Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Cant-do-well 2-Fer

Two great editorials slamming Senator Maria Cant-do-well in today's Lewiston Tribune First from Jim Fisher:
Intelligent discussion of Social Security? No way

Washington Democratic leaders apparently can't help themselves. Every time Republican Mike McGavick mentions Social Security, they have to misrepresent his position.

If someone -- Sen. Maria Cantwell perhaps -- doesn't put them on a 12-step program, fair-minded people might have no recourse but to vote for McGavick. Or does State Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz think he doesn't need such people to re-elect Cantwell?

The evening of Washington's primary election, McGavick told supporters that whenever he talks about reforming Social Security, his proposal "gets derided as privatization, which I happen to be against."

And sure enough, the next morning, Pelz was happy to do just that.

"Mike McGavick has indicated the he supports the privatization of Social Security," Pelz said, with Gov. Chris Gregoire standing beside him. "If Mr. McGavick wants us to stop talking about Social Security, he has to quit talking about privatization of Social Security."

There is no need, however, for McGavick to quit talking about privatization, because he never started. Say what you like about his suggestions to keep the system afloat, they are not what Pelz says they are.

For example, McGavick calls for giving young workers a choice of three plans. One is the plan the government has now. Another would invest some money, and a third would lean more heavily toward investments.

All three would be managed by the government, not by workers and not by Wall Street.

That might be a lousy idea, and in the beginning it would be anything but a money saver. Setting up investment accounts would have a startup cost beyond that of paying benefits to today's retirees.

But it is not privatization.

Speaking of ideas, what is Pelz's proposal to keep Social Security solvent? Economists tell us that in a dozen years, less money will be coming in from the payroll taxes that finance the system than will be going out to retirees, and by 2040, the government will not be able to pay all the benefits owed to them.

That makes now a good time to talk about tinkering with the system to keep it afloat. And McGavick deserves credit for doing that. But as he says, each time he does so the issue gets "demonized so that we can't even have an intelligent conversation on the topic."

That's because people like Pelz apparently think that as long as you can demonize your opponents, who needs intelligence?
And Michael Costello:
Standing up -- for spendy gas

"One senator is taking on the big oil companies," or so the advertisement reminds us, although this news might come as a bit of a shock to those of us who have been forking over about $3 per gallon of gas all summer. But there they are, sliding across our screen, scanned images of newspaper headlines about how Maria Cantwell has said some really, really mean things about oil companies, demanded investigations and advocated the creation of alternative fuels out of magic or something.

Precisely how has this redounded to the benefit of Cantwell's constituents? The people who will be deciding whether or not she deserves a second term have been paying some of the highest gasoline prices in the nation. Unless her proposed alternative fuel technology can run on balloon juice, we're going to need her to make a better case. Grandstanding against the big oil companies has not done a thing to improve the supply-and-demand picture and therefore, the price remains at near historic levels. Washingtonians should really be asking: "Where are the results?"

Smoke, noise and headlines aside, the last time I checked, gas prices were still pretty high. I paid $2.71 per gallon Thursday and counted myself fortunate. The last time I filled that tank, the price was almost 50 cents higher. For all of the standing up to big oil she's been doing, it's worth noting that gasoline prices are exceptionally high in Washington when compared to the rest of the country. In fact, the entire Northwest is an expensive place to fill a tank.

Washingtonians pay some of the highest gasoline prices in the nation. In fact western states comprise the eight most expensive states to buy gas in the nation, with Washington ranking seventh. Our neighboring states of Idaho and Oregon rank third and eighth respectively. Hawaii and Alaska hold the top two positions with Utah, Nevada and California occupying the fourth, fifth and sixth positions respectively.

As we watch Cantwell's advertisement, we have to wonder why we should re-elect someone who has utterly failed to deliver results on the issue she has chosen to highlight.

Dig a little deeper and you'll learn that Cantwell's "standing up to the big oil companies" is one of the reasons we pay big prices to big oil in the northwest. The West, and in particular the Northwest, suffer from a shortage of refinery capacity and Cantwell's most celebrated legislative success ensured that it stayed that way.

The entire country suffers from a shortage of refinery capacity. Hurricane Katrina exposed that deficiency far more clearly than all of the social issues that gained press attention. Prices surged immediately after the storm and still have not recovered.

Last year, Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska introduced a bill that would have overturned a portion of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1977, which was inflicted upon us by the late Sen. Warren Magnuson. That law obstructs the construction of any new refinery capacity in the Puget Sound. Applauded at the time, the law was meant to keep oil tankers and their spills out of the sound. It's very popular. Not even Cantwell's general election opponent, Republican Mike McGavick, favors repealing the law. But if Cantwell is going to boast that she has stood up to the big oil companies, then she must also bear her share of the responsibility for higher fuel prices for many years to come.

I personally would prefer a government that facilitates production and delivery of a commodity when the price is driven by market forces. Taking on the big oil companies is a fine strategy for creating shortages and driving up prices. And ironically from the liberal standpoint, choking supply increases profits. An honest Senate investigation would undoubtedly show that the little people Cantwell panders to are the biggest losers when government squeezes production.

Cantwell would seem to be going all in with her chips betting that voters won't notice and call her bluff. Her cards would not show much.

Sadly, she chooses not to run on her one real merit. She is one of the few Democrats who have not cynically and opportunistically sold out the troops after voting to authorize the Iraq war. But she can be forgiven considering how her party purged Joe Lieberman.

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