With some press outlets now pointing out that John McCain’s dishonest ads are dishonest, I got a few commenters wondering if I’ll stop complaining about McCain’s cozy relationship with the press. I think I’ll do that when reporters stop crediting him with “irrepressible candor” for the most banal Q&A interactions imaginable. The press is still treating him the way proud parents treat their kid, perhaps willing to discipline him gently when he gets out of line but still eager to swear that his every ordinary action is magic.
The Bush era of energy policy has been one of contempt for the planet and the economy — all for the benefit of Exxon and its ilk. Now he wants to tie our future to even dirtier, deadlier, costlier fossil fuels. Today in West Virginia, President Bush declared his plan for a “sprint to the finish” of his tenure:
We all want to be environmentally friendly people, but we also want to have practical policies that deal with the problems we face today and the problems we’ll face tomorrow if we don’t get going.
What are these “practical policies”?
— “We use about 1.1 billion tons of coal a year. That sounds like a lot to me. It — and so the challenge is, how do we make sure that this reliable source of U.S. energy remains in the center of our strategy?”
— “First, we ought to be drilling offshore exploration, what’s called the Outer Continental Shelf.”
— “Secondly, we ought to expand oil production by tapping into oil shale.”
— “We ought to be drilling in Alaska.”
— “I believe that one really promising source of energy, so we can power our automobiles and become less dependent on foreign energy, is coal-to-liquids projects.”
This is a call for a “sprint to the finish” of civilization as we know it. The Wonk Room has explained how coal-to-liquids, oil shale, expanded offshore drilling would benefit no one but corporate polluters — and would dramatically worsen the climate crisis.
Two weeks ago, former Vice President Al Gore, Bush’s 2000 opponent, explained the roots of the Bush-era crises:
When we look at all three of these seemingly intractable challenges at the same time, we can see the common thread running through them, deeply ironic in its simplicity: our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels is at the core of all three of these challenges – the economic, environmental and national security crises.
We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that’s got to change.
But if we grab hold of that common thread and pull it hard, all of these complex problems begin to unravel and we will find that we’re holding the answer to all of them right in our hand.
The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.
Standing before right-wing coal industry of West Virginia — which has devastated the state’s jobs, lives, and land — Bush claimed, “I love the fact that we’ve got people who understand the dangers we face, understand we’re facing ideological people that use murder to achieve their objectives, and want to hurt us again here at home.”
With his right-wing fealty to the fossil polluters who, if left unchecked, will destroy the planet, the president is describing himself.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has made his complete reversal on offshore drilling a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, insisting that expanding offshore drilling into protected areas would lead to more oil supply on the market “within a matter of months” — regardless of the Energy Information Agency’s projection that oil would not reach the market for nearly a decade and “would not have a significant impact” on oil prices.
Though more drilling won’t help Americans save money at the gas pump, it has certainly helped McCain win massive campaign donations from Big Oil. A new report by Campaign Money Watch shows that contributions to McCain from Big Oil skyrocketed directly following his June speech in Houston, when he pledged his support of offshore drilling before an audience oil executives. The report notes:
In Texas alone, June oil and gas-connected donations to McCain’s Victory ’08 Fund, his hybrid fundraising venture with the RNC and state committees, reached $1,214,100.
Of that total, $881,450, or 73 percent, came after June 15. McCain announced his position in favor of offshore drilling on June 16.
The report notes that these enormous contributions represent a seven-fold increase in donations, compared to McCain’s 2000 campaign:
McCain has no plan to prevent oil companies from absorbing the profits off expanded drilling opportunities — just like they have reaped record profits on the back of unprecedented oil prices. Last Sunday, when George Stephanopoulos asked how he would make sure oil companies passed the savings to consumers, McCain suggested weakly he could “shame” them into helping consumers:
STEPHANOPOULOS: The oil companies, the gas companies are going to absorb any reduction.
MCCAIN: … they say that. But one, it didn’t happen before, and two, we wouldn’t let it happen. We wouldn’t let it — Americans wouldn’t let them absorb that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How would you prevent that?
MCCAIN: We would make them shamed into it. We, of course, know how to — American public opinion. And we would penalize them, if necessary. But they wouldn’t. They would pass it on.
Pivoting off the news about John McCain’s $520 shoes, Chris Hayes wonders if the press will ever notice that John McCain is a rich, out of touch elitist. Well, I have my doubts. But this stuff is relevant. Clearly, it’s possible for people who’ve lived lives of privilege (FDR is the famous example) to promote policies that are beneficial to people who are struggling. But you really do see with McCain a lot of proposals that seem to reflect a lack of understanding of how people live their lives.
It’s easy, for example, for someone on the “I married an heiress” plan to talk about the need to privatize Social Security or cut benefits. And someone who, like John McCain, has never actually experienced private sector health insurance might well not understand what it is about it that has so many people agitated. And McCain, it’s worth recalling, isn’t even someone who got rich by earning a fortune in business and thus might have learned something about upward mobility. He just married into it. But he doesn’t appear to have any of that FDR-like sense of noblesse oblige — he just has a lot of policies that are well-suited to the interests of people like himself.
On Tuesday, the House passed a formal apology for slavery and racist segregation laws, recognizing that “African-Americans continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow.” Yesterday, Glenn Beck spent nearly 30 minutes on his radio show mocking the apology. He continued expressing his outrage on his CNN Headline News show last night, during a discussion with Ron Paul. Paul wondered why Congress should apologize, since “we personally weren’t responsible.” Beck claimed that the apology “was a front [sic] to the principles of Christianity“:
RON PAUL: But when it comes to these apologies, you know, why should you and I make the apologies? Why should I apologize for you through a vote in the Congress? At the same time, you know, we personally weren’t responsible, you know, for that. [...]
