Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Gas Tax Holiday Scam

Yesterday, I read this post over at Stranger Fruit on Scienceblogs, which got me thinking about Hillary Clinton's comments over this issue:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But economists say that's not going to happen. They say this is going to go straight into the profits of the oil companies, they're not going to actually lower their prices. And the top two leaders in the House are against it. Nearly every editorial board and economists in the country has come out against it. Even a supporter of yours, Paul Krugaman of 'The New York Times" calls it pointless and disappointing. Can name one economist, a credible economist who supports this suspension?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, you know, George, I think we've been, for the last seven years, seeing a tremendous amount of government power and elite opinion basically behind policies that haven't worked well for the middle class and hard-working Americans. From the moment I started this campaign, I've said that I am absolutely determined that we are going to reverse the trends that have been going on in our government and in our political system. Because what I have seen is that the rich have gotten richer. A vast majority, I think something like 90% of the wealth gains over the last seven years have gone to the top 10% of wage earners.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But can you name an economist who thinks this makes sense?

CLINTON: Well, I'll tell you what, I'm not going to put my lot in with economists. Because I know if we did it right, if we actually did it right, if we had a president who used all the tools of the presidency, we would design it in such a way that it would be implemented effectively. [emphasis mine]
What's this "elite" opinion Clinton is talking about, you say? More than 200 economists who have publicly denounced Clinton's proposed gas tax holiday. This isn't "elite" opinion either, this is what we call expert opinion, and the two are not synonymous. Elite opinion is when an individual thinks that s/he knows more about a topic than those who actually do know quite a lot about the subject of that topic. This is exactly what Clinton is espousing -- she is guilty of her own criticism. Furthermore, this is indicative of the Republican playbook, i.e., "attack the intellectuals." She's fanning the flames of anti-intellectualism for her own political gain at the peril of an educated America.

This is also why Barack Obama is a breath of fresh air. He's publicly denounced Clinton's proposal as a typical "Washington gimmick" to win votes, which it is and which Clinton's own campaign staff have admitted to, and in this way he has stayed committed to his promise of a different kind of Presidency. Not only is Clinton is on the wrong side of the issue, but I feel that her implicit attacks on intellectualism do far greater damage to our country.

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