Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bill Bradley's bright idea

Bill Bradley has a good piece in the Outlook section of Sunday's Washington Post: We Can Get Out of These Ruts (by Bill Bradley, Sunday, April 1, 2007). He says we in the US have many messes to clean up but we can do it. He joins many others in pointing out problems in health care, education, and inadequate or non-existent pensions and he focuses on two big issues: dependence on oil and a counterproductive tax code. Some extracts:
The United States is the world's most profligate consumer of oil, using 25 percent of the global supply. China, which has four times as many people, consumes 7 percent. Yet our government has done almost nothing to deal with our dependence on oil, especially our dependence on insecure sources of foreign oil. The administration apparently finds a war to sustain our oil dependence preferable to the exercise of leadership to reduce that dependence. It can muster the political will to go to war, but it can't muster the courage to tell the American people the truth about what is required of each of us to break our oil addiction. So it is enabling that addiction.

Transportation accounts for 67 percent of the oil we consume, and surface vehicles alone account for 56 percent. [In order to] encourage people to buy fuel-efficient cars, we should establish a fee-rebate system.

Former CIA director R. James Woolsey Jr., an advocate of reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, noted in testimony before the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee that a hybrid vehicle such as a Toyota Prius can get 50 miles per gallon, and if it were made of lightweight carbon composites used in the manufacture of aircraft, it could get 100 miles per gallon. He went on to say that if it were a plug-in, flexible-fuel vehicle, it could get an incredible 1,000 miles per gallon. It's an industry ready to be born.

[We need to] reduce taxes on things we need, such as wages [i.e., Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment taxes], and raise taxes on whatever is dangerous to us, such as pollution and resource depletion.
He says the pathway to solving our problems lies with voters as much as with political leaders. The leaders need to "tell the truth about our national circumstances." Voters need to have impediments to voting removed so that more of them excercise their rights at the ballot box. As an example he say the outmoded tradition of voting on Tuesdays needs to be overturned; Saturday and Sunday should be voting days instead. His conclusion:
Once we face the truth about our abysmal voter turnout, our oil addiction, our health-care and education crises, and our inadequate national savings, there is good news. There are answers to all our current problems. It's not rocket science. What's required is the political will to enact policies that can allow us to thrive in the 21st century. An administration bold enough to tell the truth will find an audience ready for bold solutions.

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