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Rev. Wright, the Media, and the Great Gas Tax Pander

Rev. Wright, the Media, and the Great Gas Tax Pander

I know everyone’s really excited about Obama’s win in the Guam caucuses (don’t lie–how many of you even know where Guam is?)

We’ve covered Rev. Wright pretty extensively here, and yet he just won’t seem to go away. At first he was interviewed by Bill Moyers, and that seemed to be all right. Then he gave a speech to the NAACP, and that was good. And then all of a sudden he speaks to the National Press Club, and people are freaking out again.

This time, Obama didn’t try to put his words into context. He just flat out denounced them.

I don’t have much to add on this, other than to note that we have yet to hear calls in the mainstream media for John McCain to denounce John Hagee or Hillary Clinton to explain her ties to the Fellowship.

(Edit because Frank Rich just did call out McCain, at least, about Hagee.)

I’m just going to say it flat out: Obama has to keep apologizing for his “scary” pastor because he’s black, and white America–or at least, the media that claims to represent us–tends to see black America as one huge bloc of people that they can’t quite relate to, and thus assume that one prominent black figure speaks for all. Thus, when CNN deigns to have a “Conversation with Black America” around the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death, few people are shocked. Many do think of black Americans as not quite belonging to the same culture they inhabit. And Obama has continually had to answer for his blackness in various ways throughout this campaign. Although apparently at least enough people aren’t paying attention to this scandal to have 12% of Americans still thinking Obama’s a Muslim.

As Professor Linn Washington pointed out, Wright’s statements are completely taken out of context and thus made far worse than they actually were. But once a narrative gets into the media, it’s almost impossible to get out. Remember the stories of Al Gore being a serial exaggerator? That repeated line about Gore claiming he invented the Internet? The “values voters” trope from 2004–when in fact, people in urban settings were just as likely to vote based on their “values.” (And you can read a great editorial here from The Nation about the moral values that we progressives think about when voting, too.)

Anyway, I wanted to move past this drama and on to something real: the discussions of suspending the gas tax over the summer.

It may sound great to you–hey, gas would be a few cents cheaper per gallon! That would add up, right?

I don’t mean to sound partisan or anything, but the first thing that should sound an alarm bell in your head is when a Republican candidate poses a tax break and a Democratic candidate pounces on it like a cat on a mouse. I waited in fear for a day or two until Obama came out firmly against the gas tax holiday, and then I breathed a sigh of relief that sanity still reigned.

You see, I may complain when taxes get taken out of my paycheck just like everyone else, but I like what taxes do. I don’t like when they’re spent on presidential yachts or curtains to cover up the breast of the statue of Justice, but I do like when they pay teachers and firemen and for veterans’ health care. I like when they pay for streets and bridges.

I would like them even more if they paid for health care and for higher education, but in general, I don’t think the problem we have right now is too many taxes. I think part of the problem is that we pay lots in taxes and they get spent on silly things–or on war, which isn’t even really being paid for, it’s just being financed.

Our deficit is growing. Those of us who will be around more than a couple of years will have to deal with that bill. Cutting more taxes is the last thing we need to be doing, even if it would make gas cheaper.

And more importantly, do we want to make gas cheaper? President Bush floated the old unpopular idea of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge again, and this gas tax proposal would supposedly make it easier on Middle America (read: all of us), but in reality, it’s not going to.

In the late 70s, before I was even born, we had an oil crisis. Yet we managed to get oil prices back down, and we’ve had decades of involvement in the Middle East to show for it, as well as a dwindling supply of oil and now, a new oil crisis. We could be decades off of foreign oil by now, but we didn’t learn from the crisis then. We need to learn from it now.

Increasing the deficit to make it easier for more people to drive is only going to burn through that oil that much faster–and drive the price back up as more people drive and demand goes back up. We need to start thinking about plans B and C, not worrying about knocking a few cents off the price of a gallon of gas.

One presidential candidate had the sense to stand up against this proposal. But we’re too busy talking about his former pastor and his choice of lapel pins.

At least the voters in Guam seem to have paid attention. Anyone know what a gallon of gas costs over there?

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