Inflation used to be a bad thing in Washington, but no more. Barack Obama has not only come out in favor of inflation, he sees it as a panacea to cure our energy problems. Not price inflation, he explains, but tire inflation. Put more air in your tires and use less gas. You may have thought Obama was a gasbag; turns out he is actually an airhead.
For years we have been hearing that properly inflated tires save gas by keeping your engine from having to push too hard. On the other hand, we are constantly warned not to overinflate for fear of damaging the tires. I must sheepishly confess that as a student I once did that and paid the price. We were sitting in the classroom and heard a powerful explosion outside. The students all ran to the window to look, but instead of witnessing a showdown with terrorists or a meteor crater, they all had a good laugh at my expense. My little Toyota Corolla was leaning forward and to one side like a sculpture of a huge slice of pizza. The front left tire had a hole blown in it the size of a basketball.
Bottom line, filling your tires to exact equilibrium is one of those examples of perfection in managing our lives, perfection that is not really achievable. It is like finding the precise spot on your thermostat to cool your house in summer to where eating a fried egg won’t make you give back a cupful of sweat. Or to heat your house in winter just enough so you can cuddle under your quilt without its feeling like a Turkish bath.
What we all do as reasonable people is to change our oil every 3000 miles and mention to the guy in greasy overalls: “Could you check my tires, please?” He usually grunts, and you hope that means he’ll remember. When you come back to pick the car up, you spend the first four blocks of driving on selling yourself that the ride has a springier feel. Then you forget the whole thing and hope for the best. That, Senator Obama, is what is known as ‘life’.
In larger political terms, Senator Obama has been cornered — or has painted himself into a corner. This is a huge break for the McCain campaign, and they are sharp enough to cash in. The RNC has already sent out a fundraising e-mail offering a special Obama Plan tire gauge to friends who will donate 25 dollars. Their instincts are pitch-perfect on this, for two key reasons, one social, one political.
The social reason is that most people dislike schoolmarms, nags, purists and the whole spectrum of petty carping. In a Yiddish word that has worked its way into American idiom, this is known as being a nudnik (verb = nudzhing). We have always heard that we can reuse the brown paper bag from our lunches to store nails. We can file our old sneaker soles down into pencil erasers. Wash out those cup thingies from medicines and detergents and you have a convenient drinking utensil for picnics. And if you save those fax cover letters instead of tossing them, you can use the reverse side as notepaper and keep your stationery cost stationary. Yes, there are a few people among us who mine all those wonderful nuggets, and they have our admiration. We also have a name for them: Ralph Nader voters.
The political reason is that small ideas win small offices, big ideas win big offices. Run for the school board on a global peace plank and you will be free to travel around the world after losing the election. Yet you can win that same race with a proposal as limited as putting the bus service contract up for bids. Conversely, you can win the Presidency sooner with soaring waves of universalist rhetoric than with teeny-weeny policy ripples. Imagine making a fundraising call to Bill Gates and asking for millions to help elect an exciting new administration which will get all Americans to put air in their tires! I would love to be a fly on the wall listening to that reaction.
The idea of drilling offshore and in ANWR is an idea whose time has come… a long time ago. The Hill passed a bill to drill back in 1995 but Bill vetoed. The Democrat version of the Beverly Hillbillies put the Texas tea back in the cup and the black gold back into the mine. People did not react strongly then, because the need did not seem as pressing. The Obama campaign is off-the-road on this one, and their tires are beginning to deflate.