Tax and Drill

Now here’s something you don’t read every day–a conservative columnist arguing in favor of a gasoline tax.

“[Oil] is now $41 a barrel. We had a golden moment, and we let it pass. The way to lock in our gains then would have been to artificially raise the price of gasoline with a tax that would depress consumption, maintain consumer demand for fuel efficiency and, most important, direct much of the pump price into the U.S. economy (via the U.S. Treasury) rather than having it shipped to Saudi Arabia, Russia and other sundry, less than friendly places.”

He details his idea further:

“The idea is for the government — through a tax — to establish a new floor for gasoline, say $3 a gallon. If the world price were to rise above $3, the tax would be zero. What we need is anything that will act as a brake on consumption. Since America consumes 45 percent of the world’s gasoline, a significant reduction here would bring down the world price.”

“But the key is to then keep the tax. Indeed, let it increase to capture all of a price reduction. Consumers still pay $3, but the Saudis keep getting lower and lower world prices. The U.S. economy keeps the rest in the form of taxes — which should immediately be cycled back to consumers by a corresponding cut in, say, payroll or income taxes. “

If people understood how much of their income was being devoured by payroll taxes, they might not mind gas prices being fixed at $3/gallon if payroll taxes dropped enough. I know I wouldn’t. But the real puzzle is how you’d keep the Social Security and Medicare programs solvent if you cut payroll. I suppose that would start arguments about raising the retirement age, means testing, etc.

Read the whole column here.

No Flinching from the Facts

Very well-written column by George Will that touches on the actions at Abu Ghraib, the lead-up to the war, and Donald Rumsfeld’s role as secretary of defense. This paragraph in particular describes the entire problem of the war on terror:

The first axiom is: When there is no penalty for failure, failures proliferate. Leave aside the question of who or what failed before Sept. 11, 2001. But who lost his or her job because the president’s 2003 State of the Union address gave currency to a fraud — the story of Iraq’s attempting to buy uranium in Niger? Or because the primary and only sufficient reason for waging preemptive war — weapons of mass destruction — was largely spurious? Or because postwar planning, from failure to anticipate the initial looting to today’s insufficient force levels, has been botched? Failures are multiplying because of choices for which no one seems accountable.

The logical conclusion of Will’s argument is that President Bush should hold Rumsfeld accountable. Thus far, he has failed to do so.

Moral Clarity, Courage Needed, Bush Aide Says

From the article: America needs people who have “the moral clarity and courage to do what’s right, regardless of consequence, fashion or fad,” Karl Rove said.

What he said is quite true. It would have been more honest for him to say that the U.S. government needs people with moral clarity and courage. The irony of Karl Rove being the one to say this is readily apparent to anyone who follows the news. In his capacity as Bush’s chief political strategist, he has advocated incredibly dishonest treatment of his boss’ opponents, Republican or Democrat. The way Bush campaigned against John McCain was any thing but morally clear and courageous. His current campaign for re-election is no different. Distortions and outright lies about the stands of his opponent and an inability to admit mistakes are anything but morally clear and courageous.

America certainly does need people with moral clarity and courage to do what’s right. But finding such people in our government seems like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. The best we can hope to do as individuals is to develop these traits ourselves.