Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Republicans and the Daddy State

Air America's Marc Maron made a funny observation the other day, suggesting that politicians treat us like kids with silly little promises. His funniest example drew from the pages of the New York Times; “Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida has been fighting to cut 10 cents from the state’s gasoline tax for two weeks in July.

Marin dryly thanked Gov. Crist for the gift of ten cents for a whole two weeks savings of $2. It’s a gift only a child, like in all of us, would be overwhelmed with. “We’re not children” Marin shouted.

It was funny while at the same time infuriating. The Republican authoritarian attitude, in the last 13 years, was to treat the public like a dim-witted child. Who can forget President Bush telling us how hard his job is, or that the war was too complicated for most of us to understand. The absurdity of “we’re fighting them there, so we don’t have to fight them here.”

Condescending stuff wouldn’t you say.

Gov. Crist’s father like attitude is on full display when he said. “It’s about trying to serve the people and trying to understand and have caring, compassionate hearts for what they’re dealing with at the kitchen table. I’m supposed to respond to the people and try to make them happy.”

Gosh dad, you’re so understanding.

For many years my main theme has been that Republicans politicians make lousy businessmen. And when it comes to the gas tax holiday, their bold incompetence is on display for all to see. Gov. Crist blissfully brushes aside the unintended consequences of a past gas tax holiday. “During the last gas tax suspension in Florida in 2004, people hoarded gasoline, driving up demand and prices.” Don’t you love fiscal conservatives?

And then to add dumb onto dumber, instead of preventing a repeat of past abuses, “the draft measures in Florida, Missouri and New York do not require retailers to pass on the tax suspension to consumers, nor are there provisions to prevent hoarding.”

The party of herd mentality, is quick to push their own plans: “The New York plan, sponsored by Republicans in the State Senate, would suspend three state gas taxes, amounting to about 32 cents per gallon, from Memorial Day to Labor Day: In North Carolina, the Republican candidate for governor is proposing a gas tax holiday and permanent reduction; In Missouri, State Representative Jim Lembke, Republican of St. Louis, has sponsored a more novel approach to suspending the state’s 17.6-cent gas tax: drivers would turn in their receipts at the end of the summer and the state would cut them a rebate check.”

Question: who’s going to pay for the paper work, record keeping and cost of sending out the rebate checks?

“In general, retailers did not pass on all of the intended savings. When Illinois and Indiana suspended about 7 cents of their state gas taxes in the summer of 2000, prices fell by an average of only 4 cents. Drivers saved no more than $2.50 a month, while each state lost tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue.”

And while Republicans try to top one another lowering the price of a gallon of gas, they have all but ignored another price hike. “John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute pointed out, “We’ve seen other things go up in prices, like milk, but if you ask 10 people on the street what’s the price of milk they may not know. All of them will know the price of gas.”

It’s around $2.78 per gallon, a dollar more than a year ago. With a 6 and 9 year old at home, could I have a dollar off holiday?

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