Free Market Competition versus Cronyism and Monopoly

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 15th, 2012

Week in Review

There is a general misunderstanding of what capitalism means.  When most people criticize capitalism, they’re not criticizing capitalism.  But, instead, crony capitalism.  Where some in business seek special favors from government.  Thus preferring the privilege of cronyism over free market competition.

Economics can range between two poles.  Free competition.  And monopoly.  Free competition is an essential element of capitalism.  Whereas monopoly requires the power of the state to enforce (see Competition and the Economists by Murray N. Rothbard posted 1/10/2012 on Ludwig von Mises Institute).

To Adam Smith and to his successors, “competition” was not a term defined with mathematical precision; it meant, generally, “free competition,” i.e., competition unhampered by governmental grants of exclusive privilege. And “monopoly” tended to mean such grants of governmental privilege.

To Adam Smith, for example, “competition” was used in the common-sense way that businessmen use it: to mean rivalry between two or more independent persons or firms. “Free competition” meant absence of grants of exclusive privilege, freedom of trade and freedom of entry into occupations; “monopolies” meant grants of exclusive privilege.

When Smith used the term “competition,” for example, he used it to describe the competition among buyers, which bids prices up when demand exceeds supply, or the competition of sellers, which bids prices down when supply is greater than demand.

Free market competition keeps consumer prices down.  Because of that competition between sellers.  When there is crony capitalism there is less competition.  And elements of monopoly.  Which lets prices stay high.  This is crony capitalism.  It lets those politically connected escape free market competition.  So they can enjoy higher selling prices.  And you can only do this with friends in high places.  Who have the power to suspend free market forces by legislation.  Which is the only way you can.

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Capitalism and Crony Capitalism are not the Same Thing

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 14th, 2012

Week in Review

A lot of people condemn capitalism.  But the thing they attack isn’t capitalism.  It’s crony capitalism.  Where some in business buy favors from their friends in government (see Crony Capitalism? Blame the Progressives by Warren Meyer posted 1/5/2012 on Forbes).

The core of capitalism has nothing to do with, and is in fact inherently corrupted by, the exercise of state power.  At its heart, capitalism is one simple proposition — free exchange between individuals based on mutual self-interest.  There is no room in this definition for subsidies or special government preferences or bailouts.  The meat and potatoes activities of crony capitalism are corruptions rather than features of free markets.  Where state power to intervene in economic activity does not exist, neither does cronyism.

Meyer discusses this in specific areas: antitrust, licensing, protectionism, economic management, picking winners, green energy, consumer protection, employee protection and Obamacare.  Please follow the link to Forbes and read the full piece.

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President Obama uses Class Warfare to Increase Spending and Reward Political Cronies

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 19th, 2011

They have Learned in the UK that Government can’t Pay for Everything

China may be subsidizing high-speed rail.  But in the UK, the government is moving the other way.  Because it is just too costly (see Arriva Trains: Fare rise in Wales 2% lower than England posted 9/19/2011 on the BBC News Wales).

The Welsh Government has told Arriva Trains Wales it can increase prices by 1% above the inflation rate.

Last month the UK government announced an average increase in England of 3% over inflation…

Tony Miles, from Modern Railways magazine, said the decision was good news for Welsh commuters but it would impact on the Welsh Government’s budget.

He said: “This is a policy decision by the Welsh Government, which is very much in line with their outlook that the burden of financing public transport should fall more on taxpayers centrally than on the individual passengers…

“The UK Government wants to shift the cost of the railways more away from taxpayers and towards users.

The UK went farther down the socialist road than the Americans.  They nationalized a lot of their industries.  Nationalized their health care.  And, of course, their transportation.  Now there are efforts to reverse this.  Continuing on the work of the great Margaret Thatcher.

There are some in the UK that have a novel idea.  To let people pay for a train ticket.  If they want a train ticket.  Imagine that.  Paying your own way.  How fair.  And rational.  But not all are keen on the idea.  For in Wales they want everyone to pitch in and pay for train tickets.  Even those who don’t ride on the train.

They have learned in the UK that government can’t pay for everything.  And some are now trying to undo years of government growth.  In transportation.  And elsewhere.  To unleash more free market capitalism.  That they were so kind to introduce to the Western World all those years ago.

Was the Great Depression the Worst Economy Ever before Obama Took Office?

In America, though, government continues to grow.  Even with election losses.  And economic malaise (see End of Recession Doesn’t Mean Good Times Return Right Away by David Johnson posted 9/19/2011 on Random Samplings).

