Daily Grind: Unrealistic Mandates and Unrealistic Science

Unrealistic Mandates and Unrealistic Science
By Isaac MacMillen


In the race to appease the global warming-conscious enviro-lobby, several states have passed measures mandating that a certain percentage of the states' respective energy needs be met by renewable sources. Yet in spite of good intentions, many states are falling behind in meeting their renewable energy goals. The reason? Utility companies are having trouble finding viable ways to meet the quotas set for them by the state bureaucrats.


In this economic downturn, many utilities are struggling to meet that goal. Massachusetts and Connecticut received over $23 million combined in fees which the utilities were forced to pay in 2006 because they were unable to meet the unrealistic goals set by the states.


What's the problem? Isn't it simple to just build some wind turbines, natural gas plants, and so forth? Well, not exactly. Unlike oil, renewable energy cannot be funded little at a time; rather, it requires a significant initial investment—and then little cost thereafter. Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens has run into problems with the initial investment for his long-planned wind farm.


Even the liberal Breakthrough Institute is forced to acknowledge that, in the case of California (which is considering an energy mandate), it will cost companies billions of dollars to follow through, causing them to call for the government to throw around yet more cash—money which even the most casual observer should know the federal government simply does not have.


But aside being difficult to build, an even bigger problem with renewable energy is its distribution. It is one thing to build a wind or solar farm, but it is an entirely different matter to then spread the power. Certain areas of the country are more naturally suited to alternative energy production (especially the huge wind and sun-rich areas in the south west), leaving companies owning the power farms with the problem of spreading the power around to areas of the state which fall outside those power-rich regions. Additionally, the intermittent nature of some of this 'clean' technology threatens the U.S. power grid, meaning that new controls will have to be developed to ensure a constant power supply.


Add further to this the fact that 2008 will be the coolest year in a decade marked by global temperature decrease—data that, no matter how the enviro-lobby will try to explain it away, stands in clear contrast to the supposed science upon which these state measures are based.


In spite of the difficulties faced by utilities, some states are forcing them to pony up fines for not meeting the high bars set. In an ironic twist of fate, the states—which are notorious for complaining about unfunded (or partly-funded) mandates from the federal government—are turning around and forcing their own utility companies to meet their own politically-driven standards.


Like the man in the parable of the unmerciful servant, they desire their unfunded/partially-funded federal mandates removed, but then turn around and place a burden upon those in their power. Adding insult to injury, Massachusetts and Connecticut have gone as far as fining the utilities back in 2006 for not meeting their fanciful standards.


But even if there was no penalty for noncompliance, or the mandates were funded, the foundational problem with this situation would not resolve itself. Namely, the market would not be allowed to work properly. By forcing companies to invest in technologies which are still questionable and under development—solely for the sake of political expediency—the states are only increasing the economic difficulties which they will be facing in the future.


Think the federal government's bailout of Fannie and Freddie was bad?


Imagine half the states forced to significantly raise taxes in order to provide basic energy needs because they nearly destroyed utility companies by forcing them into costly and unproductive energy adventures—all in pursuit of the prevention of the unsound hypothesis of “global warming”.


Isaac MacMillen is a contributing editor of ALG News Bureau.


Old Fashioned Oppression


It appears that unlawful spying and high-tech personal infiltration isn’t the only tactic Big Brother employs to achieve his nefarious ends. Sometimes tried and true, old fashion mobster tactics are worked into the modus-operandi.


In a recent development, the same Ohio Obama-advocates who authorized an illegal child support computer check on Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher during the campaign season are now under fire for bullying and threatening one of their lower-level employees.


Their purpose? Covering up an emerging national scandal.


According to a recent Columbus Dispatch article, Vanessa Niekamp, an administrator for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services' Office of Child Support, was forced to write an email and subsequently threatened after unknowingly assisting in the illegal probe of Mr. Wurzelbacher’s personal life. Deputy Director Doug Thompson, Mrs. Niekamp’s superior, apparently entered her office and nervously shut the door behind him. As the article describes:


“Thompson told her she must write an e-mail to the agency's information-security officer, and then ‘dictated word for word’ what she wrote, Niekamp said. He also reminded her that she could be fired at any time, she said.”


