From powerline: A video of Israel haters scouring a French supermarket to remove Israeli products from the shelf. There isn't a manager in sight. All the shoppers go about their business like it is 1942 Vichy France. The video was apparently shot in the northeastern suburbs of Paris that gained attention as the scene of the mysterious French "youth" riots of 2005.
This video is even more grotesque than you think. It was shot in a suburb of Paris called Aulnay-sous-Bois. The next-door town to Aulnay is called Drancy, about one mile away. Drancy was used by the Nazis between 1942-1944 as a deportation holding camp for the Jews of Paris prior to the deportation to the extermination camps in eastern Europe. Sixty-five thoursand Jews passed through Drancy, of whom 63,000 were killed. In other words, the Israeli boycotters have chosen, of all the supermarkets in France, the one closest to France's most important Holocaust memorial site. Look on Google Maps to see how close they are.
"China registered 6.1 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the first quarter of 2009, down from the 6.8 percent growth rate for the fourth quarter of 2008."
That's a bit hard to believe for an export-based economy with falling exports. Considering all the false economic statistics bandied around here in the U.S., makes me wonder how accurate theirs are. Strat goes on to question those numbers as well. Their analysis is excellent IMO.
The Chinese economy is less that one third of the US, with more than 4 times as many people to support. The people's acceptance of the government comes from a) coercion and b) a sense of security including economic. Not exactly positioned for large downturns or turmoil.
Speaking of nuclear weapons in the middle east, the Iraq Study Group concluded that although we did not find stockpiles of WMD, that Saddam in 2002 retained the ability and determination to restart his programs and would likely have nuclear weapons capabilities within 5-7 years. FWIW, 5-7 years has gone by. Obama and Israel are lucky to have this one threat removed as they attempt to isolate Iran. --
I favor Israel dropping its nuclear weapons program also ... dropping in on Iran's nuclear facilities.
"Huge deal that this is, I believe it understates the number-- and we need to remember that health care is about 15% of GDP. Put the two together and we are looking at the feds being about 40% of GDP."
And then add in 'Government Motors' and the impending takeover of the energy sector... Luckily you don't have a large state government also. ---
"Clinton says U.S. debt to China threatens security - Monday, March 31, 2008" GM: "**So, was Hillary right?**"
Of course she had it exactly upside down. The fact they are invested in the U.S. may be our only security after Obama-Pelosi unilaterally disarm us. ---
Couple of months ago I posted: "the only check/balance on the American Left machine is 'Communist China'. If they stop buying our debt, we will have to cut spending by most of the $10 trillion (and eat the rest as inflation) even without the participation in the process of Republicans."
With the Specter jump and Al Franken likely, China's unwillingness to buy more debt has become the 41st senator. As with other debt ridden third world countries, they may require some restructuring and discipline before agreeing to a 'bailout'. Hopefully they will also impose their lower business tax rates on us as part of any agreement.
At this point I would rather see Obama inflate than borrow on that scale. Then maybe we can muster up the political will to spend less.
"President Obama is pouring more than 20,000 new troops into Afghanistan this year"
Just a note on political support for the wars, I notice most signs and stickers on liberal homes and cars that said "Stop the War" and "End the War" seem to be down. Turns out it was more about who they were protesting than what they were opposing.
From 'Rest in Peace' , Sen. Specter blamed the Republican party for the death of Jack Kemp. My first reaction is just bad manners; sounds like Specter is getting angry and bitter along with growing old. I saw Specter on the shows - he is not senile but getting a little slower and sadly desperate in his cling to power. For his new party, though, this type of thinking is an accepted pattern. They said the same things about cures they say should have happened for Christopher Reeves and Michael J. Fox.
Besides bad manners, one issue with Reeves and Fox is the stem cell issue and the other with Specter, Kemp and cancer is about public spending. (Let's leave stem cell controversy for another day.)
Public spending on medical research is Specter's beef (or maybe he's just rambling because he saw a camera and microphone on - like Biden does). My view is out of the mainstream, but I think the federal government should be a whole lot smaller, the cost should be a whole lot lower, privately we would be a whole lot wealthier and then our favorite form of charity might be to give money directly to medical research for the ailments that are most likely to strike our families. Cancer research is certainly at or near the top of anyone's list.
Ironically, prostate cancer might be one of the most likely types many people here might face and the survival rate here is the U.S. under our current, 'failed' system with underfunded research is far higher than in the countries with the national healthcare systems that we strive to emulate.
If we were to slash all the programs out of the budget that aren't called for in the constitution I would hopefully cut medical research last, but I would prefer to see it off of coercion-based funding. That's just me, but I wouldn't put a man on the moon at taxpayer expense either.
One objection I always have is that we measure compassion (and results) in dollars spent. As some watching the global warming fiasco have noticed, science at major institutions sometimes seems to be more about the funding than about the cure or the truth. Published results always seem to call for more study needed and more funding. CCP, you have more real world exposure to the medical research side than most of us so let us know what you see...
Another related point is that in health care we spend a huge portion of the money on the last 6 months of life. In the federal budget other than medical research we spend zillions on programs that are either counter productive or lower in benefit to cost ratio than crucial medical research. Setting priorities means putting something AHEAD of something else for funding, not just sending more and more to every feel-good bill that ever passed a previous congress. Did Specter make clear what we should spend LESS on in order to fund eternal life?
Two ideas for government involvement in research: a) offer rewards for results instead of funding for study, or b) consider buying up the best patents and then making 'the cures' available everywhere for free, a public good.
MD's here may see it differently but I doubt that there is 'a cure' or elimination for cancer. I think that we just trudge forward with better preventions, better treatments, better results and longer life expectancies just like we are doing and seeing now.
[If Specter really wanted to save lives and protect the weakest among us, he could change his position on the first issue he mentioned having in common with his new party, pro-choice support for abortion rights.]
(2009-05-01) — As speculation runs rampant about who President Barack Obama will pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, two long-time associates of the president have downplayed rumors that their names might be on the president’s short list.
William Ayers, a Chicago educator and Jeremiah Wright, Mr. Obama’s former pastor, each denied they had been in recent contact with the White House.
“While I have been a vocal advocate of justice for years,” said Rev. Wright, “I’m enjoying my retirement, traveling around, and spreading the good news of God’s condemnation of America. I’m certainly qualified for the high court, and I already have the wardrobe, but these rumors are premature.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Ayers, who exploded onto the national scene in the 1960s and 70s, and has intimate knowledge of the legal system, said he’s “too busy preparing youth to live in the new America to mull a court appointment at this time.”
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said it’s unlikely that the president would appoint either Mr. Ayers or Rev. Wright, “since he knows many other similarly-qualified candidates with less name recognition.”
God Bless Jack Kemp. He was an inspiration to many including Ronald Reagan (and me).
What an optimist and believer in the best of all people. A great life and great accomplishments, but I am also left to wonder about what could have been.
IMO he was much fit to follow President Reagan than the sitting Vice President was. It didn't turn out that way. People I suppose doubted he was strong enough to defeat a candidate with the gravitas of Mike Dukakis. I don't know if he would have handled the Saddam crisis of 1990-91 as well as Pres. Bush I did but I think he would have been much better for the country economically which might have prevented the door for opening for the then governor of Arkansas.
In 1996 as a Republican I think we had the ticket upside down. Kemp was a poor fit with Dole because of different philosophies. Also I thought Kemp choked a bit in his VP debate, as any one of us might in that situation. It was disappointing because I know he was such a brilliant, enthusiastic, articulate and persuasive guy. I think his performance would have been different if he was there to defend his own views instead of those of the top of the ticket.
Pretty hard to find anyone who knew him who didn't find him to be a wonderful man and a great American.
As a footnote to the obits who give him credit for Reagan's Kemp-Roth tax cuts but point out that critics say the policy brought us deficits and debt, I would note that revenues doubled in the 1980's (http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=200) and that the deficits came clearly from the spending side, just as they do today.
Very interesting read Rachel, Isenberg is very thought provoking.
Small point of clarification, when he says 97% of the homes still don't have fiber, I think he means they don't have fiber all the way to the home. Pretty close to 100% of our communications other than face to face run mostly over fiber. Cell towers and WiFi, even dial up internet over ordinary telephone lines lead into fiber lines that would not work the way they do, or facebook or cloud computing, if not for the capital investments that someone made in the 'ducts and spices'. Also an aside, Google would not locate new facilities near the wind farms in Iowa if not for the fiber optic buildout that cost billions in private, capital investments.
Rachel, I agree with everything you wrote in this post quoted below. We probably strike the balance in a different place. My comment of central planning vs. market choice was not aimed at you or intended to oversimplify, I just believe we already moved way too far in the wrong direction from my point of view and we want to correct by moving further, so I am referring to direction rather than destination. Sorry about when my posts drift from what started me going to addressing what others may have wrote or said elsewhere. My admitted anti-government bias is really against government doing things other than governing; setting up health plans and running the automakers would be examples.
I strongly favor roads, bridges, libraries, police, fire, snow plowing and national defense. Also level playing field laws like insider trading laws etc. and a far stricter interpretation of equal protection under the law.
Interestingly, many of the free market / supply side economists I read (cf. Brian Wesbury http://www.ftportfolios.com/Common/Rss/CommentaryFeed.aspx and Scott Grannis http://scottgrannis.blogspot.com/) are rather optimistic now even with policies they oppose, not sky is falling or buy gold. They were optimistic up to the fall while most doomsayers were predicting doom throughout the boom period so all we can do is read and sort out our own view. This is nice opportunity here to do that.
My complaint and my point which I didn't actually make was--
I tend to get annoyed by articles about how the world is ending, the sky is falling and it will never get better. I dislike economic advice that says keep all you money in cash or better gold, buy lots of guns,ammo and learn how to farm. Learning how to farm etc is not necessarily bad but it is not great economic advice. Huss's article on demographics didn't actually say any of that but it shared some common themes. Maybe the buy gold people are right -- we will see but they do not have a crystal ball and the sad little data we do have is not all bleak.
I was actually not discussing the difference between central planning and market choice. It is not black and white anyway.
Unless you think market choice should pay for the military, police,fire, road system. etc.
Taxes obviously have a negative economic effect but the interesting question is what is worth the negative economic effect and what isn't.
Obviously you can be in very different ball parks about the correct size of our government but no one here anyway wants anarchism or communism.
This a philosophical discussion not scientific one because the data is so weak. Correlation is not causation etc Philosophically, Do we want to be more like " Old Fashion America" or more like Europe?
I happen to like America philosophically better in many things but Canada and the UK are not Nigeria or Russia.
