Sunday, May 4, 2008

More Than a Gas Tax Holiday, Jews for Obama Editorial

There are several crises brewing simultaneously which demand real leadership from the US. Global warming is a growing threat to our environmental security. Riots have recently broken out around the world because the escalating price of food -- flour is up 32%, bread 12%, milk 18.5%, eggs 30% since March 2007 -- leads to rising malnutrition and starvation. We take our food supply for granted, the fact that we can walk into a supermarket, 7-11, or restaurant, but around the world “food security” is increasingly in jeopardy. Finally, the price of gasoline, which has risen to $4 per gallon, combined with skyrocketing food prices, is placing a mounting economic burden on lower and middle income Americans. Those of us who have fought hunger through food pantries and Jewish organizations like Mazon, which works throughout the United States, and around the globe, to bring critical relief to millions of hungry families, have witnessed the impact of these problems first hand.

The Congressional Joint Economic Committee (JEC) just held its first hearing on rising food prices, and found that they are linked to ballooning gas and transportation costs.

The alarming and explosive threats to food, environment, energy, and health security--not preacher sound bites--should be center stage for all people of faith this election season.

Instead we have economic policies like a check to every family, an incumbent’s attempt at buying love and re-election. We have the other two candidates promising a holiday in the Gasoline Tax. What’s next? Will McCain declare “Free Beer” in October to be donated by his wife’s company to “help the working class”?

Instead of panderers, we need a leader who will bring forward serious policy recommendations, not give away the treasury for re-election or to buy votes. Senator Obama recently explained in Indiana why he believes that the gas-tax holiday is not the solution, but a serious error leading only to more pollution, higher profits for Exxon, and less investment in efficiency, and all economists agree. Unable to name a single economist in support of the policy, Hillary Clinton declares that she is not going to put her "lot in with economists". In response, Robert Reich warns against continuing to elect politicians "who reject facts in favor of short-term poll-driven politics".

The global dimensions of the impending food disaster are illustrated in the following projection made by the Worldwatch Institute. "The United States still consumes three times as much grain per person as China and five times as much as India, notes the report. U.S. per-capita carbon dioxide emissions are six times the Chinese level and 20 times the Indian level. If China and India were to consume resources and produce pollution at the current U.S. per-capita level, it would require two planet Earths just to sustain their two economies." Globalization has increased wealth in China and India, increasing demand for both energy and food. In our own country, we need more than a new food pyramid from the FDA and the dairy industry to change our consumption habits.

We need leadership that, instead of catering to industrial profits in the short term, can see the long-term effects of policies and their impact on our lives and our children’s lives. We need leadership that does not buy love with cheap gimmicks and pronouncements, but works with other countries and international organizations to coordinate programs for global consumption.

Solving these large problems facing our society and world demands a leader with Obama's extraordinary capacity to build consensus. Obama’s ability to devise and stand strongly behind thoughtful policies has won him the support of knowledgeable and experienced policy makers like former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich and creative thinkers like University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee, who was praised by conservative pundit George Will as "the sort of person you would want at the elbow of a Democratic president.”

There are many talented and brilliant people in America who are concerned about these impending disasters, which Bush has either ignored or exacerbated for the last eight years. Obama will bring together and motivate the best people to begin to solve these looming problems before the 21st century is remembered as a second dark age known for famine, flooding and foreclosure.

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