This incident occurred a week after Mrs. Niekamp was ordered to conduct the search on Joe Wurzelbacher—a name who, at the time, Mrs. Niekamp didn’t recognize. When Mr. Thompson later revealed that Joe Wurzelbacher was the “Joe the Plumber” of John McCain campaign fame, the cover up attempt—and mob-like threatening—began:


"Doug then told me I must write an e-mail to our agency's information-security officer to explain why [Mr. Wurzelbacher’s] file had been accessed. He turned my computer screen so he could see it and dictated word for word what he wanted me to write. ..


"He then told me that we needed to make sure that we answer questions about what happened the same way, so that our versions were not different from each other. Before he said that, he reminded me that I was an unclassified employee -- which, as you may know, is someone who can be fired without cause."


In addition to the bullying and threatening, another dirty mob-trick these Ohio Obama-advocates employed was using an uniformed pawn to do the masters’ dirty work. According to Mrs. Niekamp, despite the fact that Mr. Thompson and others could easily access his file on their own, she was asked to perform the search on Mr. Wurzelbacher. As Mrs. Niekamp says:


“To this day, I do not understand why they asked me to look at this information when they could have easily done this themselves."


It’s actually rather simple to understand. Mr. Thompson, Job and Family Services Director Helen Jones-Kelley and the rest didn’t want to get their hands dirty. Unfortunately for them, there was no clean getaway.


Regrettably for the victims of this criminality, however, Mr. Thomson and Co. didn’t receive much in terms of punishment. He, Mrs. Jones-Kelley and a number of others received a month’s probation—a mere slap on the wrist considering the magnitude of these offenses.


Nevertheless, shouldn’t we expect this?


After all, this recent development represents yet another disturbing iteration in a long-lasting and increasingly vile trend on behalf of Barack Obama. When it comes to supporting and protecting the President-elect from any political threats, his advocates appear willing to go to any extreme.


And how extreme it has become.


In the name of Obama, they have committed such offenses as spying on innocent civilians, falsely accusing citizens of making death threats, assembling anti-free speech “truth squads,” wielding weapons at polling places, and jettisoning fair-minded journalists from the Obama campaign plane.


Although it is tempting to label incoming administration as one based on Big Brother tactics, a different family analogy—such as a Godfather—might be more appropriate.


William Warren is a contributing editor of ALG News Bureau.


What Sanford Stands For


We have seen many in government obsessed with bailouts. They eagerly fed Wall Street a big fat check—and now possibly the Big 3 will take a slice out of the billion dollar pie to fix their financial mess. And the likely result from another bailout looks anything but appetizing--government gets bigger, a few are made richer, and the A merican people get stuck with the bill.


Doesn’t sound too appealing, does it? All in all, the Wall Street bailout accomplished very little—except of course making our government more powerful and making us a little lighter in the wallet. The same would happen if Congress bailed out the auto industry.


Now, here’s the most important question to look at—do bailouts solve financial problems or do they make things financial problems worse off? Well, we would be foolish in thinking the former were true. Government intervention never makes things better.


This propensity to hemorrhage federal dollars has even triggered a massive interest from state governments to ask government for some of that bailout money. Hungry governors and state legislators from across the country are pushing Congress with a new bailout to help them push a major news public works program.


And here’s the challenge: where do you draw the line? What if Boeing needs to be bailed out? Microsoft? Yahoo? Politicians promoting the bailout vision without seeing the problems it may bring for the future is disaster waiting to happen.


However, there is some hope in South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who is distinguishing himself as one of the few politicos who rejects more spending and demands more accountability. In an effort to put the Federal Government on a spending diet, he wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, keeping the pressure on Congress to stop with the spending:


“In 2008 bailouts became the first resort. Over the past year the federal government has committed itself to $2.3 trillion (including the tax rebate “stimulus” checks of last February) to “improve” the economy. I don’t see how another $150 billion now will make a difference in a global slowdown. We’ve already unloaded truckloads of sugar in a vain attempt to sweeten a lake. Tossing in a Twinkie will not make the difference.


However, there is something Congress can do: free states from federal mandates. South Carolina will spend about $425 million next year meeting federal unfunded mandates. The increase in the minimum wage alone will cost the state $2.6 million and meeting Homeland Security’s REAL ID requirements will cost $8.9 million.