Just wanted to offer my street knowledge as an inner city landlord that the conversion rate to trade EBT dollars (government paid cash card) for real currency is 50 cents on the dollar. The card spends like cash but is limited to items like groceries; important things like cigarettes require real money. Unfortunately the taxpayer pays double. Just like tax loopholes and campaign finance laws, money finds a way.
"What happened to basic contract law? ...But why should the Secured Creditors go along? One of the many things that has made our country great is the concept of risk/reward."
Great Points JDN! I am with you on this one. We are in the process of neutralizing the upside and downside of risk, degrading reward and eliminating consequences and corrections, all from leadership in the executive and legislative branches that are disdainful of the economic system that made America great.
We will stop 'intensive interrogations' in order to impress the Arab-street with our civility. Let's look at theirs for a moment. Water tricks and underwear photos don't compare with these guys...
"A 45-minute tape shows a man that the Government of Abu Dhabi has acknowledged is Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan — one of 22 royal brothers of the UAE President and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince — mercilessly and repeatedly beating a man with a cattle prod and a nailed board, burning his genitals and driving his Mercedes over him several times."
Next year's Census has already begun as I have met workers the last couple of days that are beginning to track the housing units with GPS and preparing to find, count and interpolate results for the number of people living in each jurisdiction in the United States.
This could have been broken down into a rant, a glibness post, an economic discussion, a media issue, an election fraud entry, and an illegal immigration comment but IMO they are all intertwined in this process that should NOT be a political issue but it is so it deserves its own topic.(? We'll see what the boss says...)
First, the direction of the Obama Census was pulled out of the Commerce Department and into the White House because specific and crucial political objectives are at stake. Imagine the media reaction if Bush-Cheney had done that. At the heart of the matter is to make sure we count, interpolate and extrapolate all potential Democratic constituencies, legal or not, at least once and then do some tweaking of the data as we do with global warming temperatures to make sure that the results fit our preconceived notions of what they should or might be.
Second, as I have whined often, the Census workers will be directed to make sure that income of the lower income groups is under-counted so that the rich will look richer and the disparity figures will look as disturbing as possible as that is the premise for the entire current governing philosophy. As usual we will not count any of major sources of income for the underclass; we will not count subsidized housing as income, we will not count the EBT card as income (Electronic Benefits Transfers, formerly called food stamps etc.) even though they spend just like cash would for the benefits, we will not count free health care as income even as its value starts to climb into the tens of thousands per family and we will not Section 8 housing or energy assistance as income even though these programs often pay 90% or more of a family's housing cost, another 5 digit 'income' stream not counted.
And last for now, at a time when the number of trespassers in this country has reached into the tens of millions, we will spend well over ten billion dollars to send a million and a half ACORN organizers, xx I mean census workers, out to 'accurately' count every person living in this country. STUPID QUESTION (?): wouldn't this also be a good time to find out who is a citizen, who is a legal, documented visitor and who is trespassing?? And do something about it! Otherwise aren't we also going to be gerrymandering congressional and electoral vote representation to people who can not even vote in this country??
We will determine citizenship by asking them - just as you might find out if bank robbers robbed a bank - by asking them.
I recall Chief Justice John Roberts saying just the opposite. (Paraphrasing from memory) Question: Will you side with the little guy? Answer: When the constitution is on the side of the little guy I will side with the little guy; when the constitution is not on his side I won't.
A lawless president looks for a lawless Supreme Court Justice powerlineblog.com May 1, 2009 Paul Mirengoff
President Obama made a short statement about the retirement of Justice Souter in which he outlined what he will be looking for in Souter's replacement. He stated, in part:
"I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book. It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives -- whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation."
"I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions AND OUTCOMES" (emphasis added)
By indicating that his concern is not just with just decisions but also just outcomes, Obama reveals the lawless quality of his thinking. The legitimate function of a judge is to reach just decisions, full stop. Once judges, or the president who appoints them, start thinking about just outcomes, we are well down the path to judicial tyranny. And once just outcomes are defined as those that display empathy for "the people," we could be starting down the road to banana republic status.
Obama apparently wants outcomes that will make people feel welcome in their own nation. It's not clear to me what he's referring to here. But whatever it is, the extent to which people feel welcome must be determined by how their neighbors view them and, to the extent (limited, one hopes) the law becomes involved, the rights and benefits conferred by the language of the laws in question.
If Obama wants to appoint a Justice who has run or worked in a soup kitchen, that's fine. But it looks to me like he wants to appoint a Justice who will reach outcomes that establish "soup kitchens" regardless of whether that's the best view of the legal provision he or she is interpreting.
Expect the worst, not just from this judicial nomination but from all subsequent ones.
Joe Biden was the first clue that Obama would have trouble assembling a competent team, also a clue that he (Obama) is all about politics (neutral Democratic political choice) and nothing about finding the best and the brightest for the country. Reuters says the administration is "clarifying" his remarks. The administration should be "clarifying" why Obama picked Biden to be a heart beat away in the first place.
Kerry and Gore were buffoons and Bush often appeared to be one, but Obama is top-of-the-class intelligent while Biden was a bottom-of-the-class flounderer before finding comfort in the Democrat party. The coalition that elected Obama includes a strange combination highly educated liberal whites along with an underclass of minorities; blacks in particular are very proud of Obama. I don't understand why either group feels any identification with the Obama-Biden ticket rather than just with Obama.
Hard to come up with an analogy, but if the conservative candidate was a scholar like Victor Davis Hanson and the VEEP was Daffy Duck, I would vote for the ticket but only buy the sticker that said 'Hanson', not 'Hanson and the Duck'.
"President Obama's ...proposes raising the tax rate on capital gains from 15 percent to 20 percent. In real terms (that is, adjusted for inflation), the tax rate on capital gains already far exceeds 20 percent."
The feds and even the good analysts always refer to the capital gains as if they are only taxed once - add another 9.5% if you live in our state. All states with income tax as far as I know tax capital gains as ordinary income, even though they are just taxing inflation and punishing you for being invested with too much for too long; you will often be in the top tax bracket the year you sell your asset no matter how poor you are, and certain asset types can't be split into pieces to stay in lower brackets.
No problem, just use income averaging, you might say. Sorry, that program was dropped a couple decades ago as a 'loophole'.
So is it a 'gain' or is it inflation? Maybe if you guessed right on a company and now you own shares in a bigger and better company - so it is partly gain - but they issued more shares during that time also so you own a smaller share of a bigger company. My (remaining) investments are all trapped in real estate. In each case, it's still the same damn building on the same damn lot. I don't own something more than I bought except how someone else values it at a different point in time - it's all inflation from my point of view. If anything, each house or property is just that much older and closer to its eventual teardown.
Real estate hedges inflation real nicely, except that you can NEVER sell and keep the money.
I actually think 19-20% would be a reasonable tax - for everyone - on real income or 'real' gains.
Instead the real tax is probably over 50%, so instead I hold the property that I don't want and the Treasury collects zero.
Crafty, I strongly agree. I like this quote of Brooks, that there is a moral case against the politics of class envy and confiscation from the rich:
"Advocates of free enterprise must learn from the growing grass-roots protests, and make the moral case for freedom and entrepreneurship. They have to declare that it is a moral issue to confiscate more income from the minority simply because the government can."
Brian Wesbury explained the economics of the so-called tea party movement recently:http://www.ftportfolios.com/Commentary/EconomicResearch/2009/4/20/tea_party_economics Unfortunately I'm not able to cut and paste out of the pdf. He makes an example of education, but it couold be a local stadium or light rail. The special interest gets its billion and they all reward each other and make political contributions and succeed politically, but the taxpayer is only hit for a few cents on every small purchase forever etc. until finally all these special interests become trillions and the taxpayer hits the boiling point.
In the current climate, I think it isn't even the taxpayer who hurts because we aren't paying for the excess spending. It's just the spending itself that at some point is morally offensive. Each great idea like health care or home ownership for everyone is wonderful as an idea to discuss in a college classroom, but we can't do them all without collapsing our economy, oops. But as the piece suggests, there is a moral case against compelling someone else, whether it is 'the rich' or future generations, to pay for all of our wild ideas.
Stealing a quote from JDN yesterday about healthcare, but could be said about any public issue: "something needs to be done, that is a given..."
Yes, but it is not a given that it is the government that needs to do it and it is not a given that doing something should be measured in public dollars spent.
Instinctively people really do know that private sector solutions are better and that our freedoms including free enterprise are what made us great.
I think liberals have even more confidence in the private sector than conservatives. They are willing to tie its arms and break its kneecaps and still expect that it will perform about the same as before.
"Doesn't this issue have its roots in the wage and price controls of WW2? IIRC the govt did allow health insurance to become part of the payments to workers without taxing it-- but if an individual wants to buy insurance on his own, he must do so with after tax dollars. Yes?"
Yes, though you can make limited pre-tax HSA contributions (health savings account).
Sure enough, health care was federalized though the tax code. JDN makes a good point about states rights. I will indulge him on that and agree with any move that takes the feds completely out of the health care business, and auto manufacturing, and housing/mortgages, and ...
"And I will let you (not personal Doug) decide not to spend the family's inheritance not to keep your wife alive later in life; it's tough... albeit logical. We are too emotionally attached."
Don't worry JDN, nothing personal taken, but you read me wrong. I am saying that it IS a valid choice to spend your own money on heroic health measures, or mansions yachts and trips around the world instead of leaving a nest egg. But it doesn't work for ALL of us to choose the highest cost solutions on everything and then demand that someone else pay for it - and keep costs down.
"Except for Medicare, the medical system is basically free market"
Guinness answered this better, but I was going to say that sure - it's a free market - about like OPEC, lol. Government based healthcare and government rules and mandates I think are a huge part of the market and as Forbes demonstrates, set the tone for how things are done in the rest of the market. I would not favor a totally unregulated market in medicine, but if we want control on costs we have to find a way for competition and consumer choices to flourish.
Healthcare was compared with the market for food but high-tech might be a more insightful comparison. I can buy a computer model that has been proven for a few years and widely available for a few hundred bucks. Or I can buy the very latest experimental high tech device barely out of the lab for maybe hundreds of thousands. In every other area we balance those choices with our budget and our circumstances. Not with other people's money available and life and health choices on the line. In health care we keep wanting the newest and latest treatment no matter the price or whether or not the performance is proven and we demand that someone else pay for it.
Do you want government to ration these decisions or prices and individual choices to do that? Neither is perfect, but I prefer leaning toward the price mechanism and free choices over the bureaucracy as much as possible.
