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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat



    The story: Immediately after finishing second in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, filly Eight Belles broke both front ankles and collapsed. The injuries were so severe that the horse could not be moved, and she was euthanized on the track minutes later.

    The response: There’s a certain grim irony in the simultaneous existence of people who feed their cats Fancy Feast from crystal goblets and people who shoot their horses when they injure themselves. How is it that household pets are treasured like children, yet we’re still stuck in the “”Old Yeller”” era when it comes to horses?

    A 2006 Slate article, “”Why a Broken Leg Is Bad News for a Horse,”” explains the difficulties: Horses won’t sit still long enough for their bones to heal; or they’ll get a fatal infection because it’s too tricky to get enough antibiotics where you need them; or they’ll put too much weight on their other legs, causing their hooves to separate from the bone, which puts all the horse’s weight on the soft parts of its feet; or about a million other complications might arise.

    Because Eight Belles broke her ankles, and two of them at that, the choice was between letting her die slowly and painfully, or getting it over with humanely. But this tragic story must make us consider whether it’s really right to race horses the way we do at all – to train them to run so hard that they break their own limbs as a result. The death of Eight Belles is only the latest of many examples of the racing industry’s treatment of horses as a disposable means of entertainment – an attitude that should be challenged before more horses meet their fates at the tender age of three.

    The story: In recent weeks, prospective presidents Sen. John McCain and Sen. Hillary Clinton have both called for a “”gas tax holiday”” this summer, asking Congress to suspend the 18.4 cent federal tax on each gallon of gas sold in the United States. When asked yesterday on ‘This Week’ with George Stephanopoulos to name “”a credible economist”” supporting the tax plan, however, Clinton balked. Instead, she said, “”I’m not going to put my lot in with economists”” and dismissed the prevailing view that lowering gas taxes is a bad idea as “”elite opinion.””

    The response: If Hillary is really fed up with “”elite”” economists, she’d better say sayonara to Gene Sperling, her economic adviser, Robert Rubin, the ex-Secretary of the Treasury who’s long offered her campaign unofficial support; and Paul Krugman, the blowhard economist and New York Times columnist who regularly dotes over Clinton from the most influential op-ed page in the world (although even Krugman recently described the gas tax proposal as “”pointless and disappointing””).

    Then again, throwing all the Clinton campaign’s economists into the bus lane might not make much of a difference – with a platform full of such stupid economic policies as a massive new public health care scheme, “”profit taxes”” on energy companies, subsidies for ethanol and scrapping NAFTA in favor of trade protectionism, there’s little evidence that her economic advisers have been doing any advising in the first place.

    That’s too bad, because the “”gas tax holiday”” is the stupidest proposal of the campaign season so far. In fact, it’s got a little something for everyone to hate! Progressives can rally around the fact that cutting taxes on gas, a good with hugely inelastic supply, will just mean higher pre-tax prices at the pump and revenue for the oil companies they love to hate. Foreign policy hawks can complain about tax breaks for oil-rich nations in the Middle East. And environmentalists can oppose the fact that cheaper gas means more carbon emissions, and reflect the cost of covering the legitimate externalities created by gasoline. Unfortunately, cheap pandering all too often beats sound policy when it comes to economics. So grab a party hat and find the nearest noisemaker – if we have to have a stupid “”holiday,”” at least we can try to make it fun.

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