Tag Archives: economics

Republican Response

My own party sickens me with their response to the President’s State of the Union Address.  It appears that the Republicans continue their decade-long trend of a lack of vision and foresight and maintain the quasi-religious belief that all government action is bad.  While there are many failed policies, there is a time for rationality.

  • It does not make sense that healthcare is linked to your place of employment.
  • It does not make sense that we can fund foreign wars with over a trillion dollars while we let our own infrastructure decay and our schools turn to rot with a lack of funding.  Afghanistan was a just war, but Iraq was not.  However now future generations are stuck footing the multi-trillion dollar bill.
  • It does not make sense for the rich (defined here as $250k a year or more in annual income) to pay less money to support the very system that allowed them to become rich.
  • It is the Republican party that is dividing this country by engaging in class warfare – supporting the rich while the middle class and poor fail.  Otherwise why would they have blocked a tax cut extension (until the last minute) for millions of Americans while marching like lemmings to continue cutting taxes for the wealthy.
  • It is the Republican party that continues towards a self-fulling prophecy of cutting government services so that government fails.
  • It is not the wealthy who are job creators.  It is the middle class and the poor. This is simple math.  A human only needs to eat so much food, own so many cars, own so many houses.  With a fraction of the wealth distributed more evenly (so the US doesn’t have wealth disparity along the lines of most south American dictatorships), job creation would boom.  Go ask any millionare how much they spend on groceries a week against someone in the middle class.  It’d probably be about the same.  Guess how many middle class families you  could have for ~$1 million a year?  Let’s be generous and say 4.  That’s FOUR TIMES as much consumption.
  • It is the Republicans who advocate for more foreign energy imports (Hello Keystone XL, ITS IN CANADA) through their continued denial of climate change science and continue to promote monarchies and strong-men across the globe rather than fostering policies that encourage democracy.
  • It was the deregulation in California that caused the energy crisis, and it was deregulation of banks that caused the housing bubble.
  • It is the Republicans who claim to be for small government while advocating for invasive policies into individual liberties.  Heaven forbid someone should have the inherent right to control their own body (birth control, abortion, ability to end your life when it is the correct time), or marry whom they please.  They push their conservative religious agenda on everyone while complaining about how there isn’t enough protection for religious freedom.

My party needs to get off of it’s high horse and come to terms with the world we live in.  Not some fantasy dream land.  Bring me a candidate who applies reason and logic to policies, with a true view of small government and I will consider them.  The Enlightenment was one of the greatest occurrences in the West, but the Republicans turn their backs to reason.  Until they come to see reason again, I will continue to vote for the Democrats, who at least seem to get one thing right: basic human rights and the ability to pursue happiness without religious persecution.

So called “Pledge to America”…

… and why no one who advocates for smaller government should fall for it.

Today the House Republicans issued their so-called “Pledge for America“.  It is merely another source of worthless pandering from a party that likes to think it still has some shred of fiscal conservatism left to it.

In the first page, it manages to raise the specter of tyranny, creates ghosts of “an unchecked executive, a compliant legislature, and an overreaching judiciary” which have “combined to thwart the will of the people”.  So let me get this straight: President Obama has managed to pass every bit of legislature he wanted to, there have been no filibusters in the Senate, and the CONSERVATIVE MAJORITY Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Roberts is overreaching? (Okay, I’ll agree to this last point, but not as something that is leaning in the direction the House Republicans who drafted this document would want you to believe.)

For all the fact that the document raises these issues, it is worthwhile to note that I have heard tell that about the only thing the Founding Fathers feared as much as tyranny was the uneducated masses, and some probably would have sided with tyranny.

Assorted pledges take up the bottom half of the first page and roll on the second.  However, when looking at the track record of unethical “family-values” behavior (how many sex scandals do you need?), lack of transparency (how many millions were “misplaced” or “lost track of” under President Bush and the Republicans?), and honest in its dealings (again, how many WMD did we find in Iraq?), this document is nothing more than wool that is being pulled over people’s eyes.

It talks about “job killing tax hikes”, yet taxes were higher under Reagan and Clinton (and boy were those Clinton years good economically).  It offers vague platitudes about stopping “out-of-control spending” when the Republican record on massive growth of government (don’t forget the military budget folks) actually has changed, almost flipped, over the last few decades.  I haven’t vetted this source, but I’d recommend checking it out (also check here).

It talks about the horrors of government run health care: Fine, be honest, get out there and start talking about repealing Medicare and Medicade.  That same crappy government run health care that had conservative protesters out on the street telling the government to not take it away.  That is the will of the people.