Studies show that a lion's share of health care costs, especially the more recent increases, go toward our treatments during our last 6 months of life. Basically we are denying our own mortality, and then dying anyway. If you made those treatment choices out of your own saving, and imagine if you had the right to pass your earned, accumulated wealth on to your family, would you still want to pay any price and fight every fight even the ones not winnable while knowing that you are spending the last of your family's inheritance?
Crafty: "The folks who ran Katrina..." or as we say in Mpls, the folks who brought us the bridge... How come the same liberals demanding government-run healthcare aren't clamoring to move into public housing?
Steve Forbes makes many good points in this piece, also some very specific improvements to the current system that could easily be done now at no cost: "Allow mandate-free insurance policies... Permit people to buy health insurance across state lines... Make it easier for small businesses to buy insurance in a pool... Equalize the tax treatment of premiums... Raise limits on contributions to HSAs and on deductibles.
The biggest domestic battle since the Clintons tried to nationalize health care in the early 1990s is about to unfold. Sometime in June the Obama Administration will formally introduce its plan to deal with the problem of the 46 million Americans who don't have health insurance. But the proposal will have far larger--and more ominous--implications for the country than the number of uninsured. This will be President Obama's attempt to do what the Clintons couldn't: truly socialize American health care. Make no mistake: Obama's plan will be the Administration's absolute top priority, trumping new energy taxes and the forced unionization of private-sector workers. Irrevocably sinking Washington's claws deep into an area constituting 17% of the economy is too great an opportunity for this Administration to pass up.
The President will propose that the government set up its own health insurance company, a Medicare-for-everyone system. The purpose, as he puts it, will be to provide competition with the private carriers. But this won't be competition; it will be a de facto government takeover.
The Administration will portray opponents as heartless for not wanting to do something about the uninsured. It will proclaim that private carriers make too much money and spend too much on overhead and marketing and that a nonprofit government insurer can make insurance affordable for those who currently don't get it through their employer or are out of a job.
Health care socialists will declare, "Look at Medicare. Despite its flaws and incomplete coverage it still provides a fantastic, affordable safety net for tens of millions of the elderly. Why can't we do that for everyone?"
Such a scheme would be a disaster. It would destroy innovation and lead to shortages and rationing. All the frustrations we experience with our current higgledy-piggledy system will pale beside the replacement's increasingly subpar care, ever lengthening lines for basic services and ever longer waits for "elective" surgeries.
Let's clear up some of the myths. Both Medicare and Medi-caid are heavily subsidized by privately insured patients, to the tune of $90 billion a year. Federal reimbursement in these two programs is far below cost, which is why an increasing number of doctors are refusing to treat or are substantially cutting back on the number of Medicare and Medicaid patients they see.
Medicare and Medicaid are rife with fraud. Unlike private insurers, the government refuses to spend real resources on routing out the wrongdoing: overbilling, overtesting and charging for visits not made or tests not given.
Obama beat them at presidential politics in 2008. Now he hopes to achieve what they conspicuously didn't do in health care.
The quality of care will decline. Health care "outcomes" for Medicaid patients are substantially below those of similar private-insurance patients. Fees are so low that patients are often treated more like ill, undesirable cattle.
Socialized systems are anathema to innovation. Breakthroughs in medications, diagnostic tools and medical devices require substantial capital investment and entail high risk. In the pharmaceutical industry, barely one in 250 promising compounds ever makes it to the marketplace. In the 1960s western Europe was a font of new medicines. But nationalized medicine put a stop to that. Today most of the breakthroughs come from the U.S. Even when another country invents something, it is in the U.S. that the product is fully developed. For example, the MRI breakthrough was achieved by a Brit, but MRIs are much more widely used in the U.S.
Medicare is no exception to this anti-innovation bias. As health care expert John C. Goodman, CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, has noted:
"Almost no one talks to his or her doctor on the phone. Why? Because Medicare doesn't pay a doctor to talk to you on the phone. And private insurers, who tend to follow Medicare's lead, don't pay for phone consultations, either. The same goes for e-mail: Only about 2% of patients and doctors e-mail each other--something that is normal in every other profession.
"What about digitizing medical records? Doctors typically do not do this, which means that they can't make use of software that allows electronic prescriptions and makes it easier to detect dangerous drug interactions or mistaken dosages. Again, this is something that Medicare doesn't pay for. Likewise patient education: A great deal of medical care can be handled in the home without ever seeing a doctor or a nurse--e.g., the treatment of diabetes. But someone has to give patients the initial instruction, and Medicare doesn't pay for that." pic
A federal government insurance company, with its subsidies, will attract more and more people from private plans. Instead of overtly running providers such as Aetna ( AET - news - people ) and UnitedHealthcare out of business, the federal government will take them over through mandating what they can and cannot do, as well as "reinsuring" private carriers for costs above certain levels. In other words, nongovernment insurance companies will become vassals and virtual subsidiaries of the Washington-run system.
What are the alternatives to this health care nightmare? There are many positive, nongovernment things that could instead be done.
--Allow mandate-free insurance policies. True catastrophic health insurance--not the current dollar-for-dollar coverage--is very affordable.
--Permit people to buy health insurance across state lines. Removing such barriers would sharply increase competition.
--Make it easier for small businesses to buy insurance in a pool, whether through trade associations or other kinds of affiliations.
--Equalize the tax treatment of premiums. Companies get a tax deduction for health insurance premiums, as do the self-employed. Why not give that break to employees who choose to buy their own individual policies? They would get a deduction or a refundable tax credit (meaning if they don't have a tax liability they'd get an actual check from Uncle Sam). Many small businesses offer no insurance, or those that do may offer policies some workers find unsatisfactory. These folks should have the ability to easily get their own alternatives.
--Raise limits on contributions to HSAs and on permissible deductibles.
All of these ideas would substantially cut the number of un-insured. For those truly uninsurable, why not give them the medical equivalent of food stamps and subsidize their catastrophic health insurance premiums through private companies?
President Obama says he wants to make health care affordable for all. Applying free-market principles to health care would do just that. Even with private-sector insurance there isn't a true free market--not when most expenses are covered by third parties. The key is to give consumers, not businesses and government bureaucracies, control of their health care dollars. Having businesses put money into workers' HSAs would be preferable to today's system. Once consumers actually control the money, they will apply pressure to get more value for it. After all, it's theirs.
Free-market dynamics have worked in virtually every other part of the economy, spurring production and innovation and helping us get more for less. Food is even more basic than health care. We don't have a third-party-payer system for food (except for food stamps). Result: Today people spend a smaller portion of their income for food than they did decades ago. And the variety of foods is greater than ever. Free markets can do the same with regard to health care; governments manifestly cannot.
Some Global Warming Q&A To Consider in Light of the EPA Ruling April 19th, 2009 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.
IS GLOBAL WARMING HAPPENING NOW? There is no way to know if warming is ‘happening now’. Because natural climate fluctuations on a year-to-year basis are so large, we will only recognize warming (or cooling) several years down the road when it appears in the rearview mirror. The most important statistic to me is that global average temperatures stopped rising in 2001, as shown in the following chart of global tropospheric temperatures that John Christy and I derive from satellite measurements.
As you can see, we might have even entered a new cooling trend. The claim that the warming trend over the last 50 to 100 years is continuing right now, or that it is even ‘accelerating’ is pure speculation, based upon the assumption that what has happened in recent decades will continue into the future.
ISN’T IT WARMER NOW THAN IT HAS BEEN IN THOUSANDS OF YEARS? Well, look at the following recently published proxy reconstruction of global temperatures over the last 2000 years. This graph is based upon 18 previously published temperature proxies, and so provides the most robust estimate available to date. It can be seen that significant warming and cooling periods of 50 to 100 years in duration seem to be the rule, rather than the exception. There were probably even warmer years during the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) than we have seen in recent years. Even the warmth of the ‘record’ warm El Nino year in 1998 (see temperature chart above) might well have been surpassed several times during major El Nino events that occurred during the MWP. Unfortunately, there is no way to know how warm individual years were a thousand years ago…the graph below is made up of thirty-year averages. I added the dotted line toward the end showing the modern thermometer record.
ISN’T DISAPPEARING SEA ICE IN THE ARCTIC PROOF OF MANMADE GLOBAL WARMING? Warming, yes. Manmade, no. As can be seen in the following chart, it was just as warm in the Arctic (or nearly as warm) in the 1930s, with loss of sea ice and changing wildlife patterns reported in newspapers. The water levels in the Great Lakes reached record lows during this time, too…just as has happened again in recent years.
ISN’T ARCTIC SEA CONTINUING TO MELT FASTER AND FASTER? No. As can be seen in the graph below (updated here through April 21, 2009), 2007 was the year when summer ice melt resulted in a 30-year record low in sea ice coverage. In 2008, the ice recovered somewhat. And from looking at 2009, we might well see further recovery this summer. Based upon the PDO index (above) it could be we have entered a new cooling phase of the PDO, which might explain this sea ice recovery, as well as our recent return to colder, snowier winters in the Northern Hemisphere.
AREN’T THE POLAR BEARS DYING FROM DISAPPEARING SEA ICE? Generally speaking, no. While 2 sub-populations of polar bears appear to be threatened by the recent reduction in Arctic sea ice, the other dozen or more sub-populations are either stable or growing. Polar bears survived previous periods of Arctic warmth, and they will survive this one, too.
WHAT ABOUT THE COLLAPSING ICE SHELVES IN ANTARCTICA? Just as Greenland glaciers will continue to flow downhill and break off into the sea as snow keeps falling on Greenland, the Antarctic ice sheet also slowly flows toward the sea. But in Antarctica, this forms ice ‘shelves’ that can extend out over the ocean a considerable distance. These ice shelves ring the entire continent, and eventually they must break off and float away. It could be that ice shelf collapse events become more common when warmer ocean waters affect a portion of the continent, as has been the case in recent years. Maybe a period of more rapid ice shelf collapse also occurred during the Medieval Warm Period of 1,000 years ago…we just don’t know.
On a whole, Antarctica has not warmed. And because it is so cold there, even a few degrees of warming will not cause the ice sheet to melt anyway. In fact, as can be seen in the following graph, sea ice around Antarctica has increased over the same 30-year period of time that Arctic sea ice has decreased.
ISN’T CARBON DIOXIDE A DANGEROUS GAS? Well if you breathe pure CO2, you will die — from a lack of oxygen, not because CO2 is poisonous. But if you breathe pure oxygen for very long, that will also kill you. Carbon dioxide is necessary for life on Earth; photosynthesis by plants on land and by plankton in the ocean depend upon it. And without those forms of life, all the animals (and we humans) would die as well. For something as essential as CO2, it verges on the bizarre for people like Al Gore to liken carbon dioxide to sewage.
