Raise Taxes

Government interventions usually crash on the concept of price. Prices are not accidental. They not only regulate supply and demand, but also contain information about scarcities and expectations that allow everyone to make sound decisions. Governments cannot permanently lower prices without creating shortages. But they can create inefficiencies and scarcities that push prices higher. Sometimes this might be an appropriate use of government power.

In today’s WSJ an article called "The Upside of the Oil Curse" talked about the benefits of high oil prices. (I wrote about this subject for Watchblog a while back.)

Our experience with the first energy crisis shows how well prices work. For all the talk about conservation and alternatives energy intensity improved by little before the 1973 price spikes. In the 1970s and early 1980s, energy efficiency improved remarkably (2.7% a year). Progress slowed after prices fell, dropping to 1.6% a year from 1986-2002. We just saw progess again when prices rose recently. SUVs sat on the lots; hybrids sold in hours. Prices work.

High prices encourage conservation and alternatives like nothing else. In fact, the oil barons and OPEC potentates fear high prices for this very reason. The problem is that oil prices will drop again and will be low about the same time investments in new energy sources could be expected to pay off, so smart money is slower to make make such investments.

I know that many of you are saying that prices will never come down. A brief look at the history of oil prices shows why this is not true. In the early 1980s, nobody thought the price would ever come down, yet by 1998 oil was only about $10 a barrel. So what can we do to prevent this happening again?

We should provide a floor to oil prices. When oil drops to around $45 or $50 a barrel (in today’s dollars), and it will, we should tax it back up. (We might have a chance to pass such a tax now, since it seems so impossible that lower prices would ever happen.) This tax would have the advantage of being counter cyclical. It is one of the few times when government can influence prices for good. Maybe a good tax is not always an oxymoron.

Posted by Jack at January 11, 2006 12:14 AM
Comments
Comment #112087

TRANSLATION: Keep buying those SUVs, you gullible Republicans!!!

Posted by: Aldous at January 11, 2006 3:30 AM
Comment #112091

Yes, and be sure you start walking to work. Tree hugger!

Posted by: G at January 11, 2006 4:02 AM
Comment #112102

G, you do know that Jack owns a tree farm, don’t you? I bet he hugs his trees. And there’s nothing wrong with that in my opinion. I disagree with Jack on just about everything but I hug my trees too. And my motorcycle as well as I’m getting 50 MPG.

Posted by: ray at January 11, 2006 5:14 AM
Comment #112135

Yes and when they wipe your brains up off the pavement when someone in a big SUV runs over your scooter, lets hope they recycle you. You seem to be good fertilizer.


G,, please take your name calling comments elsewhere, it is obvious you do not wish to comply with our Critique the Message, Not the Messenger, policy. —WatchBlog Managing Editor

Posted by: G at January 11, 2006 6:43 AM
Comment #112137

Jack,
The markets are smarter than that. If a tax is going to hike it back up at a price point, those who control supply will be less likely to allow that to happen.

Maybe you should come clean - I suspect you’re enjoying watching the capital gains accumulate on your energy mutual funds.

Posted by: Schwamp at January 11, 2006 7:39 AM
Comment #112138

I am sorry but did I just read that ‘we should tax it back up’? The reasoning for this would be? I think that would rather prefer to keep my hard-earned money than to impose another tax.

Posted by: Raul at January 11, 2006 7:51 AM
Comment #112139

Hey Jack. If government regulatory taxes are good for oil conservation, maybe they’re good for other things… Or is this one of those hypocritical partisan things where only Republican ideas for raising taxes are good.

I agree with you on this one, BTW. I also think investing a mere one tenth of one percent of our GNP to comply with the Kyoto Protocols would be a good idea.

Posted by: American Pundit at January 11, 2006 7:53 AM
Comment #112140

Raul,
How come there is always so much complaining at the suggestion that our govt get some of the gas price increases and almost no resistance when rogue middle eastern regimes get most of the increased demand of your hard earned gas money?

Posted by: Schwamp at January 11, 2006 8:00 AM
Comment #112141

That is not the only tax that is going to be needed to be raised given the deficit, SS, medicade and other programs that need cash.

Of course, that wouldn’t be neccessary if we cut our defense spending (i don’t think Lockheed martin needs more money to build missles or attack helicopters…)

Posted by: tree hugger at January 11, 2006 8:04 AM
Comment #112142

Isn’t oil taxed enough? The last thing we need to do is to try and regulate prices through taxation. Price controls by government NEVER work as people think they will (the 1970’s are just one example of this, the USSR the other). Let the markets work. When people get tired of paying through the nose for gas and other energy sources then people will get to work on alternative energy sources.
While we wait the 15 - 20 years it will take to get those alternative energy sources up and running (and who is to say that they won’t even be more expensive), we need to start getting oil from other domestic sources that are available if only government regulations were not in the way. Taxing oil even more is not the answer, letting the markets work is.

Posted by: SWMichiganConservative at January 11, 2006 8:04 AM
Comment #112145

Jack:

Much as I hate to admit it, I happen to agree with you. I do have one caveat, and that is to use the revenue for development of alternate sources of energy (not more oil exploration or drilling).

Posted by: womanmarine at January 11, 2006 8:12 AM
Comment #112151

Jack
Are you sure your not an undercover Liberial? Or are you just a Republican? Either way same/same.
So if the price of oil drops to low the Government should increase taxes to keep the prices high. What if it goes up to $100 per barrel? Do they drop the taxes? Somehow I just cann’t see that happening. And what will our ‘esteemed’ politicans waste the money on?
Until our Government can show that they can be trusted with our tax money that they’re already getting, I’m against ANY KIND of tax increases for ANY reason.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 11, 2006 9:11 AM
Comment #112155

This is kind off subject but it still has to do with taxes.
How many of yaall knew before Saturday that the postage tax was going up on Sunday? I didn’t know untill Saturday night. Some of the folks at church didn’t know unitl I mentioned it Sunday.
Just another fine example of Government being underhanded and sneaking a new tax on us.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 11, 2006 9:26 AM
Comment #112157

If we’re going to manipulate the market, lets subsidize hybrid and fuel cell cars and fund research into alternatives and augmentations to the modern automobile, rather than beat around the Bush on the matter.

The roadblock approach of gasoline taxation will do us little good. When my family got it’s latest car, it was to replace a gas guzzler. Because of the improvements in gas economy, that car dramatically increased our range.

Improvements in efficiency will benefit the economy and our energy independence to a far greater degree than taxes on gasoline, because the added efficiencies will cycle back into the market allowing those manufacturing the new technologies to optimize their production.

The status quo has already been punished. Car companies can no longer move the SUVs that used to be their mainstay. They can’t keep the Hybrids in stock. The Market has spoken, and it doesn’t need a megaphone. What we need is added economic incentive to do the right thing.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 11, 2006 9:34 AM
Comment #112164

Schwamp,

I don’t see the relevance of your ‘complaining’ argument. If given the choice of paying the U.S. government, some ‘rogue middle eastern regime’ or my family I think you can guess my answer…

If prices do drop at the pump I will be the last to support any new tax on it. The U.S. government is big enough already, it doesn’t need any more of my financial support, imho.

Posted by: Raul at January 11, 2006 9:55 AM
Comment #112166

The status quo has already been punished. Car companies can no longer move the SUVs that used to be their mainstay. They can’t keep the Hybrids in stock. The Market has spoken, and it doesn’t need a megaphone. What we need is added economic incentive to do the right thing.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 11, 2006 09:34 AM

Have you noticed how quickly they improved the gas mileage on the SUVs? The technology has been there, they just haven’t had the proper motivation to use it. Now if the market will only force front wheel drive off the market.
I’m in the market for a new car. The old Falcon has finally bit the dust after 450,000 miles. I would like to get a car that would get the 28mpg that it got, or better. But I’ll be damned if I’m buying one of them wrecks waitng to happen front wheel drive pieces of shit. So I’ll most likey end up with an Crown Victoria.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 11, 2006 10:00 AM
Comment #112169

Ron

The idea would be to provide a price floor under which it doesn’t go. I see your point that once in place, it would be hard to make taxes go away. But if you are going to tax (and we will) this is among the least harmful and maybe even useful ways to do it.

The price of oil has a natural ceiling, currently around $65, so it is about as high as can get except for occasional spikes that will come back down (in today’s dollars). At this price, alternatives become very attractive. This is another example of how and why prices work so well to regulate demand.

