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
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.”