Friday, November 10, 2006

A "New" Direction? Oh, Brother!

At the direction of Michael Kinsley, I downloaded A New Direction, the Democratic plan to bring the sunshine into Washington and the rest of America.

I'm sitting here at 2am, wishing I hadn't started. I could use the sleep. It's grandiose and sweeping. And, probably, expensive - IF it works. Which I doubt it will.

Let's just take one section:
COLLEGE ACCESS FOR ALL
Make college tuition deductible from taxes, permanently. Cut student loan interest rates. Expand Pell Grants.
Who could be against that? Disclaimer: I was a beneficiary of student loans, scholarships, and grants, including Pell. Without them, I doubt I could have finished college.

The trouble is, not everyone belongs in college. If college access means that everybody should get an initial chance, well, OK. That chance might be the opportunity to go to a community college at first (as I did), and shore up skills. It's a relatively low-cost option that many use.

For too many people, however, it means that they want to go away to a college (forcing the rest of us to subsidize their living expenses), however expensive. Even if they have to take remedial classes.

I'm against most colleges offering remedial classes. I think that those should be available at the technical, junior, or community colleges, for a relatively low fee. But, let's not call them college classes - they are really high school-level classes.

Too many students waste college time, and money, just getting their skills up to speed. It's time we stopped subsidizing that.

Another questionable part of the plan:
LOWER GAS PRICES
Free America from dependence on foreign oil and create a cleaner environment with initiatives for energy-efficient technologies and domestic alternatives such as bio fuels. End tax giveaways to Big Oil companies and enact tough laws to stop price gouging.
The biggest part of your high gas prices is the taxes, which, I might add, are imposed by your friendly neighborhood congressperson.

So, are the leadership saying they will reduce Federal taxes on gas? Fantastic!

But unlikely. What this asks for is that magic money give-away to the wild-eyed researchers who will use the money to create gas from recyclables. Or, at least, live a cushy life while spinning gold from straw.

Yeah, I know that it's possible to create the so-called "bio-fuels". The ability exists today.

The trouble is that it's generally not cost-effective to do so. There's where the scientist is less helpful than the businessman. It's not research that is needed (except, possibly, for hydrogen cell technology - and both government and industry are already funding that), it's a way to make it economically feasible.

What's funny is that, in a 3-page document, one page is title and logo, one explains what the Democrats will do, and one page bashes everything the Republicans have done.

What's NEW about that direction?

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