The GOP Tax Cuts And Katrina
Wednesday - September 14, 2005
Feeling rotten lately? Feeling that, just perhaps, the poet was right: “Things fall apart/the center cannot hold?”
I am. The television images of the havoc wrought by Katrina in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast; the seeming incompetence of governments at city, state and federal levels to deal with the chaos; the continuing blood-letting in Iraq; and the inexorable rise in the price of gasoline in Hawaii - $2.86 per gallon today, $2.92 tomorrow, $3.17 the next day, perhaps $3.71 this week: Together they cause me to ponder, fear, worry that we’ve truly lost control of our futures - and the will to control them.
Katrina? Well, nature can do that to you. Iniki taught Hawaii’s residents that lesson. But the response in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast belonged to the men and women who make up city, state and national governments - and the people who elect them.
And they, until much too late, failed miserably.
I’ll play the much-despised blame game, and frequenters of this space know full well who I’ll blame. No, not George W. He’s just the newest, most incompetent instrument of the nation’s conservative revolution - now approaching 40 years in duration.
But the agenda of that conservative movement has been on full view recently. Tax-cutting pols from Ronald Reagan through George H.W. Bush the elder, George W. the stupider, and the contract-with-America, Gingrichian Congress have ravaged the nation’s infrastructure.
Rather than pay the $40 billion required to build levees capable of withstanding a Level 5 hurricane, they opted for building prisons, going to war in Iraq over nonexistent weapons of mass destruction - both nuclear and chemical - and providing huge tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
So now we’ll pay the price. Instead of $40 billion for sound levees, we’ll spend 10 times that, or more, to rebuild a city - after we clear it of poisonous water, rubble and bodies.
Oh yes, the dead. Remember them? Disproportionately old, poor and black. “The least among us,” according to the Good Book.
How can we, in the world of conservative ideological purity, protect “the least among us” when we must give tax cuts to the wealthiest? It will, after all, trickle down. Sure.
Then there’s the price of gas in Hawaii. Gov. Linda Lingle, Republican legislators and representatives of Hawaii’s oil refineries will tell you it all has to do with gas cap legislation passed by a Legislature dominated by Democrats. That’s the cause of our soaring gas prices.
Let the wondrous invisible hand of the free market work its magic, and all will be well.
The invisible hand of the market has always been sullied; at times by misdirected politicians, but every bit as often by monopolistic, price-gouging business interests hell-bent on bribing government to corrupt the market on their behalf. Business trots out the purity of the free market only when government intervenes in an effort to help the poor, almost-always-forgotten consumer - as did the Hawaii state Legislature in passing the gas cap law.
My only consolation at the $3.17 per gallon gas pump last week was the poor $#@%^& next to me. While I filled up a four-cylinder puddle-jumper with a 10-gallon tank, he watched the numbers go up on an eight-cylinder monster truck. Neither the auto nor oil industries had complained, of course, when government had exempted such trucks and SUVs from the computation of industry gas mileage regulations. Indeed, both industries had lobbied to have those vehicles exempted.
So who’s stuck now? That poor sucker was persuaded by Detroit’s and Tokyo’s advertising that sitting up there in the driver’s seat of an SUV (What does “sport utility vehicle” mean anyway?) lent a sense of power or command or ... what? I don’t know. All I’ve heard is that they roll over a lot.
So the poor consumer now owns a vehicle with a resale value of nothing - that requires a bank loan to fill with gasoline.
No, the center can hold.
But it will require that we start carrying a great deal more for “the least among us” and for the poor, almost-always-forgotten consumer.
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