The off-shore oil drilling scam

(Published at Counterpunch.com)  No, Americans aren’t going to trust Republicans on the expansion of offshore oil drilling to lower the price of gasoline. Just add this to the long list of errors, missteps and miscalculations reflected in the recent AP-Ipsos poll: “When other surveys are taken into account, the general level of pessimism is the worst in almost 30 years.”

In Rassmussen Reports, Dick Morris writes the McCain has outflanked Obama “big time”. “His call yesterday for offshore oil drilling—and Bush’s decision to press the issue in Congress—puts the Democrats in the position of advocating the wear-your-sweater policies that made Jimmy Carter unpopular.”

Morris is dead wrong.

The complacency of the American voter has been shaken and jarred by the thievery and lying of the party of presumptive fiscal conservatism, and there is going to be hell to pay in November.

It doesn’t matter what Republicans say, at this point. After the worst presidency in modern US history, there is no where for Republicans to hide and certainly not in the premise that American oil companies can rescue consumers either from the cost of gasoline or climate change.

It is not just wars waged on false pretenses and the squandering of American treasure, or jobs floating away to low-cost labor nations. It is not just that corporate America derives ever greater percentages of profits from overseas operations, or, the cratering dollar and collapsing home values, or, declining standards for worker safety, inspections for food safety and public health, or, the terrible costs of extreme weather.

The right-wing spin machine is busted.

AP reports, “Those who said the country was on the wrong track totaled 76 percent of the people contacted in the survey, which was taken from June 12-16. That’s up from 71 percent in April and 66 percent near the end of 2007.” You can roll up Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and the rest: the American people aren’t buying what they are selling. Period.

The problem is captured in the slow motion train wreck of the nation’s credit markets. People are putting two and two together, finally: the ruined landscape of suburban America and the “ownership society” (remember, that promise?) is based on Wall Street greed and manipulation whose dimensions are more staggeringly clear, with each passing week.

The Wall Street Journal reports Former Goldman Sachs chairman and current US Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson is going to call for “quick regulatory changes to the oversight of financial markets, including expanding the role of the Federal Reserve.” (June 19, 2008, “Paulson to call for new Fed role”)

“We must dramatically expand our attention to the fundamental needs of our system, and move much more quickly to update our regulatory structure always keeping in mind that there must be a balance between market discipline and market oversight,” Paulson is expected to say, today.

And that is the issue with the Republicans, across a wide spectrum of policy issues including energy and the environment: they talk “balance” and they practice extremism.

They talk “market discipline” as they loot our treasure. How else to interpret the bailout of Bear Stearns or the Federal Reserve allowing banks to pledge toxic debt as collateral for their further borrowing to shore up fictitious capital ratios and solvency? The people who created this mess were not “tax and spend liberals”: they were dark suited, patent-leathered Republicans preaching “compassionate conservatism” and delivering neither.

In a New York Times news analysis (“$4 gasoline and the $64 dollar question”, July 19th, 2008), Robin West, an energy consultant and former Reagan energy department appointee, “argues that additional supply could make a difference in price, especially if domestic drilling were coupled with aggressive conservation efforts. He said it would take time, though—a minimum of five or six years, even if drilling were to begin today.”

There’s that “balance”, again. What are the chances that the John McCain will deliver “aggressive conservation”?

In South Florida, we have our own model for the failed Republican “balance”: it is etched all over the landscape with low density, sprawl housing far from places of work—imposing costs on transportation, infrastructure, and the environment that conservationists bitterly protested for decades.

The way that was supposed to “solve” the balance between development and wetlands, between inner city residents and wealthier constituents was to be called “Eastward Ho!”. It was a bipartisan concept devised more than a decade ago, in furtherance of development closer to the urban core, to provide for growth without putting unsustainable costs on taxpayers.

As a Republican-dominated executive and legislative branch prevailed in the intervening years, what emerged in Florida from “Eastward Ho!” was nothing like the bipartisan consenus: it was a mad rush, lead by the likes of top Bush and McCain campaign fundraiser, Al Hoffman, to build condos and suburbs like there was no tomorrow.

It was all and everything, and it was based on the massive and unsupervised leverage of toxic debt that made insiders rich and most people plain poorer.

As a result, the US economy is running on fumes. And John McCain—in his gambit to support offshore oil drilling—is breathing the same air as the Bush White House.

People don’t want the spin, and don’t believe it any more. “For the average American, everything’s going wrong. I think there’s a lot of reasons for households to be pessimistic. I think things have gotten tougher for most,” Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Economy.com told the Associated Press.

Expansion of offshore oil drilling would be the fulfillment of Big Oil’s mission, expressed in secret meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force in early 2001. No doubt, in the insulated corridors of power and influence, there is nothing wrong with this latest electoral ploy: one more turn at the roulette wheel.

The bottom line is that Americans are simply fed up with the risks and the gamblers in Republican ranks who always seem to get free passes to play with house money. It is not the way Americans do their home accounting.

There are undercurrents of revulsion and anger against the right-wing spin machine and the Republican candidates it represents. The premise that offshore drilling for oil will lower prices at the pump is no more credible than using weapons of mass destruction as a rationale for war in Iraq.

The window is shut to Republicans in this presidential election cycle, through no one’s fault but their own.

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