Today at the White House: April 17, 2012

Today at the White House: April 17, 2012

The government announces a new crack down on illegal gas speculators and a revised drug control strategy.

Published April 17, 2012

The president with key cabinet members. (Photo:  Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

We all know that gas prices are on the rise, but the question on our minds is what is being done to bring them back down. There’s been increasing scrutiny over whether the White House has the answer to the problem, and, in response, the president unveiled a new plan of attack.


During an announcement in the Rose Garden, President Obama announced a new crackdown on illegal manipulation, fraud and market rigging. He’s calling on Congress to pass measures that would deter illegal behavior and boost oversight of the markets.


Will these changes make a difference at the pumps? "None of these steps by themselves will bring gas prices down overnight," the president said. "But it will prevent market manipulation and make sure we're looking out for American consumers."


Among the changes, the president wants more cops on the beat overseeing oil markets, more funding to upgrade resources to help monitor market activity and stiffer penalties for firms found guilty of wrongdoing.


There are lingering questions about whether there’s concrete evidence to support the idea that illegal manipulation by financial traders may be causing a spike in prices. Brian Deese, the Deputy Director of the National Economic Council was on hand for today’s press briefing. He said, "The president says there is no single silver bullet. I won’t speculate on prices but at a time when you’ve seen trading activity increase and prices increases we need to do everything we can to put more cops on the beat and make sure regulators have all tools they need to monitor what’s happening."


Republicans have blown off Obama’s plan as a political gimmick. House Speaker John Boehner suggested that there’s already a process in place to crack down on those who deal in shady business practices.


The Secret Service scandal involving agents accused of soliciting prostitutes in Colombia was also cause for questioning in the briefing. Reporters wondered whether the White House is concerned that the alleged indiscretions may have breached the president’s security. "The president’s safety was not compromised. The director replaced those believed to be involved in this,” said White House Spokesman Carney. He also urged that people wait until the conclusion of the investigation before they speculate about next steps.


There was also a press conference to announce the government’s new drug control strategy. The changes are aimed at taking a more progressive approach that moves away from the old "War on Drugs" model that caused incarceration rates to rise.


The new marching orders are based on the premise that drug addiction is a disease, drug users can be treated and recover and changes to the criminal justice system can stop the revolving door of drug-related incarceration.


Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy, told reporters, "Outdated policies like the mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders are relics of the past that ignore the need for a balanced public health and safety approach to our drug problem."


Kerlikowske said there is reason to be hopeful about strides to deal with the nation’s drug policy. Methamphetamine and prescription drug abuse is down and for the first time in four decades, prison populations decreased. "These measures point to the real possibilities that remain," said Kerlikowske.


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Written by Andre Showell


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