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Party Politics vs. Good Governance
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. 8/7/08

Many Americans are suffering financially because of the double whammy of gasoline prices and the collapse of the housing and mortgage markets. On that, at least, Democrats and Republicans can agree except, perhaps for former Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas who apparently thinks it’s all in our heads. Mr. Gramm has, mercifully, faded from the scene after calling us a nation of whiners. What they can’t agree on are the solutions to the problem of high gas prices.

The Republicans push for more domestic drilling offshore, in the Arctic and the oil shale fields of the western states, plus the use of “clean” coal. Democrats promote renewable energy sources, saying that we cannot drill our way out of this crisis.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

Both sides want to reduce dependence on foreign oil, some of which comes from countries whose people aren’t particularly fond of us. They differ in how to go about this. Democrats say that we need to break our dependence on fossil fuels from any source for the sake of the earth and its environment. Republicans acknowledge the need to pursue clean, renewable energy sources but say that we must, meanwhile, also exploit the known domestic oil and natural gas resources that we have.

Democrats respond that speculation is causing much of the increase in oil prices and that increased domestic drilling wouldn’t put much of a dent in pricing. Besides, some say, the oil companies aren’t drilling in all the leases they currently hold and that new drilling wouldn’t produce anything for ten years, which is nonsense. Republicans say that alternate sources such as wind, solar and nuclear power are still far from being economically viable by themselves and that we will  continue to be dependent on petroleum to some degree for decades. Both sides have merit in their arguments and surely there is room for compromise. The people want relief, not deadlock.

Deadlock, however, is what they’re getting. President George W. Bush offered an energy plan which a Democratic Congress did not see fit to embrace. They provided nothing in its place. Meanwhile, some families had to choose between buying food to eat or buying gas to get to work. And wait until the winter heating bills come due.

Congress did manage to pass some housing relief legislation which may help a small percentage of families keep their homes. Market forces will eventually cause the housing and credit markets to stabilize, even without the help of Congress. But with respect to energy, Congress is simply failing the people.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) recently recessed the House of Representatives without allowing a vote on a comprehensive energy plan which included offshore drilling. She did so despite a loud protest on the floor of the House by Republican members demanding a vote on this urgent issue that greatly concerns not just Republicans but virtually all Americans. The members then departed on a five-week summer vacation, free to do what they do best, to wit: campaign for reelection.

If there remains any doubt about why Americans hold Congress in such low esteem and give it a lower approval rating than even the president, blatantly political actions such as this should remove that doubt. Ms. Pelosi had said before that she did not want a vote on an energy bill. She would not support more drilling and made it clear that global warming prevention was a more urgent priority. But the motive was probably more basic than that.

The Republicans and Sen. John McCain have a winning issue here and Ms. Pelosi knows it. A majority of Americans favor increased domestic drilling including offshore drilling. Conservationists need to get used to it. Republicans know that you can’t afford to wreck the economy while waiting for renewable energy to finally pay off. Even Sen.Barack Obama has flip-flopped on this vital issue, suggesting that he could now accept a compromise involving some offshore drilling. He knows how to read the polls.

Meanwhile, Democrats remain clueless on this issue, blaming big oil, speculation, Wall Street, whatever, and prattling endlessly on about windfall profits taxes to finance consumer relief and an end to favorable tax treatment. It must have come as a shock to them to learn that Exxon Mobil, for example, paid $647 billions in taxes over the last four years, or about $19 billions more than after-tax earnings. How about a tax rebate on those windfall tax receipts?

Americans have every right to be angry with a Congress that puts politics above good governance. With the end of the fiscal year approaching, Congress has recessed after passing only one spending bill, and that loaded with earmarks. It has produced little in the way of solutions but has produced plenty of hot air. It’s a pity we couldn’t harness some of that wind power to produce useable energy. CRO

copyright 2008 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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