FLINT - Want a reasoned, thoughtful opinion today? Look elsewhere. Want a little cathartic, irrational ranting? Pull up a chair. Paranoid Andy is about to be unleashed, and he is not happy.
In fact, paranoid Andy who, for reasons that will soon be painfully clear, is not often allowed to run free - is ridiculously cheesed off at gas prices, which jumped from $3.97 to $4.15 overnight earlier this week.
It was the proverbial straw that broke Paranoid Andy's back, wallet and patience and now he thinks the following: The oil and gas companies are ripping us off! (You'll notice that Paranoid Andy says some pretty obvious things and uses lots of exclamation points in doing so, not unlike a Tea Party member. Gotta problem with that? Didn't think so.)
For instance, he sees news accounts like this
"First-quarter earnings at four of the largest oil companies are expected to improve by 22 percent to 56 percent. As prices keep climbing, 2011 is looking more like 2008 when Exxon earned $45.2 billion, more than any other U.S. publicly traded company in history."
and wonders this: "Wait a sec, if we're paying higher prices because they're supposedly paying higher prices, then how come their profits are going up so fast? All things being equal, shouldn't profits be the same?"
Well, shouldn't they? (Economists, don't bother answering. When Paranoid Andy is on a roll there's no talking sense to him.)
He also thinks this price increase was born when President Obama and Congress cut the payroll tax last Christmas. Big Oil saw that and said, "Cha-ching!" What Congress giveth, the oil companies happily taketh away.
Paranoid? Exactly. But what else can you think when the digital signs at gas stations are spinning like slot machines? That it's all just "market fluctuations?"
Please. Do you know what Paranoid Andy thinks? Paranoid Andy thinks that the unrest in the Middle East has little to do with rising gas prices. He thinks Big Oil is merely seizing the opportunity, possibly even supporting the uprisings. Stranger things have happened. Tails have wagged dogs before. I've seen the movie. It wasn't good.
But I digress. I say that because "unrest" and "Middle East" aren't exactly strangers. So why is it that unrest always causes Big Oil to become "jittery"? Shouldn't they be used to it by now? You'd certainly think so.
The way Paranoid Andy sees it, either Big Oil has a nervous condition - and if so, I suggest Xanax - or it has a spinal issue, as in they don't have one.
Now, one last word on gas station owners: I think they're part of all this, too. Sorry, I know they say they're victims, same as us, and that they don't make money selling gas, only soda and chips.
But if that's the case then why bother selling gas at all, huh? Paranoid Andy is probably wrong about this one. But when he is pinched in the pocket, he is merciless.
Kinda like the American public.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.