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New ‘Green’ EPA/DOT Scheme Under Fire September 16, 2010

Posted by seeineye in : Politics , add a comment

by Barry Carr

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the latest Obama administration “green” initiative: Assign cars an A-D letter grade, to be noted on labels affixed to car windows at auto dealerships, based exclusively on the car’s purported environmental-friendliness.

The executive branch reportedly got the idea from Britain, where the labels have already been introduced in order to push drivers to purchase more “energy efficient” cars.

But here, unlike there, the idea is already meeting with stiff resistance from pretty much everyone– free market advocates, automakers, car dealers, consumers, and even some green types– on a variety of grounds that could imperil the ultimate implementation of the scheme.

The free marketeers object to the scheme on the basis that it represents a “nanny-state” approach in which government seeks to interfere with the natural operation of the market for cars.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers takes a different view, and following its announcement bashed the proposal, suggesting it was overly simplistic and reminiscent of “school-yard” style grading, while pointing out that “grades may inadvertently suggest a government label of approval.”

Meanwhile, car dealers say they like the idea of a simpler label for new cars, but think this proposal misses the mark.  According to Steve Cook, a dealer from Michigan quoted by the Wall Street Journal, “If a big SUV is going to be downgraded compared to a small car, that’s not going to be effective because [the person] who is buying a truck already knows it uses more gas.”  A better system, according to Mr. Cook, would rely on comparisons between vehicles in the same size class and assess their efficiency and environmental impact relative to each other.

A recent poll by Edmunds.com also indicates that consumers dislike the proposal: A mere 18 percent of those surveyed favored the letter grade proposal.  82 percent preferred a label that simply offers more detail with regard to fuel economy and fuel costs than the current version.

Fans of green technology have not had a universally positive response to the plan, either, with some saying the proposal actually enables government to pick winners and losers among green car manufacturers (let alone the whole industry), and entails the administration according a preference to certain technologies over others.  It has been reported that the only cars eligible for an A-plus, A, or A-minus grade would be electrics, plug-ins, and hybrids.  One opponent of the scheme with whom Capitol Confidential spoke said that means that some green cars, especially those relying on clean diesel technology, will lose out unfairly.

“It’s pretty ridiculous to have a system in which VW and Audi TDI models, which won Green Car of the Year awards recently, are graded to suggest they are somehow ‘not green.’” emailed our source.

One writer at Grist, an online environmental magazine, meanwhile criticized the plan this week on the basis that the proposed label would provide too little information to enable consumers minded to make decisions based on the relative “green-ness of cars” to consider all relevant data.

Despite this tidal wave of opposition, the EPA and DOT reportedly remain keen on continuing to pursue the new labels, as part of ongoing efforts to drive consumers to purchase more green technology, like the Chevy Volt, made by government-owned General Motors.  Recently introduced to the market, the Volt costs about $40,000– a price that some auto industry observers say makes it unappealing to run-of-the-mill consumers.  But a high A-rating could potentially make the Volt more marketable to potential buyers concerned about value for money, especially in view of the car’s relatively short range, they say.

Of course, as a USA Today editorial on this subject notes, “People’s priorities vary,” and not everyone prioritizes “green-ness” when buying a vehicle.  Setting aside the questions of whether this proposal skews the market and whether it even appropriately denotes which models of car are “environmentally friendly,” EPA and DOT have yet to explain how this scheme helps the soccer mom with three kids and a dog figure out which minivan– all varieties of which will be given a mediocre grade– to purchase.

Recycling the Big Green Lie September 14, 2010

Posted by seeineye in : Politics , 1 comment so far

by Barry L. Carr

So with the news today reflecting the recycling-mania of the very same peoples’ republic I voted against with my feet just a few years ago — installing “tracking chips” in recycling bins (now in Cool Ranch flavor!) to assist the Green Police — I see another, written example of the environmentalist’s fetish. (Of course, when I lived in Alexandria, I had Greenpeace tracking my garbage already, removing it every Sunday night. Think of the possibilities with this scheme had I not moved.)

Anyway, coincidentally the Washington Post runs this cute item in the center of its opinion page by environmental scold Bill McKibben. Its on-line title is something less risible than in my print edition, tossed at the gym earlier, which was “Solar’s Shining Moment at the White House” or something very close to that. Fittingly, it is accompanied by a photo of Jimmy Carter.

Noting that the solar panels that Carter had installed during his one term (Obama, you might better hurry), McKibben tells a whopper when he says that the contraption provided cheap power. That must be why that industry wouldn’t exist without federal subsidies more than 100 times those granted oil and gas, per unit of energy produced. And now demands a law mandating that people buy their stuff (McKibben does implicitly admit all of this with his citation of failed climate legislation being the hurdle to our miracle power becoming reality…). Such are the perils of prosperity, we are to believe. Or, possibly, be distracted from.

Regardless, the underlying argument, that now is the time for symbolic gestures (and mandates and more subsidies) because solar can be the miracle breakthrough technology solving our energy needs shows a deep commitment to recycling.