AP

Kyoto is flawed because it tries not only to limit carbon but also redistribute world resources and manage the energy future. We can accomplish many of the same things without the economic dislocation. The sooner we get out of the Kyoto mind set, the sooner we can do such things right.

I read in the paper that since Kyoto was negotiated the Europeans (as a group) have increased their CO2 emissions by 5.4%. Over the same period, the U.S. is up only 4.7%. I know that the treaty was not in force for most of that time, but this shows how hard it will be. It is also interesting to note that Euro economies posted anemic growth during that period and still managed to increase more than the U.S., which was doing much better.

Stephen

We have the mechanism to encourge innovation and that is price. If you let government subsidize it means they will pick winners and losers and manage the projects. This government is unable to do. Remember the synfuels debackle? BTW -many firms are still reaping the windfalls from that without having produced anything useful.

If you look at the chart of energy efficiency, you will also notice that gains were made only when prices mattered. Energy efficiency gains peaked under Reagan and declined most under Clinton. The energy policies of these administrations did little to affect it.

Posted by: Jack at January 11, 2006 10:01 AM
Comment #112171

I couldn’t have even come close to saying it as well myself. Kudos, Jack. Well put.
It’s about time that we start paying a price a little closer to the real cost of our oil, and no matter what you think, the government needs money. What better place to get it?

Posted by: D.D. at January 11, 2006 10:24 AM
Comment #112179

Hey ‘American Pundit’……..Unless the Kyoto Protocol suddenly imposes the same guidelines/restrictions on India and China, 0% of our GNP should be put into it! Those 2 economies are already going to overrun ours within 10 years. How much more of an advantage do you want to give them?

Posted by: CT Paul at January 11, 2006 10:40 AM
Comment #112182

I agree the market is the best way to regulate prices. We must be willing to live with the concequences though. When foriegn auto makers that had the forsight to develope hybrids while our american auto makers were busy trying to convince themselves SUV’s would continue to sell forever start to drive Ford, Chrystler and GM into bankrupcy we need to accept that. Don’t worry though the foreign auto makers will move into the country and replace the jobs lost with their own factories. For most working Americans it would mean same job differant boss.
A gas tax that creates a floor would only enable poorly run companies to continue to exist. IMHO let the strong survive by their merits not help the weak ones.

Posted by: zakquiet at January 11, 2006 10:43 AM
Comment #112183

I cannot believe what I am reading here. In 2004, the average price of gasoline in the U.S. was $1.85/gallon, in 2003 the average was $1.56/gallon. In 2004, the percentage of that cost that went to the federal and state government was 23% yet in the previous year though the overall price of retail gasoline was lower, the percentage that went to the government was 4% higher! A major factor influencing the increase in gasoline prices in 2005 was the increase in crude oil prices. This increase in demand for crude oil also had its effects on the related services of refining and transportation costs. Further, Hurricane Katrina negatively affected the U.S. market in particular when more than 25% of U.S. crude oil production and 10-15% of U.S. refinery capacities were hit. During this period, the major oil pipelines that fed the Midwest and the East Coast from the Gulf of Mexico area were shut down or forced to operate at reduced rates for a signicant period of time. In this you have the explanation for the increases we saw here in the states of our gasoline prices. Regardless of the causes, the fact remains that overall the U.S. government in recent history already enjoyed a greater than 20% levy on our retail gasoline. I can’t imagine that this percentage changed all that much during the past year to assist the average American at the pump. The best thing that our government can do for the average Joe is to decrease this (imho) outrageous level of taxation at the local gasoline station, so to speak. As far as I know, only credit card companies get a greater percentage of our money!

Posted by: Raul at January 11, 2006 10:48 AM
Comment #112186

Jack,

I have enjoyed your posts as inciteful, clear and reasoned. Today’s post is where I disagree. Taxes punish the people period. Why should I pay taxes to our government, so that an international companies will have an artificial price support? Currently, the oil companies, the government, the middlemen and finally the gas station owner profitted from the recent spike in pricing and in that order. Adding another tax to the long list of taxes and fees on gas only takes money out of my pocket.

During the recent spike in gas, along with the rise in cost of many oil related products in my business, I recently purchased a small pickup for work instead of a full size.

I do not know if oil will fall or not. I see the world wide demand increasing every year as countries start reaping some economic gains. China comes to mind. The U.S. is not the only consumer on the block. I believe that the market will shake things out. Not quickly, unless someone paying attention to Thomas Friedman decides that green is the next boom of the future. How about and X-prise like the latest race for private space exploration? The automakers and oil companies are the size of government and move about as fast. In fact given GM’s current state, I can’t see large amounts of R&D being funded in the near term.

Incentive for production, not punishment for usage.

Posted by: Scott at January 11, 2006 11:08 AM
Comment #112187

Wait. I thought republicans were for letting business letting do what it wants and not getting letting government get in the way. Republicans surprise me more and more everyday.

Posted by: chantico at January 11, 2006 11:13 AM
Comment #112191

Chantico,

This is part of the reason why I am strongly considering a status switch to ‘Independent’. Neither major party seems to be very attractive lately.

Posted by: Raul at January 11, 2006 11:27 AM
Comment #112192

There’s already enough tax on gas.
I am surprised anyone is suggesting a higher tax on gas, now or later. After all, don’t we already pay income taxes? Isn’t $2 trillion per year enough to operate the government? Isn’t 19% of GDP enough money for the government?

How about fixing the stupid tax system, before dreaming up new taxes?

For that matter, how about a number of simple, no-brainer, common-sense reforms before suggesting new taxes?

How about:
(1) CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM (government shouldn’t be FOR SALE) ?
(2) TAX REFORM ?
(3) ONE PURPOSE PER BILL to reduce pork-barrel, graft, waste, corruption, and corporate welfare ?
(4) BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT ?

How about some reforms first, before suggesting tax increases, for cryin’ out load ?

Of course, government never reforms itself.
That’s why voters need to provide new incumbents some new incentives…like requesting Congress to start making some of these reforms (above), or your career will be very short. Maybe some recalls are in order? Why won’t politicians address CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM? Or, TAX REFORM? Or ONE PURPOSE PER BILL Amendment? Or a BALANCED BUDGET Amendment? Because they never will unless voters force them to. The peaceful approach would be better. Simply do the one simple, non-partisan, logical, safe, peaceful, responsible thing we were supposed to be doing all along. Take off your partisan blinders, and vote out irresponsible incumbents (and also start recalls to remove irresponsible incumbents), and continue it until incumbents provide the transparency and law enforcement necessary to see who is irresponsible and who to hold accountable. This is the one thing politicians are hoping voters never discover. But, as seen in previous anti-incumbent periods (e.g. 1952-1958, 1976-1980, and 1992-1994), the voters do get fed up. The only mistake the voters make is they fail to follow through, and demand more transparency. Thus, we keep repeating this cycle. Perhaps, someday, voters will learn to focus longer than one election cycle, and also demand some no-brainer and common-sense reforms?

Sounds simple, but it is difficult to get people to take off their partisan blinders. I used to be one of them. I used to wallow in the petty, distractnig, partisan warfare too. That is how the parties and incumbents secure their cu$hy, coveted seats of power, and trick us into returning to the voting booth to continue to empower them to abuse us and bribe us with our own money. We’ve been fooed to think the incumbents can do a better job. It is a myth. They serve their big-money-donor-puppeteers. Not The People. Power corrupts, and some people succumb to temptation, to attain security and prosperity with the least effort and pain. Transparency and law enforcement are needed to discourage corruption, but government will never reform voluntarily. It’s not enough to simply vote out irresponsible incumbents once or twice. It is necessary to also have an agenda. A good place to start is with a few very simple, no-brainer, common-sense, un-contentions objectives. WITH ONE PURPOSE PER BILL, the voters will be able to see exactly who is and who is not responsible and should be voted out (or recalled).

There is no mystery why things are the way they are.
The mystery is why the voters tolerate it, until they get fed up, vote anti-incumbent only once or twice, and think their job is finished. Follow through is needed to obtain some of those simple, much needed reforms too. Otherwise, it was for nothing, the benefits (if any) are temporary, and the cycle starts all over again.

