Governor Bob McDonnell is no dummy. The man did his undergrad work at Notre Dame.
Besides, the proof is in the pudding. McDonnell has shown brilliance in the world of politics. He’s governor of Virginia, and he seems to have been an effective manager. He’s even been mentioned for national office, perhaps as Mitt Romney’s running mate – perhaps in his own right.
McDonnell can’t be blamed if his arrival on the national stage coincided with a growing national disenchantment with the religious Right, the social-conservative agenda, and those other policy distractions which have long served to sustain the party of the 1 percent.
McDonnell had every reason to hope that America’s thirty-year rightward trend would last long enough to give him a shot at the White House. And perhaps it will, even yet. Certainly, the Democrats could find a way to fumble their hard-won acceptance as the party of the middle class.
But, should the Governor’s dreams prove illusions, it’s simply a matter of bad timing. No one can be blamed for that.
Besides, in McDonnell’s case, I suspect he actually believes in most of his policies. He’s wrong, most of the time, but that doesn’t make him a bad guy – or a dumb one.
You knew there was going to be a “But,” didn’t you?
But, this idea of eliminating the gasoline tax, and replacing it with a sales tax, is just plain dumb. It could only have been proposed by someone who refuses to accept the fact that we’re living in a world which is – at best – on the edge of a long, hard slog.
Or at worst, is descending into an unimaginable, centuries-long, demographic struggle for survival.
Our planet is heating up. I realize there are people who still question global climate change, and humanity’s role in it. You might even be one of them.
But, scientifically, the ship has sailed. The earth is not flat. We are the products of evolution. There is no Santa Claus. Flu vaccines save lives.
And anthropogenic global climate change is upon us. It’s happening right now.
Last year, the average temperature in America was one whole degree hotter than it has been in all of recorded history. One whole degree.
That’s just the latest bit in the mass of data which has established – beyond a reasonable doubt – the fact of global climate change. It’s happening. Your kids and grandkids – and you, unless you’re lucky enough to die very soon – will see our world start to change very rapidly.
Farmlands are turning into desert. Dry regions are going up in flames. At this moment, the Mississippi River is so low that barge traffic is in danger of coming to a halt.
Sure, there are folks who walk from their climate-controlled homes to their climate-controlled garages, hop into their comfortable cars for the commute to an indoor parking deck, and take an elevator up to their climate-controlled offices.
But people who live and work outdoors – farmers, landscapers, carpenters, linemen, road crews – can feel the difference. Working folks who thought global warming was nonsense five years ago will tell you things are changing, year by year.
Ask a friend who lived through SuperStorm Sandy.
We’re in it now. The scientists – who have been warning us for decades – tell us that the effects of climate change take a long time to manifest themselves. In other words, what’s happening now is the result of carbon emissions from twenty or thirty years ago.
Even if the whole planet could suddenly go green, starting tomorrow morning, we’d be in for a long period of worsening conditions caused by the carbon we’ve been dumping into the air since then.
Even if we made a global effort equivalent to the greatest of human undertakings, most of us would not live to see the heat begin to subside.
But we have to start sometime. And one place to start is by ending our dependence on petroleum.
Which is why the Governor’s idea is so incredibly dumb.
Of course, we need to fund our transportation budget. And yes – finally – revenues from the fuel tax are dropping, as more and more of us choose to drive more fuel-efficient vehicles.
But the fix is not to eliminate the fuel tax. That will just make gasoline and diesel cheaper, encouraging us to drive more.
The solution is to raise the gasoline tax – by a lot – to continue the trend away from petroleum.
Of course, the Governor has a hard time believing that. Perhaps he doesn’t believe in the science of climate change. Perhaps he simply realizes that Big Oil and the road-builders are good Republican allies.
Perhaps he’s still hoping they will help him realize his greater ambitions. Because you can be he still has them.
But eliminating the gas tax is still a dumb idea. And McDonnell is smarter than that.