Thursday, May 04, 2006

Making policy on the fly

Didn't get to this yesterday:

One might wonder why Senate Republicans haven't yet formally killed their gas tax proposal, given the near-unanimous condemnation it's receiving.

Besieged with complaints about political pandering, GOP lawmakers now say the rebate idea is a non-starter. As Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) explained yesterday, "When my own daughter harasses me, you know you're in trouble."

So declare it dead already, and let's move on.

The reason they haven't might be that lawmakers haven't come up with something equally pandering to replace it. But the real problem, which is the linked article's main point, is that legislators were making this stuff up on the fly.

The response so far has been profiles in panic. Some conservatives dropped their philosophical opposition to tax hikes and business regulations and began complaining loudly about oil companies and the auto industry. ... A few days earlier, Bush backed diverting crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, an idea he dismissed less than two years earlier as a political stunt. ... Republican lawmakers likewise have responded with a mishmash of solutions -- some barely vetted, others with little chance of becoming law.

The Democrats get points for at least being consistent, even though their ideas are no more effective or on point than the GOP's.

Memo to all of our elected leaders: Calm down.

The thing about high gas prices is that it is not a crisis. It is (hopefully) a new chronic condition. So hasty, temporary measures to deal with it are ill-conceived at best.

Forget the attempt at short-term, short-sighted fixes. You can't do much anyway. Instead, take a deep breath and do the things that need to be done to assure our long-term energy security -- which means taking steps to reduce our oil dependence.

Do a good job at that -- show that you are sober, smart and willing to take risks to do what must be done -- and maybe your prospects in November will improve.

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