Numbers just released by the Census Bureau, however, illustrate that while the recession may technically be over, household economic conditions did not improve…

During the 2010 calendar year, median household income was $49,445, 2.3 percent lower than in 2009 after adjusting for inflation.

The Obama administration’s Recovery Summer ended the Bush recession in 2010.  Or so they say.  The unemployment rate is still above 9%.  If you factor in the underemployed and those who’ve given up looking for a job it’s closer to 16%.  And real household income is down 2.3%.

But just imagine how bad things would have been if Obama didn’t end the Bush Recession with his Recovery Summer.  People would be saying that the Great Depression was the worst economy ever.  Until Obama took office.

To end the Bush recession Obama spent $800 billion in ‘stimulus’ spending.  Which failed.  Because he’s asking for another $450 billion stimulus package.  Despite the first one failing.  Well, it may have failed to stimulate the economy.  But it did stimulate government.

Only Union Jobs are Good Jobs in the Obama Admin because only Union Jobs Fill Democrat Coffers

So we know that their stimulus spending fails to stimulate the economy.  But why?  Is it because they don’t understand things economic?  Or is it because their stimulus has more political goals than economic?  Perhaps it’s both (see Illinois among worst states to do business: Survey by Ameet Sachdev posted 9/19/2011 on the Chicago Tribune).

Illinois ranked among the three worst states for business, according to a survey of U.S. corporate executives released Monday…

Taxes and high costs were among the factors that contributed to the state’s poor showing in the survey. California was deemed to have the worst business climate, followed by New York and Illinois.

So California, Illinois and New York have the worst business climates.  Because of taxes and high costs.  No surprise, really.  For these are big blue Democrat states.  With big blue Democrat cities.  And big public sector unions.  At both the state and municipal levels.  Which is why they have such high taxes and costs.  Those public sector pension and health care benefits are absolutely killing their economies with the high taxes required to fund them.

The Democrats can say what they want.  But they are not business-friendly.  They are only friendly to political allies.  Unions.  Teachers.  And public sector employees.  Which is why businesses want to leave these Democrat areas.  Not to exploit cheap labor.  But to stop their own exploitation by these Democrat strongholds.

Illinois recently increased its income tax rate, which has prompted several companies, including Chicago-based CME Group, to consider leaving the state.

Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina were viewed as having the best business climates, according to the survey.

Boeing built their new 787 Dreamliner plant in South Carolina.  But the Obama administration is trying to shut that plant down.  Why?  Because they don’t like South Carolina.  Or its people.

You see, all jobs are not good jobs.  As the Obama administration sees it.  And these new South Carolinian jobs are not good jobs.  Because they are nonunion jobs.  No union means no union dues.  And no money to flow into Democrat coffers.  So the Obama administration has nothing to gain politically.  And that’s why they are using the power of the National Labor Relations Board to shut that plant down.  And make Boeing expand production in Seattle.  Where the jobs will be union jobs.  And union money will flow into Democrat coffers.  Via union dues.

President Obama and the Democrats Prefer Crony Capitalism over Free Market Capitalism

We call this crony capitalism.  Some may even say extortion.

Crony capitalism is the opposite of free market capitalism.  Where merit wins the day.  In crony capitalism, though, it’s who you know.  And what kind of political power you have (see Obama administration ‘pressured Air Force general to change testimony’ by Toby Harnden posted 9/16/2011 on The Telegraph).

According to Republicans on Capitol Hill, General William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command, told them in a closed session the White House urged him to alter his testimony about the Pentagon’s concerns about a new wireless project by a satellite broadband company…

LightSquared, based in Virginia, is funded by the multi-millionaire Philip Falcone, a frequent donor to Democrats. The satellite and broadband communications company plans to build a nationwide, 4G phone network that many generals believe would seriously hinder the effectiveness of high-precision GPS receiver systems used by the military…

The row over the allegedly improper intervention came as a Republican-controlled House of Representatives Committee investigated a federal loan guarantee to Solyndra, a solar firm also tied to a major Democratic contributor, which failed after receiving a half-billion US government loan guarantee.

A spokesman for Gen Shelton said that his testimony was “his own, supported by and focused purely on documented tested results”.

LightSquared insisted it had not sought to interfere with the properly regulatory process. The White House said reviewing congressional testimony was routine.

Interesting.  The White House says this is just routine.  Which it apparently is.  Whether you’re funneling tax dollars to a green energy company.  Connected to a rich Democrat donor.  Or trying to throw a contract to a communications company.  Also connected to a rich Democrat donor.  Even if it compromises national security.

It’s just business.  And our politicians are just business people.  In the business of rewarding political friends.  In return for generous campaign contributions.