Posted by: d.a.n at January 11, 2006 11:41 AM
Comment #112195
There’s already enough tax on gas. I am surprised anyone is suggesting a higher tax on gas, now or later. After all, don’t we already pay income taxes? Isn’t $2 trillion per year enough to operate the government? Isn’t 19% of GDP enough money for the government?

Depends on what you want government to do, doesn’t it?

If you believe that government should just completely get out of the business of providing health insurance and pensions and let “free markets” handle all that, including creating a lot of winners (insurance brokers, Wall Street tycoons) and losers (poor people, people with chronic health problems) then we can do it for less than 19 percent.

If, on the other hand you believe that those problems require government to intervene in the “free market” so that people do not suffer as much, then perhaps 19% isn’t enough.

Posted by: bobo at January 11, 2006 12:25 PM
Comment #112197

Jack,

Nice post. I’m curious to know if you included foreign policy in the fact that oil prices will drop? What I mean is, with the Iran situation looking like they’ll have oil embargos, along with this nutcase in Venezuela and coupled with the fact that these cowards in the US Senate won’t pass the ANWAR bill, will that have anything to do with the price of oil going up or down?

Posted by: rahdigly at January 11, 2006 12:38 PM
Comment #112198

Bobo,

I see…a little less pre-FDR United States and a lot more France.

I believe that we can address the social issues without having to rely so much on Momma government to fix many of our boo-boos making us more and more dependent on her and her breast milk. Here’s a thought, how about more support for non-government entities such as the church, synagogue, mosque etc. to provide these services and encourage more community responsibility? During Katrina, for example, I believe the organizations that assisted most in that disaster was…umm…not the government, but the religious groups. If you want to rely on the government to address the social needs in a timely manner I say good luck to ya and let me know how that works out…

I believe that the government does have a responsibility to keep corporations honest and outside of that in the economics arena, not much else.

Posted by: Raul at January 11, 2006 12:43 PM
Comment #112199

Jack-
Don’t look now, but your gas tax picks winners and losers, too. Already, taxes from the Bush administration have decided the winners, before gas prices forced another one- The Bush administration picked SUVs, by giving a humongous tax write-off to those getting it for Business purposes. They picked the Oil Companies by given them massive tax cuts despite the fact that they had equally massive profits.

Let’s face facts: The Republicans do not practice free market economics. They just use tax policy to subsidize under the table those they could not be seen subsidizing outright.

Anyways, if we want to force improvements in fuel economy, why don’t we gradually raise the federal CAFE standards, rather than punish millions of consumers and business with increased fuel prices? If you’re going to interfere, you might as well interfere with authority, rather than vague hopes of indirect persuasion.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 11, 2006 12:51 PM
Comment #112209
I couldn’t have even come close to saying it as well myself. Kudos, Jack. Well put. It’s about time that we start paying a price a little closer to the real cost of our oil, and no matter what you think, the government needs money. What better place to get it?

The government doesn’t need more money.
It alredy gets $2 trillion per year (19% of GDP).
That’s already too much. It should be close to 15%.

How about this novel idea? Cut spending, waste, pork-barrel, graft, and corruption?

Is this the red column? I can’t believe what I’m seeing? Usually, its the other side that wants to raise taxes.

But, it helps prove neither party is that different.
That too, is why I’m no longer Republican.

Just look at some of this irresponsible behavior.
If that doesn’t make you mad, nothing will.
The federal government isn’t just irresponsible.
It is dangerous. How dare Congress do this while we have troops risking life and limb !
If you’re like me, and you’re tired of this nonsense, then remove the partisan blinders, reject the seduction into the circular, petty, partisan warfare, and start voting out (and recalling) these bought-and-paid-for incumbents until they stop being so irresponsible and unaccountable.

Think about this.
Consider Dan Rostenkowski (D).
Talk about being bought-and-paid for.
Well, he was convicted of fraud and corruption.
In fact, he even pled guilty.
But, guess what happened later?
Bill Clinton pardoned him and 139 other convicted felons.
So, where is the accountability?
Why abide by the law, when you can be above it?
This is the ultimate slap in the face to voters, and the jury, and judge that convicted Dan Rostenkowski.
Then, consider Ted Kennedy.
Consider Bush calling the Minute Men vigilantes, while Bush refuses to enforce the laws to secure the borders (which really wouldn’t be that hard….it could be done easily with 1% of our existing 2.6 million troops, guard, and reserves).

And, how about the recent Supreme Court rulings that allow people’s land to be siezed for purposes not solely for public use?

How much of this crap are voters going to tolerate?

I’m not blaming this all on Republicans.
It’s both parties.
It’s the majority of incumbents.
And, it’s the system.

The system receives new Congress persons.

(Power)
+ (Opportunity for abuse)
+ (Human nature to seek security & proserity)
- (Transparency & Accountability)
= irresponsible and unaccountable government.

Thus, the result is completely predictable.

Reform is needed, but government will never reform itself. Significant reform only results when politicians fear they’ll lose their cu$hy, coveted seats of power.

The voters can deliver them an incentive.
The voters can provide the peaceful force that is required (i.e. to bring about reform peacefully).
Or, the voters can ignore the problem, and suffer the consequences. But, ignoring government, as we’ve seen time and time again, invites abuse.

And, the last few decades has seen plenty of excesses of the federal government, as it continues to grow ever larger, to nightmare proporations, and gradually picks away at democracy.

Voters can do it the easy, simple, inexpensive, safe, peaceful, responsible way … or voters can wait and experience the hard way (again).

Posted by: d.a.n at January 11, 2006 1:33 PM
Comment #112210

I don’t have time to read the whole thread but I, for once, agree with a piece of Jack. High energy prices will force conservation (unless of course there is market intervention).

What I didn’t see discussed was the effect that Exxon’s $10,000,000,000 (billion) profit last quarter has as a tax on the economy. If Exxon and the other oil comapanies provided services with that extra money (remember that’s money above COGS) that’s one thing. But paying dividends to a few thousand shareholders {full disclosure: that includes me} (and paying into BushCo re-election coffers) is just usuary and improper.

Posted by: Dave at January 11, 2006 1:37 PM
Comment #112217

Stephen

There are several ways to try to get something done. You can try to coerce them, which works as long as you can watch, but encourages people to try to get out from under your thumb and cheat. You can bribe them, which works at first but requires ever-higher bribes and encourages them to find new things to be bribed about. OR you can set up a system that rewards innovation and has a mechanism for catching cheaters. This is price. The way to avoid higher prices is to innovate. There is no point in pretending to innovate, since the price doesn’t listen to your stories. That is why it works.

As for punishing people with high prices, so what? They have options. In the short run those options are limited, but we tend to outlive short runs. In the medium or long run they can buy more efficient cars, move closer to work, arrange telecommuting, insulate their homes etc. You can try to get them to do these things by government fiat or coercion, but they will figure out ways to avoid what they don’t want to do. In the short term or the limited scope other methods can work. But in the long run in a complicated system ONLY price produces the desired outcomes.

One more thing. Government CANNOT compel a lower price. It can only create shortages.

Rahdigly

I was thinking of foreign policy when I wrote this. Oil is a powerful weapon in the hands of the despots you are talking about. Much of the world’s exportable oil is controlled by bad actors. I want to dull their weapon. We did that in the 1970s and 1980s when the prices compelled us to adapt and diversify. I want to do it again and better. I don’t want Chavez or the Mullahs or even the new Czars to be able to dictate to us. I enjoyed it in the 1990s when we could (and did) tell them to jump in the lake or drink their oil. Price will help us do that again, but I don’t want to lose it a second time. Complicated energy policies otherwise just add to the hot air.

Price works.

Posted by: Jack at January 11, 2006 2:05 PM
Comment #112231

Jack-
Yes, Jack, some of us have options. Others of us will find it more difficult to get to work, more difficult to afford food.

If you’re so reliant on price, why not directly apply the punishment, and push a tax on vehicles that get below a certain gas mileage? Why punish people who already have halfway efficient vehicles?

As for government creating a lower price, It is entirely possible, though it’s not mentioned in polite company among your party members.

Another thing: How wise is it for you to raise gas prices so much, when natural disasters, corporate greed, and OPEC can wreak their havoc on that market?

On the whole, the most I’m really in favor of is federal funding for research. Subsidies and taxes, both hikes and breaks, rate low in terms of economic manipulation in my book, unless a compelling national interest is present.

