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Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Before the Gestapo (aka Homeland Security) bill passed, this was the message:
"The terrorists are not going to wait for a process that goes on days, weeks or months," said Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, the Republican leader. "We need to get this done, and we need to do it now." -- from the NY Times yesterday.

Now that the bill has passed, they're willing to admit the obvious truth:
Bush administration officials acknowledged today that the Department of Homeland Security would need years to organize itself fully and that the logistics involved in merging 22 agencies and nearly 170,000 government workers into a giant new bureaucracy could threaten to divert the department from its central mission of safeguarding the American public from terrorist attacks. -- from today's NY Times.

Of course, they are still ignoring that this is an enormous and expensive effort directed against a problem, terrorism, which has killed maybe 3500 Americans in the last ten years. September 11 was spectacular and horrible, but terrorism ranks way, way down on the list of causes of death in this country. Less expensive efforts could probably save many more lives which are being lost to gun violence, AIDS, and poor nutrition. Or to turn the whole thing around, one simple step could increase revenues and decrease expenditures while saving many lives, with hardly any increase in bureaucracy. A $5 per gallon tax on gasoline would reduce fatalities from accidents, pollution, and global warming by causing people to drive less. It would save billions of dollars that wouldn't need to be spent on wars to maintain the flow of oil. And without the wars, the threat of terrorism would be reduced as well. Unfortunately, simple, effective, and decent proposals are not in vogue these days, probably because there is nothing in a gas tax for ExxonMobil or General Motors.