Sure, gas prices are as high as a mouse in Willie Nelson’s hamper. Yes, retiring Exxon Chairman Lee Raymond got a $400 million retirement package. It would appear that everybody’s in an uproar. President Bush has ordered a probe into possible gas-price cheating on the part of oil companies and others in the chain of distribution.

The funny part? The biggest gas price-hikers of all will conduct the probe: The government.

Members of Congress, such as Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter – who makes watching paint dry seem like it should be a sport in the X-Games, but nevertheless manages to exude split-atom energy when it comes to cheerleading for bad ideas – are calling for a windfall profits tax on the oil companies.

Of course, the tax would simply be passed on to consumers, but at least Congress and others will be able to campaign on an illusion of grandeur. In a Beltway culture that confuses random motion with positive action, windfall-profits taxes are but flailing victims in a sea of quicksand.

Besides, who’s really making the money and profiting on gasoline? The local, state and federal national average for total gas taxes is pushing 50 cents per gallon, and much higher in some areas. On the other side of the viscosity coin, evil oil companies make in the neighborhood of 9 cents per gallon.

But wait, the government’s take is chock to the brim with nobility, since those taxes pay for roads, repairs, infrastructure studies, gold keys to the Pearly Gates and a generally mellifluous existence for all of us, right? That was the defense provided by Mississippi Senator and Strom Thurmond roaster-gone-awry, Trent Lott, in a recent interview.

All the defenses of excessive ancillary taxation can’t help but make you wonder what all your regular taxes go toward.

If you’re a fan of irony, check this out: There is a petition on the website of my state government, Michigan, that you can sign to get gasoline prices lowered. After that, go to JohnDillinger.com and sign the petition to convince Bonnie and Clyde to stop robbing banks.

By the way, the Detroit News recently reported that the state of Michigan pension system holds 12.8 million shares of Exxon-Mobil worth $832 million. Your anti-Big Oil state probably does something similar.

If government had their druthers, they’d slash oil profits, which would of course trample, mad elephant style, on stock value. That leads us to this odd, but typical of the governmentally ill, scenario: The petition, and the state efforts to curb oil profits are, in essence, urging people to assist in devaluing their own pension funds. Talk about sawing off the branch you’re sitting on.

Drill for more oil in the United States? Nah. Even though Alaska’s politicians have raked in more “road to” pork than Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, none of those roads will lead to an oil field in ANWR any time soon.

Build more refineries here in the States? Sure, and maybe Courtney Love will open a finishing school.

Weren’t we just talking about this? In November of 2005, the U.S. Senate hosted many oil industry execs, and vociferously grilled them over obscene profits.

Rest easy, America. Pillars of integrity, many of whom somehow managed to become millionaires from a lifetime of public service, are handling these crooked oil companies.

A political body, headed up in part by the Massachusetts duet of Kennedy and Kerry – respectively, a former admiral in the Olds Navy whose family made their fortune running rum during prohibition, and a gigolo – are sitting in judgment of what constitutes profiteering.

At the November 2005 hearings, California Sen. Barbara Boxer was so up in arms that you’d have though those oil execs were trying to talk somebody out of a late-term abortion. Robert Byrd was shocked because he hadn’t squared off with such greedy white men since the time he was in arrears on his Klan dues.

So, if you’re tired of paying so much for gas and are waiting for time-honored government intervention to make the prices drop, you may first want to sit down and hope that the sun rises in the west (your congressperson can see to it, if you’ll just give him or her enough money).

What’s the answer? I don’t know. All I’m certain of is that the answer won’t come from the problem, and that it’s far easier to justify Lee Raymond’s Saudi-esque $400 million retirement package than it is to figure out what so many in Congress do to deserve a couple hundred grand a year along with endless perks.

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