Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

CROSSROADS COMMENT -- Stones in Stonewalling Stances Crumble


Conservatives are always touting the wonders of the free market and capitalism’s creativity and innovative genius. While there is evidence to support qualified claims for this feel good bluster, much of the wonder and genius comes to the world blemished with high social costs. Now some free marketeers want to divvy out paltry sums of the federal budget to let big bad government deal with global warming. Their late, late discovery and admission of the reality of this potential catastrophe makes one want to say, “I told you so, damn it!” But those words stick in the throat. Clogged there after WMD truths, Katrina truths, No Child Left Behind truths, and on and on.

When conservatives retreat from lies and disasters, the retreat is always tactical. When the stones in their stonewalling stances crumble, they give us head feints toward other problems, hold out a bag of beans and remind us of Jack and his long range beanstalk success. There’s nary a word on the many problems initiated and/or exacerbated on their watch. And, in fact, many of the gaping wounds in this country and the world, not the least being global warming, can be traced in part to the greed and rapaciousness of free enterprise competitive practices, the bean bag boys all purpose panacea.

Now here comes my favorite conservative blogger, Bill Lama. Lama is a long time denier of the existence of global warming. But Bill has been sweating lately and has picked up the towel, daubed himself off, and thrown it in. (A combination of scientific facts and ice floes bearing down on his southern California estate?) He challenges lefties to solve the problems of the nation and the world with a $25 billion largesse (a 1% increase in the national budget) which is to be used to solve global warming and nine other very large problems. How would you divide it up the 25B he asks?

There’s divide and rule and there’s lump and rule. Anything to avoid zeroing in on real problems carefully studied, their roots and the true cost of a fix. I guess this is what passes for a clever stratagem in some conservative circles.

You can place ten non-swimmers on an ice flow and throw them one life preserver. Will they fight over it or will they all cling to it and go under? And if you’re standing on the warm dry shore, and if you own a large supply of life preservers stacked up in stock options and real estate, what do you care about the 1 % you send skittering out to the unlucky, the unannointed, the unworthy. They need to learn how to swim in the cold waters of competition. Either that or they should arrange their lives so that they inherit a rich daddy’s cache of life preservers.

Let’s all admit that $25 billion is really chickenfeed when the problems we face come in flocks. The skies are dark with buzzards. But here’s one take on global warming from a source that would normally be given first class treatment at the Hudson Institute. It’s Swiss Re, a major international insurer, not exactly your bleeding heart liberal institution, stating the dollar scope of the global warming problem. Please note the date of this warning and estimate.

March 3, 2004 by Reuters

Insurer Warns of Global Warming Catastrophe
by Thomas Atkins

“GENEVA - The world's second-largest reinsurer, Swiss Re, warned on Wednesday that the costs of natural disasters, aggravated by global warming, threatened to spiral out of control, forcing the human race into a catastrophe of its own making.


“In a report revealing how climate change is rising on the corporate agenda, Swiss Re said the economic costs of such disasters threatened to double to $150 billion (82 billion pounds) a year in 10 years, hitting insurers with $30-40 billion in claims, or the equivalent of one World Trade Center attack annually.”


So Bill, forget the 1% games. Rip those tired old bumper stickers off of that fleet of cars you own, the sticker that won so many simple-minded votes in the past and helped to politically and socially bury us so deeply in the present: “Tax! Tax! Spend! Spend!” This mindless slur that has been thrown at liberals at least since FDR should be replaced with, “Tax Fairly! Spend Wisely!”

Thoughtful liberals have always supported both of these propositions; conservatives, up until the Bush debacle, have at least given lip service to the "Spend Wisely!" part.

And spending wisely can mean not spending at all. I suggest we start with the Defense Department and those weapons systems that don’t work, won’t be used, and even the Generals don’t want. These easily add up to more than the chintzy 1 % you’re doling out. And don’t forget the money that could be saved by pulling out of Iraq–NOW. For an eye opener on this, go to the National Priorities site.

This site will give you a good idea of our misplaced priorities today and what they are costing the nation.

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