Additionally, I say good luck in selling this to people. This idea is going to be about as popular as a superglue toilet seat.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 11, 2006 3:03 PM
Comment #112244

Stephen,
There was a law specifically designed to punish the less fuel efficient gas guzzlers… it was the CAFE tax. The Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency tax.

The SUV was allowed to develop under the heading of trucks which were exempt from the CAFE and also from passenger vehicle safety regulations.

I do have a question for my fiscally conservative friends out here….

A statement was made that until the government proves that they are careful with the money they are already getting they shouldn’t be allowed to create any new taxes. (Please pardon the paraphrase, if it isn’t speficic enough I welcome people to go back up and get the general drift from the previous posts.)

Now, my question:

Granted, under the Clinton administraion I can understand the mistrust of governmental spending with taxes (Us “tax and spend” democrats)…

It has now been 5 years into having President Bush and Republicans in control of the purse strings…

Are you saying that even with a Republican majority the government is not spending in lines with your beliefs?

How can this be? Please, please, please answer in a bit more intelligent fashion that us Liberals forcing your guys to do something. We all know the truth is that the Democrats don’t have enough power at the moment to do diddly squat. We cannot be guilty of forcing the republicans to spend anything they don’t want to spend.

Is it possible that realpoltik is kicking in and to meet the needs ot their constituents, republican politicans are spending according to the desires of the nation and not the party?

Just interested.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 11, 2006 4:12 PM
Comment #112245

I don’t agree with Jack’s comments very often, but I must stay we are of one mind on this topic.

Higher gas prices would force both businesses and individuals to be more fuel efficient. I wouldn’t suggest raising fuel taxes now while gas prices are still high, but I fully support Jack’s idea to institute a floor for gas prices. Without an economic incentive to raise efficiencies there is no reason for anybody to try and save, and if prices were to drop below a certain point the economic incentive would disappear entirely. Also, with oil prices as high as they are now other “greener” energy alternatives become more economically viable (i.e. biodiesel, hydrogen, natural gas, coal to liquid).

Kudos, to Jack for saying it in the forum most likely to tar and feather him for it. :P

Posted by: Christian at January 11, 2006 4:16 PM
Comment #112253

Darren,

I’m a Republican, and I agree with most of your assessment. Clinton and the Republican Congress ran a much tighter financial ship than do Bush and the Republican Congress.

I disagree that the Republicans are spending to meet the needs of their consituents more like the desires. To be fair, Clinton and the Republican Congress had more favorable economic and political environments in which to balance spending.

Politically Clinton was unable to complete many of his initiatives that would have required big government money because the Republicans in Congress blocked them (think Nationalized Healthcare). Same was conversely true of the initiatives of the Congress.

The economic environment was also better than I’ve seen in my life. Several of my college class mates became millionaires in less than 10 years. They paid pleanty in taxes as a result. I doubt anyone is making money that fast these days. We have a more rational economic picture now, perhaps, but sense government taxes for boil down to a transaction fee on the movement of money, I’ve got to think that receipts suffered.

So you are right we’ve got to restore some reason to Washington spending.

Now as a Republican I have to decide where on my list of priorites that falls when I go to the booth this fall. I would love to have a Republican candidate that was willng to be a voice of reason on spending in Congress, but I’m not convinced I can trust them. So my option is to have a Democratic congressperson that will fight for the spending controls because they disagree with the spending priorites of the administration while simultaneously fighting against other objectives I would like to see achieved. A tough choice and one I will wrestle with for a while.

As to Jack’s post, I think we’ve proven with tobacco we can disincentive behavior with price controls. I think that the idea has great merit.

Posted by: Rob at January 11, 2006 4:34 PM
Comment #112262

Haven’t any of you even considered for one moment whether the government should have the power to pick and choose who and at what level that people and industries should be taxed?

Hasn’t it occurred to any of you that the entire idea is totalitarian?

Scary.

Essentially, you’re saying oil prices will fall, so that’s room to raise taxes ?

Essentially, if you can do it to one industry, then all industries (and everyone) should be fair game? Heck, if milk prices have fallen, perhaps we should put a tax on it? If grain prices have fallen, we should put a tax on cereal. Where does it end? It’s already out of control. Some of you have forgotten the most basic tenents of live and let live. You think you have the right to control anything and everything.

And, that sort of idealogy is not going to encourage more industry (not long term).

There’s something so fundamentally wrong, so unAmerican, so innvasive about this entire idea of taxing an industry just because it seems like a good idea.

Besides, the government is already getting $2 trillion a year (19% of GDP). That’s plenty.

But, if that’s the way you like it, then don’t be upset when you or your business gets singled out to pay more tax; perhaps upon the whims of a few politicians who see something new to tax.

Posted by: d.a.n at January 11, 2006 4:54 PM
Comment #112266

Stephen,

If you want to be interpreted specifically, target specifically. When I hear the words liberal, progressive, and left, I think of myself. I don’t think of socialists, any more than most republicans think of fascists or Stalinists.


Whether you want to admit it or not, progressivism i.e. modern liberalism has it’s roots in Marxist doctrine. Some insist socialism and communism are completely different, but at the core they are the same. There are a myriad of ‘socialisms’ but they all descend from the same principles, that the collective has the right to order the lives of individuals. Liberalism as it is correctly defined is about individual liberty. However today this label is not an accurate one when we talk about progressive ideology. Especially in terms of economic liberty.

You take Adrienne’s charges too seriously. She means to show you both the excess of your style and the absurdity that follows from it. The issue with criticism of the left is often folks like you completely miss what motivates us. This is the Liberal America of Saving Private Ryan not M.A.S.H. This is a nation in search of honorable, useful ways of dealing with its military power. That’s part and parcel of why Americans allowed the Iraq war to happen in the first place.

I’m not sure we are reading the same words. Do you consider my post to be ‘hateful’ as Karen put it? And do you see a direct analogy in saying that an ideology is descended from another to saying Republican officials rape children? I am merely pointing out the incongruity and hypocrisy of calling things hateful because you disagree with them. Generalities are not hate speach.

As for socialism? I’ve never said it wasn’t involved in modern American liberalism, I was just saying that you are ignoring Christian and secular roots that are just as important,if not more important.

If I call something by another name does that make it any different in reality? If the solutions proposed and the ideas are the same then it doesn’t matter that I call it Christian or secular.

At most you see social programs. America was never big on socialism. It had the Democrats instead. We took the country in a different direction. We weren’t a bunch of godless communists then, and we’re not now.

Socialism has never been popular in America. Which is why what was once called socialism now has a million different names. Democrats came closest to adopting many of the policies of the Communist and Socialist Parties of the 30’s under Roosevelt. Have you ever heard of the National Industrial Recovery Act? As many on the left are characterizing Bush as a dictator and democrats in congress are saying Bush should be impeached for abusing Presidential Power, we have completely forgotten history. Roosevelt actually rounded up every japanese American in the US and put them in camps. He also enacted the NRA, which comes the closest we’ve ever been to a socialist state.

Of course, we must not look too closely at examples such as this because it will not comport with the idea that the left doesn’t really support socialism and just wants to ‘improve’ capitalism.

The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) was enacted by Congress in June 1933 and was one of the measures by which President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to assist the nation’s economic recovery during the Great Depression. The passage of NIRA ushered in a unique experiment in U.S. economic history—the NIRA sanctioned, supported, and in some cases, enforced an alliance of industries. Antitrust laws were suspended, and companies were required to write industry-wide “codes of fair competition” that effectively fixed prices and wages, established production quotas, and imposed restrictions on entry of other companies into the alliances. The act further called for industrial self-regulation and declared that codes of fair competition—for the protection of consumers, competitors, and employers—were to be drafted for the various industries of the country and were to be subject to public hearings. Employees were given the right to organize and bargain collectively and could not be required, as a condition of employment, to join or refrain from joining a labor organization.

The National Recovery Administration (NRA), created by a separate executive order, was put into operation soon after the final approval of the act. President Roosevelt appointed Hugh S. Johnson as administrator for industrial recovery. The administration was empowered to make voluntary agreements dealing with hours of work, rates of pay, and the fixing of prices. Until March 1934, the NRA was engaged chiefly in drawing up these industrial codes for all industries to adopt. More than 500 codes of fair practice were adopted for the various industries. Patriotic appeals were made to the public, and firms were asked to display the Blue Eagle, an emblem signifying NRA participation. ourdocuments.gov

History is history, and during that time especially there was a belief throughout the western world that planned economies were better than the chaotic ‘invisible hand’ of free market capitalism. I’m not demonizing at this point, I am merely stating facts. And yes, thankfully the support, and the resistance, to these kinds of measures was profound enough that those Democrats who were more socialist inclined dare not take them further than they did, but if you read about the Brain Trust around Roosevelt and if you read about the academic intellectual trends you will find that Marxism is highly regarded on the left.

