Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Fresh air hurts.

For the first time in a week I went outside, where the cold air burnt my eyes, yesterday. It was only to go to Morrisons. The greatest refreshment was to see so many people who had no idea who I was and looked right past me.

My uncle paid for the stock up and gave me the change from £200 – as if he felt the need to make up for all the missed birthdays. He barely said a word, except to express surprise at what I eat. I won’t see him again until tomorrow and the funeral.

Back at the house I put the TV on in time to catch the end of the news showing a photo of Norman and his wife, and another of his car, with an appeal for information from the police. Uncle Gordon was in the kitchen and I doubt that any of my friends will have watched any news. I’ve told him now to move the car into the garage and swap it with dad’s, after I looked up the story on the internet. The police are treating the disappearance of both Norman and his wife as suspicious. The body of an elderly woman was found in his house – they didn’t say how she died. He has children, grown up, who have no idea where their parents are or who the old woman is.

No one is coming over tonight. I think I need to ask Norman exactly what has happened and why he hasn’t gone home.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patriotic Gas Tax

"We need stable regimes in this part of the world [the Mid-East] who will be partners and friends of ours, because the fact of the matter is we do rely on imported oil to fuel our economy and to fuel our nation."
—Secretary of State Colin Powell, 2003, explaining that our need for oil was behind our invasion of Iraq

Under Communism, Soviet farmers fed bread to their livestock. Normally, they’d have used grain, but thanks to subsidies for bread, it was actually cheaper than the grain it was made from. So Soviet mills wasted time and energy turning grain into bread. [link] Any economist or Libertarian (they’re actually not the same thing) can explain how subsidies deform economic decisions and lead to waste.

In the US, we use the general budget to subsidize gasoline. Because we use gasoline, we have to send more troops to the Mideast. The Pentagon spends billions on a policy designed to maintain stability in the oil trade. If we didn’t use that oil, we wouldn’t need to be in Iraq, and we wouldn’t have gotten jacked on 9-11. If we didn’t use that oil, the despised Iranian regime would not have the funds to prop itself up and arm Hezbollah. We wouldn’t have to buddy up to dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Our use of gasoline has cost us billions of dollars and thousands of lives. The people who use the gasoline should be the ones to pay for these losses. As long as we subsidize gasoline with military force, as long as gas is cheap to buy but costly to protect, people will overuse it. The costs increase because they’re hidden. The overall economy suffers.

So let’s put a heavy tax on oil. In the US, we consume 7 billion barrels of oil per year. Let’s find the cost of our use of oil and divide that cost up among the 7 billion barrels we use. Then we tax each barrel that much to pay for our troubles in the Middle East, etc. Let’s say that our dependence on oil is costing us $100 billion per year. The Iraq war is costing us about that [link], and that doesn’t even account for all the other grief in the Mideast that oil causes. So if we’re going to raise $100 billion per year on 7 billion barrels, that’s $14 per barrel. You get 20 gallons per barrel, so that works out to about 70 cents per gallon. Since the tax will reduce consumption, and thus revenue, let’s round the tax up to an even dollar. That way if consumption drops to 5 billion barrels per year, we’ll still make our $100 billion.

Of course, charging an extra $1 per gallon for gas is going to increase people’s expenses. We can compensate by giving everyone a tax credit of about $300 per person. That will give the people a $100 billion tax break, and the result will be revenue-neutral. A per-person tax credit helps the working poor.

What happens? People find more economical ways to use gasoline. They buy less gas because now they have to pay the fuel’s full cost instead of getting a subsidy. Alternatives, such as ethanol or biodiesel, become more attractive. These alternatives also come with the advantage of not entangling us in geopolitical hotspots, which is reflected in their relatively lower price. Oil consumption drops, the price of oil drops, the dictatorships and terrorists of the Mideast get less money and support, and the Texas oil men who’ve made so much money off us recently give a little back to the nation.

6:36 pm  

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