The “tax hikes” that are coming are an end is the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts that were deceivingly set to end after 10-years, so that their impacts wouldn’t need to be analyzed and the impacts to debt shown.  While the GOP focuses often on GDP, I agree with many that a better measure is median and mean average income.  This Times article is quite informational on the topic, and the charts here on State of the USA also paint a picture that the GOP doesn’t like to bring up.  Yes, the USA as a whole has increased GDP quite drastically.  However, for the average person, you were better off, substantially, a decade ago (before the tax cuts) than you are today.

The most infuriating issue with the “Pledge” is that it has few to no concrete details about what programs will be cut.  It talks suddenly about the need for fiscal constraint, during a recession, after 8 years of reckless spending.  It talks about how much we are spending on the paying debt for the US having more in debts than in income.  Yet, when one looks at a chart on US debt, such as this one on Wikipedia, there is a decided trend.  President Regan enters office… debt skyrockets, dips in the latter Clinton years, and then explodes under Bush.  But maybe this is why the “Pledge” likes to couch things in terms of “non-security” discretionary spending.  Maybe it is because of the amount of money (ignoring the literal human cost) poured into Iraq (a war we didn’t need to go into), to the tune of, about $750 billion in roughly the last 8 years.  That’s money that’s not going towards better roads, better education or health care.  Money not going towards the American people that the disingenuous Republican party leadership would have you ignore in the accounting.

All of these falsehoods, burying of true costs, yet the document at the beginning would have you believe it was going to be more transparent.  It’s another pack of lies that the Party leadership would have us believe.  Instead they should come clean and support PRECISE programs they would cut and their impacts.  Otherwise it’s nothing but more hot air.

South Dakota supports Astrology

A rather interesting excerpt from proposed legislation in South Dakota (emphasis added).  I’ll just let this one stand on its own….

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the House of Representatives of the Eighty fifth Legislature of the State of South Dakota, the Senate concurring therein, that the South Dakota Legislature urges that instruction in the public schools relating to global warming 14 include the following:

(1) That global warming is a scientific theory rather than a proven fact;

(2) That there are a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect world weather phenomena and 18 that the significance and interrelativity of these factors is largely speculative; and

(3) That the debate on global warming has subsumed political and philosophical 20 viewpoints which have complicated and prejudiced the scientific investigation of 21 global warming phenomena; and …

Nuclear revival in the US?

Yesterday, the NY Times had an article about US funding for 2 new nuclear plants in Georgia (the state, not the country).  I am cautiously optimistic about this project, while at the same time dreading it.  I have long been a supporter of nuclear energy, since the science behind radiation is much more well understood than the interactions related to climate change.  However, I believe that supporters need to be clear in what nuclear energy is, and is not.

In so much as it is used to replace or prevent construction of coal burning (or probably natural gas as well) power plants, this is a good idea.  However, nuclear energy is not emissions free.  Concrete is associated with large quantities of CO2 emissions, and uranium mining has its own environmental drawbacks based on how it is performed.  More importantly, there is no federal repository for nuclear waste.  Instead it is collecting at the individual nuclear power plant sites across the US.

Regarding overall CO2 emissions, I am a fan of nuclear because it can provide low emissions baseload power.  That is, they can run essentially 24/7.  They are highly reliable as well, and are not intermittent (nor do they have the associated problems with intermittent).  Perhaps one day, in a few decades, other alternatives might be cost effective and reliable, such as storage, but until then, we need something that can reduce baseload emissions in a (fairly) clean manner.  And, I believe, that nuclear power is the best way forward…. for now.

Bin Laden, Climate Change, and Extremism

A new Bin Laden tape strikes out against the US… on its environmental platform?

He comes out against industrialized countries for not halting climate change, and then goes into the usual blame game.  This time however, his intent was “to inflict harm on the US economy” by encouraging nations to switch away from the greenback to other currencies.

While undoubtedly true, it is also hard to deny that those “other currencies” also come from the largest polluter (China), and one of the top exporters of GHG emitting fuels in the world (Russia), so it’s not really an accurate portrayal of the world.  Not to mention the hypocrisy of Bin Laden (with the size of the Bin Laden family construction business) coming out against climate change, when I am fairly certain most of the ardent followers of Bin Laden probably don’t believe in climate change (not that I know this for certain, religious-types tend towards lack of trust in science).

However, the more important part of the announcement is the shift towards environmental topics.  I believe it indicates that Bin Laden’s core ideology is losing strength, support, and relevance due to his isolation in Afghanistan/Pakistan.  This is an attempt to expand his reach and scope, despite the fact that a great deal of existing environmental damage is due to overpopulation and poor management of existing resources.

