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Familiar pattern of blame and unnecessary legislation

Published: April 25, 2012

Regarding “Obama targets oil market manipulation” (Associated Press, April 18) and “Coburn, Lankford target overlapping programs” (News, April 20): President Barack Obama is pushing Congress to give regulators more muscle, and $52 million, to deter oil price manipulation by speculators. U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn and U.S. Rep. James Lankford have introduced legislation to prevent creation of federal programs that duplicate those already in operation. Obama's action illustrates what the Coburn/Lankford legislation hopes to curb. It's also a clue as to why duplication occurs.

Obama calls for Congress to act, yet he has enough power within the executive branch to deter price manipulation. The president appoints the commissioners of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The commission is an independent agency within the executive branch with the power to impose numerous rules, including margin requirements, position limits and regulations that are specific to speculators (such as entities that neither produce nor use crude oil). It's safer for the president to prod Congress than to use his power to rein in manipulation and risk offending some well-heeled special interest group.

Moreover, to do so now would emphasize the fact that he sat on his hands the past three years. Thus, we see the familiar pattern that erupts when events brand our elected officials as inept. First, a no-holds-barred effort to blame others; then, an urgent cry for new legislation, the primary objective of which is to divert attention from the fact that legislation already on the books was adequate had there been proper oversight and enforcement.

Harry C. Johnson, Oklahoma City