Sorry to keep ranting about this topic, but Evan posted this link on his blog this morning and it was too good to resist placing it on my own blog. Republican (and House Speaker) Dennis Hastert, after enjoying a photo op at a local gas station with a hybrid vehicle, drove off in the car, only to get out of it once he thought he was out of sight and ride the rest of the way to work in his SUV. There is a nice little photo in the short article of the vehicle switch. No one in Congress truly believes in fuel efficiency, do they?
Yes, the title of this post is a factual statement. I am not going crazy. Perhaps a better way of phrasing this would be, to quote Stephen Colbert, “I called it!” Recall my previous post about rising gas prices and how the proposal by a group of senators to hand out $100 rebates was, to be kind, an incredibly stupid one. Despite widespread concern about the rising price of fuel, many of the nation’s analysts (and many true Republicans – that is to say, the fiscal conservatives) agree with me. And yes, for the same reasons I mentioned in my post yesterday:
- We have a deficit, and handing out $100 to millions of Americans will worsen our national debt.
- Rebates will not solve the long-term, or really even the short-term, problem.
- Rebates only enable the behaviors that we as Americans should be striving to change.
Another point has been made about which I was curious yesterday, but not knowledgable enough on to comment. The same $100 rebate goes to people who don’t buy gasoline. It would really be enabling if it only went to people who consume fuel, I suppose, because those of us who make an effort not to use it are not rewarded for our behavior of efficiency. Then again, if the money is really to lighten the burden of fuel costs, then it should, in theory, go to those purchasing gas. It’s just a silly idea.
I particularly enjoyed this editorial outlining the reasons why this proposal is hogwash. Some politicians who are against it had the chance to demonstrate their ignorance. Try this one:
“‘The $100 rebate — no one’s against that,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. “But what’s going to happen five months from now and 10 months from now and 15 months from now, when the price stays high because they haven’t touched Big Oil?'”
Well, I wouldn’t say no one’s against that, Senator Schumer. Economists don’t think it’s great for the economy to randomly hand out funds during a time of deficit.
Or how about this comment:
“Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., suggested mailing out $500 checks — the amount the average family will spend in extra energy expenses this year, she said.”
All I can say here is that I think she is missing the big picture. The sad thing is that these are comments coming from the other political party. Yikes.
On Tuesday I went to my attending physician’s house for dinner with my medicine team, and as we were leaving, our team’s medical student started her Volkswagen, getting quite the response from Evan. “That’s a diesel!” he exclaimed. We approached her at her car, she rolled down the window, and confirmed that not only was it diesel, but it was biodiesel. She had nothing but positive things to say about it one year into ownership. We drove home in my Saturn – which gets ~42 miles per gallon. The following day, I took the bus to work, and I took the bus home. This morning, I took the bus to work again. It could very well be another week before I drive my car. God bless America[n public transporation].
Then, this afternoon I ran across this article, and I am thinking – this is yet another totally inane attempt to assuage angry citizens about the rising price of gasoline. The powers-that-be apparently believe it would be beneficial to give everyone $100 since gasoline is “so expensive” and that this will help in some way. Again, I had that “there must be something wrong with my brain” feeling when I read about this. So I asked several of my Blue-state Seattle colleagues, all of whom said something to the effect of “Yeah right, like that will solve anything.” Exactly.
In fact, it could worsen the problem. Perhaps if gas continues to grow pricier, then maybe it would finally force our government and our citizens to seek fuel alternatives. Maybe it would force investment into biodiesel, for example. Maybe it would force local communities to beef up their public transporation and encourage people to use these systems for commuting. Instead, we are going to pat people’s hands and tell them $100 will make things better. By the way, don’t we have a huge deficit right now? I’m a little more concerned about that – and it’s long-term potential effects on the economy – than I am about having an extra $100 right this second.
In any case, perhaps I am actually mistaken in thinking that rising prices will force change in behaviors. Perhaps we will pursue the other extreme and completely overindulge in our addiction. George W. Bush said that our nation is addicted to oil in his most recent State of the Union address, and as we know, addiction implies that people will do irrational things to obtain their subtance of choice. I remember learning in medical school about an experiment with rodents that was designed to test the inherent properties of addictive substances. A rat could push one lever and receive a food pellet, or push another lever and receive cocaine. Once either lever was pushed and the designated substance was dispensed, neither lever would lead to distribution for several hours – it was locked for an allotted period. This resulted in a bunch of dead rats. They kept pushing the cocaine lever over and over again, sacrificing all food for the drug. I see Americans turning into gasoline-addicted rats. We just don’t seem to get that there are potential solutions here, but they require effort in order to integrate them into our society. We have no foresight. We would rather go with what is easy now, knowing that someday we could be in trouble, instead of investing time, money, and effort into a better way of life. It is absolutely baffling.
I don’t mean that I am perfect in my knowledge of this issue, or that I have it entirely figured out. But I do know that, over the past 12 months, I have filled up, on average, about once a month. I know I am privileged to live in a city with public transportation, sidewalks, a bicycle-friendly atmosphere, biodiesel stations, and all of the other things that Red-staters seem to think of as “hippie” amenities. So be it. We aren’t giving gas prices much thought these days anyway.
Seattle was recently named the “Most Educated City” in the U.S. after a study found that 51% of the city’s inhabitants have at least a bachelor’s degree. We were followed closely by San Francisco, CA and Raleigh, NC. I might point out that Philadelphia was near the bottom of the list with only 20% of its residents possessing a bachelor’s. A good friend of mine (I won’t mention his name; let’s say it rhymes with “Tames” or “Names”) lives in Philadelphia and is complaining that there are too many thugs there. His claim is supported by statistics. My suggestion is that he consider moving to Seattle, where intelligence is a good thing.
Wait a second – no way. I could have sworn that the president promised to fire anyone who leaked Agent Valerie Plame’s identity to the press. When Robert Novak published his article outing her as an operative, I had to spew my opinion about it then – click here if you care what that opinion was. Then, those people turned out to be Scooter Libby (Dick Cheney’s chief-of-staff) and Karl Rove (who has since laid low and was not, contrary to the president’s promise, fired). Now, Libby is pointing the finger at W himself. What’s interesting is – rather than denying it happened, the White House is saying it releases information that may be in the best interest of our national security. What?!
I cannot rant and rave about this for too long because I’m on call and have a lot of work to do, but it’s been on my mind for the past day or two, and I can’t help but wonder how this one will turn out. My guess is that it will be just like all of the other scandals associated with this administration – it was be swept under the rug, and anyone who challenges it is just plain unpatriotic.