BUT WE CAN’T KEEP PUMPING CO2 INTO THE ATMOSPHERE FOREVER, CAN WE? No…and we won’t. But the amount of CO2 we put into the atmosphere is pretty trivial: As of 2009, there are only 38 or 39 molecules of CO2 for every 100,000 molecules of atmosphere, and it will take mankind’s CO2 emissions another five years to raise that total by 1 molecule, to 40 out of every 100,000 molecules. The following graph shows how much the CO2 content of the atmosphere has risen in the last 50 years at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The graph has a vertical scale that only extends to 1% of the atmosphere, and as can be seen, the increase in CO2 is barely visible. This graph is not a trick…it looks different from what you are used to seeing because CO2 is usually plotted with a greatly magnified vertical scale to make the CO2 rise look more dramatic. Yes, we might double the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere by late in this century…but 2 times a very small number is still a very small number.
ISN’T CO2 THE ATMOSPHERE’S MAIN GREENHOUSE GAS? No. Water vapor accounts for about 85% or 90% of the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect, clouds account for another 5% or 10%. CO2 represents only about 3%, methane even less. You will see quite a bit of variability in the above percentages because they can only be calculated based upon theory, and involve a variety of assumptions. I have greatest confidence in the 3% number for the CO2 portion, which we have verified with our own calculations: The direct effect of doubling of CO2 would only be a 1 deg. C warming of the surface (this is not disputed, see below), and when you compare that to the 33 deg. C of surface warming due to all greenhouse components of the atmosphere, you get 3%.
BUT DON’T THE COMPUTER CLIMATE MODELS PREDICT SERIOUS GLOBAL WARMING…EVEN FROM THE LITTLE BIT OF EXTRA CO2 IN THE ATMOSPHERE? Yes, but most of the warming produced by climate models is NOT directly from the CO2, but from assumed changes in clouds and water vapor in response to the small CO2-induced warming tendency. And this is the models’ Achilles heel. While all of those models now change clouds with warming in ways that amplify that warming, some by a catastrophic amount, there is increasing evidence that clouds in the real climate system behave in just the opposite way (peer reviewed papers of ours here and here). This could result in a doubling of atmospheric CO2 causing less than 1 deg. F of warming by the end of this century.
BUT WE’VE ALREADY SEEN 1 DEGREE OF WARMING…SO, WHAT COULD HAVE CAUSED IT? My latest research (as yet unpublished) suggests most of the warming we’ve experienced in the last 100 years is due to natural changes in cloud cover…possibly caused by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation mentioned above. Something climate modelers apparently don’t appreciate is that it would only take about a 1% change in global cloud cover to cause ‘global warming’. Curiously, climate modelers do not believe this happens. Exactly why they don’t, I haven’t been able to figure out. Probably because we’ve not had accurate enough long-term observations of global cloud cover to document any such changes. But just because such changes are too small for us to measure doesn’t mean they do not exist. Most of us who were trained as meteorologists find 1% changes in global cloud cover to be entirely plausible, probably the result of natural, chaotic changes in weather patterns coupled to small chaotic changes in ocean circulation.
HASN’T THE “FINGERPRINT” OF MANMADE WARMING ALREADY BEEN FOUND? No. Climate modelers claim they can only explain global warming by including greenhouse gas increases in their models. But that claim is based upon 2 critical assumptions: (1) the climate system is very sensitive to increasing CO2, a consequence of their climate models not handling clouds properly, and (2) as mentioned above, a lack of accurate observations over a long enough period of time to document potential natural, and stronger, warming mechanisms…such as a slight decrease in global cloud cover letting more sunlight in.
Another “fingerprint” claim is that global warming has been stronger over land than ocean, as would be expected with more greenhouse gases. But warming of the oceans and land in response to fewer clouds would be indistinguishable from warming caused by more carbon dioxide. A decrease in oceanic cloudiness would warm the oceans, which would then send more humid airmasses over land. And since water vapor is our main greenhouse gas, the land will warm in response. The land warming would be then be stronger than the ocean warming because the heat capacity of land is less than that of the ocean. So, don’t be fooled when you hear claims that the “fingerprint” of manmade warming has been found…it hasn’t. In fact, there is no known human “fingerprint”.
HAVEN’T SEVERE WEATHER EVENTS LIKE HURRICANES BECOME MORE COMMON IN RECENT YEARS? No, only storm damage has increased. This is because people keep building along coastlines and in other areas prone to severe weather. And the more stuff we build, the more targets there are for hurricanes and tornadoes to destroy. Some of the records you have heard about for strongest hurricane, etc., are mostly because our technological ability to measure these storms has improved so much in recent years. There is no way to know if some recent storms (e.g. Katrina when it was in the central Gulf of Mexico) were stronger than major hurricanes that occurred in the early 20th Century, before we had weather radar, high resolution satellite data, and instrumented planes to fly into them.
WHAT ABOUT OCEAN ACIDIFICATION FROM MORE CO2? The chemistry of the ocean is still poorly understood from the standpoint of how it varies over time, and how it is controlled. There is a common view among oceanographers that extra atmospheric CO2 has caused the average pH of the ocean to be reduced from 8.18 to 8.10 since the start of the Industrial Revolution. But pH varies widely across the global oceans, and that estimated decrease is more of a ‘theoretically-calculated expectation’ than it is an actual observation. A minority view I have heard is that the buffering capacity of the ocean will prevent ocean acidification. In fact, recent evidence suggests that (just like plants on land) plankton in the ocean will grow faster and be more abundant with more CO2 in the atmosphere.
The EPA named carbon dioxide a dangerous pollutant and opened a 60 day comment period on April 18. Even if you have never written your government on anything before, please write to them on this one. Write to the EPA and write to all the senators and members of congress that you can find unless you want a new intrusion that makes the IRS and tax compliance look like child's play.
Please write to them and post what you write here, if you want, to motivate and help others.
Will we arrest polar bears and fireflies as they emit also, and bicyclists? Ticket God for careless volcano activity?
Would you like to be on the honor system or have the feds GPS your carbon excesses 24/7?
-------------- Written Comments
Written comments on the proposed finding may be submitted by using the following instructions:
Mail: Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Docket Center (EPA/DC), Mailcode 6102T, Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0171, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20460.
I posted recently Peter Huber's logic of why cap and trade legislation won't reduce carbon emissions on earth. I was reading some of his older writings and note that he predicted the following about 2 years ago:
"If you're 40 or older, you're going to spend the rest of your life powered by carbon or uranium. Take your pick. Forget about "none of the above" or "less of both." For the next several decades at least, alternative energy sources aren't serious choices; they are pork barrels, delusions, demonstration plants and daydreams."
--- If you are going to plug in our vehicles someday for cheaper power and lower oil consumption, we are going to need more electricity on the grid. For the most part that will be coal or nuclear. One is a heavy carbon emitter. One is carbon-free, compact, cheap, safe and clean. You make the call!
As proverb goes, when a Republican senator crosses the aisle and joins the other side, the average intelligence of both sides improves... I will not miss Sen. Specter and no one should read anything more into this than the fact that he was trailing challenger Pat Toomey by 20 points in his bid to be endorsed for reelection. Pat Toomey was Club for Growth president the past several years and will do more for conservatism by running IMO than Sen. Specter can ever do by winning.
Interesting story about Newt regarding 'cap and trade', maybe one of the two biggest domestic issues facing the country (nationalized healthcare being the other.) Newt previously favored some version of cap and trade. Is it really a flip flop to decisively move from the wrong side of an issue to the right side? Anyway, here is a hate piece from a left wing publication, Mother Jones, attacking him: it was money from the coal lobby, not logic, honesty, principles or wisdom that changed his position, according to the left.
Gingrich v. Gingrich — By Kevin Drum | Mon April 27, 2009 11:59 AM PST
It's hard to get too worked up when a politician turns out to be opportunistic, but Media Matters documents a pretty stunning case of cynicism from Newt Gingrich today. Last week Gingrich vilified a Democratic cap-and-trade plan for carbon emissions as a "command-and-control, anti-energy, big-bureaucracy agenda, including dramatic increases in government power and draconian policies that will devastate our economy." But two years ago, when he was in his "big ideas for conservatives phase," he was cap-and-trade's biggest fan:
I think if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, that there's a package there that's very, very good. And frankly, it's something I would strongly support....The caps, with a trading system, on sulfur has worked brilliantly because it has brought free-market attitudes, entrepreneurship and technology and made it very profitable to have less sulfur.
Well, that's Newt for you: he dumps policy positions as quickly as he dumps wives. But it also goes to show how fleeting conservative support for "market-oriented solutions" like cap-and trade is. A lot of the liberal enthusiasm for cap-and-trade over the past decade has been based on the idea that it might be more acceptable to conservatives than a straight tax, but obviously that hasn't turned out to be the case. Basically, they just don't want to do anything, full stop.
Obama response to flu threat: ask congress for 1 1/2 billion emergency funding. There wasn't enough cushion in the first 10 trillion passed so far to handle 50 people sick with the flu. I guessed wrong; I thought he would appoint a bipartisan commission to look into it.
Quoting GM: "3. Terrorists that operate outside the laws of war get no protections of any kind. We teach them fear."
Even under the GM doctrine, we are still limited by our own sense of decency and by the context of the situation. With the beheading videos of Daniel Pearl in mind, the images of people jumping from the towers, and airline passengers crashing into the Pentagon and the struggle above Pennsylvania that ended all dead in the ground, I would like to see if these photos show more than inmates in underwear or water tricks. I'll bet no one lost an ear, much less got beheaded, dropped from the sky or burnt to death.
For comparison, I would like to see a complete list of all punishments and lost appendages due to criminal sanctions from Islamic governments during the same time frame, such as stoned to death for fraternizing with your rapist. Let's see who is barbaric and who is trying to protect peace and freedom. And let's see if Obama prefaces his remarks by saying this isn't nearly as brutal as what is already happening everyday in these terrorists' own home countries.
"The are way less capital intensive options than fiber optic cable and there is a lot of work being done currently that is not based on fiber optic cables"
Your post came through over fiber cables (and that required a huge capital investment). All google searches and facebook postings run over fiber optic cable as well. I'm not sure what you refer to.
"Capital investments are certainly important and I would not like to see it shrink..." Yet we elected people committed to punishing investment returns and demonizing capitalists - the rich aren't paying their share, aren't doing their patriotic duty, we can tax just the 2% - not us and get free health care, etc.
