Thursday, August 14, 2008

Today's stuff n@

In a few places I have seen people applaud the recent run up in gas prices, because it forced people to take measures to conserve. Specifically people drove less, possibly some drove slower and demand for SUV’s and pickups fell through the floor. From a policy standpoint, I think that on balance the run up in prices was not a good thing. It was not good but government had no hand in controlling it, and no way to ameliorate the negative effects on the poor. What we should have been doing, starting twenty five years ago, was taxing gasoline at one hundred percent. The revenue from that tax could have been split between poorer people and trucking companies, to keep the price of transporting things from going too high (just like Congress never raided the Social Security trust fund …). 1983 is about when OPEC lost its discipline and the price of oil dropped after its first big run up in the mid seventies. Right then the government should have taxed the fifty cent gas (whatever the price was at that point) at fifty cents, and kept the tax at one hundred percent. Of course it should have never allowed the states to wriggle out of the 55 mile per hour speed limit. Doing those things would have saved huge amounts of gas, and would have limited our dependence on foreign oil. Alternatives to petroleum based gas would have been much more cost effective, and thus brought to the market much sooner

By the way, the people who say that traffic deaths actually dropped the year after the Congress finally jettisoned the 55 mph national speed limit, never seem to note that by then air bags, which had been made mandatory a few years back, were finally becoming a factor in traffic accidents. An air bag in a 70 mph crash is better than no air bag in a 55 mph crash. But what’s best of all is an air bag in a 55 mph crash (actually what’s best is driving at 55 mph and avoiding the crash you wouldn’t have been able to at 70 mph).

On a different note, apparently yesterday there was an incident in City Council yesterday. Doug Shields had an exchange with Barbara Trant, City Personnel Director, which led to her walking out. As she was doing this, apparently other Council people (notably Jim Motznik) were having something of an exchange with Mr. Shields. Shields actually sent the police officer assigned to Council after Ms.Trant, to no avail. Mr. Shields then walked out of Council, and Mr. Motznik called for his resignation.

Pat Dowd had had words with Mr. Shields earlier in the Council session, and later was quoted in the PG (I paraphrase) saying that it was not the first time that had happened and it was unfortunate. Pat Dowd is very intelligent, as far as I can see. But maybe he has spent too much time first with high school students (who can be intelligent but are never experienced) and then with Council people (who, in this town, have no training in their jobs). I shouldn’t wonder if Dr. Dowd expects to be in line for Mr. Shields’ position. But there is a problem with that. In this town people can succeed if they offer extremely brilliant ideas, but all the press Dr. Dowd has received shows him to be little more than contrary. Alternatively people can succeed in politics if they are good party men or women, but we know that Dr. Dowd is not doing that. It ends up that I have to wonder how Dr. Dowd will fare in the next district election, much less in any advancement of his position.

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