Just so we're clear on this, I hope everybody understands that the current debate on off shore drilling is nothing more than exploitation of fears by the Republicans and the right wing market fundamentalists. They are using the fear and pain of high gas prices to ram their agenda down your throat. How do I know this? Because they did the same thing in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. As outlined by author Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine p. 410:
Even neocon stalwarts like Jonah Goldberg were begging "big government" to ride to the rescue: "When a city is sinking into the sea and rioting runs rampant, government should saddle-up"
No such soul-searching was in evidence at the Heritage Foundation, where the true disciples of Friedmanism can always be found. Katrina was a tragedy, but, as Milton Friedman wrote in his Wall Street Journal op-ed, it was "also an opportunity."
An opportunity to help the besieged residents of New Orleans, you ask? Well, not exactly…
On September 13, 2005–fourteen days after the levees were breached–the Heritage Foundation hosted a meeting of like-minded ideologues and Republican lawmakers. They came up with a list of "Pro-Free-Market Ideas for Responding to Hurricane Katrina and High Gas Prices"–thirty two policies in all, each one straight out of the Chicago School playbook, and all of them packaged as "hurricane relief." The first three items were "automatically suspend Davis-Bacon prevailing wage laws in disaster areas," a reference to the law that required federal contractors to pay a living wage; "make the entire area a flat-tax free-enterprise zone"; and "make the entire region an economic competitiveness zone (comprehensive tax incentives and waiving of regulations)." Another demand called for giving parents vouchers to use at charter schools. All these measures were announced by President Bush within the week.
Here is the link to the e-mail memo "Pro-Free-Market Ideas for Responding to Hurricane Katrina and High Gas Prices" from the meeting at the Heritage Foundation. Number 24 is "Allow More Off Shore Drilling" while Number 26 is "Allow Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)." Neither seems a likely "hurricane relief" remedy to get Gulf Coast residents back on their feet and in their homes. ANWR and OCS were eventually junked in committee for other rollbacks in the so-called Clean Air Act. Aaah…democracy at work.
My absolute favorite, though, has nothing to do with drilling for oil. It is Number 8: "Waive the death tax for any deaths in the affected area from August 20, 2005 to December 31, 2005." Now, how many of the bodies floating belly up in the Lower 9th Ward in the aftermath of Katrina do you think had estates valued at greater than 1.5 million dollars (the threshold at which the inheritance tax would be applicable)? I'm guessing none.
The point here is to not be blinded by a crisis, so the right wingers can trot out their laundry list of industry wishes. It is absurd to consider, urgently, off shore drilling as an election year issue because of high gas prices. Debate off shore drilling as part of a comprehensive energy bill? Sure. Next year.
Finally, here is what I would do with the 32 point essay of "Pro-Free-Market Ideas" if I were Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi. Like Martin Luther in 1517 nailing his 95 theses to the Castle Church door, I would nail the Republicans 32 theses to the Capitol Building door. Know that whenever America is threatened, whether perceived or real, the Republicans "relief package" will undoubtedly require "urgent action" from their corporate grab bag. Pre-empt their attempt to exploit a "crisis"…and then propose legitimate policy solutions.
Martin Luther ignited the Protestant Reformation by showing that the Catholic Church was corrupted by the sale of indulgences. Maybe it is time for a Democratic Reformation by showing how our democracy has been corrupted by the Republican Party's indulgence of their corporate benefactors. Americans are ready for change and this could be the start of it.