BECK: Yes, I think it — honestly, it is a front — I’m a Christian. It’s a front [sic] to the principles of Christianity. Forgiveness. Forgiveness. This country, half of this country fought the other half and died to free and to say, enough. This is wrong. We were washed in blood. I know — I mean, good heavens. There’s nothing worse than slavery. Why are we doing this and concentrating on this now?
How much oil can be found in Americans’ car — through more efficient driving and better vehicle maintenance? Using current numbers from the Bush DOE and EPA , the answer appears to be some 2.5 to 3 million barrels a day — 20 times what could be found if we ended the congressional moratorium on offshore drilling (see “The cruel offshore-drilling hoax“) and three times the oil we are likely to find in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (see “Opening ANWR cuts gas prices TWO cents in 2025“).
And these savings would quickly lower Americans’ annual fuel bills perhaps $700 a year , whereas drilling might save them about $12 a year in 20 years.
But let me begin at the beginning. Obama, as everyone knows, has presented detailed national strategies to reduce oil consumption as part of his climate plan months ago (see “Obama’s excellent energy and climate plan“). Now the right wing is all agog at some remarks Obama made yesterday about what individuals can do:
This is unbelievable! My friends, this is laughable of course, but it’s stupid! It is stupid! … Avoid jackrabbit starts, keep your tires properly inflated, there’s a list of about ten or twelve these things. I said if I follow each one of these things I’ll have to stop the car every five miles, siphon some fuel out, for all the fuel I’m going to be saving. This is ridiculous…. Who has filled his head with this stuff?
Actually, it is probably the Bush administration’s own Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency that has filled him with that stuff. Let’s do the math.
The Hill takes a look at what smart growth and transit advocates are doing to try to take advantage of high gas prices to convince people that a shift of federal policy away from encouraging auto-dependency is the right way to go. Apparently folks have “coalesced around a bill introduced by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) and Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) called the Transportation and Housing Choices for Gas Price Relief Act of 2008.” In preparation for shifting to 501 (c) 4 status, I won’t by any means endorse the bill or urge congress to pass it. Instead, I’ll merely note that various people I respect seem to be hoping that congress passes this bill.
More info here at Streetsblog.
UPDATE: Also — if you live in DC and want to do something good for smart growth, the environment, public health, and the local economy you should come to the Zoning Commission meeting on parking minimum’s today at 6:30 PM (441 4th Street NW) and join me in advocating that minimums be lowered or abolished.
Energy efficiency is probably the cheapest, easiest renewable resource we have available to us. For a long time, energy was cheap and national policy was to make it as cheap as possible. That’s left us with a legacy of infrastructure and appliances built on the assumption that wasteful use of energy is no big deal. But it is a bit deal and we have a lot of the needed technology and know-how needed to deal with it. Which I assume is what Barack Obama was getting at when he said this at an energy town hall meeting today:
Finally, one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to conserve energy and use less oil is to make America more energy efficient and more competitive with the world. That’s why, when I’m President, I will call on business, government, and the American people to make America 50 percent more energy efficient by 2030.
But what does it mean to become “50 percent more energy efficient”? Does that mean we’ll use half as much energy? That our GDP’s energy intensity will be cut in half? Or that there’s some measure of “energy efficiency” such that 2030 energy efficiency will be fifty percent larger than in 2008? Unfortunately, efficiency is a difficult subject to talk about. An SUV could have an engine that’s “more efficient” than the engine on a moped (i.e., it does a better job of converting a given quantity of gasoline into horsepower) while still getting many fewer miles per gallon. I was in an elevator earlier today where the lights were freakishly dim, and a woman in there with me speculated that it might be for energy efficiency purposes, but dimming the lights isn’t really the same as making them more efficient.
Photo by Flickr user thingermajig used under a Creative Commons license
Pardon me if you’ve seen this point elsewhere, but in what sense is John McCain not a celebrity? I’ve seen him on the covers of magazines, on television, in newspapers, doing guest appearances on SNL, etc.:
Could you possibly be a major party presidential nominee and not be a celebrity? But in particular, McCain actually stands out among politicians as being someone who was a famous celebrity first and then parlayed his fame into a political career, rather than merely being someone who’s well-known for being an important politician.
Sen. John McCain had a read-my-lips moment on taxes yesterday, telling a town hall meeting that “I want to look you in the eye: I will not raise your taxes nor support a tax increase. I will not do it.”
Of course, only three days earlier, McCain said that higher taxes were “on the table” to solve Social Security. And he seemed to say the same to a group of donors last night. ThinkProgress has more of McCain’s muddled history on Social Security taxes.
Here’s another place where John McCain may be willing to raise your taxes: to pay for his enormous health care plan.
McCain has proposed new health insurance tax credits, which his campaign estimates to cost $3.6 trillion over the decade. He says he pays for it by taxing workers’ health benefits, which are largely tax-free today. McCain aides say the plan has no net cost and left it out of their budget plan.
McCain’s numbers add up only by raising taxes on middle-class families. To raise $3.6 trillion by taxing health benefits, you need both income and payroll taxes. But that means an $1,100 tax increase on a typical married couple earning $60,000 in 2013.
Alternatively, McCain could avoid tax increases by applying only income taxes – but not payroll taxes – to health benefits. And this is what his spokesman told the Daily Tax Report he does. But income taxes alone fall $1.3 trillion short of paying for his tax credits.
McCain aides say they pay for their health care plan without raising middle-class taxes, but that’s not possible. So which is it? Do they raise taxes on ordinary families by more than a thousand dollars or add $1.3 trillion to the deficit? It may be the biggest unanswered question in the candidates’ fiscal policies.