What We Need to Know About the Average Joe

Americans may gripe about high energy prices, but they’ll find a way to cope. They’re less tolerant of elites telling them to shut up.

By Jack Cashill

We are lucky to live where we do. As of this writing I have yet to pay $4 a gallon for gas, a price that already seems a distant memory to Californians and may seem quaint to Ingram’s readers by the time this magazine hits the newsstands. 

“It looks like gas prices are going to continue weighing on consumers throughout the rest of 2022,” writes William White of Investor Place. “Add in inflation and rising interest rates, and it looks like this will be a tough year for the average Joe.”

In the ordinary election year, the average Joe could take heart thinking that authorities would work overtime to keep gas prices down, but this year, Joe Average has no such hope. President Joe has preemptively dashed it.

“[When] it comes to the gas prices,” Biden said in late May, “we’re going through an incredible transition that is taking place that, God willing, when it’s over, we’ll be stronger and the world will be stronger and less reliant on fossil fuels when this is over.” 

To praise a budget-busting surge in gas prices as an “incredible transition” suggests that President Joe—and the green activists who program his teleprompter—have chosen to sacrifice the needs of Average Joe to that very transition. 

Curious to know what local greens think about the average Joe, I watched a video from an American Public Square event staged in late May at William Jewell College. The name of the program was “The Politics of Mother Nature: The Climate is Changing—Should You?” 

Framing the Debate
In the way of background, Allan Katz, a former UMKC professor and U.S. ambassador to Portugal, launched the American Public Square project seven years ago. The idea is a solid one, namely the restoration of civil discourse across political divides on a wide range of issues. In the ideal world, forums along these lines would be staged more often and on more visible platforms.

The challenge, however, is to keep the playing field level. As I know from experience, it is not easily done. Six years ago, I served as a panelist on an American Public Square program of which Katz himself was the moderator. 

At one contentious point in the conversation, Katz hung up the whistle, took off the zebra stripes, and scolded me for being “disingenuous.” Hey, I thought, moderators aren’t supposed to do that! On my side, however, was the official “fact checker.” As he attested, my numbers were right. I wouldn’t enter a hostile arena—and it was that—without knowing they were.

The “moderator” on climate change panel, Martin Rosenberg, made Katz look like the soul of restraint. In the evening’s most telling exchange, James Taylor, president of the free-market Heartland Institute, challenged the assumption embedded in the program’s title, namely that “the climate is changing” in some negative way.

The search for a solution, Taylor argued, “implies a problem.” He then cited a litany of data refuting just about every scare headline on droughts, hurricanes, tornados and the like we’ve seen for the past 20 years. Although the fact checker backed Taylor, “moderator” Rosenberg could barely contain himself. Citing a United Nations report, he asked rhetorically, “The science of climate change is settled. Do you disagree?”

When Taylor dared to disagree, Rosenberg pulled out the ultimate weapon in his arsenal, The New York Times, “which,” said Rosenberg, “I consider the best newspaper in the world.” Rosenberg’s imprimatur carried extra weight, he informed the audience, because “I have a training as a journalist. I have a master’s in journalism.” 

Rosenberg seemed to have no idea that to the average Joe, his boast sounded like the punch line to a joke. Had Rosenberg ever left his bubble, he would have known that. 

True to form, Rosenberg fretted about “equity” issues. This is mandatory in any discussion about anything today. And yet no one but Taylor even mentioned today’s ultimate equity issue—the crushing price Average Joe has to pay at the pump.

Throwing the panel a curve, Taylor moved away from discussions of energy and cited as the “greatest problem” today our increasing inability to express differing opinions without hating each other.

In April, Kansas City’s favorite weatherman, Gary Lezak, learned just how much hate a different opinion can generate.

“I think there are benefits to a warmer climate, more than if the Earth were turning colder,” Lezak tweeted. “I do not believe there is any emergency. It’s a very long-term, gradual process.”

Responded a local biology teacher, one of many irate viewers, “Oh Gary! We’ve loved you for years but this is REALLY not OK. So much about this is wrong, backwards, and downright dangerous.” What is dangerous, as Taylor suggested, is our increasing inability to discuss anything more controversial than a called third strike at a Royals game. Under pressure, Lezak recanted.

The problem has been metastasizing for years. Fifteen years ago, I moderated an Ingram’s panel on energy. One of our participants on that panel, Jason Holsman, then a Democratic state representative and now a Missouri Public Service commissioner, suggested that the road ahead was going to be a bumpy one for the average Joe. To “solve one of the greatest issues that my generation faces,” Joe was simply going to have to pay more for energy.

When I asked Holsman to explain what that issue was, he looked surprised and scrambled to answer, citing first our finite energy reserves and only then offering the qualifier that they “produce the carbon emissions that we’re trying to move away from.”

In the last 15 years, Holsman’s “greatest issue” has proven to be so much hot air. Our climate is not noticeably different today than it was then, and our energy resources, if anything, seem more bountiful—if we’re willing to extract them. 

Other than Average Joe’s money, the one resource that has been disappearing is the freedom to speak one’s mind. Allan Katz has a good idea. Now, he and his allies just have to swallow their biases and make it work.

About the author

Jack Cashill is Ingram's Senior Editor and has been affiliated with the magazine for more than 30 years. He can be reached at jackcashill@yahoo.com. The views expressed in this column are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Ingram's Magazine.

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