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The Bangor Daily News (Maine)

Cartoon Hero Will Save the Day

"There's no need to fear, Underdog is here!"- Wally Cox, the voice of NBC's Underdog

That's what the 20th century cartoon hero said every time his girlfriend, journalist cartoon character, Sweet Polly Purebred needed him.

The part of Underdog for the duration of this column -- and now that I've pictured it in my mind, possibly forever -- will be played by our own President George W. Bush.

And as of Monday night, the part of Purebred will be played by the distressed CBS Evening News anchor, Katie Couric. Couric, in a style reminiscent of the troubled Purebred, summoned the celluloid hero to my mind's eye as she read a news story about the United States economic stimulus package.

Couric reported a substantial rise in the price of fuel since Congress approved the president's plan. And as oil prices soared this week, it turns out that the average $600 bonus that today's Americans will be borrowing from their grandchildren won't cover the cost of this year's newly inflated gas prices.

I'm flabbergasted.

I'll clean your house and cook your dinner if you can explain to me how ballooning a deficit that itself is contributing to our country's inflation problems and further mortgaging the lives of our descendents to pay for the increased cost of our most rapidly inflating commodity can help us stem inflation.

I mean it. Clean your house and cook your dinner. But you have to explain the lunacy that our president calls economic recovery in simple terms; you know, so even a befuddled heroine like Purebred can understand.

Let's face it, you're never getting that dinner.

This week Ron Scherer of the Christian Science Monitor -- with the help of Moody's -- did however, explain the opposite. Together they explained how oil prices will, in just a few months, have gobbled up the entire expected government handout and how said handout will actually fuel oil company profits and make matters much worse.

Here's what Scherer reported, "In the past three months, average consumer spending on energy came to $663 billion, or 6.5 percent of total consumer spending. A year ago, it represented 5.8 percent." In simple terms: "If gasoline breaks through $4 a gallon by Memorial Day, that would mean spending on gasoline would have risen by $100 billion since the beginning of the year, or roughly the size of the tax rebate checks going out."

Industry too is hurt by the high fuel profits, which only promise to go higher, as our government encourages even more increases by distributing cash to us so that we in turn can afford swollen oil prices.

Or as Scherer explains, virtually every other U.S. business is put at risk when we subsidize the profit margin of the oil companies. "A government report showed how energy prices are eating into the corporate bottom line. The March producer price index, a measure of changes in wholesale prices, rose 1.1 percent over the prior month. So far this year, the PPI is up 6.9 percent," he wrote.

We're increasing oil companies riches instead of building alternative infrastructures that would sustain other businesses and individuals.

According to Monday's Providence Journal, "The United States, with the lowest fuel efficient vehicles and longest average commutes in the world, is the only major industrialized country to witness a surge in oil consumption since the severe oil shortages of the 1970s and the 1980s."

While European nations have taxed fuel to pay for other more efficient forms of transportation, the U.S. has taken an Underdog approach to the problem; swooping in with borrowed cash to pay the ransom oil companies demand on our transportation and heating needs.

Next week President Underdog will begin mailing you your stimulus check. Why not photocopy it and on the photocopy where your name appears, write the name of the big oil company that provides the gas or heating oil to your local dealer.

Then send that photocopy to Purebred over at CBS. Maybe if she gets enough letters she'll report the truth.

We are laundering money for the president to his oil industry buddies.

Yes Polly, Underdog works for arch villain Simon Bar Sinister.

Better not forget Sinister's big dipper machine -- our water supply is next.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Pat LaMarche

Pat LaMarche

Pat LaMarche is an author, activist and advocate. She is the author of "Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States."  Her new novel, The Magic Diary, is due out in late spring.

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