Thomas Friedman — la moustache de la sagesse — has a column up (NYT $elect; reprinted in full here) suggesting that his “geo-green” shtick would be a good basis for a third party presidential candidacy. God love The Mustache for bringing energy issues to a broad audience, but this column is dopey.
Let’s start with this:
What might a Geo-Green third party platform look like?
Its centerpiece would be a $1 a gallon gasoline tax, called “The Patriot Tax,” which would be phased in over a year. People earning less than $50,000 a year, and those with unusual driving needs, would get a reduction on their payroll taxes as an offset.
Putting aside the rather paltry size of the tax and the difficulty of determining “unusual driving needs,” this seems sensible enough, though a broad carbon tax would be preferable. But:
The billions of dollars raised by the Patriot Tax would go first to shore up Social Security, second to subsidize clean mass transit in and between every major American city, third to reduce the deficit, and fourth to massively increase energy research by the National Science Foundation and the Energy and Defense Departments’ research arms.
What a bizarre list. Social Security is fine. If it’s deficit-killing expenditures you’re after, why not start with healthcare? And I’m all for mass transit, but is it more important than getting alternate sources of energy online? If reducing the deficit is so important, why does Friedman — and virtually every other pundit — insist that a gas tax be revenue neutral?
This, however, may be the most extravagant claim:
By stimulating all these alternatives to oil, we would gradually bring down the price, possibly as low as $25 to $30 a barrel. That, better than anything else, would force regimes like those in Iran, Sudan, Egypt, Angola, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to open up.
A $1 gas tax would reduce oil prices by more than half and stimulate reform across the Middle East, huh? That’s quite a campaign promise.
By far the most annoying bit, and my whole reason for writing this post, is this:
Frankly, I wish we did not need a third party. I wish the Democrats would adopt a Geo-Green agenda as their own. (Republicans never would.) But if not, I hope it will become the soul of a third party.
Frankly, I wish pundits would pull their heads out of their asses. Why don’t the Democrats adopt the geo-green agenda? Friedman doesn’t speculate. He’s just bemused. Probably because they’re just not as clever as The Mustache, right?
Oh, or wait. Maybe it’s because if Democrats so much as breathed a hint of a gas tax, Republicans would immediately attack and vilify them, ensuring an electoral catastrophe.
And guess what? Republicans would do that to a third party, too.
The primary impediment to good energy policy is the domination of America’s ruling party by corporate interests with a financial stake in the status quo. Republican corporatism serves those wealthy interests at the expense of the larger public. Period.
Saying that would no doubt get Friedman tagged “shrill” and damage his carefully cultivated reputation as a centrist, which requires him to play along with the fiction that both parties are equally culpable for our current situation. But it would have the advantage of not being written with an air of children’s pretend, carefully ignoring the elephant in the room.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We don’t need a third party. We need the obstructionist party to get out of the way.