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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

No Fiscal Policy Part II 

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If Mr. Bush wants to make anything of his second term, he'll have to do his own Nixon-to-China turnaround, reframe the debate and recast the priorities of his presidency. He seems to think that by offering to spend billions of dollars to rebuild one city, New Orleans, he'll get his leadership halo back. Wrong. Just throwing more borrowed money at New Orleans is not leadership. Mr. Bush needs to frame a new agenda for rebuilding all our cities and strengthening the nation as a whole. And what should be the centerpiece of a policy of American renewal is blindingly obvious: making a quest for energy independence the moon shot of our generation.

The president should have done that on the morning of Sept. 12, 2001. The country was ready. But the president whiffed. Katrina - nature's 9/11 - has given him a rare do-over. Imagine - I know it is a stretch - that the president announced tomorrow that he wanted an immediate 50-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax - the "American Renewal Tax," to be used to rebuild New Orleans, pay down the deficit, fund tax breaks for Americans to convert their cars to hybrid technology or biofuels, fund a Manhattan Project to develop alternatives for energy independence, and subsidize mass transit systems for our major cities.

And imagine if he tied this to an appeal to young people to go into science, math and engineering for the great national purpose of making us the greenest nation on the planet, to help liberate us from dependence on the worst regimes in the world for our oil and to help ease the global warming that is heating up the oceans, making our hurricanes more intense and our lowlands more vulnerable. America's kids are hungry to be challenged for some larger purpose, which has been utterly absent in this presidency.

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