As I stated in my orginal post there is nothing absolutely monolithic about this, but it is a fact that the core of leftist intellectualism has been marxist throughout this century.

There is also the fact that thoughout the cold war the Soviet Union funded many leftist intellectuals and political groups in order to promote communism and socialism, (just as we had similiar efforts funded to promote democracy and freedom from soviet tyranny in Soviet coutries.)

But then I remember you saying in comments that there really wasn’t a soviet threat at all, that we needn’t have built up our military under Reagan to defeat the Soviet Union because they weren’t really our enemies, or something like that. Maybe you could refresh my memory about that.

We’re capitalists who understand one thing about society that the conservative capitalists fail to: Industry and business are part of the interests that drive a country, but they can no more be left to themselves than ordinary citizens can. You have to have laws and and a government able to enforce them. By understanding this, we bypass the need for creaing a frankenstein monster of socialism, because we don’t feel the need to put the companies directly under government control, to nationalize them.

Here is where I partially agree with you, and partially disagree. True enough, most liberals in America (I’m not speaking for Howard Dean or Ralph Nader - or the entire town of Berkeley) seem to have caught on that communism/socialism is a dead end. That is is practically impossible to implement in 19th century style. But, I have personally had conversations wherein progressives say that the general theory of socialism is still a good one, and thus you have the green party for instance.

But more to the point, it is one thing to realize that socialism is impractical generally, but what your position shows is that what has not been abandoned is the idea that socialist solutions are an answer to the evils of capitalism. I don’t think that your understanding of capitalism has gone much further than the marxist definition of it.

Posted by: esimonson at January 11, 2006 5:04 PM
Comment #112304

esimonson

Just for a rejoiner, during the FDR days there were many in federal government positions of authority and leadership who were quite socialist in the beliefs. That is another reason that socialist ideas had more weight then.

Also, when Norman Thomas, the late head of the Socialist Party, was campaigning for president, he made the claim that the democrats had out-socialized the socialists.

Just a couple of thoughts—thanks eric

Posted by: tomh at January 11, 2006 7:20 PM
Comment #112307

Eric:

I am a regular reader here, and an occassional commentator (just so you know the context, I guess). I think you are incorrect in asserting the democrat/socialist diatribe. Rather, I think the primary distinction is in understanding that the dems just don’t have as big a problem at making sacrifices for the common good. Before this is completely blasted, let me clarify: I am referring to the general tendency of the right to glorify the individual at the expense of society at large. Are you asserting laissez-faire (sp?) capitalist practices? Because if you are not, then you have to accept the idea that government and society in general is going to have some say over the individual. And it does appear from your comments above that you understand the need for some government intervention in the economy.

I do not wish to make this a debate of capitalist v. socialist, because both elements are irrevocably ingrained in our society already. The primary distinction between the right and left is the extent to which the government needs to interfere, not whether the government needs to interfere. Perhaps we are really only talking about degrees of socialist practices….?

Posted by: ant at January 11, 2006 7:30 PM
Comment #112308

Raise the CAFE standards and apply them to SUVs. Give tax writeoffs to people who drive cars that get 30 mpg or better. Double the number of HOV lanes to encourage carpooling. Add 25 cents tax a gallon for building mass transit.

Posted by: Loren at January 11, 2006 7:30 PM
Comment #112309

Jack
I’m still against ANY kind of new taxes until our employees in DC can show that they can handle our money more responsibly than they do now. I could care less if oil drops to 10 cent a barrel. The idiots up in Washington aren’t responsible enough to get anymore of our money. They wouldn’t use it on alternitive fuel research if they did get it. They’d most likely vote themselves a undeserved pay raise with it.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 11, 2006 7:31 PM
Comment #112321

Loren, I was working with a teacher once who was really going on about how great President Bush was because he was going to use tax incentives for people who bought SUVs. Remember that one? There was a big rush with everyone buying one just before the tax breaks ran out. (See, not all educators are anti-Bush.) I personally thought that it was irresponsible because of the increased need for carbon-based fuels, but I understood the profit margin on the SUVs and the desire to “help” the auto industry.

Please keep and open mind and give this some though…
I don’t know if anyone would like my idea, but only taxes on goods and services. No personal income tax at all.

Now, items would cost more… but the taxes would only be paid by those that use those goods and services.

The market would do what it was supposed to do… let the consumer choose the winners and losers. They would have more income without the taxes so the increased costs would not be overly burdensome.

If we decided to separate the “needs” from the “wants” we can choose not to tax food. They do that in Wisc. and with computerized check out it is no problem to do.

My problem with “Supply side economics” has always been that it takes the market out of the equation. It rewards all companies regardless of how successful or efficient it is run.

My belief, put the money into the hands of the consumer through the elimination of income taxes and let the companies compete for their business the way it is supposed to work.

If, as a society we decided to provide a disincentive to something like gas guzzlers, then we would use something like the CAFE tax which rewarded people who bought high mileage cars without raise the gas tax on everyone.

It hasn’t been thought out completely, but I do love the simplicity of this.

I really do believe that this is the closest to capitalism as we can get if we also decide that there are somethings we need as a society to have taxes for. Defense, roads, police force, etc.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 11, 2006 8:04 PM
Comment #112323

Stephen

I know it won’t be popular, but it could work.

Your government management ideas won’t. The well off can usually game any system better than the poor. I own a Honda Civic hybrid. I can afford the price of gas AND I can afford the extra $2000 in up front costs required to buy the car. I can also understand and take advantage of any tax breaks available. The ability to do that is one reason I am not poor. The more complicated to you make the system, the better people like me will do and the worse it will be for the poor, who may be less educated, who by definition have less money and who are more likley to be cognitively challenged. Price is simple. That is only one reason it works so well.

The other thing I am advocating is a floor, not a ceiling. If prices drop below $35 the taxes kick in. Above that, they disappear. That makes the price more stable and problay on the up side too.

Darren

All government wastes money. Republicans and Democrats. Government has some legitimate functions that it can do well and/or only it can do. Government should stick to those core functions and we should be careful paying for more. I am not advocating this to increase tax revenue, but rather dampen demand for a product with a lot of external costs that are not paid by the user.

Loren
The results you advocate are better achieved by a higher price. An SUV uses more gas. If gas costs more the SUV owner will pay more. BTW if the SUV owner almost never drives and he is not using much gas, why should he pay more. In other words, a guy with a Honda Civic who drives 100 miles to work is worse for the environment than a guy with a SUV who drives only five.

The gas tax alone isn’t well targeted to keep the price of oil above the level required to help us get out of the oil trap.

Posted by: Jack at January 11, 2006 8:15 PM
Comment #112387

Watchblog Manager

Is “gullible Republicans” name calling?

WTF.

Posted by: Peter at January 12, 2006 1:11 AM
Comment #112402
The sooner we get out of the Kyoto mind set, the sooner we can do such things right.

C’mon Jack. You advocate restricting the price of oil to force oil conservation and technical innovation, yet when your own idea is applied to greenhouse gasses you fall back on dogmatic, knee-jerk rejection. That’s kinda’ funny.

A cap on greenhouse gasses would create new opportunities for entrepreneurs and create new jobs. Kyoto’s market-based emissions trading — the system that made acid rain a mere memory (if anybody remembers it at all these days) — will stimulate American industry as well as mitigate global climate change.

And if you think our porous borders are a problem now with people sneaking across for good jobs, just wait until hundreds of millions are fleeing north to escape flooded coastal cities, drought, famine, and disease caused by global warming.

Unless the Kyoto Protocol suddenly imposes the same guidelines/restrictions on India and China, 0% of our GNP should be put into it!

Good point. The first round of Kyoto was started before China and India became economic contenders. The next round of Kyoto talks have already started and including China and India is a big part of the agenda. Some moral leadership by the United States could seal the deal.

And as I mentioned, the number crunchers over at President Bush’s Energy Information Administration figure it’ll only cost one tenth of one percent of GNP. Chump change.