Consider this headline from the Wall Street Journal. Note the date.

solarWSJ

It isn’t that Carter didn’t try to nag, subsidize and mandate breakthrough technologies into existence. You can’t legislate around the laws of physics or make the uneconomic into the economic (though it is true that you can, as President Obama serially says, make certain kinds of energy technologies “the profitable kind”; begging the obvious answer of “at the taxpayer’s and ratepayer’s expense”).

Add to this the insulting talking point that we need to begin investing in uneconomic technologies to bail out Ponzi-style speculation, which is premised on a falsehood while also ignoring what deep down most citizens surely know: the search for the ideal energy source never ended.

In fact, that search launched into over-drive, if into a ditch filled with taxpayer subsidy-addled distortions, about the time of the (also tiresomely invoked) Apollo Project. And so far we’ve spent half of what we spent on Apollo chasing Flubber and flying cars, having gotten nowhere. “Nowhere”? Yes. They admit as much, even as they try to hide it, with the very same talking point of begin to invest. The entirety of McKibben’s piece begging for more puts the lie to that.

All those billions and we’re at square one. By these modern carnival barkers’ own admissions, made while coaxing Peter into forgetting he has already had billions robbed from him to give to Paul.

Drop the symbolic gestures. Oh, and the decades of wasteful wealth transfers and inefficiencies piled on the economy. If this isn’t the time to call Bull on these boondoggles, will there ever be one?

Bashing Bush and Boehner Won’t Work: Obamanomics Is the Problem September 13, 2010

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by Larry Kudlow

Under pressure from a barrage of bad midterm-election polls, President Obama has gone on the campaign trail to blame Pres. George W. Bush for all our economic problems, and to bash House Republican leader John Boehner as nothing more than a Bush retread.

In Friday’s dreary news conference, Obama acknowledged that economic progress is “painfully slow,” and that voters may blame him for the economy. Yet he nonetheless continued to finger Bush “for policies that cut taxes, especially for millionaires and billionaires, cut regulations for corporations and for special interests, and left everyone else pretty much fending for themselves.”

“Millionaires and billionaires” has become Obama’s favorite phrase as he calls for tax hikes on the wealthy and renews his attacks on Bush. In Cleveland last week, Obama actually blamed the Bush tax cuts for the financial meltdown and severe recession. Now that’s a reach. A big reach.

While Mr. Bush made plenty of economic mistakes, his 2003 reductions of marginal tax rates led to more than 8 million new jobs in the next four and a half years. Under Bush, the unemployment rate dropped to 4.6 percent.

And almost all economists agree that the 2007-08 financial meltdown was a housing-bubble and credit event. It had nothing at all to do with cutting taxes.

Regarding John Boehner, Obama slammed the GOP leader eight times in Cleveland. He claimed “no new policies from Mr. Boehner,” saying the Republican leader’s philosophy “led to this mess in the first place: cut more taxes for millionaires and cut more rules for corporations.”

Well, none of this is going to work come November 2.

Take a good look at the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. It is very revealing on these points.

Voters were asked, if Republicans win control of Congress, will they return to the economic policies of George W. Bush, or will they have different ideas to deal with the economy? The response: 58 percent said different ideas, 35 percent said the policies of George W. Bush. Voters were then asked, if Democrats maintain control of Congress, will they continue with the economic policies of Barack Obama, or will they have different ideas on the economy? The response: 62 percent said the policies of Obama, 32 percent said different ideas.

The poll also found that 56 percent of voters disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy while 39 percent approve; that 71 percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing; and that 62 percent think it better that different parties control Congress and the White House. Overall, on the generic congressional vote, likely voters favor Republicans over Democrats 49 to 40 percent.

Clearly, Obama is barking up the wrong tree with his assaults on Bush and Boehner.

It’s the Obama agenda, especially on the economy, that has voters agitated. It’s a couple trillion dollars worth of big-government spending stimulus. It’s add-ons like cash for clunkers, cash for caulkers, and homebuyer tax credits. It’s the never-ending mortgage-default assistance. It’s two years of unemployment benefits. It’s more government-union bailouts for the states. It’s GM, Fannie, and Freddie. And of course, it’s Obamacare, which remains hugely unpopular.

Folks simply don’t think they got much for their money. And now they want to get their money back. They even want strict constitutional limits on the size, scope, spending, and taxing of the federal government, which has just made the biggest power grab they’ve ever seen.

The point is, your average Joe the Plumber in all those flyover states has probably barely even heard of John Boehner. This Boehner attack reminds me of the GOP’s futile attempt to demonize Nancy Pelosi in the autumn of 2006. Back then, nobody had much heard of Pelosi. But people voted the Republicans out because of overspending, bridges to nowhere, corruption, and the Iraq War.

Today, while the GOP is developing a platform that is expected out at the end of the month, voters seem to know that a nearly united Republican party opposes Bailout Nation, big spending and borrowing, Obamacare, and a new national energy tax. Republicans are far from perfect. But they have slowly developed a good message: Freeze spending, keep tax rates down, hold back the redistributionist government tide, help entrepreneurs, reward success, and create jobs and economic growth through the traditional American route of private-sector business, not government planning.

In the next seven weeks, if Republicans can stay on this message, they will win big.

