Congress Returning from Summer Recess

August is traditionally a slow news month in the trucking industry, unless you are into reading recycled stories designed to simply raise your blood pressure (gotta keep ginning up the masses someway to appear relevant when there is nothing new to report). One significant reason for the lack of major (trucking related) news is that both congress and the White House disappear from Washington and go on “vacation” during the month of August.

Members of congress return to their districts during August or embark on lavish overseas trips of “national importance” to their constituents (a.k.a. junkets) leaving a void in the national news reporting cycle. Personally, I have always liked the idea of congress taking extended vacations – anytime congress is not in session, they are not passing more laws further restricting our freedom (yeah, I’m that jaded).

As congress and the White House all return in September, don’t expect any meaningful movement on a host of transportation issues such as fixing how we fund highways. There is an election in November and everything will be run through the prism of how voters might react to the mere mention of something like gas tax increase. Remember George H.W. Bush and his “Read my lips: no new taxes” pledge at the 1988 Republican National Convention? Didn’t work out real well for him in 1992 when Bill Clinton used that quote to portray Bush Sr. as unfaithful to his words after Mr. Bush went along with a Democratic controlled congress and raised taxes. In trucking we got the five cent increase in the diesel tax intended for “deficit” reduction. What’s the deficit now versus then?

Unless you are a “died in the wool political wonk” whose very existence depends on magical words of celestial importance emanating from the political class, don’t expect any significant announcements from Washington to bring meaning and fulfillment to your life.

Legislatures that need to go on vacation

Just to prove the point I made about the danger of legislatures to freedom (in this case free choice), with California having one of the highest unemployment rates in the country (7.4%), the highest “supplemental poverty measure” in the country at a stunning 23.8%, and record drought; what did the Democrat controlled legislature decide was worthy of their time? Becoming the first state to ban plastic grocery bags. Yep, on September 5th they accomplished this herculean feat of statesmanship and Gov. Moonbeam has already said he’ll sign the bill. Oh, and the legislation allows stores to tack on a ten cent “bag” fee for paper or reusable bags. I’ll bet those 7.4% unemployed people and the 23.8% stuck in poverty folks are excited to do their part in helping create our green utopia – free of plastic garbage bags (and jobs).

Actually, I’ve always thought everyone should “pay their fair share” in taxes. Maybe this isn’t a bad idea after-all since it is a form of a hidden regressive tax (although this one gets to be kept by “the man”) similar to CARB’s upcoming hidden fuel tax increase. Maybe once “average” people start getting directly and financially affected by all these “green fees” (and I don’t mean at your favorite golf course), voters will awaken from their slumber and actually see what is being done to them under the guise of saving the planet. One can only hope.

When “Pro-Business” and “Right-of-center” means just the opposite

Just in case anybody has had any lingering doubts, I do consider my worldview to be fairly conservative. I absolutely believe in a free market and limited government. However, when two publications purporting to share a similar philosophy run clearly biased and slanted articles concerning issues near and dear to truck owners, “Houston, we have a problem.” One of the problems that I won’t discuss here for lack of space is both pubs I’m writing about are ignorantly bliss to their misstep because even their editors are clueless to the truth – otherwise this stuff wouldn’t happen.

Case One:

Los Angeles has a new daily newspaper called the L.A. Register intended to compete with the L.A. Times. The owner, Aaron Kushner (owns the O.C. Register) launched this new pub saying, “We are very much pro-business, right of center. The L.A. Times sits on the other side.” Well, if you are a truck owner, let’s put that claim to the test.

On August 19th the Register ran an article titled, “Practically Green: Better air may be coming soon to a port near you” written by staff columnist Susan Carpenter. The article was all about a taxpayer subsidized ($14 million) one mile electrified road from the port to operate four trucks to relocate containers. The author then went on to justify the project by reciting a litany of negative health effects from diesel exhaust exposure and just how dirty the trucks at the port are.

She was aided in this charade by South Coast AQMD propagandist Matt Miyasato who was quoted as saying, “Communities in the port areas are shouldering the burden so people can have plasma TVs in Chicago.” It did make me wonder about all the jobs associated with the port and what the negative health outcomes might be if those jobs disappeared. But, I digress.

Considering the hundreds of millions, if not billion plus dollars spent on new low emissions trucks to service the port, which was never mentioned, just the continuing stereotyping of trucks as gross polluters is journalistic malpractice.
I contacted the reporter about writing a clarifying op-ed to set the record straight. She did respond but punted to her editor who is still undecided. So much for pro-business, right of center. It would seem the LA Register is staffed with the same type of journalists who wish to spin (slant) their reporting to uphold the virtues of environmental correctness.

Case Two:

Just saying “Bloomberg Businessweek” gets you thinking “Connecticut Republican.” For a business magazine that narrowly avoided going completely belly-up and lost one-third of its advertising as recently as 2009, you’d think they might do a little more fact checking before running a slanted hit-piece questioning the motivations of organizations such as ours.

Organizationally, we along with many other California associations have joined coalitions such as Fed Up At the Pump to fight against CARB’s upcoming hidden fuel tax. Well, according to San Francisco Businessweek staff writer Ben Elgin and his article title, “Big Oil’s ‘Grass-Roots’ Groups in California” were all just a bunch of useful stooges of the oil companies in opposing expanding the state’s cap-and-trade system.

Mr. Elgin obviously felt quoting in his article a UC Berkeley professor who has “studied” the likelihood of a price spike, added an air of impartiality to his reporting (the good professor conducted his own study last month and is certain his guesses on price spikes are better than anyone else’s). Needless to say, the reporter didn’t quote from any of the dozens of statewide organizations opposing the hidden tax. Nope, in one fell swoop he broadly lumped us all as lackeys to “big oil” for our position in opposing CARB.

So Bloomberg and the LA Register essentially mislead or attack the very people they claim to want as subscribers? Yep, that makes great business sense to me.

For the record Mr. Elgin, as an organization we would love to get financed by “Big Oil” to further our legal and political goals in pushing back against the agenda of whack-job enviros. It hasn’t happened yet but if it ever does, I’ll issue a public apology to you and say we’re nothing but boot licking toadies for big oil. Until then, it’d sure be nice if reporters admitted their own biases when it comes to environmental reporting.

I won’t hold my breath.