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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Seize the Moment

Historians like to speak of special times when leaders “seized the moment” to enact or implement their priorities. Giant hurricanes make these “special times,” and no one is moving faster to exploit them than the corporate powers.

Urged on by the Wall Street Journal’s editorials, corporate lobbyists

are demanding of the federal and state governments (1) taxpayer funded

corporate subsidies; (2) more corporate tax reductions; (3) waivers

from worker pay protection laws; (4) a host of waivers from

environmental health and land use regulations; and (5) corporate

immunity from certain liabilities for harmful conduct. Even the

shoreline gambling casinos are pushing for federal monies and getting

support from more than a few so-called conservative Republicans.

After every national tragedy, large corporations move to cash in. They

arrange for no-competitive bid contracts so that their cronyism can get

them large government contracts awarded with few safeguards to prevent

waste, fraud and abuse. They want to give new meaning to New Orleans

description as “The Big Easy.”

Of course, these companies have their favorite politician in the White

House and a Republican Congress marinated in business campaign

contributions. Such indentured servants further encourage the corporate

supremacists’ grab of greed.

This is the President who is supposed to be preparing for mass

evacuations in case of attacks or natural disasters. So what did he

demand of Congress earlier this year. That the federal budget

contribution to AMTRAK be eliminated.

Recall the televised 100-mile traffic jam out of Houston, Texas,

fleeing Hurricane Rita, along with all other exiting roadways. Did you

see any trains? Unlike Western Europe and Japan, an adequate, modern

national railway system, that can lessen congestion on the highways

during daily commutes and serve to evacuate efficiently large numbers

of people during emergencies, does not exist for large, populated areas

of the United States. Billions of tax dollars have gone to the troubled

mismanaged airlines, especially after 9/11, but passenger railroads are

expected to find their capital expenditures (upgrading roadbeds and

equipment) on their own.

On the other side of the political aisle, the forces in Congress for

the people can also “seize the moment.” They can “seize the moment” for

expanding both intercity rail systems and modern in-city mass transit.

This will provide more transportation for emergencies, allow

lower-income people to get to their jobs or find jobs better, reduce

gasoline usage and air pollution, and create good paying construction

jobs building a very useful public service.

These forces can also “seize the moment” by moving against poverty and

opposing all the repulsive privileges, favoritism and freeloading by

corporate executives exploiting devastations to innocent people,

including real estate takeovers and makeovers for profiteering.

There is not much of any forcefulness on these two objectives yet on

Capitol Hill. But Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA) and a coalition of

Democrats and supportive Republicans, have introduced a very modest

proposal to increase the average fuel economy of motor vehicles from

the current absurdly low average of 24 miles per gallon (the lowest

since 1980) to 33 miles per gallon by the fall of 2015.

Why so little? MIT’s Technology Review reported that SUVs themselves

could reach 40 miles per gallon by 2010. The very modesty of the

proposal, at a time of $3 plus per gallon of gasoline, perilous

reliance on imported oil, and oceans of gas guzzlers on the highways,

is a test of just how arrogant and stubborn are the auto industry’s

domestic leaders.

Sure enough, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers immediately

attacked the Boehlert/Markey amendment with specious assertions,

imperiously assuring that the industry can do the job by itself.

Sure, just the way the industry has been doing — going backwards into

the future with declining average vehicle fuel economy year after year.

Even the hot selling oversubscribed Hybrids by Toyota and Honda for

about five years cannot get the lead out of the rear end of General

Motors and Ford Motor Company. They are making announcements in

newspaper ads that they intend to awaken from their technologically

stagnant slumber, however. That’s a verbal start. But not anywhere near

fast enough for motorists, commuters and the national interest.

Good members of Congress just “seize the moment.”