The big news this week has been the political protests in the Mideast and in the Midwest. In both places, autocrats are trying to impose their will on citizens who are up in arms against their repressive policies.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker told Democratic state senators that it was his way or the highway. The Democratic legislators, in order to stop the governor’s power grab and protect their constituents' basic rights, wisely choose the highway. Specifically I-94 that runs from Wisconsin to Illinois. [See the U.S. News debate: Should public union workers have collective bargaining rights?]
In late 1944, the British army made a quick move deep into Nazi territory to capture the bridges that crossed the Rhine River between Holland and Germany. The British never reached the main target, and the mission was a spectacular failure. The operation was subsequently christened “the bridge too far.”
Republican Governor Walker also reached for a bridge too far. Part of the governor’s proposal to the public employee unions was to have the state and local government workers pay a greater share of the costs of their healthcare and pension benefits. The unions agreed to that provision. But that wasn’t enough for the governor, who, like many other GOP governors, really wants to break the unions because of their affiliation with the Democratic Party. The governor’s position is shaky because polls indicate that most Americans and most residents of Wisconsin favor collective bargaining for public employees. [See photos of the protests in Madison, Wis.]
The situation in Libya is even worse. There is a civil war going on between the rebels and Muammar Qadhafi’s government. This conflict is costing Americans big money.
Two days into the riots in Tripoli, I filled my gas tank up in the morning on the way to work for $3.17 a gallon. On my way home later on the same day, the price at the same gas station had risen to $3.23. Today, that station was charging $3.41 a gallon. [Vote now: Should the United States establish a no-fly zone over Libya?]
The increase in gas prices is a function of our deadly dependence on dangerous dictators and dead dinosaurs for our supply of fossil fuels like oil and gas. The health of our economy is subject to the whims of dictators like Muammar Qadhafi and the carcasses of dead dinosaurs.
Fossil fuels are also a health hazard to Americans because of the dangerous emissions of carbon dioxide that the burning of oil and coal pump into our air. And don’t even get me started on the economic and environmental catastrophe that BP caused on the Gulf Coast. [See editorial cartoons about the uprisings in the Middle East.]
It’s time to push hard on the development of green and clean energy before we become the next generation of dinosaurs.