I was delighted by the Republican plan to send voters $100 as compensation for high gas prices. Sign me up! Where do I register for my check?
The proposal has had a "rough reception," according to the New York Times today, as "members of the public have been telephoning and writing to ridicule the idea." Conservatives hate it because they consider it socialism. Liberals point out that, with Exxon making all-time record profits this year, and no end to high prices in sight, a $100 rebate check doesn't exactly fix the larger problem.
To be fair, Republicans considered more of a policy fix, and even wrote a new tax on the oil companies into their energy plan last week, which, according to the Times, "would have generated billions by changing the way businesses treat inventory." But business leaders objected, and the Republicans beat a hasty retreat this week. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist scrapped the plan pending further hearings to weigh "the pluses and minuses.”
But back to my hundred bucks. The real problem with the idea is not ideological. It's that $100 is too cheap.
Let's face it, Republicans have garnered votes and contributions for decades based on raw self-interest. The really neat thing about the $100 plan is it lets the little guy in on the action. Too poor to benefit from massive capital gains tax cuts? Not a captain of industry who stands to gain millions from tax shelters, incentives, and deregulation? Now you, too, can get $100!
OK, it's not much. Not even enough to make up for a month of Bush's historic high gas prices, if you drive regularly. But hey, it's a start.
Here are my suggestions for improvement: I'd like free college for my kids. Yeah, that's right. If you want me to vote Republican in the fall, and help the party in power hang onto all three branches of government, I want to see some cash on the barrelhead. After all, we're talking about mortgaging the future here--environmental catastrophe, suspension of basic Constitutional rights, turning our country into a symbol of torture and occupation for generations of angry young Muslims around the world, a possibly eternal state of war, complete with spying and secret military police. A hundred bucks is just not enough. For that matter, who's to say there will be any public school system left by the time my kids finish 12th grade, what with the way infrastructure is going in this country, plus No Child Left Behind and the privatization trend?
I think I'd better add that I want fully funded private education starting in kindergarten.
And health care. That's a big one. I want a full ride for my retirement--something along the lines of the old Medicare system--only with total prescription drug coverage and no funny "donut" holes, where I have to pay thousands of dollars unless I dip below the poverty line in my old age. I'm talking first-class, Cadillac cradle-to-grave coverage.
I want the mortgage paid on a vacation house somewhere out of the way of the polar-ice-cap melt. This is not just a frill. In case large sections of the country are no longer habitable, this could become my primary residence.
And I want a game park nearby with a preserve for all the species that will be extinct soon, so my grandchildren can see what real polar bears looked like.
This is a reasonable beginning, I think. The Republicans are on to something, and rather than ridicule or rage, the reasonable voter should respond with a simple question: "What's in it for me?" If government is for sale, think of yourself as an individual investor--you have to use your leverage to negotiate the best deal for yourself. Maybe you can't afford to hire a team of full-time lobbyists to press your case with individual members of Congress. But you can write to them and explain that, if they want your vote, they are going to have to pony up.
Take my advice: Don't go cheap. After all, when our elected representatives are showering billions of dollars on the oil industry, the money it takes to make a bunch of formerly Democratic voters really rich is just chump change.