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If I Were The President of the U.S.A.

We have two candidates still standing in the race for President of the United States of America. Arguably it's the most powerful office in the world. And, this year we really do have a choice. Whether you support the Democrat or the Republican, you have do admit we have a clear choice. In recent elections we've had a choice between tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum.

There's been a lot of press reports denigrating the candidates for flip-flopping. And, I'm not talking just about Obama. McCain has flip-flopped more than his share too. I'm going to tell you why candidates flip-flop; if they didn't continually change their positions so they're saying what we, the people want to hear, they couldn't get elected. I call this the "tell us what we want to hear - even if it's not the truth" theory.

Obviously, if you're going to run for any office, you expect to win or you wouldn't waste your time, would you?

Why is this so? We live in a world where everyone wants instant results. If you have a headache you take a pill - instant relief. If you're fat you take a pill (fat folks wish) and you're instantly thin while eating all the Twinkies and ice cream you want. Guys getting older? Can't be "romantic" spontaneously anymore? Not to worry, take a pill and you're Rudolph Valentino. Need some information? Whatever you need is instantly available on the Web. Need to contact a friend far away? You don't have to send a letter. If you're home pick up the phone and call. Not home? No worries, mate. Pick up your cell phone and call.

Everything is instant these days. Candidates know that people want instant fixes for the problems that plague American society these days, so they promise instant fixes for complex problems and we buy into it every single election year.

Let's take the high price of gasoline for example.

Four dollars a gallon is not acceptable to Americans. If the grocery store is two blocks away, they drive their gas-guzzling SUV two blocks to get milk, bread, or probably Twinkies and ice cream. Parents take their kids to school on beautiful autumn and spring days - even though the school is only a half-mile away. Americans are wasteful and filled with a sense of entitlement.

So candidates promise off-shore drilling, billions of dollars in tax-relief and "gasoline-tax holidays". Instant gratification. Instant fixes. More worthless solutions to a very complex and persistent problem. These fixes don't fix anything. The only affects they will have are short-term and might make some feel good for awhile.

No wonder every American knows that promises made by candidates during election years are almost always promises which will be broken - and forgotten as time passes.

If I were the President of the USA here's what I would do.

I would increase the cost of gasoline by putting a sixty-cents-a-gallon additional federal tax on gasoline (in addition to any current taxes) and make sure all that money went into a federal fund which could only be used for the following:

1. Alternative energy and fuels: Wind, Solar, Nuclear, Thermonuclear, Hydrogen, Geothermal, Ethanol, Methanol, etc.

2. A modern, up-to-date public transportation system (High-speed Trains, Metro-Monorails, streetcars, "Green" busses, trolleys, etc).

In the 1970's gasoline prices skyrocketed and supply dwindled. People started car pooling, buying subcompact cars and selling their gas guzzlers. American car companies were a decade behind Japanese car companies in quality and fuel economy and Toyota, Nissan, Honda and others used the niche created by the oil crisis to enter the American car market in a huge way. Today, Toyota is challenging General Motors as the biggest automobile company in the world. Soon, they will be.

Did we learn a lesson from the 70's. Nope. We didn't. When gas prices started coming down and supply started going up, Americans went back to buying gas-guzzlers, car pooling wasn't cool anymore, and things went back to normal - until recently.

If Americans and their elected leaders had taken steps in the 1970's to find alternatives to oil we would have had or been close to having real and viable alternatives today. Instead, American government protected the oil companies and their profits. But they didn't do it without you and I. We allowed them to do it. We went out and bought the SUVs and other gas guzzling cars and trucks as soon as the 70's crises was over.

Here we are more than thirty years later. America is one of the only major countries in the world without a modern public transportation system. We have the best airline system in the world, but soon only the well-off will be able to afford to fly, leaving the rest of us to find alternate ways of getting from point A to point B. The only viable alternative we have is our cars. Cars use gasoline. And the wheel goes 'round and 'round.