"...but there is a lot of future growth that does not require a lot of capital investments. Our world is increasing digitized which usually means lower capital costs. Creating Aps for smart phones is being called the next gold rush. It requires very little capital investment."
I think many apps written free by users will likely end up as freeware/shareware, not economic growth. Software engineering is extremely capital intensive. I would put time available of software engineers ahead of copper as the truly scarce resource of this economy. Iphone apps are of no value without the enormous sunken investment of the 3G networks and enormous capital investment still required for the so-called 4G.
"Google and Facebook did not start with large amount of capital investments. Cloud Computing ( Computer technology becoming a Utility ) is reducing costs for starting new businesses."
Maybe you refer to Google as an idea or as a search patent, but google as a money making enterprise requires hundreds of thousands of servers using enormous amounts of electricity. In spite of their 'going green' campaign, the energy they consume is mostly from fossil fuels.
Cloud computing like using salesforce.com is extremely expensive IMO. It is like lease versus purchase of your information systems. Startups still need the capital to pay these services and all their other expenses until their own revenues begin to cover. Punishing capital lessens the likelihood of more success stories like the ones you cite.
The political argument is not for or against new innovations, it is IMO about central planning and control versus a more free economy.
Sorry it didn't fit in one post. This is very important information. Please read the previous post first although the first paragraph here will tell you why cap and trade won't work. (Crafty, please explain your objection to nuclear power when you have time.) ------------------
By pouring money into anything-but-carbon fuels, we will lower demand for carbon, making it even cheaper for the rest of the world to buy and burn. The rest will use cheaper energy to accelerate their own economic growth. Jobs will go where energy is cheap, just as they go where labor is cheap. Manufacturing and heavy industry require a great deal of energy, and in a global economy, no competitor can survive while paying substantially more for an essential input. The carbon police acknowledge the problem and talk vaguely of using tariffs and such to address it. But carbon is far too deeply embedded in the global economy, and materials, goods, and services move and intermingle far too freely, for the customs agents to track.
Consider your next Google search. As noted in a recent article in Harper’s, “Google . . . and its rivals now head abroad for cheaper, often dirtier power.” Google itself (the “don’t be evil” company) is looking to set up one of its electrically voracious server farms at a site in Lithuania, “disingenuously described as being near a hydroelectric dam.” But Lithuania’s grid is 0.5 percent hydroelectric and 78 percent nuclear. Perhaps the company’s next huge farm will be “near” the Three Gorges Dam in China, built to generate over three times as much power as our own Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State. China will be happy to play along, while it quietly plugs another coal plant into its grid a few pylons down the line. All the while, of course, Google will maintain its low-energy headquarters in California, a state that often boasts of the wise regulatory policies—centered, one is told, on efficiency and conservation—that have made it such a frugal energy user. But in fact, sky-high prices have played the key role, curbing internal demand and propelling the flight from California of power plants, heavy industries, chip fabs, server farms, and much else (see “California’s Potemkin Environmentalism,” Spring 2008).
So the suggestion that we can lift ourselves out of the economic doldrums by spending lavishly on exceptionally expensive new sources of energy is absurd. “Green jobs” means Americans paying other Americans to chase carbon while the rest of the world builds new power plants and factories. And the environmental consequences of outsourcing jobs, industries, and carbon to developing countries are beyond dispute. They use energy far less efficiently than we do, and they remain almost completely oblivious to environmental impacts, just as we were in our own first century of industrialization. A massive transfer of carbon, industry, and jobs from us to them will raise carbon emissions, not lower them.
The grand theory for how the developed world can unilaterally save the planet seems to run like this. We buy time for the planet by rapidly slashing our own emissions. We do so by developing carbon-free alternatives even cheaper than carbon. The rest of the world will then quickly adopt these alternatives, leaving most of its trillion barrels of oil and trillion tons of coal safely buried, most of the rain forests standing, and most of the planet’s carbon-rich soil undisturbed. From end to end, however, this vision strains credulity.
Perhaps it’s the recognition of that inconvenient truth that has made the anti-carbon rhetoric increasingly apocalyptic. Coal trains have been analogized to boxcars headed for Auschwitz. There is talk of the extinction of all humanity. But then, we have heard such things before. It is indeed quite routine, in environmental discourse, to frame choices as involving potentially infinite costs on the green side of the ledger. If they really are infinite, no reasonable person can quibble about spending mere billions, or even trillions, on the dollar side, to dodge the apocalyptic bullet.
Thirty years ago, the case against nuclear power was framed as the “Zero-Infinity Dilemma.” The risks of a meltdown might be vanishingly small, but if it happened, the costs would be infinitely large, so we should forget about uranium. Computer models demonstrated that meltdowns were highly unlikely and that the costs of a meltdown, should one occur, would be manageable—but greens scoffed: huge computer models couldn’t be trusted. So we ended up burning much more coal. The software shoe is on the other foot now; the machines that said nukes wouldn’t melt now say that the ice caps will. Warming skeptics scoff in turn, and can quite plausibly argue that a planet is harder to model than a nuclear reactor. But that’s a detail. From a rhetorical perspective, any claim that the infinite, the apocalypse, or the Almighty supports your side of the argument shuts down all further discussion.
To judge by actions rather than words, however, few people and almost no national governments actually believe in the infinite rewards of exorcising carbon from economic life. Kyoto has hurt the anti-carbon mission far more than carbon zealots seem to grasp. It has proved only that with carbon, governments will say and sign anything—and then do less than nothing. The United States should steer well clear of such treaties because they are unenforceable, routinely ignored, and therefore worthless.
If we’re truly worried about carbon, we must instead approach it as if the emissions originated in an annual eruption of Mount Krakatoa. Don’t try to persuade the volcano to sign a treaty promising to stop. Focus instead on what might be done to protect and promote the planet’s carbon sinks—the systems that suck carbon back out of the air and bury it. Green plants currently pump 15 to 20 times as much carbon out of the atmosphere as humanity releases into it—that’s the pump that put all that carbon underground in the first place, millions of years ago. At present, almost all of that plant-captured carbon is released back into the atmosphere within a year or so by animal consumers. North America, however, is currently sinking almost two-thirds of its carbon emissions back into prairies and forests that were originally leveled in the 1800s but are now recovering. For the next 50 years or so, we should focus on promoting better land use and reforestation worldwide. Beyond that, weather and the oceans naturally sink about one-fifth of total fossil-fuel emissions. We should also investigate large-scale options for accelerating the process of ocean sequestration.
Carbon zealots despise carbon-sinking schemes because, they insist, nobody can be sure that the sunk carbon will stay sunk. Yet everything they propose hinges on the assumption that carbon already sunk by nature in what are now hugely valuable deposits of oil and coal can be kept sunk by treaty and imaginary cheaper-than-carbon alternatives. This, yet again, gets things backward. We certainly know how to improve agriculture to protect soil, and how to grow new trees, and how to maintain existing forests, and we can almost certainly learn how to mummify carbon and bury it back in the earth or the depths of the oceans, in ways that neither man nor nature will disturb. It’s keeping nature’s black gold sequestered from humanity that’s impossible.
If we do need to do something serious about carbon, the sequestration of carbon after it’s burned is the one approach that accepts the growth of carbon emissions as an inescapable fact of the twenty-first century. And it’s the one approach that the rest of the world can embrace, too, here and now, because it begins with improving land use, which can lead directly and quickly to greater prosperity. If, on the other hand, we persist in building green bridges to nowhere, we will make things worse, not better. Good intentions aren’t enough. Turned into ineffectual action, they can cost the earth and accelerate its ruin at the same time.
- Peter Huber is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute
Like medieval priests, today’s carbon brokers will sell you an indulgence that forgives your carbon sins. It will run you about $500 for 5 tons of forgiveness—about how much the typical American needs every year. Or about $2,000 a year for a typical four-person household. Your broker will spend the money on such things as reducing methane emissions from hog farms in Brazil.
But if you really want to make a difference, you must send a check large enough to forgive the carbon emitted by four poor Brazilian households, too—because they’re not going to do it themselves. To cover all five households, then, send $4,000. And you probably forgot to send in a check last year, and you might forget again in the future, so you’d best make it an even $40,000, to take care of a decade right now. If you decline to write your own check while insisting that to save the world we must ditch the carbon, you are just burdening your already sooty soul with another ton of self-righteous hypocrisy. And you can’t possibly afford what it will cost to forgive that.
If making carbon this personal seems rude, then think globally instead. During the presidential race, Barack Obama was heard to remark that he would bankrupt the coal industry. No one can doubt Washington’s power to bankrupt almost anything—in the United States. But China is adding 100 gigawatts of coal-fired electrical capacity a year. That’s another whole United States’ worth of coal consumption added every three years, with no stopping point in sight. Much of the rest of the developing world is on a similar path.
Cut to the chase. We rich people can’t stop the world’s 5 billion poor people from burning the couple of trillion tons of cheap carbon that they have within easy reach. We can’t even make any durable dent in global emissions—because emissions from the developing world are growing too fast, because the other 80 percent of humanity desperately needs cheap energy, and because we and they are now part of the same global economy. What we can do, if we’re foolish enough, is let carbon worries send our jobs and industries to their shores, making them grow even faster, and their carbon emissions faster still.
We don’t control the global supply of carbon.
Ten countries ruled by nasty people control 80 percent of the planet’s oil reserves—about 1 trillion barrels, currently worth about $40 trillion. If $40 trillion worth of gold were located where most of the oil is, one could only scoff at any suggestion that we might somehow persuade the nasty people to leave the wealth buried. They can lift most of their oil at a cost well under $10 a barrel. They will drill. They will pump. And they will find buyers. Oil is all they’ve got.
Poor countries all around the planet are sitting on a second, even bigger source of carbon—almost a trillion tons of cheap, easily accessible coal. They also control most of the planet’s third great carbon reservoir—the rain forests and soil. They will keep squeezing the carbon out of cheap coal, and cheap forest, and cheap soil, because that’s all they’ve got. Unless they can find something even cheaper. But they won’t—not any time in the foreseeable future.
We no longer control the demand for carbon, either. The 5 billion poor—the other 80 percent—are already the main problem, not us. Collectively, they emit 20 percent more greenhouse gas than we do. We burn a lot more carbon individually, but they have a lot more children. Their fecundity has eclipsed our gluttony, and the gap is now widening fast. China, not the United States, is now the planet’s largest emitter. Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and others are in hot pursuit. And these countries have all made it clear that they aren’t interested in spending what money they have on low-carb diets. It is idle to argue, as some have done, that global warming can be solved—decades hence—at a cost of 1 to 2 percent of the global economy. Eighty percent of the global population hasn’t signed on to pay more than 0 percent.