Based on what I saw in Washington, the bailout train is being loaded up. Taxpayers will have to speak up now to change its freight, tab or departure.”


Sanford notes a very key point: Congress has already committed 2.3 trillion dollars this year alone to improve the economy. What would a state bailout do except make millions more of America lose money, i.e. savings, retirement fund, and a pretty dismal economic future?


Unlike most in Washington, Gov. Sanford offers a solution:


[T]here is something Congress can do: free states from federal mandates. South Carolina will spend about $425 million next year meeting federal unfunded mandates. The increase in the minimum wage alone will cost the state $2.6 million and meeting Homeland Security’s REAL ID requirements will cost $8.9 million.


Why is this important? Because Congress is out of control and Americans need to do everything they can to stop Congress from creating a similarly out of control debt to bailout Wall Street, the Big 3, and states.


The responsibility shouldn’t go on the taxpayer—it should go on those responsible for their own bad decisions. Plans that rely on more spending from government is not what we need. We need more personal responsibility—not more government handouts.


Thankfully, Gov. Sanford has a solution to which the rest of the Federal Government ought to listen.

Given the loud munching, crunching and slurping of their bailout feasting, however, it is unlikely they can even hear at all.


Alex Rosenwald is a contributing editor of ALG News Bureau.


The Case for Chapter 11

Thursday, December 4, 2008


The Big Three automakers (Ford, Chrysler and General Motors) return to Washington this week with their hands out - begging for federal assistance and warning that the economy will collapse if American taxpayers don't pony up with another federal "loan." It's a terrible idea. Instead of throwing more good taxpayer money after bad, it's time to Let the marketplace work its will and let the Big Three reorganize themselves under Chapter 11 of the federal Bankruptcy Code.


In September, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law $25 billion in loans to the Big Three, and this week the automakers (who are losing about $6 billion a month) will push for at least another $25 billion in loans. But it is difficult to see how putting more taxpayer dollars into a failed business model makes sense. The decline of GM, Ford and Chrysler has been more than three decades in the making. U.S. automakers crippled their own ability to compete by signing absurdly generous contracts with the United Auto Workers union. Last year, the average hourly labor cost of wages and benefits paid by the Big Three was $73. By comparison, the average for Japanese manufacturers in the United States was $48. Health benefits add $1,300 to the cost of every car made by the Big Three.


Chapter 11 bankruptcy would enable the Big Three to reorganize themselves into new companies without the union contracts that are crippling their ability to stay competitive. Chapter 11 would not mean the end of Ford, General Motors or Chrysler. Quite the contrary: It would give these companies breathing space to make the changes necessary to remain viable. The bankruptcy process would give the parties - dealers, customers, retirees and unions - the opportunity to negotiate the terms of a compromise that would allow streamlined companies to emerge with wage structures that give them an opportunity to survive in the global marketplace.


Currently, the UAW and the Big Three are trying to scare the American people by conjuring up all kinds of horrific scenarios in the event of Chapter 11. One of their least persuasive arguments is the assertion that if any of these companies went into bankruptcy, consumers would not be able to obtain parts for their automobiles or have their warranties honored. In fact, what would happen is this: The bankruptcy court would transfer the intellectual property rights of GM, Ford or Chrysler to other firms that sought to manufacture their auto parts. The bankruptcy court's job would be to make sure that consumers' interests are protected.


John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) points to the example of the DeLorean Motor Co., which filed for bankruptcy protection in 1982. The DeLorean bankruptcy actually was a liquidation, not a reorganization under Chapter 11. While no new DeLoreans have been made since that time, there are an estimated 6,500 on the road today that need spare parts. So, what do consumers do when the firm that makes the cars is no longer in business? They purchase original and reproduction parts from the new DeLorean Motor Comp. - a firm under completely different ownership that acquired the rights to the old company's designs. Also, an Indiana firm sells parts for Studebaker automobiles - cars last made in the 1960s.


Warranties would be a more complicated matter, but in all likelihood, the bankruptcy court would make them a priority among debts to be repaid. Chapter 11 reorganization would be a far better alternative than letting the three automakers sink or bailing them out. Forcing taxpayers to pour more money into the failed business models of the Big Three will not work, because it is doubtful that these companies can reposition themselves to pay the loans.