Posts tagged ‘Campaigns’

06/12/2012

Autos: Replace Gas Engines with Electric

There is no doubt autos with gasoline-combustion engines are by far the dominant mode of transportation in the U.S., but how long will that continue? For those who think gas-propelled cars will remain indefinitely, they should be reminded of the horse-and-buggy, which was once considered a permanent institution.

The question is not whether the gas-combustion engine will become a thing of the past, the only issue is: When will it be replaced, and by what alternative source of energy?

It may be surprising to many, but electric cars were manufactured by 54 different American firms between 1893 and 1928, and were once widely used. 300 electric taxis were operating in New York City in 1900. The next year, an electric ambulance took President McKinley to the hospital, following his assassination in 1901.

Although electric cars had the advantage of being quiet and clean, as they emitted no poisonous gases, their top speed was only about 20 MPH, and they could only go about 50 miles before their lead-acid batteries needed replacement. To complicate the problem, new batteries were expensive. As gas-propelled vehicles became easier to operate in 1910, the electric car faded from the scene, and they were eliminated completely in 1928.

Another predecessor to gas was the steam engine, known as the Stanley Steamer, which was first marketed in 1896. They remained through 1925, when again gas-combustion took over.

The gas-combustion engine got their boost in Germany in 1885, when Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz built vehicles. In the U.S., Henry Ford and Ransom Olds started in 1896. Olds took the first step towards an assembly line, as he increased production from 425 cars in 1901 to 2,500 in 1902. Using Ford’s conveyor belt in 1913, they were able to make one Model T every 93 minutes.

Following WWI, the gas-propelled auto became the major means of transportation in the U.S. Its use increased many times over in the subsequent decades of the 20th Century.

To make the auto dominant, the government invested billions in federal, state, and local highway systems, beginning in 1921. As tax dollars were spent, millions of miles of roads were added during the 20 years through 1941. Suburban communities exploded, particularly after WWII, as many were invented in places not previously serviced by rail or water.

Now, the era of the gas-engine has had a long 90-year run, during which many improvements were made to the car, but many problems also surfaced. Gas engines have given us air pollution, congested highways, urban sprawl, a foreign oil addiction, automobile accidents, as well as a host of other problems.

When considering their cost, we must keep in mind not only the price of the car, but the taxes spent by the government to build and maintain roads, military spending to keep the sea lanes open for oil shipments, and environmental harm to the air we breath.

Political leaders should be pushing scientists and engineers to bring back the electric car, since they are quieter, cleaner, and need not rely on foreign oil. The government invested heavily in roads to help gas-powered car get off the ground. Now, we need the same to help electric cars become our primary form of transit.

05/23/2012

Bank Bailouts: Were They Needed?

As the banks crashed in 2008, George Bush’s government took action to bail them out, and his emergency measures continued under President Obama in 2009, and beyond, as both parties, at least tacitly, approved of the efforts.

During the Republican primary debates in 2011 and 2012, all of the conservatives criticized the bank bailouts, including Congresswoman Bachmann who categorically opposed all government loans. Congressman Ron Paul said he would not give any assistance to any private firm. He mocked the bailouts saying: “They thought the world would end, if we did not bail out the banks.” He was concerned, because he said the Fed even sent five billion overseas to bail out foreign banks.

Gov. Huntsman opposed the bailouts, arguing we spent trillions, and have nothing to show for it. Sen. Santorum opposed the bank rescue, noting he would have done nothing about the meltdown. He said the financial institutions should have been allowed to go bankrupt. Why prop them up through government, he asked? Santorum asked Gov. Romney why he supported the Wall Street bank bailouts, if he believed in capitalism. Why not let destructive capitalism work, he asked?

Gov. Romney felt President Bush had to take action to keep all banks from closing, but characteristically contradicted himself, saying: “I didn’t want to save Wall Street banks.” Romney also said if Europe had a financial crisis, he wouldn’t give a blank check, or go over there to save their banks, but then he contradicted himself again, saying he would take action, if all of the economies of the entire world were collapsing, because we would need to prevent a contagion from affecting U.S. banks.

While the banks survived thanks to the bailouts, we have no way of knowing for sure what would have happened if the government had done nothing. At the very least, several major institutions would have closed their doors, and it is likely the entire economy would have sustained major seizures. Instead of 10% out of work, the country may have confronted a 25% unemployment rate, and people would have been asking why no intervention was taken.

In retrospect, the bank bailouts were appropriate to get the big institutions through their perilous moment, provided the loans extended by the government are now fully repaid, with interest.

