Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sick transit (but not a glorious Monday)

That Hugo Chavez. He's really a bad guy. Good thing that the uptight upright folks of the Chicago Transit Authority weren't fooled by his nasty offer of deeply discounted (40% - 50%) Venezuelan fuel oil for its bus fleet. It came with unacceptable strings attached, you see: that CTA offer savings to poor riders via free or discounted fare cards. Imagine the nerve!

The CTA are made of sterner stuff than politicians in Boston and New York who are glad to get cheap home heating oil for their poorer citizens. Now the CTA can go ahead with its planned 25 cent fare hike to make up a budget shortfall. That'll show those commie Venezuelans who's boss. And poor Chicagoans, who weren't even told of the offer, are grateful:
"This is going to hurt the poor and the minority people, like me," said Dorothy Chew, resident of Humboldt Park, where one-third of residents live below the federally recognized poverty level – currently just $16,000 for a family of three. Chew relies on the CTA to get to work and to Chicago Commons, where she attends classes daily in preparation for taking her GED. Since she rarely has money to invest in a fare card, she will be forced to pay for transfers the majority of the time.

Chew's classmate, Linda Cox, works a minimum-wage job and has been a Public Aid recipient for 15 years. She also relies heavily on public transportation.

"I only earn $560 a month and of that, over $200 a month goes to my bus fare," Cox told The NewStandard. "I have a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old who also need to get to school. If they change the prices and take away transfers, there are going to be a lot of days missed. I already see no money at the end of the month." (The New Standard via The Un-Capitalist Journal)
Let's see if other localities will have the gumption to let their citizens go broke or freeze as a matter of principle. Because there is suspicion the Venezuelan government is trying to curry favor with the American people via "petro-diplomacy." If true, this is shocking, just shocking. What kind of government would use aid to the poor as a political ploy?

And the US is not the only poor country Venezuela is trying this trick on. They have been providing discounted oil to other countries in Latin America too, who, like the US, have huge numbers of poor people.
"It is part of [Venezuela's] policy to compensate for the impact of the high oil prices on poor people," [the Centere for Economic and Policy Research's Mark Weisbrot] said. "They don't have any grudge against the American people; it's just the Bush administration that they don't like."

[Venezuelan] Consul Sanchez echoed this sentiment. "Any corporation that makes a big profit in a community owes that community something in return," he said. With one of Citgo's three light-oil refineries located in nearby Lemont, 30 minutes outside the city, Sanchez said, Venezuela has "a special relationship with people and community organizations in Chicago."
The CTA showed them.

Coincidentally, CTA just got $89 million via the Federal Transportation Appropriations bill from the Bush Congress. This allows them to go forward with their fare hike. No strings attached. I'm sure their courageous (but secret) rebuff of the Chavez offer had nothing to do with it.

Very sure . . . aren't you?