Following is an exclusive excerpt from Senator Chuck Schumer's new book Positively American: Winning Back the Middle-Class Majority One Family at a Time:
The first section of the book - part campaign diary, part political history - introduces the middle-class Bailey family. Sen. Schumer then lays out eleven ambitious, but attainable, goals which he calls the 50% Solution.
Excerpted from Positively American:
Once upon a time, in that long-ago decade known as the 1990s, energy was not the Baileys' concern. The economy was strong. Gas and electricity were cheap. As far as they could tell, there was no problem. Sure, they remembered waiting in line during the gas shortage in the late 1970s, but that felt like ancient history. It was a peculiar symptom of a strange time--like bell-bottoms, disco and stagflation--not something that would ever come back.
They knew about OPEC and didn't much like the countries in it. They had heard about global warming; whether true or not, it didn't seem like a pressing problem. Conservation was a nice idea--for celebrities. None of it had a whole lot to do with them.
Then, gas prices began to rise out of control.
Now, even when gas prices dip a little lower, people know that, over time, high prices are here to stay. What started six years ago as a tickling irritation has exploded in the public's mind. Now, energy matters.
Suddenly, other problems associated with our energy policy resonate a lot more.
Energy dependence weakens us as a nation. Hundreds of billions of dollars flow out of our country each year. We are like a giant who is bleeding slowly from the wrists. For a while the giant stays strong. Then, for a while longer, he weakens slowly. Finally, the slow bleed brings him to his knees. We are a wonderful country, the strongest and wealthiest in the world. But how much longer can we continue to be dependent on foreign energy? For five more years we can probably handle it. For ten? Maybe. For twenty? I don't think so.
Worst of all, the bleeding dollars serve to strengthen those who would most like us to be weak. Among the most antagonistic of the major oil-producing countries are Iran and Venezuela. Even countries that aren't antagonistic, like Russia, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, are needed in a way that warps our foreign policy and makes their interests too significant. Most of these countries are not enemies, nor should they be. But it's foolhardy to trust them as best friends. Today, we need those countries more than we need almost any others in the world. They hold our economy in their hands. Whatever they do, however they act, we need them. It's bad enough that they set the price of gas; it's terrifying that they often set our foreign policy, too.
The environmental consequences of foreign oil are another related problem. Hurricane Katrina--which pushed the price of gas over $3 a gallon--is the most enduring image. But global warming goes beyond the increased likelihood of disasters like Hurricane Katrina. It seems to be having other, unpredictable effects as well. A few months ago, just as winter turned into summer almost overnight, my mother called me.
"Look at this weather, Chuck!" she admonished me before I could ask how she was. "We had no spring! Last year--no fall. They're gone. The weather's gotten weird! What's next? Do something about it."
I wasn't willing to take the blame for that day's mugginess, but I couldn't disagree with the larger point. The weather has gotten weird. It's hard to know what's next, but it's all too likely that whatever it is will affect Joe and Eileen.
Foreign oil's effects on national security and global warming are in the public's consciousness like never before. Today, many believe that we might never have gone into Iraq if not for foreign oil. Many wonder if Hurricane Katrina might never have happened if not for the global warming caused by burning oil. Issues that are less immediate are part of a story that the Baileys now care about.
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