During campaign season, the vehicle of choice for politicians is the bandwagon.
Name your issue; if it resonates with the voters, candidates are almost certain to champion it. Hard choices can wait until later.
In the presidential campaign, the issue du jour seems to be the federal excise tax on fuel, 18.4 cents a gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents a gallon for diesel.
Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, recently proposed a plan to suspend the tax during the travel season this summer a plan that one of his Democratic counterparts, Sen. Hillary Clinton, has now endorsed.
”At the heart of my approach is a simple belief,” Clinton said, according to the New York Times. ”Middle class families are paying too much”
Surveys indicate that gasoline prices are among the main concerns of voters, but you do not need an opinion poll to document the pain consumers feel at the pump.
Just go to any gas station. The frustration is palpable, and no wonder when motorists fill their gas tanks, they empty their pocketbooks.
A gasoline tax holiday, however, exploits the suffering without relieving it. Motorists would save less than $30 during the holiday, according to congressional analysts. And that means the relief would be both paltry and temporary some holiday.
”Half a tank of gas,” Sen. Barack Obama, one of the few voices of reason on this issue, said during a campaign stop in North Carolina, according to the Times. ”That's a big solution.”
Additionally, the summer holiday would have serious negative consequences for highway construction and maintenance, which is funded by the fuel tax and already inadequate.
The tax holiday would mean a loss of $9.9 billion targeted for highway projects. Clinton proposes a windfall-profits tax on oil companies to make up for the lost revenue. That sounds good, but the proposal has gone nowhere in the past.
Like that shot of whiskey Clinton downed in the Indiana bar, this issue serves to boost her populist creds. But it does nothing to help the voters. This bandwagon, it seems, is a vehicle fueled by pandering rather than formulating a badly needed energy policy.
As the pandering gains momentum, lawmakers are pushing the Bush administration to stop making deposits to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve during the summer travel season.
The group includes the two Republican senators from Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn as well as House Democratic leaders, the Express-News reported.
The lawmakers should be reminded that the SPR was created to provide oil during times of disruption, not to create political points.
Like the tax holiday, diverting oil supplies destined for the reserves into the domestic market would do nothing to curtail gasoline consumption, which is the real culprit.
And it would do nothing to encourage the development of alternative fuels or efficient vehicles.
President Bush is on target with his plan to continue putting oil into the reserve.
—San Antonio Express-News