Posted by: American Pundit at January 12, 2006 3:51 AM
Comment #112404
Is “gullible Republicans” name calling?

No. Saying “Peter is a gullible Republican” is name calling.

Feel free to insult broad swathes of humanity if that’s how you want to get your point across, but don’t single out individual posters.

Another of my favorite quirky rules is from Audie Murphy’s WWII epic, “To Hell and Back”, where his buddy explains the rules of war: “They can kill ya’, but they can’t eat ya’. That’s against the law.”

Have fun. :)

Posted by: American Pundit at January 12, 2006 3:57 AM
Comment #112426

name calling is fair game to all those “GIRLY MEN” (left wing WHITE babyboomers)!!!!!

Posted by: peter at January 12, 2006 8:22 AM
Comment #112427

name calling is fair game to all those “GIRLY MEN”!!!!

Posted by: peter at January 12, 2006 8:23 AM
Comment #112432

Interesting to read a Republican promoting a tax increase, however the real cuplprit behind the US oil addiction is that tax structure that stupidly underwrites oil. The depletion allowance, passed in the 1940’s by Texas senators, is a great example of how Republicans preach capitalism but are more than willing to stay on the government tit if it means money in their pockets.

If you look at the effective tax rate that Exxon, Chevron, Schlumberger, etc. experience and then compare that to an Apple or Verizon, you see exactly what I am talking about. We would be much farther on with oil conservation if we eliminated all the incentives to the oil/gas industry. However, just this past year our Republican Congress gave even more breaks to this sector.

Price of oil has gone up for a very different reason than in the 1970’s. Back then it was the reduction of supply that pushed prices up. Today, supply is not the issue. It is the new, and permanent demand from China, India, etc. However, their increased demand is miniscule to the growth of oil usage in the USA. We may be more oil “efficient” (questionable premise here) in the US now, but our rate of growth of oil consumption has not gone down at all. If the USA just reduced it’s oil consumption by 1%, the world prices would drop significantly. However, that isn’t going to happen with our oil president and oil congress.

Posted by: acetracy at January 12, 2006 8:54 AM
Comment #112434

No one is called a name in the statement “Tree Hugger!”

I believe the expression was, “you gullible Republicans!!!”, notice the y-o-u.

The fact that one message got someone kicked off, and the other was just “Aldous being Aldous” (Red Sox reference for all you New Englanders) speaks volumes.

Posted by: Peter at January 12, 2006 8:56 AM
Comment #112436

Peter,

You need to read the entire series of posts. G was probably booted for: “Yes and when they wipe your brains up off the pavement…” and whatever else was delted by the editor.

Posted by: Dave at January 12, 2006 9:10 AM
Comment #112437

Come on Ron… if we wait for politicans to act responsible….. Ohhhh…. I get it!!! Neat!!!!!

Kyoto was understood that we need to stop greenhouse gases. It was also understood that America and some of the other more advanced nations have created a major part of this problem.

The solution was if the advanced nations stopped all together while the advancing nations transitioned… it would be fairer to the rest of the world and eventually get us to a point where we stopped creating greenhouse gases.

To say that this would be unfair to us, and then do absolutey nothing to ever cut down greenhouse gases is so arrogant it is no wonder the rest of the world dislikes us so much. We only see “fair” in relation to us.

People who believe that the tax increase was a major effect on smokers… it was to a point. What was even more effective was the response by the public towards the smoker. It makes them uncomfortable and feeling left out (I am a smoker and knows of whats I speaks).

Jack,
I too agree that something needs to be done. I have had discussions here with a person that believes the Alaskan refuge has absolutely no intrinsic value just the way it is. She believes that nature is only of value if we can exploit its resources. Why? Because it would mean cheaper gas for everyone and in her belief (Econ 101) cheaper prices for everyone is a mantra.

That is my problem with “isms”… They deal with the system the try to explain in a vacuum. Cheaper gas just increases consumers thirst for a limited resource. Digging wells in pristine areas past the edge of civilization may increase our supply 10 years, 20 years or even a 100 years.

The fact remains… what was on this earth is all that we have for the future. Oil is used for so many more things than just powering our vehicles and someday those uses will become very important to us.

God help us. Instead of people acting reasonably and responsibly about the gifts of nature we have been given stewardship over, we act like drunken heirs given a family treasure to plow through.

Any attempt to raise public awareness and concern about our limited resources earns us the title “treehugger” (my apology to the self named person on this Blog) and makes us fair game for attack.

It has always been my belief that Gluttony was a sin… it shows a lack of moderation, perspective and humility.

I heard one woman say she needed her 6 ton, 4x4, dual wheel, 6 passenger truck because she wanted to take her dog with her when she went places. What was ironic was she was saying this in my Envirnmental Awareness class at the local college last year. And yes, the rest of her showed the same gluttony as her transportation choice.

Even at $5 or $10 a gallon
The people who can afford it will accomodate themselves to the cost eventually. Whether it is through a CAFE like tax or per gallon tax.

As a proportion of a lower income families budget it would never be accomodated. That is just the truth. As always, the poor get it in the neck.

The poor always need to make serious economic decisions with each trip to the store. Do they buy bulk which costs more in total but cheaper per item? Or, do they buy smaller packages so their total grocery bill is lower so they have money left to buy gas?

Increasing the cost of gas through taxes just means the family has to go with even less so they can buy gas to go to work.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 12, 2006 9:20 AM
Comment #112439
Darren7160 wrote: Please keep and open mind and give this some though… I don’t know if anyone would like my idea, but only taxes on goods and services. No personal income tax at all.

Maybe. But, I prefer the Flat Income Tax Rate, because when it is all done and said (regardless of the system), everyone wants to know if the tax burden on income is as close to the same percentage as possible (except for the few that insist on taxing the wealthy at higher percentages, despite the fact that with a flat rate percentage, 10% on $100,000 is twice as much tax as 10% on $50,000 ; that’s progressive enough as I see it).

Thus, if the goal is to make sure no one’s income is taxed at different rates, than why not keep it simple, simplify the system we alredy have? Also, note that in the plan suggested, no one pays any tax except on that which exceeds N times the poverty level income, in which N is never less than 1.0 , and no tax is paid until their income since 01-January exceeds N times the poverty level. Also, states set the local poverty level income, since the average cost of living can vary from place to place.

Thus, the poor don’t get hammered.
The middle income class doesn’t get hammered.
The wealthy don’t get hammered.
All deductions and loop holes are eliminated.

As it is now, who benefits from the most from all of the tax loop holes, deductions, etc.?
It’s not the poor. And, it’s not the lower-end of the middle income class. 60% of the population of the U.S. has only 5% of all wealth in the nation. 5% of the population has 60% of all the wealth.

It is time that the loop holes are removed so that everyone pays their fair share.

In the past 4 years, the median income has fallen each year. The wealthy have gotten richer and the poor and lower-middle income class have gotten poorer. Some will argue that net worth has risen, but that’s debatable because of the real-estate bubbles created by a flock to invest in real-estate when stocks were tanking.

Of course, government will never make these reforms voluntarily. Voters must make that happen.

Posted by: d.a.n at January 12, 2006 9:21 AM
Comment #112440

d.a.n
Isn’t $2 trillion per year enough to operate the government? Isn’t 19% of GDP enough money for the government?

NO! It aint. They want 100%.

Our elecetd employees up in DC have proved that they aren’t responsible when it come to our money. When they attach enough pork to a bill to feed the whole county bacon for a year, how can anyone think that these guys need to get more of our money? I saw a link recently that list some of the pork. One of the items listed is $19,000,000 to study cow farts. Anyone that’s been around cows can tell you they stink.
Until our employees start practicing a whole heap more fisical responsibility than they have, they deserve to be entrusted with any more of our money than necessary.
1.Balance the budget.
2.Eliminate pork.
3.Quit voting themselves pay raises every year.
4.Cut waste in ALL departments of Government.
5.Quit subsidising business.
6.Quit subsidising laziness.
7.Quit subsidising other countries economies.
8.Quit raiding Social Security to pay for unneeded programs.
If they can manage to do these, they just might findout that they don’t need all the taxes they’re getting now.

P.S. d.a.n can you link the pork list you posted on VOID? If I knew how I’d do it.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 12, 2006 9:40 AM
Comment #112443

Come on Ron… if we wait for politicans to act responsible….. Ohhhh…. I get it!!! Neat!!!!!

