Have you had a hankerin’ for a brand-new, shiny SUV, but you don’t have the cash? Worry not. President Bush’s new economic plan increases the deductions that small-business owners can make on “equipment” and other business expenses, which is fantastic news, especially if you just have to have a business expense that gets 11 miles to the gallon.

Charles Paradis

That’s right, a much-talked-about section of the plan would make it profitable for these small-business owners to use the capital equipment deduction (which, combined with other allowed deductions, could total $87,000) to buy the biggest, gas-guzzling, road-hogging SUVs on the market. Additionally, the language used in the proposal would allow hardy small-business owners like doctors, lawyers and accountants to use the deduction.

Bushies have responded to liberal criticism of the plan by citing the fact that it allows for deductions on all cars, not just the Expedition and the Canyonero (it’s 12 yards long/two lanes wide/It’s 65 tons of American pride). But since oversized SUVs (those heavier than 6,000 pounds) have different restrictions (due to finely-crafted loopholes) and different depreciation rates than cars and smaller SUVs, there is an incentive to buy the bigger car. It’s all very technical (read: I don’t understand a goddamn word of it).

The attack being launched on Bush’s plan targets the contradictory position that the president seems to be taking on the issue of conservation, for around the same time that Bush was further loosing the SUV demon upon our homeland, he also attempted to show his commitment to fuel efficiency.

During the State of the Union Address, somewhere in-between his smirks and his prayers, he proposed that $1.2 billion be set aside for the development of fuel cell-powered vehicles. He explained, surprisingly lucidly (apparently Dubya has been watching “Bill Nye The Science Guy” religiously), how this completely clean form of fuel could revolutionize energy consumption.

So how could he propose such incompatible measures, you ask? Well, although Bush’s proposals are muddled to say the least, most people do not seem to understand the depth of the treachery that is actually at play.

Bush’s endorsement of fuel cell technology, while it may seem progressive on the surface, should not be so comforting. Ever since fuel cell technology started to receive attention, the Republicans have been on it like stink on shit. Is this out of an environmentally-conscious desire to clean up the planet and save areas like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from being strip-mined? (Columnist laughs himself stupid at this idea until snot begins to run down his nose.) No, you boob, it’s because now they can roll back or at least cripple efforts to make regular old gasoline-powered cars more efficient.

After all, why spend time and money developing more fuel-efficient cars when we’ll all be driving magic fuel cell cars that expel, as Dr. Science explained during the State of the Union, “water, not exhaust fumes.”

The problem with this little shift in priorities is that the fuel cell cars are not exactly lining up to replace current automobiles. Beside the fact that the technology has not been perfected, you have to remember that the infrastructure needed for such an industry is practically non-existent. And even if it only takes a few years to install the technology at gas stations, in the meantime, the SUVs keep getting bigger and the soccer-moms driving them keep getting smaller, thinner and blonder.

Now I’m not saying that fuel cell cars are a pipe dream; Eventually, they will be a significant presence on the road. But Bush and his posse are so dead-set against normal fuel efficiency that I can pretty much guarantee that if I went to the White House with a plan to fuel cars with chocolate syrup and cat pee, I could get at least $1.2 billion in funding. In fact, what the hell am I doing writing this column? I should be working on my C.F.U. (choco-feline-urinary) proposal.

But the real point that should be sticking in everyone’s minds is that when it comes to anything having to do with oil, Bush has a conflict of interests the size of Texas. I mean, has everyone forgotten that we are talking about a man who has a great deal to gain by having America continue to be dependent on fossil fuels? And beyond his own personal, financial benefit (now to get really conspiratorial …), there is a simple line of logic that should be intuitively obvious:

Under this new system, more people are able to buy SUVs; More people drive cars with crappy gas mileage, requiring more fossil fuel; more oil is needed by the U.S., so more support is given (at least tacitly) to Bush’s plans for Iraq (i.e. bombing the ever-loving shit out of it). OK, perhaps a little simplistic, but the general idea is sound.

Bush’s attempts to push SUVs on the public makes him no better than a drug dealer, offering his potential customers a complimentary hit to get them hooked on their drug of choice: in this case, bubblin’ crude. Oil, that is; black gold; Texas tea. The first one is free, America.

– Andy Taylor-Fabe can be reached at andytayl@umich.edu.

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