George Bush's Stupid Boss
This morning twelve American tourists were killed when a bus left the road in Chile. I guess tourism is a dangerous business. I don't know whether seat belts would have saved them, but in my experience, many vehicles in other countries do not have seat belts. Years ago, a girl I knew died in the Pyrannees when her 12-seater crashed into a mountain. About ten times that many, 120 or so, were killed yesterday in automobile accidents in the United States, drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists. Our highways are definitely dangerous for people of all ages. Killed or injured last year in the US in highway related events were 2.8 million people. Damn! The estimated economic cost of these crashes is about 230 billion dollars.
Highway deaths and injuries constitute a major policy issue. The government, at various levels including local, spends a lot of money and consideration on this issue. There are also a number of non-profits, such as MADD and Consumer Reports, and corporate lobbyists, mostly from insurance companies, who get involved, pushing particular safety issues. We're talking about even more money and discussion and politics. When are we going to get out of this business of driving on highways?
Personally, I am a public transportation advocate. Bicycles are cool too. If we could get the cars off the roads, bicycles would be pretty safe. I also don't think we can keep using fossil fuel for much longer. To me, bicycles, small electric cars and railroads reprepresent the sustainable future. It would be so much more pleasant as well. I don't think it has to happen tomorrow. I'm not expecting that, but we should ask ourselves where do we want to be going, and why are we not going there.
Now, some people are willing to burn down ski resorts or risk lumberjack lives by spiking trees. I am not among those. Other people are willing to murder abortion providers, or spit on soldiers returning from war, or burn down embassies to protest cartoons, or chop down acres of woodland to protest EPA decisions, or resort to character assassination to get their candidates elected. Everybody thinks they're right, and many are willing to get extreme in order to impose their wishes.
We have a democracy here. This is the most liberal construction every fashioned by humans. It's a system that functions pretty poorly, at least from the perspective of individuals with their own opinions. But it outshines the dubious glories of all past civilizations by a considerable margin. As required by any functioning system of government, it has mechanisms for arriving at decisions and enforcing those decisions. This is a good thing. The President, for example, is constrained by laws, public opinion and the facts. His staff and the agencies of the federal government provide him with all manner of information related to those three constraints and he makes summary assessments as best as he can. Republicans and Democrats tend to evaluate these things a little differently, but from a reasonable perspective, the differences are not great. The facts, or rather intelligence information, is something he has that we don't. There is a lot of sharing going on, but his sources are better than your sources. He also knows how to get elected, which makes him smarter than you. He knows how to balance information coming from ABC and NYC and PRC. He's good at making decisions or he wouldn't be there. His decisions can be vetoed by his wife, advisors, staff members, cabinet officers, congressional leaders, Congress or the People. In short, he doesn't always get his way, but when he does he has the full force of the state behind him.
Let me say it this way. Bill Clinton was vetoed on the health care plan by Harry and Louise. George Bush was vetoed on Social Security reform by AARP. He has been stymied on many, many of his initiatives, but no one kept him out of Iraq. So can we at least credit that decision for having some legitimate support? Nobody liked it when Bill Clinton bombed the Serbs in Kosovo. Everybody complained when Reagan pushed the Soviets as hard as he did. War is not the easy choice for us, but we do it anyway because it is sometimes the correct choice. The occupant of the White House may not be the best choice for the position, but the system put him there and he's entitled to respect.
Now let's look at traffic deaths. There have been subtle adjustments in the budget allocated to auto safety, changes inpersonnel as well. Money is being spent on other priorities, but in my state, at least, the fatalities have dropped about 7 percent, or 111 per year, since the recent peak in 2002. The number of cars and miles traveled has gone up. President Bush has maintained a steady course in terms of traffic safety to keep the number of deaths down. He hasn't killed the safety programs. He hasn't screwed them up too bad. And nobody has noticed. They don't need to notice.
What people have noticed are the deaths of soldiers in Iraq. This is the emotional trump card of the anti-war folks. How can it be worthwhile to lose all these young lives? What benefit can possibly be obtained that will pay us back? Surely that stupid man, GW Bush, graduate of Yale and one time National Guard pilot, can't have any insight into this. He has erred! He has lied! He is bleeding us dry! We have no reserve capacity!
So I compare deaths of soldiers to traffic deaths in the US. People find this emotionally repugnant, but I'm doing it only to gain perspective on our true costs in Iraq. I have also compared our losses to those incurred in other wars, to D-Day and Gettysburg. Others have done so as well. By those standards this war has to be characterized as a small engagement. IMO, it is hugely important, but not expensive.
Now, Proud Kaffir at RedState has compared these losses to peacetime military losses under previous presidents. Surprise! We're actually doing better. Wretchard does an excellent job of looking at these numbers from all angles. Please take a look.