You catch on quick Darren. And they said you weren’t the brightest bulb in the lamp. Ha.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 12, 2006 9:44 AM
Comment #112448

How about if we start with something small? Anyone open or watch their kids open christmas gifts this year? I don’t know which pile was greater, the old wrapping paper or the plastic packaging. Most of the small items required scissors, safety gloves and goggles plus plenty of elbow room. The inventor of these packages should be given a defibrilator wrapped in one during a heart attack and let them try and get at it in time. My kids and myself would not have appreciated any of the gifts less if they weren’t in shnazzy dazzily packaging. Just a nice hemp bag with a hemp drawstring would have worked. Renewable, and biodegradable at the same time, it is just not flashy and mildly dangerous. Please note, this is hemp I am talking about (rope-from the WWII era)not the twist a fatty and kick back kind.

Scott

Posted by: Scott at January 12, 2006 10:25 AM
Comment #112450

Raul wrote,

I believe that we can address the social issues without having to rely so much on Momma government to fix many of our boo-boos making us more and more dependent on her and her breast milk. … During Katrina, for example, I believe the organizations that assisted most in that disaster was…umm…not the government, but the religious groups.

Of course, many people affected by Katrina are still living in tents and trailers.

Posted by: bobo at January 12, 2006 10:32 AM
Comment #112455

Drug policy offers a curious endorsement of academic theory. Here in Seattle we maintain heroin addicts on a daily dose of methadone and have been doing so for decades. The methadone costs about $250 per dose, delivered. The addict can get an equivalent heroin hit on the street for $40, proving how much more efficient the free market is.

If, however, we totally legalize all drugs, then in a year the addicts will be able to go to the pharmacy at Wal-Mart and get a decent quality, supersize dose for $9.99. Within about a month, all the old heroin addicts will be dead. Free markets can crash. It has been awhile since we have had this lesson, but runaway capitalism can lead to such over-abundance that economies can melt down and political chaos ensues.
You think Greenspan’s successor will prevent this from ever happening? I doubt a single individual, or a Democrat Congress and a “progressive” president can stop it when it come due.
Particularly present-day progressives seem to believe in a “virtuous demand” type economy in which people will be conditioned to want only those products of which the elites approve. So, they will raise taxes to take away money from being spent on sports cars, yachts, and fancy hunting guns to spend on something useful.
I think, if I were dictator, I would do that too. Only I would spend the money on a manned mission to Mars and Europa, on nuclear plants to replace all coal-fired plants, and on nuclear plants to provide energy to change coal and oil shale into high grade petroleum products. Anything left over would be used to subsidize jazz bands and swing orchestras in every community in America and to make it possible for poor families to afford quality Japanese black lacquered furniture sets.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook at January 12, 2006 10:39 AM
Comment #112468

Hi Ron,
I prefer to keep my light shining a bit lower than the others… this increases the life of my filament and it also is a “stealth” way to sneak up and hit them when they don’t expect it.

On a serious note… I agree that there is way too much “pork” and waste. God how I wish this could be framed in a non-partisan way so everyone would deal with it instead of getting defensive.

When framing these types of issues it is done in a way, by both sides, to make it partisan… the “tax and spend democrats” and the “give everything to the rich at the expense of the middle class and poor” republicans.

Instead, these issues should be framed as, “Both parties agree that our money should be responsibly managed. We need to come up with solutions as Americans to try to provide the services we need at a price we can afford.”

One topic I especially see as being a “bridge” is Eminent Domain. Here is a bi-partisan issue if there ever was one.

Republicans don’t believe that the government should be interfering with a person’s private property rights at the expense of “everyone” else. Sacraficing a person’s right to his property for the benefit of others. (See Congresswoman Schmidt’s, Republican Rep. Ohio, website)

Democrats don’t believe that it is the job of the government to determine that tax rates are better from commercial or industrial use of land so they evict people so a new Wal-Mart or Home Deopt can go into a lower income neighborhood. (Within cities it is often the less affluent neighborhoods that are effected.)

This should be a starting point, but it seems to be a divide because each wants to use it as a way to define the differences between parties.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 12, 2006 11:20 AM
Comment #112569

dan-
Whether a government can dictate where taxes are spent and gathered is not totalitarian, because we can punish people for their actions at the polls. This is something of my response to Jack on the Gas Tax, as I believe passing such a thing with public knowledge would likely end up getting them kicked out of office. A Totalitarian government can do anything it wants and not worry until the point that people rise up in armed rebellion.

We really aren’t to that point yet, and taxation is not going to be what makes us turn to the darkside.

Eric-
I don’t think you’re quite getting it. True, the country came its closest to becoming Socialist during that time. Had you said then that much of our policies had that sort of background, you would have gotten a shrug out of me. But we’re talking about now. A lot of that thinking died out rather quickly, if you noticed, and the predominantly liberal congress cut down on much of it. We weren’t afraid to approach socialism, and we weren’t afraid to pass on to other ideas, which we did. Modern liberalism bears some traces of socialism, and socialist thought, but for the most part it is a capitalist system.

Who ran congress during the course of the Cold War, and especially in the last days of it? whose policies set the tone for the fighting and victory of this war? It was Democrats who first sounded the alarm bells about what the Russians were doing, and seeing for themselves conditions in Russia, opposed communism. It was Democrats who launched and managed the main land battles of the cold War. By contrast, Republicans did more of the negotiation. Detente was a Republican policy in origin. So the Recognition and beginning of trade with China. Only under the influence of former leftists (that is, the Neocons) did we set about the Evil Empire paradigm.

To think of the Cold War, Marxism, and Communism strictly in terms of left and right is folly, because the truth is people’s beliefs and ideology ranged all over the place.

The truth is, There is a long American tradition of class rhetoric that was in place long before Marx was even born. Democrats in the early part of the Nineteenth Century decried their opponents support of the moneyed and of central banking, and supported the interests of small farmers and individuals against those of industry and finance. One doesn’t have to subscribe to Marx’s thinking to move in the direction of social reform. I named other groups who could motivate that.

Your problem is, you’re stuck in the rhetoric, stuck in its logic. You assume too much of a legacy from times past. Not even ten years after Roosevelt died, the Wise Men were engineering the anti-communist containment policy. Not even twenty had the Democrats running a war under the leadership of a man who once ran Ford. The Best and the Brightest weren’t communists. They were fervently opposed to it.

It’s easy to insist that everything has to go in a straight line from Marx, but the facts themselves refute that notion. There was no such direct influence, ultimately.

What your response to Adrienne should illustrate to you is people’s dislike of being pigeonholed as having certain beliefs and attitudes. Do you think people would be reacting so strongly, if they were truly committed to socialist ideas?

I think it’s always more useful to speak outside of labels. To talk in terms of ideologies is to preach to the choir, mostly, to talk in a code other might not recognize or give much credence to, if confronted with it. I prefer to speak in terms of the real world, and how I understand it to work. That is why I have never taken a peace at all costs approach to Iraq, nor taken the position that market interference is always a good thing. Note my positions above.

I try to ground my political thought in practical, real world terms, because I know how easy it is for policy to spin itself away from reality. I just wish folks like you took that more skeptical approach to things.

Jack-
Because of my background in cognitive sciences, I know how important it is to keep the interface as simple as it can be made to be. You don’t have to make the tax break something the poor will have to go to H+R Block to get. You can give the tax break to the companies directly, or find some way of making things easier.

The Republican defeatism about making government work is probably one reason we’ve seen so many failures lately. I mean, you ask, “why bother to make the system work?”, and with the failures that occur from the neglect and inaction, you get your answer: “It’s not worth it.” The Republican defeatism about government solutions to problems is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Under Clinton, FEMA had a marvellous record. Under Bush, a rather negative one. Is that coincidence? Not in my estimation. Clinton was committed to seeing government work when it was applied to a problem, Bush shows no such will.

I think that Government can work best, and many times better on certain unprofitable, but nonetheless important projects.

I think encouragement of Hybrid and other technlogies is workable. It doesn’t have to be over complicated. We just have to go in with an attitude that these things must be made to work when we commit to doing things like this.

Michael L. Cook-
You assume two things: That given the chance, all heroin addicts will overdose, and that no new people will become addicted. Cigarettes are more addictive than Heroin, though, and they haven’t produced any such reaction. It is not the market that governs drug addiction, it is neurophysiology.

