There was a headline in “The New York Times” the other day that illustrates the kind of Catch 22 economy we’re in. “Rising Gas Prices Threaten to Slow a Recovery,” it said.
Bad news, right? We don’t want the economy to slow down any more than it’s already slowed.
On the other hand, we are basing our hopes for saving our collapsing car industry on a universal switch to cleaner cars that get better gas mileage. We also want to stimulate mass transit in our cities in order to get people out of cars entirely. (I won’t mention global warming because it drives a lot of people crazy.)
But to achieve those things, we have to have higher, not lower, gas and energy prices. People will not give up their big, honking cars and trucks in favor of matchboxes on wheels; even less will they walk to their corner bus stop, unless they can’t afford to do otherwise. On this I will stake my reputation as a soothsayer.
The sad truth is that we will continue to be at the mercy of oil producers so long as we are unwilling to go through the painful transition to a society that does not see the auto as a necessity for work, play, status and raising children. And the even sadder truth is that the pain of the transition to green transportation (widespread unemployment, a spike in the suicide rate, higher taxes, walking) may be more than the American people can bear.
The problem is so vexing that even a wise Latina woman would have trouble figuring it out. But that’s not the only problem facing Mr. Obama and Capitol Hill’s Gang That Couldn’t Talk Straight.
You may not have noticed but the economy fell off a cliff last fall. One minute prosperity was there beside us, laughing and talking, telling jokes; the next it was gone—disappeared.
When we looked over the side of the cliff we were walking on, there it was, tumbling toward the bottomless abyss, a fate so terrible that we only refer to it as “the D word.” Continue reading →