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The governance of children

The US government is on the verge of shutting down, as Congressional Republicans toy with the livelihoods of nearly two million federal government employees and President Obama tries to cast himself as “the Mediator in Chief.”

The Republicans claim their motivation is fiscal sanity, but it’s really about telling women what to do with their you-know-whats and not telling polluters what to do with their you-know-whats. And Obama seems more concerned about shoring up his “centrist” re-election cred than remaining true to the values he espoused in his first campaign.

It’s easy to become inured to the kind of political posturing and cynical horsetrading we see in the nation’s capitol, but why aren’t we mad? I mean, really mad? And why aren’t we mad at both parties? Hell, why aren’t we mad at ourselves?

Republicans claim to be serious about getting our federal debt under control. But how serious can they be when they refuse to touch military spending, which is about 1/3 of total federal budget expenditures and half of estimated tax revenues? US military spending is 40% of the all global military expenditures, is nearly seven times as much as the Chinese spend, and is equal to the spending of the seventeen next biggest military budgets combined.

No, of course, much better to go after the $350 million in federal funding of Planned Parenthood, a whopping half of 1% of military spending.

Now Congressional Republicans aren’t the only ones playing games with numbers and our future. Last week, President Obama unveiled his Administration’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future.

In Obama’s announcement speech, and in the plan itself, much was made of the fact that the US produced more oil last year than since 2003.

When President Obama took office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. Today, he pledged that by a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third, and put forward a plan to secure America’s energy future by producing more oil at home and reducing our dependence on oil by leveraging cleaner, alternative fuels and greater efficiency.

We’ve already made progress toward this goal – last year, America produced more oil than we had in the last seven years. And we’re taking steps to encourage more offshore oil exploration and production – as long as it’s safe and responsible. And, because we know we can’t just drill our way out of our energy challenge, we’re reducing our dependence on oil by increasing our production of natural gas and biofuels, and increasing our fuel efficiency. Last year, we announced ground-breaking fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks that will save consumers thousands of dollars and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil.

Again, it’s important to understand the numbers.

US oil production last year may indeed been higher than any year since 2003, but it’s still 43% lower than our peak year of production in 1970. And to meet those production numbers, we increasingly have to drill tens of thousands of feet down in the ocean (Deepwater Horizon, anyone?).

Keep in mind, too, how much oil we consume. Five and a half million barrels/day is enough oil produced in a year to get us from New Years Day to Tax Day… about 106 days’ worth. The “ground breaking fuel efficiency standards” the Obama Administration is touting is the equivalent of about 95 days of American oil consumption. And the goal of 1 million electric vehicles by 2015 is 0.04% of the total number of passenger cars and trucks on the road.

Obama’s blueprint for energy security mentions climate change exactly once, when global warming arguably presents the greatest threat to our security in human history. Unveiled in the midst of a nuclear crisis not seen since Chernobyl, the plan continues to promote coal, natural gas, and nuclear, all of which have significant environmental and human health consequences. Conservation on the other hand? Using less? Meh.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some good stuff in the Blueprint for Energy Security. Just like there are some good recommendations coming out of Republican circles to address the budget deficit. But the rhetoric on both sides of the aisle simply fails to meet reality.

On an almost daily basis, the American public is presented with false solutions, rhetoric, and partisan bickering. The only conclusion I can come up with is that one or both of the following is true:

  1. Our elected officials think we’re too childish to speak to honestly about the complex issues and choices we face.
  2. Our elected officials are, themselves, too childish to govern.

But here’s the thing… When it comes to facing these daunting economic, energy, and environmental crises, we’re all going to need to grow up. And fast.

Editorial Notes: The post originally appeared on Asher's personal blog. -BA

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