Cartoon Tuesday: Energy Independence

This ‘toon seemed appropriate on a day when oil prices set another record and presidential candidate John McCain called on Congress to suspend the federal gasoline tax (which would also hasten the depletion of the U.S. Highway Trust Fund, currently expected to be out of money next year).

Wonder if these guys drink Miller

  • gecko

    It is mainstream transport in China which would not be what it is today without it.

  • JQP

    Sad. I really expected better from Senator McCain.

    “Combined, he said, the two proposals would reduce gas prices, which would have a trickle-down effect, and “help to spread relief across the American economy.”

    Lower prices would actually raise demand for gasoline in the US, leading to a larger deficit with oil-exporting countries. The gas tax is half a tax on gas consumers, but also half a tax on the oil corporations and OPEC.

    Removing the gas tax would amount to a transfer of wealth from the federal government to OPEC.

  • Sad. I really expected better from Senator McCain.

    You mean the guy who’s been on record for years as wanting to defund Amtrak?

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Thats the guy Captain. Tom Downs, when he ran AMTRAK, wanted $0.02 per gallon dedicated to AMTRAK. AMTRAK has no dedicated money (lock box to Assemblyman Brodsky) and must beg for every penny from a reluctant Congress.

    Low gas taxes in America help Osama sleep at night. We would rather fight a war than tax oil.

  • Mark

    Possibly controversial question: Wouldn’t federally defunding Amtrak be good for the northeast? After all, the Northeast Corridor is subsidizing unprofitable routes in the rest of the country.

  • You never travel to other cities, Mark?

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Thats the race to the bottom Mark. Sure you can imagine that all of the money spent elsewhere would go to the Northeast and intercity rail would thrive. It is not really a question of the Northeast being the only location that “makes money” but more of a question of “loses less”. The farebox recovery ratio is of course much higher in the Northeast simply as a function of population density, in the end the chief determinate of transit efficiency. But also, it is the only space where AMTRAK actually runs on their own track. Thats the good news, the bad news is that that track (and tunnels) are in substantial need of repair.

    What defunding AMTRAK really would do is eliminate the Federal constituency for national rail transportation. Sort of like our most recent local episode with congestion pricing, the areas where transit (Marine Park, Bayside) is least efficient do need the most support but of course give back the least support as well since those areas are accordingly more auto dependent.

    Back to my original position, all Downs ever asked for was two cents a gallon. What happened to the money that was saved? It was mostly spent on SUVs and pick-up trucks, operating savings sunk into bigger and more expensive vehicles. Same thing now, whatever is saved by McCain’s tax cut will keep people from buying more appropriately sized and powered vehicles.

    Politically this is a quest for one of Mark Penn micro cosoms, NASCAR dad. It throws down the gauntlet to Obama and Clinton to take a position. Maybe the bridge collapse in Minnesota will give NASCAR dad some second thoughts.

  • Mark

    If you could defund all federal transportation programs — highways and transit — would you do it? Then funding any form of transportation would come from state and local governments plus fares and other user fees.

    The attractions to me would be (1) stopping the Sunbelt from picking my pocket, (2) stopping drivers from picking my pocket, and (3) actually getting more money for transit than the pittance we’re getting now.

    How dearly I would love to see drivers paying their own way with user fees, every inch of every road — after all, that was one of the key points of congestion pricing.

    OK, pile on!

  • Larry Littlefield

    (OK, pile on!)

    I’m with you. I really have come to take a cynical view of all but the most local government.

    I say that as someone with an egalitarian frame of mind, who is happy to have my income redistributed to those less well off, or to be taxed to provide the common public services that made middle class life possible.

    But I find that I’m being taxed to subsidize those who are in fact better off, but do not realize this because they have such an outsized sense of entitlement. And that public services are heading for collapse because so much of the money is going to the debts of the past and people who do not work.

  • I really have come to take a cynical view of all but the most local government.

    You can’t mean community boards, can you?

  • Larry Littlefield

    (I really have come to take a cynical view of all but the most local government…You can’t mean community boards, can you?)

    No. OK how about this. I really have come to take a cynical view of all social institutions — public, corporate, non-profit — all of which seem to have been taken over by cabals of self-interested people intent on sucking them dry.

