Sorry, Iran—lower oil prices are a win for America

How socially wimpy have Americans become in respect to the recent tug-of-war with oil prices? The headlines consistently pose warnings about a looming "threat" with lower crude. Is the country really this soft that we're willing to feel bad for countries like Iran that haven't always been friendly to America just because of their financial hardship?

Tesoro's oil refinery in Los Angeles
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters
Tesoro's oil refinery in Los Angeles

Plummeting oil prices are only good news for Americans; and regardless of the risks posed to oil-rich countries, it feels pretty good to know we're not being railroaded every time we have to fill up at the pump.

As the Washington Post reported: "Every day, American motorists are saving $630 million on gasoline compared with what they paid at June prices, and they would get a $230 billion windfall if prices were to stay this low for a year."

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Talk about a tax break — and the winners are going to be everywhere! Expect a pop for retailers this winter; travel and leisure will certainly be a beneficiary; and, dare I say it, real estate should experience decent gains in the spring.

These lower prices are excellent news on the domestic front. However, the international story is deteriorating at a point that is likely to ratchet up risks as economies crumble and nuclear wannabes become even more desperate than they already are.

And this is the unfolding story in Iran, where benchmark prices below $120 a barrel are a disaster, but below $90 is ruinous for Tehran.

While Wall Street kept an eye on crude prices in November, the rest of the world remained focused on the ongoing Iranian nuclear talks in Vienna. The end result of the soiree between the U.N. Security Council and Iranian officials: Keep talking, for seven more months.

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On the surface, this is good news, because the common international feeling is any deal with Iran will result in inevitable disaster as it will only mean the Iranians will possess the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. So delaying this decision is how we in America describe the new and insulting pastime of "kicking the can down the road." But the back story is the continued crushing of the Iranian economy.

Iran's currency, the rial, is trading at its lowest point in a year as oil plummets and Iranians continue to worry about more economic sanctions in the months to come. Just this week, Tehran implemented a 30-percent increase in bread prices for its citizens. With spending power decreasing, consumer staples increasing, and no end in sight, Iranians may begin to revolt and further destabilize a region that is in no position to control anarchy.

But should we care?

Americans faced two knockout punches a few years ago. In 2008, we were looking at $147 a barrel and $4-plus gasoline; and then in 2009, the economic implosion occurred resulting in millions standing in unemployment lines while forcing families into homeless shelters. Is it really our problem if one of the pioneer members of what George W. Bush dubbed the "Axis of Evil" has only two business lines: oil and nuclear war?

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I doubt you're going to find a lot of sympathy on Main Street. Many in America still remain poverty-stricken while working — if at all — in underemployed positions offering little to look forward to. If the country gets a leg-up because lower prices help them feed their families — at the sake of our enemies — then so be it.

After all, hatred is linear, and those who despise the homeland are going to feel this way no matter where oil trades.

Commentary by Todd M. Schoenberger, managing partner at hedge-fund firm LandColt Capital. He is the portfolio manager of the LandColt Onshore and Offshore Funds. Follow him on Twitter @TMSchoenberger.

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