Accepting this last, self-evident fact, the Kyoto Protocol divides the world into two groups. The roughly 1.2 billion citizens of industrialized countries are expected to reduce their emissions. The other 5 billion—including both China and India, each of which is about as populous as the entire Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development—aren’t. These numbers alone guarantee that humanity isn’t going to reduce global emissions at any point in the foreseeable future—unless it does it the old-fashioned way, by getting poorer. But the current recession won’t last forever, and the long-term trend is clear. Their populations and per-capita emissions are rising far faster than ours could fall under any remotely plausible carbon-reduction scheme.
Might we simply buy their cooperation? Various plans have circulated for having the rich pay the poor to stop burning down rain forests and to lower greenhouse-gas emissions from primitive agricultural practices. But taking control of what belongs to someone else ultimately means buying it. Over the long term, we would in effect have to buy up a large fraction of all the world’s forests, soil, coal, and oil—and then post guards to make sure that poor people didn’t sneak in and grab all the carbon anyway. Buying off people just doesn’t fly when they outnumber you four to one.
Might we instead manage to give the world something cheaper than carbon? The moon-shot law of economics says yes, of course we can. If we just put our minds to it, it will happen. Atom bomb, moon landing, ultracheap energy—all it takes is a triumph of political will.
Really? For the very poorest, this would mean beating the price of the free rain forest that they burn down to clear land to plant a subsistence crop. For the slightly less poor, it would mean beating the price of coal used to generate electricity at under 3 cents per kilowatt-hour.
And with one important exception, which we will return to shortly, no carbon-free fuel or technology comes remotely close to being able to do that. Fossil fuels are extremely cheap because geological forces happen to have created large deposits of these dense forms of energy in accessible places. Find a mountain of coal, and you can just shovel gargantuan amounts of energy into the boxcars.
Shoveling wind and sun is much, much harder. Windmills are now 50-story skyscrapers. Yet one windmill generates a piddling 2 to 3 megawatts. A jumbo jet needs 100 megawatts to get off the ground; Google is building 100-megawatt server farms. Meeting New York City’s total energy demand would require 13,000 of those skyscrapers spinning at top speed, which would require scattering about 50,000 of them across the state, to make sure that you always hit enough windy spots. To answer the howls of green protest that inevitably greet realistic engineering estimates like these, note that real-world systems must be able to meet peak, not average, demand; that reserve margins are essential; and that converting electric power into liquid or gaseous fuels to power the existing transportation and heating systems would entail substantial losses. What was Mayor Bloomberg thinking when he suggested that he might just tuck windmills into Manhattan? Such thoughts betray a deep ignorance about how difficult it is to get a lot of energy out of sources as thin and dilute as wind and sun.
It’s often suggested that technology improvements and mass production will sharply lower the cost of wind and solar. But engineers have pursued these technologies for decades, and while costs of some components have fallen, there is no serious prospect of costs plummeting and performance soaring as they have in our laptops and cell phones. When you replace conventional with renewable energy, everything gets bigger, not smaller—and bigger costs more, not less. Even if solar cells themselves were free, solar power would remain very expensive because of the huge structures and support systems required to extract large amounts of electricity from a source so weak that it takes hours to deliver a tan.
This is why the (few) greens ready to accept engineering and economic reality have suddenly emerged as avid proponents of nuclear power. In the aftermath of the Three Mile Island accident—which didn’t harm anyone, and wouldn’t even have damaged the reactor core if the operators had simply kept their hands off the switches and let the automatic safety systems do their job—ostensibly green antinuclear activists unwittingly boosted U.S. coal consumption by about 400 million tons per year. The United States would be in compliance with the Kyoto Protocol today if we could simply undo their handiwork and conjure back into existence the nuclear plants that were in the pipeline in nuclear power’s heyday. Nuclear power is fantastically compact, and—as America’s nuclear navy, several commercial U.S. operators, France, Japan, and a handful of other countries have convincingly established—it’s both safe and cheap wherever engineers are allowed to get on with it.
But getting on with it briskly is essential, because costs hinge on the huge, up-front capital investment in the power plant. Years of delay between the capital investment and when it starts earning a return are ruinous. Most of the developed world has made nuclear power unaffordable by surrounding it with a regulatory process so sluggish and unpredictable that no one will pour a couple of billion dollars into a new plant, for the good reason that no one knows when (or even if) the investment will be allowed to start making money.
And countries that don’t trust nuclear power on their own soil must hesitate to share the technology with countries where you never know who will be in charge next year, or what he might decide to do with his nuclear toys. So much for the possibility that cheap nuclear power might replace carbon-spewing sources of energy in the developing world. Moreover, even India and China, which have mastered nuclear technologies, are deploying far more new coal capacity.
Remember, finally, that most of the cost of carbon-based energy resides not in the fuels but in the gigantic infrastructure of furnaces, turbines, and engines. Those costs are sunk, which means that carbon-free alternatives—with their own huge, attendant, front-end capital costs—must be cheap enough to beat carbon fuels that already have their infrastructure in place. That won’t happen in our lifetimes.
Another argument commonly advanced is that getting over carbon will, nevertheless, be comparatively cheap, because it will get us over oil, too—which will impoverish our enemies and save us a bundle at the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security. But uranium aside, the most economical substitute for oil is, in fact, electricity generated with coal. Cheap coal-fired electricity has been, is, and will continue to be a substitute for oil, or a substitute for natural gas, which can in turn substitute for oil. By sharply boosting the cost of coal electricity, the war on carbon will make us more dependent on oil, not less.
The first place where coal displaces oil is in the electric power plant itself. When oil prices spiked in the early 1980s, U.S. utilities quickly switched to other fuels, with coal leading the pack; the coal-fired plants now being built in China, India, and other developing countries are displacing diesel generators. More power plants burning coal to produce cheap electricity can also mean less natural gas used to generate electricity. And less used for industrial, commercial, and residential heating, welding, and chemical processing, as these users switch to electrically powered alternatives. The gas that’s freed up this way can then substitute for diesel fuel in heavy trucks, delivery vehicles, and buses. And coal-fired electricity will eventually begin displacing gasoline, too, as soon as plug-in hybrid cars start recharging their batteries directly from the grid.
To top it all, using electricity generated in large part by coal to power our passenger cars would lower carbon emissions—even in Indiana, which generates 75 percent of its electricity with coal. Big power plants are so much more efficient than the gasoline engines in our cars that a plug-in hybrid car running on electricity supplied by Indiana’s current grid still ends up more carbon-frugal than comparable cars burning gasoline in a conventional engine under the hood. Old-guard energy types have been saying this for decades. In a major report released last March, the World Wildlife Fund finally concluded that they were right all along.
But true carbon zealots won’t settle for modest reductions in carbon emissions when fat targets beckon. They see coal-fired electricity as the dragon to slay first. Huge, stationary sources can’t run or hide, and the cost of doing without them doesn’t get rung up in plain view at the gas pump. California, Pennsylvania, and other greener-than-thou states have made flatlining electricity consumption the linchpin of their war on carbon. That is the one certain way to halt the displacement of foreign oil by cheap, domestic electricity.
The oil-coal economics come down to this. Per unit of energy delivered, coal costs about one-fifth as much as oil—but contains one-third more carbon. High carbon taxes (or tradable permits, or any other economic equivalent) sharply narrow the price gap between oil and the one fuel that can displace it worldwide, here and now. The oil nasties will celebrate the green war on carbon as enthusiastically as the coal industry celebrated the green war on uranium 30 years ago.
The other 5 billion are too poor to deny these economic realities. For them, the price to beat is 3-cent coal-fired electricity. China and India won’t trade 3-cent coal for 15-cent wind or 30-cent solar. As for us, if we embrace those economically frivolous alternatives on our own, we will certainly end up doing more harm than good.
"I also think one of greatest causes of increased wealth in the US is increased productivity of US workers. ... Increased productivity is usually causes [caused?] by better technology and I think recent technological advances are just at the beginning stages."
Yes, but technology growth comes from friendly policies toward the gains from capital investment. Productivity growth in simple terms comes from power tools. When the carpenter goes from a hand saw and hammer to a power saw, nailing gun and laser level, productivity increases. You might get shovelers to shovel a little faster with a bonus program but not on a magnitude like you will if they put them at the controls of a diesel powered Bobcat. I had the opportunity to sell microprocessor emulation tools to supercomputer companies, logic analyzers to avionics firms and optical time domain reflectometers to under-the-ocean fiber optic cable operators. Productivity growth is all about capital investment. In the Lawrence Summers video he seems to confirm that with his observation that the highest growth in productivity started in the mid-nineties. That is precisely when Clinton accepted the Gingrich rate cuts in capital gains taxation. You don't increase the productivity or value of labor or the pay for labor by promising to punish the gains from capital investments. The first phase of canceling the gains of the Bush tax cuts began Jan. 1 2008 when the Pelosi congress ended favorable rules on depreciation of capital equipment, along with their promise of serious increases in investment tax rates to follow. Maybe Summers has had some success persuading President Obama of the ill-advised wisdom of punishing returns from investment to help labor but a great deal of damage has already been done - just by promising that future rates will be higher.
Obama picked a pretend fight with the union over 'merit pay'. We have that already here in MN. As my friend describes the extra check his wife gets from the state each year, it's free money - for a middle school teacher in a nice suburban district where the teachers do their job and the kids show up ready and do the work assigned. It doesn't come out of the pocket of the mediocre teachers, who still get full pay, benefits, summers off, winter break, spring break, afternoons off, weekends off, retirement guarantees, did I mention family medical? The bonus comes from the already strapped taxpayers, and is above and beyond the above-market union contract pay. In the case of a federal bonus program, the money comes out of thin air, on top of the other 7 trillion unfunded forecast, devaluing every other dollar in the economy.
Vouchers OTOH cost nothing, just paying the per kid rate the taxpayer is already obligated to pay.
Obama faced an easy choice between putting his cute and smart daughters in the best private school available or in the public schools run by the teachers' unions - and he paid no political price for his decision. We were all supposed to be excited because of his race, but DC public schools are also largely black, isn't that exciting!
But the DC graduation rate is barely over 50%. In my daughter's public school it is over 98%. I contend that it is not the color of your skin but the prevalence of welfare dependency dollars in your district screwing up the families and priorities in the homes, neighborhoods and the schools that correlates best with academic deficiency.
