Friday, April 8, 2022

Asymmetric Whining

 This is not news, but yet again we see the old phenomenon of people whining a lot when something gets worse but then saying nothing when it gets better.  The latest example of that involves gasoline prices.  They were rising and got into the range of near real highs seen in times like 2008, 1981, and 1918.  But now they have slid backwards, down in the neighborhood of 20 cents per gallon where I am.  Crude prices are down as well, with WTI having gotten near $120 per barrel it is now below #100 per barrel again.  But am I hearing anybody cheer or say, "Wow! That's great!" No.  Of course it can be said that the prices are still pretty high, and still way above where they were a year or two ago. But the crickets going on with this are noticeable. Oh, there was the interview Donald Trump just made with the Washington Post that appeared in today's edition. But he was spouting outright falsehoods unsurprisingly, that crude prices have reached an all time high along with retail gasoline prices, neither of which is remotely true.

Of course, it can be noted that this may not continue. Almost certainly a major factor in this decline is the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, with a less publicized release from the IEA reserves as well.  Both of these are planned to continue for several months, with several states also temporarily suspending their gasoline taxes as well, just to add to this movement.  The upshot has been both declining crude prices as well as declining retail prices. The lockdowns in China associated with the pandemic outbreak there also happens to be fueling a reduced demand, and also probably something on the order of two thirds of Russian oil exports are still happening in one direction or another, despite the sanctions.  So oil and gasoline prices have gone down, but there is reason to believe that some of the reasons for this may go away in a few months, so maybe getting too positive about it all is not reasonable.

As it is, we have already had some asymmetry of whining. This has involved people getting all worked up about the rise of inflation while somehow not being favorable about what appears to be one of the hottest job markets ever. Indeed, if anything the latter has led to people whining because it is hard to get people to do some services.  They see the dark side of even what is mostly a good thing.  But this asymmetry of being more upset about things that are getting worse rather than being pleased about things getting better is a deeply entrenched human characteristic.

Barkley Rosser