President Bush likes to strut around declaring that he’s a “bold” leader who’s unafraid to tackle “big problems.” So, where’s His Boldness on the gargantuan problem of America’s addiction to high-priced, high-polluting oil?

We recently saw the ballyhooed release of his “new energy program,” which wasn’t new at all and does practically nothing to shift our nation’s policy to a sensible future of clean, renewable energy. But let’s just deal here with the volatile issue of the skyrocketing prices at the gas pump.

Even Mr. Bush’s Hummer-driving constituency is mumbling about $2.50-a-gallon gasoline, and these rising prices are putting a real hardship on cabbies, farmers, truck drivers and other working folks. But Mr. Bold Leader says, “Oh gosh, there’s nothing I can do, it’s out of my hands, I’m powerless … good luck.”

Hogwash. One thing a real leader would do would be to crack down on the oil companies that are gouging the middle-class and poor folks, robbing us not with a gun, but with the nozzle of a gas pump. The corporate cartel of ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, Royal Dutch/Shell, ConocoPhillips, etc., are making a killing from their oil wells, then using their monopolistic control of gasoline refining and marketing to profiteer at our expense. Their windfall profits this year alone are so huge that some of them are complaining that they don’t know how to spend it all.

But our problem-solver-in-chief is AWOL. No temporary price regulations to stop the gouging, no windfall profits tax to recoup the rip-off, no presidential scolding of the gougers, no crackdown by the Federal Trade Commission on price collusion by the oil giants … nothing.

Of course, this is no surprise, since the Bushites have oil for brains. Big Oil is a big-time campaign donor to the president and literally makes federal energy policy. For example, guess who Mr. Bush appointed to head the FTC, the agency that’s supposed to be the public’s watchdog against such monopolistic gouging? A lawyer from ChevronTexaco.

Jim Hightower is a former Texas agriculture commissioner. This article was distributed by