Some of the railroad tracks that our rail system depends on were laid decades ago. We don't have a modern high-speed rail system in this country like Europe and Japan do.

Now, politicians want to drill off-shore and in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge for more oil. For what? So we can get enough oil to last for another fifty years? A hundred years?

Oil is a limited resource. Someday, the world is going to run out of oil. It might not happen in our lifetimes or even in the lifetimes of our children. But what about our grandchildren and their children. What are we leaving to them.

It's the new American way to leave it all to somebody else. No one wants to sacrifice or be inconvenienced. But someday, someone is going to have to sacrifice and be inconvenienced. You cannot move forward unless some generation is willing to sacrifice something. It looks like we're not going to be the ones willing to give up something to ensure the future. It looks to me like it's going to be our children, grandchildren or their children who have to make the sacrifices that need to be made in order to free ourselves from oil (and the Mideast). Our children, grandchildren and their children will look back upon our generation and wonder how we could have been so blind and short-sighted. They're not going to look back on us favorably. We are going to hand them a mess and they're going to have to solve it because we're too comfy and lazy to give up anything to change the world.

If we continue to view finding new oil as the ultimate fix and the number one priority - the real disaster will just be delayed for a decade or two or three - we'll be leaving a very poor legacy behind.

But, here's the catch - and it's our fault. We don't want to hear the truth - we want to be told lies - we want simple and instant fixes for complex problems. Drilling offshore or in Alaska won't solve anything - it will just delay the inevitable. 

And if either Obama or McCain told you that they were going to raise gasoline by sixty cents a gallon and use it to approach alternative fuels, public transportation, and alternate energy the same way the United States approached developing the atomic bomb in the 1940's or landing on the moon in the 1960's, they'd never get elected.

Maybe we deserve to pay $9.00 a gallon for gas - or more. Maybe then we'd actually think about the future. Maybe then we'd drive less and walk more or find it in ourselves to demand that our politicians actually commit to finding a lasting and real solution and not stop-gap measures to get us by another decade or two. Someday, we're going to run out of oil - or at least oil we can easily plunder.

Just like it did with cigarette manufacturers, the government is going to wait until the oil companies are fully diversified into other money-making ventures before they actually commit to weaning us off oil and our constant genuflection to the Mid-East oil producing countries. As long as we are beholden to these sheikdoms - we're never going to be free of their influences - or the threats that some of their citizens present. If you look at companies whose sole business used to be manufacturing cigarettes, you'll see that these companies no longer rely on cigarettes to generate their enormous profits.

Phillip Morris brands (the maker of Marlboro cigarettes) now include:

Philadelphia cream cheese (Kraft Foods)
Miller beer
Maxwell House
Birds Custard

It was only after they diversified that the anti-smoking movement really took hold in America. Whether intentional or not, I do not know. It seems to me that the government waited until the tobacco companies diversified their product offerings sufficiently before it really tried to do something about smoking and the health-issues, death and cost in dollars that cigarette smoking causes.

Is the government so controlled by lobbyists that it is waiting until Exxon Mobil is fully diversified into other products before it really gets serious about alternative fuels and alternative energy sources?

When I say "the government" I am talking about our government - the U.S. government. So, really I am talking about us - we the people - you and me. We are the ones who vote. We are the ones that vote for the guy who promises us the most and the guy who asks us to sacrifice the least. We're all about getting what we want - and getting it right now. We're the instant gratification society. The trouble is, it's the future we mortgage and our children, grandchildren and their children who are going to have to pay that mortgage.

So, we leave it up to our descendants to pay the mortgage that we purchased with our "blame someone else" society - with our cushy lifestyles and our no-sacrifice mentality.

They are going to have to pay so that we can live in our comfort and our inanity. They are going to have to pay for our stupidity and reluctance to think about tomorrow.

It is our children, grandchildren and their children who will ultimately pay the price for our urge to expediency, our mixed-up priorities, our misjudgments and all our foolish mistakes.

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