(In case you were getting all dewey-eyed for the 70s)
Before George P. Schultz landed in the Reagan Administration as Secretary of State, he served for a while as Treasury Secretary under Richard Nixon, right during the fabled Energy Crisis of the 1970s.
Granted, we hadn't gone through this kind of thing before. It was 1973 and we were about to be distracted in a big way by Watergate, but the thought of skyrocketing gas prices, panic buying at the pumps and oil companies raking in massive profits just hadn't happened this way before or to this extent.
And so everyone, including Schultz was busy scratching their heads wondering what to do as is evidence by this exchange during his appearance on Meet The Press from December 2, 1973.
Irving R. Levine (NBC News): “Would not higher prices for gasoline favor higher income groups to the disadvantage of lower paid people?”
Schultz: “Not necessarily. The . . obviously you have a family budget with so much purchase of gasoline and fuel oil, and to the extent that lower income groups use proportionate to their income a little bit more than higher income groups, it has some of that effect. But I don’t think it’s a major problem in the family budget.”
Levine: “ But would not a lower . . .
Schultz: “It’s much more of a problem than if we don’t pay the price that is necessary and we don’t have any fuel.”
Levine: “But would not a person with a big income feel free to buy whatever amount of gas is necessary to do the driving that he wishes to do, where a lower income person would not be able to?”
Schultz: “That is true of all kinds of things that are reflected in the buying power of people at different incomes.”
Levine: “ Do You oppose rationing entirely, even as a last resort?
Schultz: “Well I said it should be the absolute last resort, and I’m not really sure that it is a genuine alternative in the sense of being really a workable type of system. Of course there are various kinds of rationing, and depending on how its designed it could work better or worse. I think it is worth remembering that toward the end of World War Two we had patriotic fervor and so on, we had six thousand people in OPA, enforcing . .getting after people in the black market, which I think gives you an idea the difficulties of a rationing system.”
Okay, no simple answer. But the disconnect associated with "well, only higher income people drive" strikes me as typical Republican response. Even during the course of the interview, Schultz offers a few snide asides about higher and lower economic brackets. And of course, he was very much in favor of letting the marketplace go insane.
Remember the definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over expecting different results - or as a friend put it, doing the same thing over and over and knowing what the results are going to be.