Think Of The Homeless

There are over 30 million Americans who live on the streets of our nation. Can you consider giving something to a shelter near you? Your fellow human beings need socks because they walk everywhere. Food and shelter are great too, if they will take them. So please give.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reviews by Hubie Goode: Social Insanity

Last fall, after 20 years of strident inaction, Congress finally passed a bill to increase the fuel efficiency of cars, SUVs and pickup trucks. There was a lot self-congratulation on Capitol Hill. The law seemed to mandate roughly a one-third increase in new-vehicle MPG by 2020 - enough to eliminate the oil the United States imports from the Persian Gulf. Sounds great! But I am hugely suspicious … [there is] a waiver provision that says that if the new standards prove too onerous, automakers can ask they be waived. That is a formula for what Washington specializes in: the appearance of dramatic action while nothing actually happens.” So what’s going on in Washington right now? Pleading poormouth, the big three automakers are already asking for a waiver from the 2015 interim standard, which requires roughly a 15 percent improvement in fuel efficiency. That standard does not take effect for seven years, and already Detroit automakers are saying they can’t meet it.

Or perhaps, they don’t want to try. Lee Hyun-Soon, president of Hyundai, told the Wall Street Journal last week his company will meet the entire 2020 standard by 2015, and will do so entirely with conventional vehicles -- no complex plug-in hybrids, just sensible engineering using existing technology. Whenever Washington seems to get serious about oil waste, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Subaru put their engineers to work -- then build, at American factories staffed by American workers, vehicles that comply with MPG rules. Whenever Washington seems to get serious about oil waste, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors put their lobbyists at work to dilute or evade the standards. There are only 535 people in the United States so gullible they would believe Korean engineers can meet a technical standard, yet American engineers cannot. Unfortunately, those 535 people are the members of the United States Congress.

Has anyone from the mainstream media followed up on how last year’s seemingly strict MPG bill is being watered down? As Eric Patashnik of the University of Virginia details in his powerful and timely new book “Reforms at Risk,” reporters are often present when “dramatic” legislation passes, then treat the enactment as the end of the story -- paying no attention as lobbyists later water down a bill. As Thomas Friedman points out in his important new book “Hot, Flat and Crowded,” the refusal of Congress and the White House to take any real action against oil waste has had the effect of transferring hundreds of billions of dollars to Moscow, and to the oil sheiks who support anti-Western and anti-Israel terrorism. If MPG standards were higher, oil demand would fall. Instead, high demand holds up barrel prices, enriching Persian Gulf dictatorships and Vladimir Putin. Why, Friedman asks, is Russia suddenly confrontational? Because in the past two years, Russian elites have gotten super-rich, owing to rising oil prices brought on at least in part by U.S. stupidity regarding petroleum waste. If Congress grants Detroit the MPG waivers it seeks, the stupidity will march on.

Meanwhile, back at the federal budget: In 1976, the entire U.S. national debt was about $800 billion, converted to today’s dollars. Last summer, Congress without debate and with barely any notice added $800 billion to the national debt ceiling -- raising that ceiling by an amount equal to the entire debt a generation ago. With no debate! The U.S. national debt was $5 trillion in 1997, and has doubled to almost $10 trillion since. Why aren’t the young outraged? The old are acting irresponsibly -- spending like crazy but unwilling to tax themselves, then handing the bill to the young. If the young were spending borrowed money like crazy, the old would be lecturing them. How come in Washington, the old can get away with behavior that would be called reckless for the young?

At any rate, the moment another $800 billion worth of borrowing was authorized, supposedly for “emergency” purposes, lobbyists got to work trying to seize every penny now. The big three automakers are now asking Congress for $50 billion of that $800 billion, supposedly to retool to build the fuel-efficient vehicles they had no way -- just no way on Earth -- of knowing they would ever be required to build. As Paul Ingrassia pointed out in last week’s Wall Street Journal, when Congress bailed out Chrysler in 1980, the deal was structured so that if the company recovered, taxpayers got most of their money back. But what’s being asked for now is pure subsidy -- money taxpayers will never see again, and that will be used in part to fund the bonuses of overpaid auto executives who got their companies into trouble in the first place. (The Journal opposes the bailout, though the $50 billion would go to Corporate America.) Ingrassia further notes that when Chrysler’s Lee Iacocca tried to weasel out of the deal and keep the money that was promised back to taxpayers, Ronald Reagan stood firm and would not budge. Contrast Reagan’s sense of civic responsibility to the current Congress, both of which just cannot wait to give away other people’s money.

Now connect the dots! The automakers are asking for $50 billion in handouts to meet new fuel economy requirements -- at the very time they are also asking for waivers from those requirements. If the past is any guide, they will get both the subsidies and the waivers. The net will be zero progress, more billions of dollars for oil shipped to anti-American forces in the Persian Gulf, and more debt handed to everyone under the age of 30.

I want taxpayers to stop being taxed to subsidize wealthy people’s hobbies. But as long as you give the powers that be the ability to answer one constituency, they will answer any and all constituencies, starting first with those that finance their campaigns.

Throw the bums out. Start from scratch. Better yet, throw them out and then just do nothing. We’d all be better off. The consumer would shop for the most efficient car if he or she cares about fuel mileage. When you subsidize, the price goes up. Just like the price of a college education, the price of food (ag subsidies abound), and anything else the government “gives” us.

I also put the blame where it really lies... middle class greed. The cool thing to do these days is blame the government for not monitoring the lending industry when they were handing out outrageous loans to people who couldn’t afford them... yet no one blames the poor soul making $60,000 who signed off on the balloon mortgage for the $650,000 house because he felt like he “deserved it”?

I say that the government doesn’t need to create more regulatory departments and more divisions within it’s already insanely bloated structure which are responsible for protecting silly people from making silly decisions. What’s next, the government is going to stand in the produce section of every supermarket in America and tell consumers if the meat they’re buying is spoiled by the rotten smell? Let’s get real.

The problem isn’t just the rich exploiting the middle class, it’s the middle class having no restraint or personal accountability. People say that we’re teetering on the brink of a depression, but companies like Best Buy, which don’t sell one essential item that a person needs to live, are turning record profits.

Put the blame where it really lies... unabashed American greed. From the single mom using her child support money for new shoes instead of her kids education and essential items to the CEO of the gigantic corporation, greed is what is spinning the wheels that this country runs on, and that is the REAL problem.

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