Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Maybe McCain should pick Hillary for his running mate. They have both just engaged in the most shameless pander imaginable: suggesting a gas tax holiday for the summer. Tom Friedman, who took a break from writing columns for the New York Times to do penance for being one of the ditto heads who carried water for the administration on the Iraq war (or so I would like to imagine) is back with a good column today on just how dumb this is:

It is great to see that we finally have some national unity on energy policy. Unfortunately, the unifying idea is so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away. Hillary Clinton has decided to line up with John McCain in pushing to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for this summer’s travel season. This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.

When the summer is over, we will have increased our debt to China, increased our transfer of wealth to Saudi Arabia and increased our contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit.

No, no, no, we’ll just get the money by taxing Big Oil, says Mrs. Clinton. Even if you could do that, what a terrible way to spend precious tax dollars — burning it up on the way to the beach rather than on innovation?

The McCain-Clinton gas holiday proposal is a perfect example of what energy expert Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network describes as the true American energy policy today: “Maximize demand, minimize supply and buy the rest from the people who hate us the most.”

Good for Barack Obama for resisting this shameful pandering.

But here’s what’s scary: our problem is so much worse than you think. We have no energy strategy. If you are going to use tax policy to shape energy strategy then you want to raise taxes on the things you want to discourage — gasoline consumption and gas-guzzling cars — and you want to lower taxes on the things you want to encourage — new, renewable energy technologies. We are doing just the opposite...

The McCain-Clinton proposal is a reminder to me that the biggest energy crisis we have in our country today is the energy to be serious — the energy to do big things in a sustained, focused and intelligent way. We are in the midst of a national political brownout.

So much for the idea that Hillary is a serious policy wonk. McCain at least admits he doesn't know much about economics.

I hesitate to say much about gas prices because I don't have to drive far to work; most days I work out of the home. My wife drives a couple of miles down the street. I know fuel prices are hurting people who commute and killing truckers. But if we are ever going to end our addiction to oil and do something about climate change we are going to have to stop driving gas-guzzling cars. High gas prices are beginning to change habits. It hurts. But it is medicine we need.

I am really beginning to wonder about Hillary.

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