Since the big banks were “too big to fail,” the government made the correct decision to save them, but now that the crisis has ended, it’s time to break them up, under new antitrust laws, so if we face a similar situations in the future, we will be able to let much smaller downsized institutions simply go under.

04/02/2012

Debates Are Useful Campaign Tools

The Republican presidential hopefuls conducted 20 so-called “debates,” during a 10-month period, from May 2011 through March 2012, at which conservative audiences were treated to right-wing presentations as to economic, social, and foreign policy. They were usually staged in early primary states, as they held 3 in Iowa, 4 in New Hampshire, 4 in South Carolina, 4 in Florida, and 1 each in Nevada, Michigan, Arizona, Calf, and Wash. DC.

While some complained the 20 events were not really “debates,” but rather forums, where candidates simply said whatever they wanted on various topics, they were nonetheless much better than any other form of campaigning, such as TV ads, which tend to deceive, and provide very little in terms of honest information.

A formal debate begins with a “resolution” which affirmatively states an idea, such as: “U.S. Senators should be limited to no more than three terms, of six years each.” Two or perhaps three on each side of the issue then alternate presenting affirmative and negative positions, followed by rebuttals, each limited by time. The questions raised are answered by facts presented by each side.

In recent times, formal debates have not been a part of American politics, but they certainly could gain followers, if they were aired on Cable TV. There is a hunger in America, not for more talking heads of the sort found on the Fox Propaganda Network, but for well-reasoned and researched arguments, based on facts, so all of us can collectively reach a consensus on public policy questions.

Since no Democratic counterpoint was presented during the 20 GOP debates, there were times when it was very difficult to listen, but the Republicans nevertheless did the right thing by hosting them, so we could at least try to understand right-wing thinking.

Since the debates remain the best way to obtain unfiltered views as to the candidates, they continue to be a useful campaign tool.

03/30/2012

Republican Primary Doesn’t Matter

During the Wisconsin Presidential Primary next week, Republican voters will be asked to choose between Romney, Gingrich, Ron Paul and Santorum, but their selection will make little difference in the long run, for even if their nominee prevails in November, in the final analysis, their candidate will not be able to make any change without the help of the House, Senate, and Supreme Court.

For those who “vote for the man,” because they naively believe one person can single-handedly change the way things are, they have an awful lot to learn about party politics. What matters is not an individual win, but rather a victory by an entire political party. Real and significant change in America only occurs if the same party controls the House, 60% of the Senate (to block filibusters), the White House, and at least five Supreme Court seats.

Unless voters want divided and paralyzed governments, there is no rational reason to split tickets between Republicans and Democrats, by picking one party’s nominee for this office, and another party’s choice for that. Although many voters dislike both parties, one or the other is going to win and gain control, so it makes sense to learn their differences, and vote along party lines.

No matter who the Republicans nominate for President, if the conservatives continue to control the House, they will put their agenda to their leader, (not the other way around), and he will be expected to approve of it, whether it is Romney, Santorum, Paul, or Gingrich. The Presidency is much weaker than most realize.

When Obama became President, a Democratic Congress handed him legislative measures, during his first two years, like the health care bill, and he had no choice but to approve of it. If he had not, his own party would have turned on him. Although Obama wanted to close Guantanamo, Congress pulled the purse strings for that pledge, and consequently, the prison remains open, regardless of the President’s wishes, or his campaign promises.

If Romney becomes President, and has an opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court justice, you better believe the entire Republican Party, including Bachmann, Santorum, and a whole host of right-wing fundamentalist ministers will be looking over his shoulder. One man in Washington DC simply has no power to do anything.

If you think you can change the basic two-party system, you have a boatload of work to do. The existing parties not only select nominees through caucuses and primaries, they draft platforms stating goals, but most importantly provide networks of volunteers locally to register voters, and make sure they vote on Election Day. Third-party candidates trying to operate outside one of the two major parties would find it extremely difficult to organize, without the help of the thousands who already share a party label.

While it is true George Washington, a Federalist, was first elected as an individual, Thomas Jefferson soon founded an opposition party, even though the Constitution did not mention their use, and for over 200 years, they have been an integral part of our system.

The head of political party, i.e. the President, or presidential candidate of the other party, matters far less than Congressional control. If you want to see change, the question is not who will win the upcoming Wisconsin Republican Presidential Primary; the important question is: After the 2012 election, which of the two major political parties will control the Congress?