    Even as the general public, now represented by the most privileged generations in world history, has become alienated from these institutions, no longer wishes to contribute to them, yet (in a case of magical thinking) nonetheless expects them to continue to provide services and benefits to enable their way of life.

    Is that cynicism sufficiently inclusive?

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    So Larry, are you in some sort of black hole of civic distrust? Could that come out some other place in the universe as a quasar of civic enlightenment? When you get to the point of trusting no group at all then you are at a perfect critical mass of distrust where you can begin trusting everyone because everyone is equally distrustful. Works for me.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “You can begin trusting everyone because everyone is equally distrustful.”

    Not there yet.

    It really has been a terrible 15 years or so in this country. I blame the generations in charge — our leaders are just their reflection.

    There seems to be a half life rate of institutional decay due to apathy and greed, as the true believers/founders are replaced by careerists/parasites. We’ve gone far down the path in our public, corporate, non-profit institutions — and our political parties.

    At this point I question the possibility of renewal and wonder about the possibility of replacement. But with the incumbents putting up barriers to entry, that can only come post-collapse.

    You know my views on government. But what, for example, would it mean to New York City if no one trusts the securities issued by major NY securities firms, and no new such firms arise to replace them?

  • “Politically this is a quest for one of Mark Penn micro cosoms, NASCAR dad.”

    Speaking of NASCAR, I loved this line of Kunstler’s this week:

    “[Obama] might have added that the anxious and bitter lower classes were also neurotically hung-up on cars, and that his first act as president would be to shut down the Nascar tracks by executive order in the interest of national energy security.”
    http://jameshowardkunstler.typepad.com/clusterfuck_nation/2008/04/slip-of-the-ton.html

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    So your paradigm is a little like Marx with seniority, in place of a class struggle determining history we have a generational struggle? Maybe I just have too superficial understanding of these things to follow your approach from issue to issue.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (So your paradigm is a little like Marx with seniority, in place of a class struggle determining history we have a generational struggle?)

    It can’t be a struggle given how one-sided it is. And only those in older generations who don’t care about their own progeny are winning.

    o Environmental degradation on a global scale.

    o Social Security — younger generations pay more and will retire later under the 1983 deal to save it, but their extra payments were already spent and Social Security isn’t saved.

    o Health care — more spending for those already in the system (ie. higher tax advantaged private insurance payments, Medicare prescription drug benefit), younger generations paying taxes to fund it but increasingly uninsured.

    o Medicaid — NY spending vastly more than the U.S. avg. per beneficiary for those at older ages, barely more at younger ages.

    o Public employee labor contracts — repeated cycles of pension enhancements for those cashing in and moving out followed by lower wages and benefits for those coming after or, in the cast of the recent UFT deal, both at the same time.

    o Schools — it appears that all the extra school spending after the CFE lawsuit, after the recession, will in the end go to earlier retirement for UFT teachers and more hires outside the city, since these apparently cannot be cut no matter how tough times get.

    o Infrastructure — little new since the 1970s, the urban infrastructure not yet a state of good repair, the suburban infrastructure aging.

    o Taxes — to avoid giving them health insurance, employers make younger workers self-employed, forcing them to pay the UBT, a higher tax on the same income. Retirement income is exempt from state and local income taxes in NY. And of course payroll taxes, which hit the less well off harder, are much higher than 25 years ago. Some want to raise them more (ahem).

    o Livable streets — take the current post on Weingarten. Care to guess the average age of those teachers committed to driving, who get placards, vs. those using transit, who get nothing?

    o And all of this with soaring federal, state, local and personal debts.

    o Suicide — way down for seniors compared with the past, but up for the young. Who says people aren’t stupid? Expect that to change as younger generations reach retirement sans pensions and health care, with Social Security much diminished.

    Finally, those generations moving out also expect to fund their retirement by selling housing at vastly inflated prices to those who come after. At least in this final case, they are in for a big surprise.

    And what is the counter-example? Estate tax repeal. The “Greatest Generation” sought to build a better future for its children, but better off memebers of subsequent generations are desperate to assure a future for their children, and only their own children, in a collective future they have diminished by choice.

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