So much for hope, change and transparency.

If You Confiscated all the Rich’s Income it would Wipe out Obama’s Deficit…for One Year

Crony capitalism.  A little extortion.  Mixed in with a generous helping of class warfare.  In other words, Obama politics (see Obama calls for broad tax increases by Stephen Dinan posted 9/18/2011 on The Washington Times).

President Obama on Monday proposed a deficit reduction plan that calls for about $3 in new tax increases for every dollar in additional spending cuts as he seeks to put his imprint on the ongoing talks with Congress over reducing the government’s staggering debt…

“This is not class warfare, it’s math,” Mr. Obama said in the White House’s Rose Garden as he laid out the outlines. “The money’s got to come from some place.”

Real incomes are down.  Unemployment is still above 9%.  If you count the underemployed and those who have given up looking for work the actual number is closer to 16%.  So how best to create more jobs to help people go back to work?  And boost those real incomes?  Well, if you’re a member of the Obama administration, you raise taxes.

But this won’t help the employment numbers.  So why do it?  Because it is class warfare.  Despite the president’s denial that it is.  For there is no other reason to do this.  It won’t help the economy.  And it won’t help reduce the debt.

If you took all income from those earning $200,000 or more you’ll be lucky to get $2 trillion.  At least this is all they had in 2008.

(Source:  SOI Tax Stats – Individual Income Tax Rates and Tax Shares)

See?  You can raise tax rates to 100% on the rich but it won’t help.  If you confiscated all their income you’d raise a lot of money, yes.  Enough to wipe out the Obama’s $1.6 trillion deficit.  For one year.  But it will be $1.6 trillion the following year.  Unless you cut spending.  Because you can take this money only once.  Unless these people agree to keep producing all this wealth as indentured servants.  Which I don’t see happening.

So Broke that We Must Raise Taxes but not too Broke that We can’t Throw $7 Billion to the USPS

So it is class warfare.  And cronyism.  Helping those who help them.  With taxpayer dollars.  Which is why they need to raise taxes.  Not to retire the debt.  But to help their political supporters (see President Obama deficit plans back ending Saturday mail by Ed O’Keefe posted 9/19/2011 on The Washington Post).

The White House is also calling on Congress to return $7 billion that USPS paid into a federal retirement fund to the delivery service to help pay for other retirement and health-care costs. Obama’s plans also would allow the Postal Service to raise stamp prices beyond the rate of inflation to better match the cost of delivery…

Though the Postal Service is a self-funding entity that doesn’t accept taxpayer dollars, it is a significant piece of the unified federal budget because its workers and retirees draw benefits from federal workers’ compensation, retirement and health-care accounts.

The country is so broke that it must raise taxes.  But it is not too broke that it can’t throw $7 billion to Obama’s friends in the USPS.

We are Regressing back to the Totalitarian Regimes of the Old World

All this talk about balance approach to deficit reduction?  And getting the rich to pay their fair share?  It’s all class warfare. To increase taxes.  To keep funding important political constituencies.  It has nothing to do with deficit reduction.  The numbers are just too large to be able to reduce the deficit with taxes alone.  You have to cut spending.

And this just isn’t going to happen with Democrats in power.  Because government spending is their lifeblood.  Their economic policies don’t work.  And they’re not designed to work.  They have but one purpose.  Politics.  Rewarding political favors.  With taxpayer dollars.

And they will sacrifice anything to keep spending.  The economy.  Our real incomes.  Our national security.  Even the American Dream.  Our liberty.  For we are regressing back to the totalitarian regimes of the Old World.  Where, if you’re not politically connected, you are fast becoming a second class citizen.

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Private Investors passed on Solyndra, so why didn’t the Smart People in Government pass, too?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 14th, 2011

The High Cost of Solar Power makes Reliable Fossil Fuel-Produced Electricity even more Attractive

Solar panels. One of the darlings of green energy. And a favorite of the Obama administration. Especially Solyndra. Where Vice President Biden made a personal appearance to showcase the government’s half billion dollar investment into the economy of the future. A future, albeit, that will not include Solyndra. Why? Sales of solar panels are down. Way down (see Opposing view: ‘Perfect storm’ sank Solyndra by Daniel Poneman, Deputy Secretary of Energy, posted 9/14/2011 on USA Today).

Unfortunately, expanding production has coincided with short-term softening demand, a product of the banking crisis in Europe and its wider economic effects. The combination has had a dramatic effect on the price of solar cells, which has plummeted 42% in the past nine months. This has taken a serious toll on solar manufacturers everywhere, including the U.S.

