Thursday, April 07, 2005
"What's this? California Dems are proposing a tax cut?!?," Blue State Conservatives, 6 April 2005, http://www.radiobs.net/thebluestateconservatives/archives/2005/04/whats_this_cali.html (from Bizblogger).
If it were an independent country, California would be one of the most influential in the world. Which makes the irresponsibility of the Democrats in the state's assembly all the more worrying.
People would save a little gassing up the family Chevy but pay more to buy the car -- and most everything else -- under a proposal Tuesday by Assembly Democrats meant to spark new highway construction and improve public transit.
The plan would eliminate the 5 percent state sales tax on gasoline while increasing the sales tax on non-gas and non-food items by a quarter of a percent. The new money would be dedicated to transportation.
Also, voters would be asked to approve a $10 billion transportation bond next year. And the state's 18-cent-per-gallon gas excise tax, which hasn't risen since the early 1990s, would increase by a penny in 2006.
California Democrats propose lowering the gas tax so that America is encouraged to keep buying oil from decaying societies. The gas tax reduction would retard innovation and hurt California's reputation for progress in oil.
I know it's just intended to hurt Governor Schwarzenegger, but it is still disappointing.
"Official: China Plans 40 Nuke Power Plants," Associated Press, 6 April 2005, http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-china-nuclear-power,0,3921264,print.story?coll=sns-ap-nationworld-headlines (from Roth Report).
China gets the geogreen bug
China plans to build 40 nuclear power plants over the next 15 years, making them the main power source for its booming east coast, a government official said in remarks reported Thursday.
China is expected to be the world's biggest developer of nuclear power stations in coming decades as the government tries to meet soaring demands for electricity while reducing pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Nuclear Power makes sense. It is clean, it has caused many less diseases or cancers than coal, and it allows for energy self-sufficiency. I'm no energoprotectionist, but it does not make sense to subsidize decaying energy-producerstates. It is neither safe nor wise to allow leach regimes to ignore economic development while bribing the people.
China gets it. We should too.
Friday, April 01, 2005
We need a $3/gallon federal tax on gasoline. We can do it and make the tax a popular idea.
How? Give every citizen an equal check from the gas tax fund.
The average motorist uses 520 gallons of fuel per year. If we assume that in the first year the tax does not decrease the amount of fuel used (because people still have their old cars, etc), in the first year a $3/gallon tax collects $1560/motorist. Assume that there are 200 million motorists in America. This tax raises $312 billion in the first year. This money would then be redistributed to all Americans equally. Assuming 300 million Americans, this gives a rebate check of $1040/American.
This is a fair tax. The most serious criticism of a gas tax is that it is regressive. It hits those least able to pay -- the poor -- most. But a redistributed gas tax solves this problem. Further, most gas taxes hurt families because kids need to be driven places. In a redistributed gas tax, the larger the family the greater the rebate. A family of five, for instance, would have a gas tax rebate of $5,200/year.
The first years rebate checks could be given as the gas tax effect, so citizens feel the benefits of the tax immediately. It is a patriotic plan to prevent oil dictatorships from driving our policies, to save developing societies from the corruption of oil, and of course the air will be cleaner.
$3/gal gas tax now. The people will support it.
Thursday, March 31, 2005
Personal spending rose 0.5 percent in February while incomes rose a less-than-expected 0.3 percent, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. The Labor Department said today the number of Americans seeking first-time jobless benefits jumped in the last weekly tally before tomorrow's monthly jobs report.
Again spending rose faster than savings. This is great for Keynesians, but in the real world this retards growth and weakens are international position. Americans are literally selling out the future at steep discounts. A consumption tax would punish spendin, not earnings and not savings, and give us a sustainable economy.
Likewise, isn't it great being a hostage to the Middle East?
Crude oil rose and gasoline and heating-oil surged to records on signs that U.S. refineries lack capacity to make enough fuel and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts predicted that oil could touch $105 a barrel.
"It's equally likely that oil will touch $105 or $15 a barrel,'' said Jason Schenker, an analyst with Wachovia Corp. in Charlotte. "It's not going to $105 without a major cataclysmic terrorist attack on significant oil infrastructure. It's not a rational expectation.''
A geogreen strategy would take pain today, in the form of consumption taxes on oil, to avoid this randomness tomorrow. Oil revenue makes bad regimes horrible and fair regimes crooked. The oil system is lose-lose.
So we have two bits of bad news. Why not combine them?
Record prices have failed to curtail surging fuel consumption, the Goldman Sachs analysts said in a research note. The firm's upper limit was $80 previously. U.S. supplies of gasoline and distillate fuels, such as diesel and heating oil, fell last week, according to an Energy Department report yesterday.