Merit pay should go to the parents of the kids who show up ready and willing to learn across most of America. Shame on Obama and almost all Democrats for abandoning the kids in the neighborhoods and not letting them at least take the dollars the taxpayer is already spending on them and use it in the accredited educational institution of their choice.
I guess the BS term 'pro-choice' has some other meaning to them.
GM, Your post about gender selection in China raises pro-choice questions that can't be answered rationally by the pro-choice crowd. It keeps coming back to black and white choices of life and death. The gray areas just don't fit well with the right or choice to selectively kill your offspring. If you should be able to kill safely, properly and legally for timing, for convenience, for money reasons, and to kill the runt of the litter (e.g. down syndrome) etc. etc. then what moral line have you crossed by killing for gender selection. Either IMO you concede you don't have a moral line to cross or protect in the law or you falsely believe abortion by choice is not killing off one of God's creatures.
What other protected 'rights', I ask again, do we want to be safe, legal and RARE? If abortion is safe and legal and at times a good thing for society, then why the outrage at the next step when other places, fully populated, make it mandatory?
A pandering Obama praised Europe's 'leading role in the world.' Actually, Europe exercises almost no leadership, even in Europe. Published Apr 11, 2009 George Will, Newsweek
"He's a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back—that's an earthquake." —Arthur Miller, "Death of a Salesman"
President William Howard Taft understood how political cant can bewitch the speaker's mind. Listening to an aide natter on about "the machinery of government," Taft murmured, "The young man really thinks it's a machine." The current president's U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, was on Sunday television recently explaining why she thinks Iran, now several decades into its pursuit of nuclear weapons and close to consummation, might succumb to the siren song of sweet reason and retreat from success. Doing so, she said, would enable Iran "to be a responsible member of the international community"—perhaps not the highest priority for a regime that denies the Holocaust happened, and vows to complete it—and "enter the community of nations." Otherwise Iran will face "the full force of the international community."
Rice really thinks there is a community out there. To believe that is to believe, as liberals do, that harmony is humanity's natural condition, so discord is a remediable defect in arrangements. Click here to find out more!
Regarding North Korea's missile launch, Rice was very stern. She said the U.N. Security Council would "meet," and there would be "consultation with our partners," who "all need to come together" and "add to" the 2006 U.N. resolution that North Korea had just disregarded, the one that demanded a halt to future missile-related activity, including launches. The Security Council met. It could not even bring itself to say North Korea's launch had violated the resolution against launches.
In the 1950s, conservatives vowed to "roll back" the Iron Curtain. Rice spoke of "ensuring that we roll back" North Korea's nuclear program. She took heart from what she called "some serious dismantlement" of North Korea's principal reactor. Actually, the reactor was not dismantled but disabled, an easily reversible act. Fuel rods were removed and the cooling tower was destroyed. The rods can be reinserted. The reactor can operate without the cooling tower—warm water would be released, which might kill lots of wildlife, but, then, the regime kills lots of North Koreans, even though that supposedly causes frowns to crease the faces of the supposed community of nations.
Perhaps Rice thinks the mere existence of the U.N. proves the existence of an international community. If so, she should spend some communitarian time with our allies the Saudis. The Obama administration has decided to join them as members of the U.N. Human Rights Council, which the Bush administration boycotted because it includes despotic regimes that are ludicrous auditors of other nations' respect for human rights.
An unmarried 23-year-old Saudi woman became pregnant when abducted and gang-raped. She was convicted of adultery and sentenced to a year in prison—and to a perhaps fatal 100 lashes after her child is born. Another woman was visited by two men—one had been breast-fed by her; the other was bringing her bread. Convicted of the crime of being in the presence of men who are not family members, she was sentenced to 40 lashes, which is perhaps a death sentence for a 75-year-old. The "community of nations" that liberals like Rice believe in certainly has what liberals celebrate: diversity.
If there is a "community of nations," then "Yes, we can" do this and that. But if not?
During Barack Obama's trip abroad, during which he praised himself by disparaging his predecessor and deploring America's shortcomings, he took pandering to a comic peak, combining criticism of America with flattery of Europe, when he deplored America's "failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world." Actually, as the crisis of aggression and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans demonstrated a decade ago, Europe plays almost no leadership role, even in Europe, which remains a geographical rather than a political denotation. Quantcast
Europe's collective existence through NATO might be ending. Afghanistan, the supposed "graveyard of empires," might be the burial ground of NATO, which is 60 years old and showing signs of advanced senescence. Officially, NATO says the Afghanistan campaign is vital; actually, it promises a mere 5,000 more troops, none of them for combat. Most of the NATO nations that grudgingly send dribs and drabs of troops to Afghanistan send them enveloped in caveats that virtually vitiate their usefulness, including the stipulation that they shall not be put in harm's way. Tom Korologos, who was U.S. ambassador to Belgium from 2004 to 2007, recalls that when Belgium finally agreed to send a few hundred troops from its unionized "army"—average age: 40—other caveats concerned bottled water, a certain ratio of psychiatrists to troops and a requirement that dust be kept to a minimum.
In Europe, during his first star turn on the world stage, the president learned, or should have, that charm and two euros will almost get him a copy of the International Herald Tribune. Out there in the blue, flying high, selling himself, he found out how far he can go on a smile and a shoeshine.
America's enemies are not smiling back. Those are smirks, not smiles.
A worthy House Republican plan Borrows less and would keep spending within bounds
By Donald Lambro (Washington Times) | Monday, April 13, 2009
When President Obama delivered his record-breaking $3.6 trillion budget to Congress, it was Page One news and led all the TV broadcasts - with little or no critical analysis.
But when the Republicans brought forth their alternative budget, it was relegated to the back pages and received only a cursory mention on the nightly news shows, usually accompanied by a Democratic talking head who dismissed the GOP plan as coldhearted and a penny-pinching approach that turned its back on people in need during these hard economic times.
Actually, the House Republican plan does a number of things to grow the economy that the Democrats do not, like provide tax incentives for business investment, economic growth and job creation; borrow a lot less than the Democrats would and create less debt; and not raise taxes, when to do so would be job-killer in a recession.
In short, House Republicans took up Mr. Obama's challenge to offer their own budget, and it turns out to be pretty good. It deserves a lot more attention than it got from the news media, says Brian M. Riedl, chief budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation. Among its provisions:
• It borrows $3.6 trillion less than Mr. Obama's budget. That works out to $23,000 less debt per household.
• It keeps total federal spending slightly above 20 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), roughly the same rate of spending we had before the recession.
• It contains no tax increases and would shorten and simplify the federal tax code.
• It places a moratorium on wasteful earmarks and tackles needed Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid reforms.
Mr. Obama's budget and the barely trimmed-down version the House and Senate Democrats taped together would slap more than $9 trillion in new debt on our children and grandchildren. "This is more debt than has been accumulated by all previous presidents in American history from George Washington to George W. Bush - combined," Mr. Riedl says.
The Republicans would freeze nondefense, nonveterans discretionary spending for five years at present levels, and stop the stimulus spending planned in 2010 and beyond when the economy is expected to be in recovery.
Unlike Mr. Obama's budget and the Democrats' proposals, the GOP plan would raise no one's taxes. Instead, it would make the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent, along with the alternative minimum tax reduction. But it would give beleaguered taxpayers a further tax break by giving anyone a choice between a 10 percent marginal tax rate for those making less than $100,000, and a 25 percent rate for those making more than $100,000.
And they would offer needed pro-growth incentives that include cutting the 35 percent corporate tax rate to 25 percent and suspending the capital-gains taxes through the end of 2010 to spur capital investment.
"Even with all those benefits, the House Republican budget proposal would bring in revenues averaging just below 18 percent of GDP, which is near the historical average," Mr. Riedl says.
The Obama budget and the versions hatched by Democrats on Capitol Hill would push federal spending as a share of GDP from 23.6 percent in 2011 to 24.5 percent in 2019 - "significantly above the past 40-year average of 20.7 percent," says Americans for Tax Reform.
The Democrats respond to all of this by saying it is just a repeat of the policies offered by former President George W. Bush.
In fact, as Mr. Riedl points out, the Obama and Democratic budgets would "actually accelerate" Mr. Bush's fiscal policies, producing "more runaway spending, more bailouts and even bigger deficits. The president is not repudiating Bushism - he's doubling down on it."
Is he ever. Increasing government spending by $1 trillion during the next 10 years; raising taxes on millions of Americans and businesses by $1.4 trillion during the next decade; and doubling the publicly held federal debt to more than $15 trillion.
In a few days, millions of taxpayers will send hundreds of billions of dollars to the U.S. Treasury to pay for the costs of Mr. Obama's voraciously growing government - in many cases, this is money Americans desperately need to make ends meet.
This is not a time - now or next year - to take more money out of a recessionary, cash-strapped economy with an unemployment rate that is fast approaching 10 percent.
This is a time when the government's policy should be to let the businesses and their workers keep more of what they earn. Mr. Obama's minuscule $7 a week for most workers provides little if any real relief.
Taking less money out of an anemic economy is a message that still resonates with taxpayers, who are beginning to doubt that the Democrats' dubious, snake-oil, tax-and-spend remedies will strengthen the economy.
It didn't make sense when Franklin D. Roosevelt did it in the 1930s, and it doesn't make any sense now.
JDN, I also made clear in the second post that I was only posting my opinion, which should have clear to you on the first. I'll expand on my opinion, but it is only "wrong" if you prove it is not my opinion, lol.
In my opinion, about 99% of America's service men and women are good people and they by and large enlist for the right reasons and serve honorable. Along the way, some are provoked into or choose bad behaviors at times, but most of those stories turn out to be stories. What did John Kerry say, tearing ears off and burning villages. I look at all those stories skeptically although once in a while one turns out to be true.
On the 'other side', you have terrorists who are on a mission to terrorize the western world, spread jihad and kill infidels. Among the detainees, you may have an innocent bystander, that happens in war. In my opinion, I doubt that more than 1% of the detainees did not have some affiliation with the mission of terror I just described. We didn't detain some lady from the grocery store for looking Arab or Muslim ; these were people captured in combat and are held for national security reasons.
Once captured, the detainees are still on a mission and discrediting the United States is part of it, whether to bait a guard into unsavory behavior or just to invent the story for the international inquisitors and journalists.
"Doug's reference" was the quote I took from a general telling how frequent these abhorrent abuses against the guards are. The link was provided so the reader could trace the quote. That you found something else interesting in that report is fine with me, but it is now 'your reference'. I have no idea how something else later in the report would change the General's quote unless he later retracted what he said so clearly previously. He didn't.
