14 years and nothing to show for it

By Mike Pottage

Editor’s note: This editorial was written on June 12, 2008, in response to a Wall Street Journal article titled “$4 Gas Bags.” Its relevance to today’s milieu should be clear to the reader.

While this is a discussion of oil prices and oil supplies, and the political decisions of Democrats to place a moratorium on oil, a paragraph is needed about general energy incoherence. The ban on oil exploration, oil processing and oil marketing is not an isolated aberration. Similar bans, fostered by environmental wackos and foisted on the public mainly by Democrats, blocked development of nuclear energy and hydroelectric energy.

There is a reason. At the heart of the environmental movement is an irrational rejection of free enterprise and the technology and industry of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

Environmental preachers yearn for a social rejection to what they see as random, wanton and destructive production of goods and services. When free enterprise turns natural resources into things people want and use to make their daily lives more comfortable, the environmentalist sees waste. To the environmentalist, making things destroys the environment. Of course, basic physics lessons tell us matter may be altered, but it is not destroyed.

Logic brings order to things, and there is no logic to environmentalism, but there is a great deal of politics. Its character reflects a religious yearning for order and a deep dislike for human freedom, which, to the Environmental Defense Fund and the Sierra Club, represent chaos.

Environmental organizations combine their campaigns to ban energy production with support for anything that will be destructive to energy industries. This includes higher taxes, bureaucratic regulation, lawsuits, press conferences, tree sitting and protests. The goal of environmental groups is to block energy production.

What America desperately needs is a political party that declares its support of free enterprise, thus, its support of energy production regulated only by supply and demand. If this party was successful, it would mean those businesses who exist by seeking and obtaining federal regulatory advantage over their competition would be left to their own devices. It would mean an end to subsidized production of favored enterprises. Think farm bill. It would bring a halt to all the incentives and grants and federal giveaways.

It would mean reforming the federal government so all business, and therefore people, were treated equally. It would result in drastic tax cuts.

As voters begin to focus on the November 2008 election, many may realize the change touted by Barack Obama is a change from freedom to socialism, and the change you deserve offered by the Republicans and John McCain is socialism on the sly. This presidential election is a reminder of choices offered in 1952 – big government versus big government run more efficiently. Dwight Eisenhower did as much to grow the federal government as did Lyndon Johnson.

Then, as now, the Republican Party has no answer to Obama’s socialism, because to dispel its own socialist tendencies the GOP would have to cut off its left arm and left leg. The GOP has been here before. Barry Goldwater’s nomination was demanded by volunteer Republicans, and his book “A Choice Not An Echo” went to the heart of the issue. Goldwater was overwhelmed in that election, but won the battle for the philosophical core of the Republican Party. Ronald Reagan was part of that demand for a choice, not an echo.

The march of the federal government, however, has been incessant. Today, the choices are far more clear than in 1964. Today, the Democrats demand we ration food, water and energy while encouraging policies to create artificial shortages. Today, Democrats demand tax laws to punish “the rich” and exempt others from any responsibility to support the government. In racial matters, Democrats insist upon unequal treatment of people based solely upon favoritism toward certain races who exhibit remarkable political loyalty to their benefactors. In energy policy, a business engaged in solar or wind energy is favored with tax grants taken from the oil and gas industry. Again, the hallmark of inequality, exhibited in social policy. These are decisions we might expect from the king. Our government was formed to prevent just such abuse.

Remarkably, there is no national leader, no political party, rising to the occasion to point out the choices we now are making involve our personal freedom and individual responsibility. The collective state of Barack Obama cannot tolerate personal freedom. It is a state where responsibility is assumed by the collective, and individuals who oppose are retrained. It is a state where resources are dwindling and must be rationed. It is a state like so many other failed Third World states.

Between 48 and 52% of the American voting public will go to the polls this November and cast ballots for Barack Obama. At that time, gasoline could be $5 or $6 a gallon. Barack Obama and his Democratic Party will not allow a single oil well to be drilled during his administration. There will be no relaxation of local, state and federal regulations blocking oil refinery modernization. There will be no federal water projects. There will be no licensing of nuclear power plants. The moratoriums and politicians that brought us to $4 a gallon gasoline and beyond will be returned to Congress and to the White House.

As Channel 3 in Sacramento reported last night, gasoline is at $4 a gallon, and we go the Capitol to see what relief is in sight. The reporters breathlessly told viewers gasoline was expensive. How expensive? $4 a gallon and going higher. It was not news. But true to its Nanny News image, Channel 3 turned to government to protect us and to bring us more gasoline at lower prices.

To the staff of Channel 3 in Sacramento, and Channel 3s all over this nation, government is the Nanny bringing them warm milk and comfort. Lost upon the media is the rudimentary fact government produces nothing and taxes everything it can. To expect the government to lower the price of gasoline is irrational. If the federal government pegged the price of a gallon of gasoline at 25 cents, it would have to obtain supplies on the world market at the market price. We would pay 25 cents at the pump, and taxes would make up the difference, plus federal administrative costs. As supplies diminish in relation to demand, government’s only response beyond price controls would be to ration supplies. Farmers would be favored first as they produce the food we all must have, but farmers wouldn’t be free to decide what to plant. The government would have a “needs” list. Food prices could not be allowed, under these circumstances, to reflect supply and demand, so food also would be rationed.

Initially, consumption would be lowered, and environmentalists would be offering each other congratulations. But consumption is linked to jobs. Soon, we will face the economic chaos of a depression, but this depression will not be like the depression of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. Americans back then had a work ethic. Americans today have a Nanny complex. Americans back then knew how to grow food, or raise it. Americans today think it magically appears in supermarkets. In fact, the modern American community has local ordinances and CC&Rs prohibiting the raising of chickens and all other farm animals. In this new era of “less is more” environmentalism, water rationing alone would be an effective prohibition on raising fruits and vegetables to supplement a family diet. No, this depression will be different.

More than 40 years after a call for a choice, not an echo, was a presidential candidate’s theme, Americans are still without a choice. This presidential election is a contest for Mr. Personality. And the winner is …

Mike Pottage has been a political reporter, columnist and newspaper editor headquartered in Los Angeles and Sacramento for more than 45 years.

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