Underreported Congressional Bullets

Congress is mulling over the following things, at the moment, not that most Americans have heard about them.

  • Speaking of sin taxes, Congress is contemplating a series of “lifestyle taxes,” including, most infamously, a tax on non-diet soda to help pay for health care reform. The rationale is that high-sugar soft drinks contribute to obesity. Well, so do La-Z-Boys and Snickers. One of the reasons sin taxes are palatable is they generally enjoy support from tax-hesitant constituents — even prohibition had its share of popular support at the time. I don’t think soda is seen as enough of a public evil for this to fly, especially given the absurd number of industries up in arms over this. Kudos for creativity, though.
  • The Obama-era climate change bill is being debated in the House, though it has apparently hit a road block, with Democratic reps. from rural states a bit queasy about the impact it might have on agriculture. The bulk of the bill is that whole cap-and-trade thing, which you may have heard of. As it stands now, the bill would reduce emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Why we’re using 2005 levels as the benchmark in 2009, I couldn’t tell you. Three Republican reps. wrote an editorial backing their counterproposal, the American Energy Act, which would place more of an emphasis on nuclear power and strip away a lot of funding from the Dem. version. It, of course, doesn’t have a chance of passing, though I do think nuclear energy warrants a more serious look. Here we are, trying to fund unproven non-emitting energy sources, when we have a cheap, efficient, non-polluter already available to us in nuclear power. (And, yes, I realize there are legitimate public safety and environmental concerns regarding nuclear plants.)
  • The “cash for clunkers” bill has passed the House, but will likely tarry a while in the Senate. It would subsidize, to an extent, new car sales by giving up to $4500 to consumers who trade in their gas-guzzlers for newer eco-friendly models. Some have pointed out that it requires very minimal improvement to qualify for the rebate (upgrading a 2001 Honda Odyssey to a current model for an improvement of a whopping 2-mpg, for instance, gets you $3500), though I’d caution that that criticism ignores two other purposes of the bill — (1) helping out the auto-industry and (2) cutting down on emissions through other means. Gas mileage isn’t the only way to measure a car’s carbon footprint. My dad’s ’93 F350 dually quad-cab is surely putting a ton more crap into the air than his ’08 model, even controlling for mileage. (Yes, my dad owns two F350’s. Welcome to Texas.)

There were a few other items I wanted to mention, but they got lost somewhere amid my bookmarks and RSS feeds.


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About the Author

Brian Eason is a University of Missouri graduate with bachelor degrees in Journalism and Political Science. He has covered Congressional elections and local government for the Columbia Missourian and worked as a general assignment reporter for the State Journal-Register in Springfield, IL. Brian has also had articles published in Roll Call.

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