I've disclosed my bias ad nauseum on this - I'm pulling for western civilization and safe neighborhoods - and I have no curiosity whatsoever why you or others see some kind of moral equivalence between American servicemen and captured terrorists, as if this is USA playing Jihad in a quiddich contest rather than America fighting off suicide bombers and planners to disrupt their agenda of carnage in what used to be called the global war on terror.
In this particular case and it's an important one, standing up to the Russians over deploying missile defense and partnering with former Soviet republics that are among the most pro-American places in the world, it would appear that Obama is doing the right things for the right reasons.
(In the case of failing to get help in Afghanistan, Obama is learning that unilateralism is a case of having allies we can't count on, which is an American problem, not a Republican one.)
"Guantanamo: 99% of the abuse is of the prisoners against the guards ..."
I think I was low on that estimate. It is based on my opinion from all that I have read and heard from first hand accounts. Here is one report, though I was unable to find the most recent author that prompted me to post that comment. Jdn, please also take into account my bias in not believing most allegations the captured terrorists make against American serviceman.
Crafty: "I disagree quite a bit with this piece (Robert Reich compares obamanomics to Reagan's success)...how do we respond?" - It took me a few days to find the time, but I will answer him point by point. Reich's arguments are the same as Hillary's, same as Obama's, same as our Democrat Senators and probably the same as your local Democrats. It is worth taking the time to go through this slowly and learn their points whether you want to join them or refute them.
Reich uses a mixture of scattered truths, straw man arguments, deceptive statistics and then draws conclusions from them that don't logically follow. Take a look.
For some reason, liberals like to start a serious piece with a false first sentence:
"By ROBERT B. REICH Twenty-eight years ago, Ronald Reagan used the severe economic downturn of 1980-82 to implement an economic philosophy that not only gave force and meaning to a wide range of initiatives but also offered a way back to sustained economic growth. Is there a similarly powerful animating idea behind Obamanomics?"
- Reagan did not 'use' the economic downturn of 80-82 to implement his philosophy. The downturn was caused by congress approving but delaying and phasing in the tax cuts while the Fed did not correspondingly delay the tightening of money. The monetary and fiscal changes were intended to be simultaneous, not to squeeze the life out of the economy with tight money before stimulating new activity with across the board rate cuts. As far as timing was concerned, Reagan was ready to go in 1976; he was not dependent on a recession that was largely avoidable.
Reich: "it's [Obamanomics] not a return to big government ...President Barack Obama's 10-year budget ...presents a remarkably conservative picture. In 10 years, taxes are expected to fall to around 19% of GDP, a lower level than the late 1990s. Spending is expected to drop to around 22.5% of GDP, about where it was under Ronald Reagan..."
- Yes it is a return to big government. Big government programs are scheduled to increase and accelerate forever if they can find a way to do it. He downplays the growth in government by stating it only as a percentage of a false GDP projection. GDP will grow more like a damaged speedboat pulling a larger and larger anchor - national health, federalized K-12, free college, national pre-K, mandatory universal civil service, limiting and taxing energy use, removing the ability to pass on a business, etc. etc. These things don't accelerate growth.
Reich with the standard Democrat focus group tested, straw man argument: "The real distinction between Obamanomics and Reaganomics involves government's role in achieving growth and broad-based prosperity. The animating idea of Reaganomics was that the economy grows best from the top down. Lower taxes on the wealthy prompts them to work harder and invest more. When they do so, everyone benefits. Neither Reagan nor the apostles of supply-side economics explicitly promised that such benefits would "trickle down" to everyone else but this was broadly understood to be the justification."
- Only an opponent of supply side incentives says the strategy is "trickle down". For one thing, there is no up-down to the economy; it is a complex, ever-changing jigsaw puzzle of interconnected parts. Rate cuts unleash energy and creativity across the board. The owner of an airline or bank or boat builder does not benefit from a tax cut unless someone else flies, makes a deposit or buys a boat. You don't raise taxes on the rich, you raise taxes on the economy, hurting all its participants.
Reich follows with deceptive statistics to find fault in a remarkable 26 year economic expansion: "Reaganomics surely marked the beginning of one of the longest bull markets in American history and generated enormous gains at the top. But its benefits were not widely shared. After the Reagan tax cuts, growth in the median wage slowed, adjusted for inflation. After George W. Bush's tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, the median wage dropped.
- When you add 20 million jobs, even if every earner increases their earnings, statistically 'the median wage falls. How can that be? A university doesn't hire many more Deans and Department Heads when it grows. More likely it adds teaching assistants and research assistants. The company doesn't hire more CEOs but it might hire more entry level people in every department. Conversely, if we laid off all our lowest seniority, lowest skill, entry level workers - chopped off the lowest rung of the ladder (as Reich's minimum wage proposals are designed to do) - the median wage increases with every job lost. That is a very deceptive statistic. A better measure is total receipts to the Treasury. That is the financial interest that the feds have in the private sector anyway.
Reich continues with deceptive statistics, all the negative ones they could find: "Meanwhile, an increasing share of total income went to the top 1% of income earners. In 1980, before Reagan took office, the highest-paid 1% took home 9% of total national income. By 2007, before the economy melted down, the richest 1% was taking home 22%."
Like median statistics, top 1% stats are bait and switch also. You are not measuring the same people. Yesterday's rich could all hold and increase their wealth while the new rich achieve even more as they invent, innovate, produce and sell into a much larger and richer and more globalized economy. Comparing the best in the world 27 years apart is interesting but not telling. Disparity is a contrary indicator: it increases in times of rapid growth because the rich are more invested. And disparity fell during the collapse. Is that what we want more of or less of?
Another false characterization and invalid conclusion, Reich continues: "Obamanomics, by contrast, holds that an economy grows best from the bottom up. The president proposes to increase taxes on the highest 2% of income earners starting in 2011. Those tax increases will fund more Pell grants allowing lower-income children to attend college, better pay for teachers that show they're worth it, broader access to health care, improved infrastructure, and more basic research. These and related expenditures are designed to help Americans become more productive. You might think of it as "trickle up" economics."
- First, he is not lessening the power of the top, he is transferring it over to smarter and nicer people at the government. Second, taking from the 2% doesn't pay for what they said it would pay for - witness the $600-700 billion rosy scenario out-year deficit projections. When Hillary was frontrunner (same message) she was going to repeal George Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (a sleight of hand because the cuts were across the board with the percentage cut getting larger as you go down the income spectrum) and she was going to 'use the money' to pay for health care, and then use it for education, and then use it again to buy down the deficit, depending on who she was talking to. The dirty little secret is that there is actually more money collected from the rich at the lower rates.
Deception continued: "The key is public investment. Reaganomics did not view any public spending as an investment in the future except when it came to spending on the military. Hence, since 1980, federal spending on education, job training, infrastructure and basic research and development (apart from defense-related R&D) have all shrunk as a proportion of GDP..."
Again he minimizes the social benefit of defeating the Soviet Union and minimizes the increases in social spending by only citing it as a percentage of rapidly moving target, GDP growth under Reagan. Why doesn't he cite social spending as a percentage of a fixed number like 1980 GDP. Then the chart would show phenomenal growth, if that's what we even want, more grow in out-of-control social spending.
To summarize his view, we can have policies that are exactly the opposite of pro-growth policies, experience all of the growth anyway, and somehow in fairy tale fashion the gains will be beautifully distributed across the interest groups and electoral base of the Democrat party.
Laffer makes a good point that the estate tax is one of the least efficient. Two other problems: death tax double taxation on after tax assets is designed to discourage the creation of wealth by those who are best at it. That presumes a false, zero-sum game, i.e. that the wealth they would have created will now go to someone else. It's just not true.
The worst aspect though is to buy into the idea that it is okay for a majority to think of taxes to pass that will only apply to others. There is something important missing there (consent of the governed).
"...the Big Lie that "the free market caused it" is becoming accepted fact." - the markets that are the most screwed up are the ones that experienced the most government intervention, and vice versa. Besides housing finance with Fannie Mae and the Community Reinvestment Act Program (CRAP), health care is very close to the top of that list.
Whatever and whoever 'our side' is, we always seem to lack a war room with a rapid response team and a clear message back refuting falsehoods. Maybe that is Michael Steele's job. Conservatives answer this kind of bs but they are only heard and read by conservatives.
Luckily, some truths are so true and so obvious that even unspoken they can become known truths. For example, the fact that the policies of the current left machine embody tyrannical socialism.
People have learned hate Nancy Pelosi and the politics she represents even though we are only fed glowing fluff reports about her everywhere we turn. 'Rasmussen Reports has the latest numbers: Sixty percent (60%) of U.S. voters now have an unfavorable opinion of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, including 42% Very Unfavorable, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Even Democrats are now bailing on Pelosi.'
Reelection rates in congress are typically 98-99%, but every seat goes up for campaign and reelection next year. The way forward - step one - is to retake the house or at least retake the momentum in the country in the next congressional election. I'm sure the Republicans are already working on the next 'contract with America'. It will feature a number of positive agenda items but the underlying message is that 'we' offer a vision a little closer to the pursuit of happiness that Jefferson, Madison or Lincoln might have called the American Dream and a little further from the rationed benefits and downsized equality handed out by central planners and central enforcers like Stalin and Pelosi.
Right now the only check/balance on the American Left machine is 'Communist China'. If they stop buying our debt, we will have to cut spending by most of the $10 trillion (and eat the rest as inflation) even without the participation in the process of Republicans.
Not one single question on either war even though Obama last month ordered 17,000 more Americans into Afghanistan. Wonder if a Republican president could escalate a war and then hold a economic press conference?
Under what provision in the constitution does it grant authority to the Obama Administration or to Congress to give the Treasury Secretary the authority to take over non-bank financial companies, such as large insurers, investment firms and hedge funds?
Please watch conservative representative Michele Bachmann, a private tax attorney, ask about constitutional authority and watch Treasury Sec. Geithner dodge and squirm. He is not familiar with the document. Fed Chair Bernancke also receives tough questions and handles them better. Committee chair Barney Frank cuts off the time without allowing an answer to the last question asked, how would taxpayers be paid back for their investment in the private companies.
At least 7 of the top 10 bankrupt states are 'blue states' and are among the largest and richest states needing bailouts from working people across the fruited plain. Besides the obvious legal issue of granted powers, does not their own state constitution require a balanced budget? Crying like a baby for a bailout is easier than spending, subsidizing and governing less, but is it constitutional for feds to pay for state powers?