Sunday, May 07, 2006

Democrats Charge Into the Vacuum: Gas Prices

A little news with a local angle today, led by Washington State's own Senator Maria Cantwell. (See an invitation to her fundraiser with former President Clinton in Seattle above.)

Well, I guess we can try to forgive her for voting for the ill-advised Iraq war, & all the hasty approvals of the Patriot Act, even once its impact on civil liberties became controversial.

We'll try to overlook, as well, her kabuki-theatre moves in her "no" vote against Alito after she'd voted to end the confirmation hearings with no meaningful exploration of his neo-con's neo-con legal pedigree, especially with regard to his participation in the birth of the odious "signing statement" legal theory. Which permits even a dim bulb like George to reinterpret the law according to his personal wishes (which are, "absolute power corrupts absolutely.") Caveat: I've read several accounts of Maria's activities with regard to those hearings, & I really don't know which to credit, but I imagine we in Washington state will have our opportunity to weigh in on that issue in November.

Alright, then: Reuters reported that "Democrats on Saturday pressed the U.S. Congress to slash tax breaks for profit-flush oil companies amid record high gasoline prices and quickly pass legislation aimed at protecting consumers from price-gouging.

"Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat up for reelection this fall, said the tax breaks for oil companies should be changed to offer incentives for vehicles that can run on ethanol and for more energy-efficient goods.

"'It's time to end the huge tax breaks for big oil, and replace them with new incentives for lightweight, efficient materials and for cars that can run on either ethanol or gasoline,' she said in the Democrats' weekly radio address.
"Democrats, who believe they could wrest majority control of Congress from Republicans in the November election because of soaring gasoline costs, earlier this week offered legislation that they said would slash at least $28 billion in tax breaks and subsidies for oil and natural gas companies.

"Republicans have been scrambling for other ideas on how to ease the gas price burden, but an initial idea of handing out $100 checks to U.S. consumers flopped."

Republicans, of course, hasten to add they THEY have plans, too, not just unpopular anti-environmental ones that the oil industry likes, like further easing emissions standards for refineries, drilling in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge & piddly little tax breaks.

In response, Tucker Bounds, spokesman for the Republican National Committee pouted that Cantwell is "not working together with the Republican majority in the House of Representatives." Now that the shoe is on the other foot, the GOP whines to Mommy that Democrats are the ones who are not playing fair.

"Tucker also criticized the House for passing a measure this week "to make it a federal crime for companies to profiteer on pricing gasoline, diesel fuel, crude oil, heating oil and biofuel."

Before Demon Princess's detractors (conservative accountant relatives) wind up to trot out that old "it's really a matter of supply & demand in a free marketplace" canard, she'll take this opportunity to remind them that a "free" marketplace depends entirely on transparency of the transactions concerned.

We've seen it historically many times before, & I think we're seeing it again: a new round of unbridled neo-robber-baronism right here & now.

When the "market" operates in such an out-of-control fashion & away from scrutiny (remember Dick Cheney's secret "energy policy" cabal-style meetings not so long ago?) over such a precious & dwindling resource, no, I really don't trust the so-called "free" market to moderate itself.

There have been many times historically when the "free market" paradigm just doesn't work, & considerations other than a cabal's right to increase their already fabulous wealth infringe on the consumers' & workers' rights & demand to be tamed. As when government steps in to protect & defend values that the "free market" will not respect.

So tar & feather me by calling me a socialist, I don't care. Whatever you call it, capitalism is but one of many economic theories (not mutually exclusive).

It's not a religion.

It's a matter of balance. Think of it, if you will, as a "correction." Just as foolishly driving a gas-guzzling vehicle for its status, as opposed to its purported off-road, value when it is rarely used for that purpose proves to be a very bad idea as well.


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