Great. We need a step enough oil tax to divert the excess revenue out of sheik's pockets. If it would go to the treasury, fine. If it would go to a special fund, fine. But we cannot keep this us.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Maybe it's the nitrogen bubbles in my brain or the afterglow of reading Bob Samuelson's column today, but I finally feel willing to float a trial balloon in the Corner which, I admit, has been launched more times than the Goodyear blimp: Increase gas/oil taxes.
Admittedly, current high oil prices have caused pain for some and are probably a drag on the economy in significant respects (the airline industry, for example), but the negative effects certainly don't track with the predictions of doom and gloom which typically accompany fuel tax proposals. Clinton's 4.3 cent a gallon tax elicited howls that the economy would go off the rails, for example. Well, now gas prices are much higher than they were in 1996, though still lower -- adjusted for inflation -- than they were in the early 80s. And, more to the point, the economy seems to have absorbed high gas prices better than most would have predicted.
Anyway, since it's impossible to deny that our dependence on Middle East oil -- or our dependence on foreigh oil, a lot of which comes from the Middle East -- skews our foreign policy in undesirable ways (and enriches folks we'd rather see make their money from ordinary development), it seems worth considering a tax system which weans us of oil as much as possible. Demand from China and India will be putting upward pressure on oil prices for decades to come. And since I'm increasingly sympathetic to consumption taxes in general, it seems to me a fuel tax is a good place to start.
Goldberg mostly repeats geo-green talking points, but I am glad to see Jonah give President Clinton the credit he deserves. America's economy is weaning itself off of foreign oil (as a percentage of GDP), but a higher gas tax would help that process along.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
"The 500-Mile-Per-Gallon Solution," by Max Boot, Los Angeles Times, 24 March 2005, http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-max24mar24,0,114126.column?coll=la-news-comment-opinions (from South Dakota Politics).
Max Boot joins Tom Friedman's Geo-Green strategists.
While high oil prices aren't much of an economic drag, they cause real harm
In absolute terms, today's prices are still half of the 1970s peaks, and the U.S. economy has become much less dependent on petroleum since then. (Computers run on electricity, not gasoline.) But imagine what would happen if Al Qaeda were to hit the giant Ras Tanura terminal in Saudi Arabia, where a tenth of global oil supplies are processed every day. Prices could soar past $100 a barrel, and the U.S. economy could go into a tailspin. As it is, high oil prices provide money for Saudi Arabia to subsidize hate-spewing madrasas and for Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
(Max is more concerned about Iran than I am, but even here he has a good point. Iran must develop a normal economy, and high oil revenue will warp that process. Anyway...)
Neither Congressional Democrats nor Congressional Republicans seem interested in a real solution
Both Democrats and Republicans know this, but neither party is serious about solving this growing crisis. Democrats who couldn't tell the difference between a caribou and a cow grandstand about the sanctity of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, even though 70% of Alaskans are happy to see a bit of drilling in this remote tundra. Republicans, for their part, pretend that tapping ANWR will somehow solve all of our problems. If only. A government study finds that, with ANWR on line, the U.S. will be able to reduce its dependence on imported oil from 68% to 65% in 2025.
Green environmentalism alone won't help, because of Rising Asia
How to do better? Biking to work or taking the train isn't the answer. Even if Americans drive less, global oil demand will surge because of breakneck growth in India and China.
The solution is structural... reduce the need for oil, everywhere, permanently.
The Middle East, home of two-thirds of the world's proven oil reserves, will remain of vital strategic importance unless we can develop alternative sources of automotive propulsion and substantially decrease global, not just American, demand for petroleum. An ambitious agenda to achieve those goals has been produced by Set America Free, a group set up by R. James Woolsey, Frank Gaffney and other national security hawks.
They advocate using existing technologies — not pie-in-the-sky ideas like hydrogen fuel cells — to wean the auto industry from its reliance on petroleum. Hybrid electric cars such as the Toyota Prius, which run on both electric motors and gas engines, already get more than 50 miles per gallon. Coming soon are hybrids that can be plugged into a 120-volt outlet to recharge like a cellphone. They'll get even better mileage.
Happily, even South Dakota has a role to play
Add in "flexible fuel" options that already allow many cars to run on a combination of petroleum and fuels like ethanol (derived from corn) and methanol (from natural gas or coal), and you could build vehicles that could get — drum roll, please — 500 miles per gallon of gasoline. That's not science fiction; that's achievable right now.
What's stopping us? Twelve billion dollars.
