How About a Windbag Profits Tax?
by Jack Kenny
by Jack Kenny
Bush loyalists are a strange bunch. The things they say in all seriousness are so outrageous that it's hard to know when they're kidding. I asked one of them here in New Hampshire recently if he still thought invading Iraq was a good idea.
"Best idea we ever had!" he insisted.
"What good has it done us?" I asked.
"Where do you live, Manchester?" he inquired. I told him that was correct. "You seen any terrorists around Manchester?" he asked. At that point, as John Wayne once said, "Well, the conversation kind of broke down!" How do you argue with somebody who claims the only reason those Iraqi "terrorists" aren't blowing up the Mall of New Hampshire or the Verizon Wireless Arena in downtown Manchester is that they're too busy fighting the foreign invader of their own land — which, need I remind you, is us? Yes, we Americans can somehow forget that in other countries we're foreigners. As Joe Sobran has memorably put it, "Iraq has an illegal immigration problem."
You could, with my fellow Granite Stater's logic, argue that the only thing that kept those Poles and Slavs from terrorizing Berlin was the decisive action taken by the Fuhrer of the Fatherland, a 20th Century exponent of the Bush Doctrine. Yes, Bush is not only "the decider," he is the Great Defender. A few days ago, he was defending our national anthem against those who would sing it in Spanish. People who want to be citizens should learn the English language, the president said, broadly hinting he might one day do so himself. Funny, I had half suspected Bush would have preferred the national anthem in the German version: "Bushland, Bushland Uber Alles."
Now the Baron of Bushland is defending us against, of all things, oil companies. Yes, Our Maximum Leader has called for investigations by our Departments of Justice and Energy as well as the Federal Trade Commission to see if there has been price fixing by the oil companies. Well, sir, if those price-gouging oil "execs" are going to try to take advantage of the American people during our War on Terror, they're not going to get their predatory pricing practices by old George, by golly.
Never mind that the Bush administration, in the person of former deputy Defense Secretary Paul "the ravaging" Wolfowitz, now the wheeler-dealer in charge of the World Bank, assured us that the war in Iraq would pay for itself with oil revenues. So far, that war has cost us hundreds of billions and will probably be a trillion or more before it's over, some of which is being spent repairing oil pipelines destroyed by our bombs. Forget about the disruption to oil refineries caused by last year's Hurricane Katrina. Never mind that the Bush administration's saber rattling at Iran has contributed greatly to price of oil futures. Death, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld observed, "tends to encourage a depressing view of war" And war tends to create disruptions of supply and an increase in prices.
Never mind all that. If George says it's price gouging, then to hell with it. And to tell you the truth, in all the years that Bush has been in the White House, I haven't seen a single price-gouging oil executive in Manchester, New Hampshire. See what a good job he's done in defending us? I haven't felt so secure since Janet Reno was protecting us from Bill Gates.
But let's not sell the Democrats short, either. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has a bill in the U.S. Senate that will protect Cape Cod residents from the sight of windmills on the coast of Nantucket. Imagine asking the U.S. Senate to fight windmills! The ironies abound in the Congress of the United States.
Now Kennedy has said the proposed windmills would not be visible from his Hyannis Port home (Heaven forbid!), but obviously many of his tony neighbors and other influential denizens of old Cape Cod do not want a wind farm within their royal view of sea and shore. Sen. Splash and his political allies do not want drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or most other places. They don't want nuclear power. And they don't want wind turbines. I'm sure they would be equally opposed to unsightly solar panels offending their eyes. I'm not sure where they stand on hydro, but I'm sure they're opposed to disturbing the fish.
Kennedy is also among those calling for a windfall profits tax on the oil companies. It calls to mind an editorial cartoon from back in the days of the Carter administration, when the president and the Congress thought a windfall profits tax would eliminate the problem of rising prices at the pump. (It had the opposite effect). The cartoon depicted Gen. Washington at Valley Forge receiving news that the men were running low on fuel. The answer? "Quick! Tax the firewood!"
Sen. Kennedy has long been looked upon as the last lion of liberalism. Who needs liberals, after all, when you have Boy George and the Country Club Republicans spending the way they do? And given his famous last name and his overall celebrity status, the surviving star of Camelot Lost no doubt has many speaking engagements in Washington, Massachusetts and around the country. I have no idea what he does with his speaking fees. For all I know, he may donate it all to charity. And I don't know how much money Kennedy receives per speech, but I'm sure that, measured as a return on investment, it constitutes what the senator himself might call "obscene profits."
It would never pass, of course, but someone in Congress should be willing to make the point by proposing a Windbag Profits Tax of 100 percent on the net speaking fees (honorarium minus travel expenses) paid to members of Congress. That might have a dampening effect on the inflationary rhetoric of the pandering class.
But don't count on it.
May 3, 2006
Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.
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