Thursday, May 01, 2008

Faux populism: Hillary, McCain, and the gas tax

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter hits it right on the head:

Hillary Clinton has now joined John McCain in proposing the most irresponsible policy idea of the year—an idea that actually could aid the terrorists. What's worse, both of them know that suspending the federal gas tax this summer is a terrible pander, and yet they're pushing it anyway for crass political advantage.

Clinton and McCain have learned a destructive lesson from the Bush era: as Bill Clinton said in 2002, it's better politically to be "strong and wrong" than thoughtful and right. The goal is to depict Barack Obama as an out-of-touch elitist. By any means necessary.

I could highlight a long debate among economists on suspending the gas tax, but there is no debate. Not one respectable economist -- and not one environmentalist or foreign policy expert -- supports the idea, unless they are official members of the Clinton or McCain campaigns (and even some of them privately oppose it). To relieve suffering at the pump, send another rebate check or provide tax credits or something else, but not this.

Obama is right not to sign on to this madness.

And why is it madness? Because it's "a crass ploy for votes" that would stuff the coffers of the oil companies more than they are stuffed already, stuff the coffers of Middle East despots more than they are stuffed already, worsen global warming, and, and, and... and all without really doing anything substantial for those at whom the pandering and posturing is directed, namely, the American people... er, voters.

Anything to make Obama look bad. Anything to look like a populist.

Even proposing terrible -- and potentially disastrous -- public policy.

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