It is interesting to see Al Qaeda/Bin Laden adopt an environmental plank to their platform, however, ultimately the logic fails.  Shifting from the greenback to another currency will do little to nothing to affect or impact climate change.  Instead it merely promotes the misunderstanding and self-gratification, based on a slender kernel of truth, that extremists so largely operate under.

Google, China, and a stand on human rights

Quietly in the background of other news this morning (1/13/2010), there has been a statement from Google: that they will end the censoring of searches in China (it has been pointed out to me that there was a segment on 1/13 on Newshour.  At the time of my publishing this, it had yet to hit the front page of mainstream news, such as the NYT, local newspapers, or other such media.  I am also unable to find at what time Newshour released its article, but believe it was in the evening).  According to Google, this could end with Google.cn closing for business.  Why would Google pull out of China?  Because they used Google to launch attacks against human rights workers in China and across the globe.

I am glad that Google is taking a strong stand against cyberattacks, and hope that they follow through with their threat.  China has long been suspected of being a haven for cybercriminals, and for government sponsorship of cybercrime.  However, businesses, seeing lucrative profits in the rapidly growing economy, have been willing to pander to Chinese interests so they could gain access.  Supporting economic growth is one thing; standing aside while human rights watchers’ accounts are violated, while the government cracks down on free speech, and essentially just turning your head is another.

Why is Google’s involvement and taking a stance so critical?  Because Google is the 1,000 lb gorilla in the room.  Yes, some search engines will fill in the void if google closes down google.cn, but google.com still operates (for those who can use english), and other companies might also finally find the leadership and courage that it takes to stand against oppression.  It has always seemed odd to me, that the same media that always cries for freedom in the US, is so willing to bow to demands for censorship in other countries.  After all, there is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Q&A on the Declaration), which was broadly adopted (although without any binding legal force), by the United Nations.  China has also ratified other humans rights documents.

As with most cases of international law, it is hard to enforce.  China may say that it will protect human rights, but until the consumers and corporations which provide the lifeblood to the economy demand that those rights be enforced, it will do as it wills.  Hopefully Google will be a step in the right direction.

North Dakota, Minnesota, and carbon taxes

North Dakota has announced its intention to sue Minnesota over a proposed electrical generation carbon tax.

This should prove an interesting case for the courts.

Now, why would North Dakota be angry about Minnesota introducing an electrical generation carbon tax?  Because it exports electricity to Minnesota, which is its only sizable neighbor.  It also uses coal almost exclusively for its power generation.  Cheap, dirty coal.  Now, for those who are proponents of coal, as a nationally produced resource, I agree that it contributes to energy security from that angle.  However, the environmental costs of coal mining and coal-burning are well-known and documented.  In the US, a recent example in 2008 was the sludge that broke free of a dam in Tennessee.  The costs so far are approaching $1,000 million.

In some research I did a number of years back, preliminary carbon cost adder estimates to impact a state using primarily coal-fired power were in the $250+ per ton of emissions.  That is around 20 times what carbon is trading for in European markets, and about 2.5 times greater than most estimates I’ve even heard bandied about for a “high” carbon tax.  Needless to say, I do not think North Dakota faces a serious threat.  Now, Americans for Prosperity claims that it is “a significant carbon dioxide tax” while the reported amount from Scientific American is $3 – $34, hardly a “significant” level.  (In California, which pays MUCH higher rates for electricity, $50 per ton is about what it takes to shift the market away from fossil-fired power plants).  Additionally, retail sales have grown in Minnesota year over year (data reported as recent as 2007 – excel file), which would place an increase in demand, somewhat, if not entirely counteracting the effects of a carbon tax.

What strikes me as truly funny about the entire situation, is that North Dakota is considered “the Saudi Arabia of wind.” California has been discussing building the transmission necessary to get wind from Wyoming to California, yet North Dakota can’t get their energy across a single state line?  That thought aside, there is already transmission running from North Dakota to Minnesota… you’d just need to tie in the wind generation and ramp down the coal-fired plants a bit.

In all, I find North Dakota’s reluctance odd.  They have a neighbor willing to buy energy, have bountiful wind resources, yet they do not want to sell clean energy (apparently since they are against the tax that would also disadvantage generators of fossil-fuels regardless of location) to a state that wants to purchase it.  If that is not a perfect case of starting to internalize an externality (Wikipedia definition) and then letting the free-market resolve the situation, I don’t know what is.