Monday, August 21, 2006

Deserving to lose

The upcoming election cycle is becoming increasing dreary and depressing. As I listen to the candidates, I am increasingly convinced that Michael Barone has it exactly right. The Republicans definitely deserve to lose, but the Democrats don’t deserve to win.

I’ve been watching in amazement the increasingly desperate campaign flailings of Mark Kennedy, the Republican nominee for the open U.S. Senate seat here in Minnesota. Kennedy made his bones as a solid, smart and diligent Congressman in the 6th Congressional District, which leans somewhat more conservative than the rest of the state. He is running against Amy Klobuchar, the Hennepin County attorney, who has managed to take a pretty good lead even though she has offered essentially nothing other than her father’s famous last name as a justification for her candidacy.

Kennedy has now run at least three television advertisements, each more incoherent than the first. I wrote about the first, introductory ad in my July 26 entry. This too clever by half advertisement continues to run regularly on Twin Cities television stations. Kennedy’s latest ad suggests that he has a plan to solve high gas prices. He suggests repealing (temporarily) the federal gas tax, and removing any tax breaks that Big Oil is currently getting, and taking the money that this would supposedly net to develop alternative fuels. Okay, let’s look at this.

· The federal gas tax is $0.183/gallon; this means that, if I put 10 gallons of gas into my car, it would save me $1.83. I paid $2.81/gallon this morning. The $1.83 that I would have saved would have meant I would have paid $2.62/gallon instead. Would it help me? Sure – it would save me about $250/year in the aggregate. If I’m smart, I could use that wisely.
· I really wonder how many tax breaks the oil companies currently get. I don’t think the domestic oil companies are really the issue, as they do not control the price, the overall market does. Unless the US figures out a way to tax the likes of Petronas (Malaysia), Pemex (Mexico) and especially PDVSA (Venezuela) and ARAMCO (Saudi Arabia), and other nationalized oil companies, there won’t be a lot to gain. Here’s a hint – the US has no shot at getting any money from any of these entities.
· Alternative fuels, in the lexicon of any Midwestern politician, means ethanol. And it would be difficult to find something that’s more heavily subsidized than ethanol.
Long and short of it? Kennedy’s proposal is silly. It really doesn’t do anything useful to solve any issue. And it distracts from the real issue – that the Democrats are essentially proposing surrender as their foreign policy.

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