There is, of course, a catch. Moving to hybrid electric cars won't be cheap. Automakers would have to retool their wares, gas stations would have to add alcohol-fuel pumps, parking lots would have to add electric outlets. Set America Free puts the price tag at about $12 billion over the next four years. It sounds like a lot of money, but it could easily be financed by slightly raising U.S. gasoline taxes (currently about 43 cents a gallon), which are much lower than in Europe and Japan. Higher taxes could also be used to encourage more domestic oil exploration and production, given that petroleum will never be entirely eliminated as an energy source.
I would rather spend twelve billion now than continue maintaining Saudi-Occupied Arabia.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
"I'm Quite Left...," by Aaron, tdaxp, 22 March 2005, http://tdaxp.blogspirit.com/archive/2005/03/18/rounds_south_dakota_s_abraham_lincoln.html.
Aaron provides us with an airchair view of the world. He's right on a lot of things, so as a true friend I will mention only those where he is misguided...
...I don't support handouts to the rich, like a tax cut that's done little to rejuvenate a slow economy...
I agree that Keynesian "stimulation" of the economy by providing tax cuts are unwise. Sadly, Keynes's "something for nothing" philosophy has resounated with Americans ever since FDR, so politicians of all parties use it as an excuse to increase spending and/or cut taxes.
Taxes should be set to create a stable, high-growth economy, not manipulated as a short-term fix for a slowing one.
...or the OK to drill for oil where it won't do anyone but the oil companies any good
ANWR has three main winners and two main losers
- Oil providers involved in it
- Oil consumers
- Oil-substitute consumers
- Oil providers not involved in it
- Oil-substitute providers
Oil providers involved in ANWR could only receive all of the social gains from it if they were a monopoly or perfect cartel.
Of course ANWR has the potential to change very-long-run calculations as well, but the future is too uncertain to dwell on those.
Even Mr. Savage will have a hard time refuting the fact that no oil will come from ANWR for many years, no matter how many resolutions are passed
Aaron knows my dim view of Mr. Savage. However, Aaron's premise is incorrect. If not changing oil calculations until the long term is a problem, then green strategies would not make sense either. After all, it will take years for hybrid cars to cut into oil consumption!
Prayer in schools? Sure, why not. As long as you'd be fine going to a Hindu country and praying their prayers in their schools
I am not speaking for Mr. Belew, and I'm against force prayers, but...
Hinduism can be just as effective a horizontal control mechanism as Christianity. Therefore, let Hindu communities lead public Hindu prayers in America!
(Not that there aren't much worse problems with the whole public education system in the first place...)
As a Christian, do you want their ideals forced on you just because you're the minority?
I would guess a good part of Belew's anti-liberal disposition comes from having government forcing liberal views on him for years. While Bush is slowly rolling those back, social engineering has been government policy for a long time.
The people who protested the Vietnam war weren't wrong. It was the wrong war at the wrong time. The fight against communism was just yesterday's religious jihad. There will always be war. Should women and children be murdered so we can raise our flag and be proud of our work? War is one thing. Rape and murder is another. Vietnam was the latter. Read a book
Vietnam was the right war at the right time. While it failed in its central goal, it was successful. The long-term consistent attack on Communist infrastructure robbed the movement of momentum elsewhere in South East Asia. At the same time, the obliteration of modern Vietnam showed all the the price of Communism was unacceptably high. Like the Cuban boycott, the Vietnam War was a success.
Communism was a system of mass slavery. There was no freedom of religion, no freedom of conscience, no freedom of speech, no freedom of work.
Saying there "will always be war" is either demonstrably wrong (it has been, well, ever since Pennsylvania and New York slugged it out) or a meaningless tautology (business as a form of war???).
The end years of the Global War on Communism coincided with the beginning of a Jihad. But there the similarities ended.
The Viet Cong used rape and murder to destroy South Vietnamese civil society. Fortunately, the VC were destroyed during the disasterous (for them) Tet Offensive.
When Warren Buffett, who should be giddy like a schoolgirl at Bush's tax cuts writes a letter to the Washington Post questioning the utility of them, don't you have to wonder?
Almost none of Mr. Buffet's income is earned income. He was barely effected by the income tax cuts.
It is easy being generous with other people's money.
Thanks for the comments.
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Meanwhile, Friedman's rerunning his get-off-oil op-ed for like the 20th time. Really good stuff showing he's basically out of ideas since 9/11. He wants to be a serious thinker on security but he doesn't know how to be. So he shoots for the moon on economics, hoping it sounds really profound. It doesn't. It sounds like pie in the sky.
TMLutas isn't much more hopefully
This Geo-Green strategy is one that will put these societies in a corner and when they lash out at us (perhaps in another 9/11?) we'll have to kill them off. Instead of doing that, we need to lead them out of their current dead end and give the elite an exit strategy that makes lashing out to retain power highly unattractive. I don't see how $18 a barrel oil is going to get us there.
