz-Eakin dismissed these claims:

You can stack all the economists end to end and still not find any common sense…It’s a simple plan for quick relief, on a timely basis.

Holtz-Eakin reiterated other elements of McCain’s economic platform, like lowering the corporate tax rate, creating a research-and-development tax credit and cutting taxes. He criticized a report from the Tax Policy Center that found McCain’s tax plan would cut taxes for all Americans, but would benefit the wealthy more than those with lower incomes, while Obama’s tax plan would increase taxes on the wealthy and cut taxes for everyone else. Holtz-Eakin said the report made unrealistic assumptions and failed to consider that raising taxes on small-business owners could slow hiring and force layoffs and benefit cuts.

Holtz-Eakin also reaffirmed McCain’s support for a "cap and trade" system to reduce carbon emissions and his commitment not to drill for oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge:

However, a couple of questions were not addressed: If Obama is "out of touch" in believing Americans will have to "get used" to high gas prices, is it fair to assume that McCain does not believe this is so? Is there any indication that gas prices will return to prior levels in the foreseeable future?

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