Free Market philosophy tries to make a panacea out of the cure of collective judgment, but the fact of the matter is, collective judgment is not always good judgment.

Oops. Did I say something elitist? Not at all. I don’t consider elite opinion any more sacrosanct. I merely consider collective opinion to be just another subset of the universally fallible set that is human thought.

I have observed in my time many mass screw-ups. The dirty secret is that the market doesn’t prevent these things, it often creates them when the conditions allow. Speculators and bargainers can turn the system upside down, to the point where, say, the merits of a certain person’s talents don’t matter so much as what every other player is getting paid. It can make relatively plentiful power, like that in California, turn into scarces, expensive power, when the right interests and corporations conspire. A company with enough of a monopoly can rest on its laurels, innovating slower, paying less attention to quality and usability of its products and services.

My experience has been that the market means never having to say you’re sorry, because whatever happens, the market ordained it. At least as long as it isn’t bad. Then it’s just some rogue interest that subsequently gets punished. In short, Free Market philosophy is tautological.

My philosophy is to recognize the fallibility of the system and make appropriate allowances. Prevent conflicts of interests, break up monopolies, ensure transparency, keep a certain degree of fairness in the system, and then keep out of the way, let the system run, and intervene only when the need presents itself.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 12, 2006 3:23 PM
Comment #112591

To err is human, but to really mess up you need government intervention.

Re FEMA, we are talking mostly about one storm - Katrina and one place - New Orleans. Responses to other disasters and other hurricanes has been reasonable. Katrina was a very bad storm. New Oleans was in a very bad place and was very badly managed. I believe that similar conditions in 1999 would have produced a similar outcome, with one imporant differnce. Clinton would have been there “feeling the pain”. He was better at that PR game than Bush. (As someone who thinks PR is very important, I mean that as a compliment)

No mainstream American advocates either no government or socialism. Foreigners are often surprised how narrow the spectrum of American practical opinion (if not rhetoric) actually is.

But we do have deep disagreements about the market and I think they are based not only on efficiency but on goals. For you, equality of outcomes seems to be a goal. I just don’t care about that. The market will produce efficient results often at the expense of equality. My tolerance for inequality is very high.

Posted by: Jack at January 12, 2006 4:23 PM
Comment #112603

Ron,
Don’t worry… the President is feeling your pain and sympathetic to the waste of American’s tax dollars.

From The Smirking Chimp
Lynn Gibson, the former Director of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation, is now the new Special Assistant for Conservative Outreach at the Department of Labor.

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/

Isn’t it nice to know that the government is just as concerned about the conservatives… enough to give them their own category! Along with age, sex and …

Does that now make “Conservatives” a protected category under the law?

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 12, 2006 4:50 PM
Comment #112651

Ron,
Don’t worry… the President is feeling your pain and sympathetic to the waste of American’s tax dollars.

Thanks Darren, after the day I’ve had I needed that laugh.
I doubt very much that Conservitives are a protected catagory. If anything both parties have declared war on them.
It would be nice if both parties were concerned with our money being spent responsibly. But I’m afraid that neither one is.
Emiinent Domain has been abused by both parties. Niether one cares about the rights of property owners.

If you haven’t already, check this out.
http://voidnow.org


Posted by: Ron Brown at January 12, 2006 7:58 PM
Comment #112707

Jack-
I refuse to believe that the Katrina response was messed up because it was done by FEMA. FEMA performed fine during the Clinton years.

Katrina was a multistate disaster, with catastrophic consequences for infrastructure. under such conditions, the ability of even a well planned local response to do anything can be destroyed. We make these responses federal because they don’t fall neatly in jurisdictions, because local officials can get into conflicts, and a disorganized response can be worse than doing nothing.

The problem isn’t that FEMA’s big government. The problem is that Bush’s people have neither the will nor the inclination to run agencies and departments effectively. The Republicans are in denial about the nature of today’s government, and they’re trying to roll back such programs even while the need for them is being presented.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 13, 2006 1:37 AM
Comment #112971

Show us a link where FEMA has been cut, downsized, or streamlined? Fact is the federal government is not responsible for acting without a request for aide from the govenor of the effected state. While Mississippi suffered a massive amount of damage, no where near the amount of coverage was made on it, since they handled it allot better. Not having homeowners insurance is pretty much sad. I realize people cannot always afford allot of things, but to rebuild homes worth 10,000 at 100,000 is pure lunacy!

Posted by: Jerry at January 13, 2006 5:36 PM
Comment #113060

FEMA did know that there was a request made… I haven’t heard what exactly the problem was but I do recall that about 4 days after the request was made there was a call/e-mail to LA stating that they still did not have the hard copy of the request… that they did see a copy of it on the state’s website… but they could not act until they got the original!!!!

In an administration that seems to have no difficulty with cutting through red tape when they deem it necessary… this anal attention to having the original in their hand in Washington from an area devestated by a storm seems a bit strange to me.

Appearntly there was difficulty getting life saving aid through, but somehow LA was supposed to get paper work to D.C. before action would be taken?

When the party in power does not believe that it is the responsibility of the federal government to provide these types of services it translates into poor performace. Even though this service may be mandated by law… there is still a hesitancy to actually provide the service. So, you dump your not too intelligent campaign worker there as a gift for past work performed. (Almost like Rumsfled and the Department of Defense).

As far as home owners insurance… I know that it is comforting to place blame on the stupidity of the people that are now beggars asking for charity… yes… we will give it to them, but by God, we will do what ever we can in our power to belittle them and make them feel like the worthless scum that they are! Make sure they grovel and kiss our ass before we throw the crumbs.

Feel better?


Neato. Did you happen to see the troubles Trent Lott was having with his insurance company? Yes. Trent Lott… Republican with credentials our the butt certifying him as a true-blue-blooded Republican. You know… the “kill the lawsuit happy lawyers” who sue all those great companies!

He is suing his insurance company! They want to say that the damage was caused by water, not wind, so they can say that he didn’t have flood insurance rider.

The stories I hear out of LA are of people upset with their insurance companies jerking them around. Oooops. They had insurance? Damn them! That is going to kill our stocks we have in the insurance industry. Deny them benefits because it was… water… no wait, lots of water… wait… I got it.. it was so much water that it was flooding!!!! Yes… that’s it. It wasn’t that huge amount of wind with speeds in the triple digits… it was the water that wind pushed… so it was flooding. Pop the champagene! We saved our dividends!!!!

No matter how some want to destroy the dignity of these people… they are making it through.

I love the $10,000 being rebuilt for $100,000. That makes for a very good sound bite. Are you talking about a house that was built in the 1950s or 1960s? Appreciation, increased land values, changes in cost of living… you know.. adjusted for inflation prices? $10,000 back then was a substantial amount for a house, just as $100,000 today.

What surprises me most of all… I am serious and it makes me wonder all the more…

Republicans call themselves the Party of morality… of Christian beliefs… yet when it does come to charity, compassion and brotherhood… it comes down to dollars and cents. Doesn’t it? It also, as evidenced here in the bile spewed, that it is given reluctantly with serious resentment. (Or the money they gave out of love and concern for their fellow human beings is refunded by the Christian Republican Government!)

One who distorts Christ’s teachings of love, compassion… giving another man your coat, really and truley make me sick inside.

I dispair of that type of Christian ever getting his way and turning this into a Christian nation in their image. I don’t think that we could survive it.

From now on… when it comes time to talk about Christian values… TALK TO THE HAND!

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 13, 2006 8:48 PM
Comment #113461

Irresponsible Government

That’s what your elected government does.

Take off you partisan blinders and clean house in the coming elections.

Just do the one, simple, safe, peaceful, responsible thing you were supposed to be doing all along.

Or, keep your partisan blinders on, continue to be seduced into a circular pattern of distrcting, petty partisan warfare, that keeps a majority from ever existing to oust bought-and-paid-for incumbents and their big-money-donor-puppeteers. Yes, keep it up, and see how painful it is later.

Posted by: d.a.n at January 15, 2006 10:32 PM
Comment #113462

Irresponsible Congress

Posted by: d.a.n at January 15, 2006 10:36 PM
Comment #114164

I am having trouble again keeping the spam off. Please do not buy anything from anyone or even click on sites that are trying to sell you anything.

Posted by: Jack at January 17, 2006 9:30 PM
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