Who knows what all got stuck onto that 700 billion dollar bailout bill? Earmarks? Sheeeeeit. That thing had Facemarks, Assmarks, and Dongmarks slapped all up in it.
But not all Legislative Sausagemaking is bad. Sometimes along with a failed economic policy, you get a package of rBGH, no anitbiotics, free-range, humanely slaughtered turkey sausages. Tofurkey even?
For one thing, because bills of taxation and revenue must originate in the House, The Senate hawked that thing up from their legislative throats and loogied it onto a House bill by Patrick Kennedy, a Representative from my favorite state, Rhode Island.
Kennedy’s initial bill called for Mental Health Parity, meaning that if an insurance plan treats mental health problems, it is now obligated to treat them just as if they were heart or limb problems. Yay! More on that here.
Even more fun is the news from Portland, reported by the NYT here. Representative Earl Blumenauer had long championed the idea that Bicycle commuters should get a tax break for riding to work. After all, parking is heavily subsidized, highways are paved with taxpayer dollars, and workers can often get a public transportation tax credit. But for those who emit zero-emissions? Zilch. Until now.
Some rascal tacked it onto the bailout bill, probably in an effort to win Blumenauer’s vote — he was one of the 12 Dems who voted against the bill when it went down in the House. He didn’t vote for it on the second go round either, but there were enough sweeteners for Republicans that it passed without his support.
Starting in January, riders who take their bikes to work should recieve a $20/month tax credit towards, “the purchase of a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, if such bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee’s residence and place of employment.” It is unclear if the credit will be paid directly to the Employee, or if the Employer simply deducts it from his taxes.
Other bits of Tofu in the bill are covered here by Wired, and include, “geothermal, solar thermal, tidal, and wave power, plug-in hybrid cars, and energy efficiency aids.”
According to NYT as of July, an estimated 131,000 people bike to work each day in New York City. So if each of these people gets his or her shiz together and gets their sweet sweet $20 tax credit, they could soon be pumping $2.62 million per month into New York Bike Culture. This would keep all the skinnyjeans greasemonkeys so flush they might even be able to afford an extra chain ring and some brakes for their jerkoff fixies.
Also, maybe people will use their rebate to WEAR A HELMET.
When talking to people in New York about bike riding, pretty much the universal response is this, “It looks like fun, but I am afraid of dying.”
This is a very legitimate fear. The ghost bikes are a frightening testament to the dangers of biking in the city.
But with legitimate recognition from the federal government and a cash incentive to ride, more cyclists will be in the streets, which will put more pressure on the DOT for more bike lanes, which will make riding safer, which will make it more popular, which will result in more bike lanes. . . and round and round we go.
Another nice thing about giving people $20 to ride their bikes, is it sucks the self-righteousness out of pedal power. Instead of suffering through the rain and earning karma and carbon credits at the same time, bike commuters will be acting out of self-interest, which brings them into the fold of mainstream American culture.
The Zen of it: For Green to mean Anything, it has to mean Nothing. That is, it has to be totally mainstream, not linked to coolness.