Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Marshall Plan for Terrorists

Thomas Friedman dresses down "tough guy" Dick Cheney over the latter's passivity in the face of an energy crisis that is now America's number one foreign policy issue. It has been for decades, actually, but people finally are beginning to notice the interconnections. Like this:

Cheney, we are told, is a "tough guy." Really? Well, how tough is this: We have a small gasoline tax, but Europe and Japan tax their gasoline by $2 and $3 a gallon, or more. They use those taxes to build schools, highways and national health care for their citizens. But they spend very little on defense compared with us.

So who protects their oil supplies from the Middle East? U.S. taxpayers. We spend nearly $600 billion year on defense, a large chunk in the Persian Gulf. But how do we pay for that without a gas tax? Income taxes and Social Security. Yes, we tax our incomes and raid our children's Social Security fund so Europeans and Japanese can comfortably import their oil from the gulf, impose big gas taxes on it at their pumps and then use that income for their own domestic needs. And because they have high gas taxes, they also beat Detroit at making more fuel-efficient cars. Now how tough is that?

Finally, if Cheney believes so much in markets, why did the 2005 energy act contain about $2 billion in tax breaks for oil companies? Why does his administration permit a 54-cents-a-gallon tax on imported ethanol — fuel made from sugar or corn — so Brazilian sugar exports won't compete with American sugar. Yes, we tax imported ethanol from Brazil, but we don't tax imported oil from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela or Russia.

"Everyone says we need a new Marshall Plan," said Michael Mandelbaum, a foreign policy expert and the author of "The Case for Goliath." "We have a Marshall Plan. It's our energy policy. It's a Marshall plan for terrorists and dictators."

Labels: ,