Friday, April 28, 2006


On my one mile walk to work this morning in the bright spring sunshine I saw only one cyclist and two other pedestrians- one a old oyster of a man doing the block around the assisted living facility and the other a mentally ill woman decked out with plastic bags and old sweatpants muttering to herself. Meanwhile I was passed by at least 300 cars (I lost count), many with only one occupant. It could be said that in the 15 minutes it took me to get from door to door, I saw one vehicle for every 0.75 people who live in my rural Maine county.

With the price of gasoline hovering at about $3 a gallon (or about a dollar less than the price of a gallon of milk at the local grocery) there are proposals afoot in the US Senate to deliver a $100 gas rebate to all taxpayers earning under $125,000 ($150,000 for couples).

As the Senate prepares to rush through relief because a gallon of gasoline now costs about 90c less than I pay for my cable TV and high speed internet per day, the UN World Food Programme announced this morning that food rations for the 6.1 million Sudanese dependent on food aid (refugees from the genocide in Darfur and others in the region) will have to be cut in half due to a shortfall in funding.

This is not a solely American failing. The US is providing $188 million towards the total cost of $746 million (or $122 per head) but the wealthy nations of European Union and Arab League are falling short on their contributions.

That said, according to a story in the Los Angeles Daily News, "The price tag for the Republican package (of gas rebates- WW) had not been calculated but aides said it would cost less than $20 billion."

$736 million to feed 6.1 million fellow human beings. Or "less than $20 billion" to ease the pain of a nation that has fallen out of the habit of walking or biking. The Canadian poet Margaret Sangster summed it up quite well with The Sin of Omission.

For life is all too short, dear,
And sorrow is all too great;
To suffer our slow compassion
That tarries until too late;
And it's not the thing you do, dear,
It's the thing you leave undone,
Which gives you a bit of heartache
At the setting of the sun.


Joe said...

Oh, hey, I drive alone on my ~ 6 mile commute. Not something I'm proud of. I'm about to buy a bike, so I'll be able to ride a few days a week (not on baseball or guitar lesson nights). We did buy a hybrid for my wife's commute to Augusta.

The broader topic that you discuss is a fundamental problem with American society and priorities. We're happy to let the government spend, if the money directly benefits us. Any other government spending is wasteful. This pisses me off.

The specific point of the gas rebate is simply maddening. On the one hand, this administration is hell-bent on dismantling all social programs in favor of "market-based solutions". On the other hand, the run-up of gas and oil prices is entirely a market-based phenomenon, but it's pissing off the voters and therefore needs to be addressed. The government is completely disfunctional and incapable of making any policy decisions that truly make this country a better place for its citizens.

The fact that the GOP wants to tie the gas rebate to ANWAR drilling is simultaneously insulting and illustrative of how Washington is incapable of doing anything without playing politics.

Bill Norris said...

I'm always sort of amused that Americans treat cheap gas as some kind of birth right. Everytime the pump price creeps up towards $3 I almost smile. Finally, we're approaching what the rest of the Western world pays.

...mj said...

Obviously this is a world-wide market and so our fuel in Oz in getting more expensive.

Luckily our gov't is not talking about stupid rebates to ease the 'pain'. Of course, one can only hope is that the higher prices will encourage people to use public transport and other means of transport. Whether that happens remains to be seen, especially if our 'leaders' continue to make decisions like this one.