But as I have written, Tom Friedman's geo-green strategy is wise. States that do not evolve beyond subsidies, be they government-to-government or God-to-government (natural resources) end up failed states. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are perfect examples of this.
So, I am happy that fellow blogspiriteur Thomas has discovered the movement
Geo-Green is the combination of environmentalism and geopolitics. As Friedman says, "As a geo-green, I believe that combining environmentalism and geopolitics is the most moral and realistic strategy the U.S. could pusruse today." We have a need to promote environmentalism, which will free us from the stranglehold of Saudi Arabia and other "dealers" we addicts can't say no to. We have a need to promote economic freedom and a strong global economy inorder to truly transform those same undemocratic nations. When we combine geopolitics and environmentalism we in turn get a focus on human rights, world peace, and the advancement of freedom and liberty.
So to get to the point. Towards the end of Friedman's Op-Ed he points out that this change of focus must start at the grassroots level, and he asks where the typical leaders, the college students, are. So because of that, I have a desire to stand up and say, RIGHT HERE! I would like to start a group whose focus is to change the debate within this country toward one of the "Geo-Green Perspective". If there is ANYONE who would like to join me in this effort, please feel free to comment. Send me your thoughts and your ideas. I am in the process of trying to start a student organization here at the University of Iowa. Right now the ultimate vision would be a national non-profit organization, but to get there we must start small and local.
Good luck to you Tom!
Monday, February 14, 2005
"No Mullah Left Behind," by Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/oped/columnists/thomaslfriedman/index.html, 13 February 2005.
After laying the groundwork with a tale of fraid connectivity
The Wall Street Journal ran a very, very alarming article from Iran on its front page last Tuesday. The article explained how the mullahs in Tehran - who are now swimming in cash thanks to soaring oil prices - rather than begging foreign investors to come into Iran, are now shunning some of them. The article related how a Turkish mobile-phone operator, which had signed a deal with the Iranian government to launch Iran's first privately owned cellphone network, had the contract frozen by the mullahs in the Iranian Parliament because they were worried it might help the Turks and their foreign partners spy on Iran.
Why? High oil prices
The Journal quoted Ali Ansari, an Iran specialist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, as saying that for 10 years analysts had been writing about Iran's need for economic reform. "In actual fact, the scenario is worse now," said Mr. Ansari. "They have all this money with the high oil price, and they don't need to do anything about reforming the economy." Indeed, The Journal added, the conservative mullahs are feeling even more emboldened to argue that with high oil prices, Iran doesn't need Western investment capital and should feel "free to pursue its nuclear power program without interference."
Friedman then lays out the possible Vasco de Gama Projects, and the costs for not building them
This is a perfect example of the Bush energy policy at work, and the Bush energy policy is: "No Mullah Left Behind."
By adamantly refusing to do anything to improve energy conservation in America, or to phase in a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax on American drivers, or to demand increased mileage from Detroit's automakers, or to develop a crash program for renewable sources of energy, the Bush team is - as others have noted - financing both sides of the war on terrorism. We are financing the U.S. armed forces with our tax dollars, and, through our profligate use of energy, we are generating huge windfall profits for Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, where the cash is used to insulate the regimes from any pressure to open up their economies, liberate their women or modernize their schools, and where it ends up instead financing madrassas, mosques and militants fundamentally opposed to the progressive, pluralistic agenda America is trying to promote. Now how smart is that?
I've blogged before on the oil-tyrant nexus. We need to cut it. We need to force reform. We need to bring freedom to the oil despotisms of the world.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
"RE: Oil," by Mark Krikorian, The Corner, http://www.nationalreview.com/thecorner/05_02_06_corner-archive.asp#055967, 10 February 2005.
I imagine this is a good frame. No theory on it -- this will be my last post for the night. It fits both into a debate on The Corner over oil and my own thoughts.
John, while I generally share your sentiments on Iraq, I'm afraid Ramesh is right that even if we don't use a drop of oil, it matters a lot to us if Europe and Japan (and China) do. But this is something that can't simply be left to the market to solve -- the solution (making oil economically irrelevant) needs to be accelerated by the government, through much higher gas taxes (preferably offset by eliminating other taxes), nuclear plants powering electric cars, and a Manhattan Project level of commitment to alternative fuel research. This may sound like populist hooey, but we're going to harness fusion power before we're going to be able to bring democracy to the Middle East. And there's an obvious name for this effort: The Vasco da Gama Project, after the explorer who rounded the Cape of Good Hope, finding an alternate route to the Orient and rending the Middle East economically irrelevant for centuries.