WASHINGTON -- Readers of this column will recall that from time to time in covering an election cycle I have referred to a voting bloc that political analysts of more delicate sensibilities would rather not mention, to wit, the moron vote. It is a constituency composed of politically ignorant citizens who nonetheless feel very intensely about political issues once their respective demagogues have notified them of the issues, suitably transmogrified. The moron vote's rank and file might, in point of fact, not be morons at all. Some might be marine biologists or interior decorators or professors of romance languages, and in their chosen field they might be very knowledgeable. Yet when it comes to politics they are in the dark. They are very angry but still in the dark.
We can all feel superior to these poor souls, if we are bereft of charity, but we might also feel a twinge of compassion for them. After all, they are not totally to blame for their ignorance. Most have been misled by their political messiahs, or should I say by their seducers? The fact is that in many elections clever politicians shamelessly prey on their supporters' insecurities and the gaps in their political knowledge.
As Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has demonstrated in her last gasp effort to wrest the Democratic nomination from Senator Barack H. Obama, the moron vote can be very important. Once she is out of the race and seething back in Chappaqua (where life for Boy Clinton is going to be dreadful), the moron vote will continue to be very influential. As the race has gone thus far, almost no politician has made an effort to inform the electorate, and on four key issues the Democrats have only exploited the ignorance of the voters. On one issue even the Republican candidate, Senator John McCain, has been of no help in educating voters.
First, consider the Democrats' cruel exploitation of their supporters' hopes and fears regarding rising gasoline prices. Both Clinton and Obama have talked as though those prices can be lowered. Clinton specifically talks of lowering federal gas taxes during the summer. That will do it, but only for the summer. The problem is that oil demand worldwide has exceeded supply. As legendary oilman Boone Pickens has been warning for several years, the world can produce about 85 million barrels of oil a day and demand -- thanks to growing prosperity in developing nations -- now exceeds that production level. Even if somehow the world could produce more than 85 million barrels daily, we do not have refinery capacity to turn the oil into gasoline. Environmentalists oppose increasing refinery capacity. Doing so will take years. America needs to develop alternative energy sources, and market pressure will ensure this development more effectively than demagoguery.
Likewise the candidates are deceiving their supporters when they promise to make the country "independent of foreign oil." We shall not be independent of foreign oil for years to come, whatever progress we make with alternative sources of energy. Drilling into known oil reservoirs in this country and developing nuclear, solar, and wind power will relieve our dependence on foreign oil, but 62 percent of our oil consumption is from foreign oil. Oil production here peaked in 1970, and what domestic oil is left will not markedly relieve our need for foreign oil for years. Again alternative sources of energy are needed.
Or consider the Democrats' promise to pay for their new or expanded programs by eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Though neither the Obama nor the Clinton campaign is forthcoming with the costs of its promises, the National Taxpayers' Union estimates that the Obama platform will increase federal spending by $307.3 billion. The Clinton platform's price tag is $226.1 billion. No rollback of the Bush tax cuts would cover that kind of wanton spending increase. Amazed by the dishonesty of the presidential candidates, the Washington Post's economics columnist lamented this week that "[t]he candidates dissemble because they believe that Americans don't want the truth. It would be too upsetting."
That brings us to the candidates' empty boasts on global warming. Here all three remaining presidential candidates dwell in error. They promise to moderate global warming by reducing carbon emissions, but it is not clear how culpable carbon emissions are for global warming. In an enlightening new book on climate change, An Appeal to Reason, Nigel Lawson, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and British secretary of energy, explains that for the past seven years there has been no global warming. Over the last quarter of the 20th century there was a modest increase in the earth's temperature of a half degree centigrade; but in the three decades prior to that the earth was cooling. Moreover, though carbon emissions have continued to increase through our years of cooling, warming, and now temperature stability, the consequences of carbon emissions remain unclear. Worse, Lawson argues, there are no foolproof ways to limit carbon in the atmosphere.
There you have it: four public issues on which the presidential candidates spread only hot air. At least McCain is only wrong on one.