Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Plan now or pay later

by Larry Geller

Filling his Tank Look how big this guy's tank is. Guess how much he paid to fill it.

Maybe he's willing to keep driving it for awhile, but with the price of oil and oil company profits setting new records each day, sooner or later giant SUV owners will be thinking of trading their monsters in so that they can buy food or pay the rent.

And guess what: if they wait a bit longer they may have to pay to have them towed to the junk yard.

Now owners of SUVs and other gas guzzlers who've seen the price of a fill-up climb sharply are getting a second shock when they try to trade ins their behemoths. Used car dealers don't want the big vehicles on their lots any more because hardly anyone is buying them. Some won't take them at any price. [globalinvestor.com]

Worse, these big SUVs are usually loaded with luxury items that drove up the purchase price. Sound systems, special seating, even television for the kiddies in the back seats. But no matter, these extra-luxury monsters will have to be disposed of sooner or later just the same. It just means a bigger loss for the owners as their value plummets.

And, of course, hybrids and fuel-efficient smaller cars will sell at a premium. It's predictable.

So wait for that scenario or plan ahead. It's up to you. Be the first on your block to trade in the monster, or be the last to have it towed.

Hey, we're the consumers. We sacrifice for our country. We keep GM afloat by buying giant, fuel-inefficient vehicles because they want us to. We give up our homes while the mortgage firms and Wall Street banks that funded them are saved (see below, "Nearly three percent of all owner-occupied homes in the country are now empty").  Or we pay high prices for food to keep Monsanto and big agribusiness afloat. That's our job. We're the suckers they depend upon to keep CEOs' yachts afloat. We love and protect our CEOs and so we reward them. I say this because I believe in the rationality of the free market, and the free market says we will be poor so that the CEOs will prosper. They are always telling us about the free market and I believe them.

So if we have free choice, let's exercise it, as individuals, as a state, and as a country: Plan now or pay later.

Here are four articles that appeared in this sequence in today's Democracy Now!:

OPEC: Oil Prices Could Hit $200 a Barrel

On Monday, oil prices hit a new record of nearly $120 dollars a barrel, but OPEC’s president Chakib Khelil of Algeria warns oil prices could eventually hit $200 a barrel. Khelil blamed record oil prices on the weak dollar and global political insecurity.

Shell & BP Report Record Profits

The oil giants Shell and BP reported making record profits in the first three months of the year. Shell earned $9 billion in the first quarter. BP’s income rose 63 percent to $7.6 billion.

Economists Question McCain and Clinton’s Gas Tax Proposal

On the campaign trail, Senator Hillary Clinton has joined Senator John McCain in calling for the temporary elimination of the roughly eighteen-cent-a-gallon gas tax over the summer. Senator Obama has opposed the elimination of the tax. While Clinton and McCain have framed the tax cut as a way to help working class families, many economists question who would benefit from the tax cut. According to economist Dean Baker, the tax cut would result in higher profits for the oil industry but would not change the price of gas paid by consumers.

Number of Vacant Homes in US Reach 18.6 Million

In other economic news, the number of vacant US homes has hit a record of 18.6 million. This is because more homes are in foreclosure and many homeowners are finding it increasingly difficult to find buyers. Nearly three percent of all owner-occupied homes in the country are now empty.

There are many things we can do as a state if we get together and plan ahead. One thing we can do right now: immediately quit requiring that ethanol be added to gasoline. Here's another article from today's Democracy Now!:

UN Officals: Biofuels Are a “Crime Against Humanity”

The United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, has called for the suspension of biofuels production. He said it is a major cause for the food crisis that has thrown millions into poverty.

Jean Ziegler: “Biofuels, with today’s current production methods, are a crime against a great part of humanity. They’re an intolerable crime, and I requested the United Nations General Assembly in New York in my last report to the Human Rights Council that a moratorium be imposed as a five-year ban against this transformation.”

According to Jean Ziegler, the United States burned 138 million tons of corn last year and transformed it into bioethanol and biodiesel. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Ziegler said, “Burning food today so as to serve the mobility of the rich countries is a crime against humanity.” Ziegler’s comments came while the UN held an emergency summit in Switzerland to tackle the global food crisis.

The governor can turn off the ethanol spigot on a dime.

Why should you call or write her and ask her to do that?

Because you believe in planning ahead. Part of that is wanting to have rice, wheat and other grains on your table in the future. Think. Call. Write. Fax.

Phone: 808 586-0034
Fax: 808 586-0006
email: governor.lingle@hawaii.gov


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Thanks, Larry, for reminding all of us that we consumers have a lot more power to turn things around than we might think. After all, it was our purchases, like the gas guzzling SIVS, that helped get us into this mess.

But these are GOOD things Larry. We’ve been complaining about cars causing global climate changes- so if the trend continues we’ll have to walk, bike or take public transportation. No tax on fuel? No more roads or repairs so people won’t be able to drive their cars. Food at the store too expensive- we’ll have to grow our own... it might even take care of the “population bomb” if people have to think twice before having that 10th child because there’s no food to feed it... may even make silly religious objections to contraception seem like the quaint anachronism it is.

The true prices of our way of life are becoming reality- people are beginning to see how they are paying more on the back end with wars for oil and other invisible subsidies. We may even tax the windfall profits of Exxon-mobile et. al.... yeah, right- that’ll happen.

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