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Free market fills your tank; government empties it

Surely you’ve heard the cliché, “You’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelet.” It perfectly explains how many on the left side of the political spectrum can reconcile their latest policy conflict: Obamacare vs. low gas prices.

To insure the 10 to 15 percent of the population who didn’t have medical coverage — including those who could afford it but chose to not buy it — Democrats hung the anchor that is the Affordable Care Act around the necks of the already insured.

These people and the businesses they work for — or businesses they might run themselves — have been dealt hefty increases in premiums and deductibles, or they’ve lost the plans and doctors they were promised they could keep. The bad news will keep coming, too, as more of Obamacare’s regulations and mandates go into effect. Even those who were supposed to be helped by Obamacare are getting hurt; many subsidy recipients are about to have a tax bill hit them in the face like a wet dishrag.

But again, eggs and omelets, right? The masses must endure hardship for the benefit of a small minority.

On the flip side, we have the incredible shrinking price of a gallon of gasoline. At some places around town, it’s below two bucks, a six-year low. This is undeniably helping the overwhelming majority of Americans. In a country of 320 million people, there are more than 250 million cars and trucks on the road.

Plunging gas prices have provided millions of Americans with something they haven’t had in years: an effective pay raise. The average number of cars per household is around two, and the average American buys about 12 gallons of gas a week per vehicle. A $1 drop in the price of a gallon of gas saves that typical household $100 a month. Here in Las Vegas, the savings have been far greater. Gas averaged $3.85 a gallon in early July, and it’s now down to $2.20, a difference of $1.65. A two-car family with average fuel consumption in January saved $160.

Democrats claim to be the champions of working families. Considering so many of their policies have failed to help the middle class, lower gas prices should be good news, right? But Democrats are also the party of the environmental lobby — long at odds with the oil and gas industries — so they’ve found a way to rain on this parade. They are suddenly concerned — disingenuously so — that some of those who gained good-paying jobs over the past several years because of the fracking boom will face layoffs. With the price of oil dropping and global supply outstripping demand, the cost of drilling might, for the time being, exceed the benefit of doing so for some operations.

In other words, free-market capitalism is working just as it was designed, delivering prosperity to pretty much everybody.

But don’t forget about eggs and omelets. In this case, the left says a small minority cannot be allowed to endure hardship for the benefit of the masses. And the left doesn’t want low gas prices, which is why the Obama administration consistently opposes drilling on federal land — including the 84 percent of Nevada the federal government owns.

The left is happiest when government has control. People can’t be trusted with the freedom to make decisions for themselves. They must be herded and regulated. Benefiting the few at the tremendous expense of the many is ideal. Hence the virtue of Obamacare.

And the left is decidedly unhappy when markets have control. Free-market capitalism is too unpredictable and unfair. It benefits the many at the potential expense of the few — in this case, possible layoffs in the oil and gas industries. Hence, these low gas prices are just terrible.

But that’s not what most people think when they tank up for less than $35, instead of paying the $60 it cost just six months ago.

If only that were the case for health insurance. What happened to that $2,500 a year in premium savings that President Barack Obama promised? Instead, in 2014, Nevadans who held individual plans were hit with the steepest health insurance premium increases in the nation — an average of 179 percent, according to a Manhattan Institute study.

Rather than have the government breaking mountains of eggs to make expensive omelets, let the free market put those eggs in the hands of Americans, and let them decide what to make of it.

Patrick Everson (peverson@reviewjournal.com) is an editorial writer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Follow him on Twitter: @PatrickCEverson.

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