In an opinion piece for CNBC.com on Wednesday, Street Signs anchor Brian Sullivan argued: "...for the majority of the country, $4 gas isn't going to doom us or our economy....right now it just doesn't add up. After all, it looks like $5 is the new $4 when it comes to gas prices and the economy."
Sullivan cited new car sales being on the rise, with those vehicles having better gas mileage, and pointed to inflation causing $4 a gallon to actually be "somewhere in the $3.64 range in 2007 dollars today." In addition, he noted the payroll tax cut "mitigates much of the impact."
The popular internet browser homepage MSN.com seized on Sullivan's commentary, making it a top story on the site on Wednesday, even embellishing Sullivan's original headline: "No Fuel on This Fire: $4 Gas Won't Hurt Us." In other words, "move along, nothing to see here."
On his 2 p.m. et CNBC program on Wednesday, Sullivan elaborated on his article:
Most of the comments to the story, how should I put this, told me that I'm an idiot, if not worse....And Listen, I got to say something too. Because, you know, people read, they don't know, you know, they say, "Oh, you're just some rich TV anchor." My father ran – middle class upbringing – my father ran a gas station, right? During the gas crunch. We got crushed. My family got destroyed....you know, by higher gas prices. When I was a kid, my mother was a telephone operator. I mean, so people, "You one-percenter" and whatever, all this other stuff, I lived through it. I know it's painful for a lot of individuals. My point was the macro for the overall economy.
In February, the Business and Media Institute's Julia Seymour detailed how the broadcast networks hyped rising gas prices during the Bush administration four times more than they did under President Obama. Apparently now they dismiss high gas prices altogether under Obama.
Despite the somewhat out-of-touch article, Sullivan is actually a pretty solid financial journalist. On the October 28, 2011 edition of Martin Bashir's MSNBC show, Sullivan challenged the left-wing anchor to a real debate on economic policy: "...And if you ever want me to come on and debate the guy you just had on for The Nation about the real problem of raising the 99 percent up instead of bringing the one percent down, I'll be happy to be your guest."