ObamaCare bends the cost curve … upward September 10, 2010

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by Ed Morrissey

Remember when Barack Obama promised that his health-care overhaul would “bend the cost curve downward” and arrest rapid increases in costs?  The Wall Street Journal has an advance look at a report from the federal government that shows no slowing in costs to the government as a result of the ObamaCare bill.  In fact, the analysis will show that the bill’s passage actually results in an increase in outlays over what had been projected for the next decade:

The health-care overhaul enacted last spring won’t significantly change national health spending over the next decade compared with projections before the law was passed, according to government figures set to be released Thursday.

The report by federal number-crunchers casts fresh doubt on Democrats’ argument that the health-care law would curb the sharp increase in costs over the long term, the second setback this week for one of the party’s biggest legislative achievements. …

Regardless of the health law, national health spending has been rising in recent years and economists expect that to continue. In February, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projected that overall national health spending would increase an average of 6.1% a year over the next decade.

The center’s economists recalculated the numbers in light of the health bill and now project that the increase will average 6.3% a year, according to a report in the journal Health Affairs. Total U.S. health spending will reach $4.6 trillion by 2019, accounting for nearly one of every five U.S. dollars spent, the report says.

“The overall net impact is moderate,” said lead author Andrea Sisko, an economist at the Medicare agency. “The underlying impacts on coverage and financing are more pronounced.”

Here is the chart of the day:

 

The Journal reported earlier this week that insurers have already begun raising premiums in response to the front-loading of ObamaCare benefit mandates by the White House.  That report sent Democrats into fits of anger, threatening to “ratchet up pressure” on insurers.  Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) blamed “greed” for price increases instead of the higher costs imposed by the mandates — a completely predictable consequence of adding more mandates to insurance coverage.

Perhaps these same Democrats can put pressure on themselves to explain once again how the higher costs in ObamaCare meets their promise of bending the cost curve downward.  Not only does the cost curve literally go upward more under ObamaCare for overall spending as percentage of GDP in comparison to the pre-ObamaCare trajectory, it consistently pushes it upward for private insurance, and especially Medicaid.  It only bends downward for Medicare and slightly downward for out-of-pocket costs for consumers.

Medicare’s trajectory does look slightly better under ObamaCare, but there’s a reason for that.  The slowdown comes from lower reimbursement rates for Medicare services, which means it comes out of the pockets of doctors.  The result will be fewer participating providers in Medicare, which will mean longer wait times, more difficulty in getting treatments, and most likely higher out-of-pocket payments as those consumers pay retail for their medical care more often.

ObamaCare fails to deliver on its promise in yet another way, and this is only the beginning.

The 97% fallacy: Why Democratic tax-hike rhetoric is deceptive September 4, 2010

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by Ed Morrissey

 

With the economy sliding during Wreckovery Summer and jobs growth falling behind the number of new workers with each new jobless report, one might think that Democrats would have figured out that they need capital to get back in the game.  One way to entice wealth back into economy-expanding service would be to extend the tax cuts that expire at the end of the year, especially those at the top end of the spectrum, in order to keep potential investors from sheltering it instead.  The Wall Street Journal reports that Democrats and the White House have decided to mischaracterize the issue instead, with claims that the tax increase for the top bracket would only impact 3% of small businesses:

Recently, for example, Vice President Joe Biden harshly rejected House Minority Leader John Boehner’s assertion that the hikes would harm small businesses, saying that “he has created this myth that a tax cut for millionaires is actually a tax cut for small business. There aren’t 3% of small businesses in America that would qualify for that tax cut.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flipped the number around, saying that the planned tax increases would exempt “98% of American families and about 97% of small businesses.”

The impact is far more severe than Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Biden suggest. In fact, the sound bite about 3% of small businesses, which has been picked up by numerous pundits, is one of the more misleading statements in the long history of economic propaganda.

The 3% figure, which is computed from IRS data, is based on simply counting the number of returns with any pass-through business income. So, if somebody makes a little money selling products on eBay and reports that income on Schedule C of their tax return, they are counted as a small business. The fact that there are millions of people in the lower tax brackets with small amounts of business income may be interesting for some purposes, but it is irrelevant for the assessment of the economic impact of the tax hikes.

The numbers are clear. According to IRS data, fully 48% of the net income of sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations reported on tax returns went to households with incomes above $200,000 in 2007. That’s the number to look at, not the 3%. Would Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Biden deny that the more successful firms owned by individuals in the top income-tax bracket are disproportionately responsible for investment and job creation?

Even if it were true, why would we want to penalize anyone with capital for investing and succeeding?  Right now, we need an all-hands-on-deck call for capital.  Insisting that we need to penalize those with the most to put to use is absurd in any case.

But as the WSJ notes, the huckster for “Recovery Summer” has as much accuracy as, well, Recovery Summer.  It comes as a piece from the Obama campaign’s insistence that $250,000 in annual income somehow classified people as “rich” without any consideration of how the income was created and how it was used.  That definition includes a lot of people running small businesses, employing others, and paying their taxes, too.  When that tax increase hits, it’s going to hit a lot of small business owners, and that will mean fewer jobs and a shrinking tax base.