Actually, what made Solyndra’s solar panels unsellable was something else. They didn’t use silicon. Like everyone else. They used another material. And a different technology. This cost more. But the installation was cheaper. So the total package was competitive. Until the price of silicon fell, that is. Which priced them right out of the market.

Solyndra needed silicon to remain expensive to remain competitive. Much like E85. That really only sold well when gas peaked over $4/gallon. And people didn’t realize that they had to buy more of it to go as far as gasoline would take them. Which meant a lot of people bought E85 only once. But government still subsidizes it. To make it cheap enough to get people to buy it. Even though they don’t want it.

Which is why solar panels aren’t selling. Governments everywhere are implementing austerity measures to reduce record debts. Which means they can’t subsidize these solar panels anymore. Which makes their high prices even higher. Making that sweet reliable fossil fuel-produced electricity all the more attractive. So bye bye Solyndra.

This month, Solyndra , a California-based company, filed for bankruptcy. Solyndra had been named one of the world’s 50 most innovative companies and reported sales growth of 40% to $140 million last year. In 2006, the company applied for a federal loan guarantee. It underwent years of rigorous internal and external review before being approved — before the perfect storm of deteriorating market conditions.

This year is 2011. So they reported sales of $140 million in 2010. And if you do some math, this means they reported sales of $100 million in 2009. Sounds impressive. But numbers are relative. We have to put them into some kind of context for a true understanding.

Government Investment into Solar Energy is Politics over Substance or just Plain Cronyism

So let’s find a little context (see White House ignored red flags in loan to failed solar company by Martin Wolk posted 9/14/2011 on MSNBC).

The FBI raided the Silicon Valley headquarters of the company, Solyndra, last week, investigating whether the government was misled when it loaned the company $535 million in taxpayer funds…

Solyndra received the loan guarantees in 2009 as part of President Barack Obama’s promise to create millions of so-called “green” jobs. But last month, Solyndra declared bankruptcy, laying off all 1,100 workers.

Hmm, let’s see. That was $535 million to produce $100 million in sales. Now that’s putting things into context. In other words, $100 million in sales is not impressive. In fact, it is downright abysmal. Only about 19% of the federal loan produced sales in 2009. For the last two full years of their existence, about 45% of the federal loan produced sales.

Worse, by the time you subtract the cost of sales from these sales and calculate the return on this government investment, there is none. Even before the bankruptcy. This was a horrible investment. This is a lot like all of those dot-com startups. Companies that were flooded with investment capital. As people were anxious to find the next Microsoft. Pouring money into companies that never produced anything to sell. And when the investment capital dried up, the dot-com bubble burst.

At least with the dot-com economic destruction, private investors lost. The green energy bubble, on the other hand, it’s the taxpayer losing. Because we’re subsidizing so much of this green energy. Why? Because private investors see it for what it is. A bad investment. There isn’t a market for this stuff. So they’re not throwing good money at bad investments. Unlike Uncle Sam.

House Republican investigators have unearthed emails — reviewed by NBC — which reveal repeated warnings by government staffers about the loan. Days before final approval there was a warning that one model showed the project would run out of cash in September 2011, which it did.

Another memo from the White House Office of Management and Budget, also cited by The Washington Post, questioned the model the government was using, but said “[g]iven the time pressure we are under to sign-off on Solyndra, we don’t have time to change the model.”

Why the rush? The White House appeared to be pushing to meet political deadlines so Vice President Joe Biden could announce final approval when he spoke at the groundbreaking for the new plant.

A key question is whether Solyndra’s political connections were a factor. A big Obama donor associated with the venture, identified by the Post as Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser, repeatedly visited the White House. He has denied using his influence to win approval of the loan.

This explains a lot. Staffers warned against the loan. Some even did math. Probably recognizing that there were no sales. And with no revenue coming in it was a simple matter of dividing investment capital by their monthly costs. Which proved very accurate. The staffers were smart. The policy was just bad. But, alas, staffers don’t make policy.

This is politics over substance. Or just plain cronyism. Which means one of two things. Government is incompetent. Or corrupt. Take your pick. Whichever one makes you feel better.

If Private Investors won’t Invest it has to be a Bad Investment

Solyndra is just one example of bad government policy. The whole ‘green energy is our future’ is a pipe dream. An excuse for the government to spend money. And to pay back campaign donors.

If this was our future, private investors would be pumping investment capital into green energy like there was no tomorrow. Like they did with all of those dot-coms. Those didn’t need any government investment, did they? And you know why? Because the private sector is full of greedy bastards looking to get richer. That’s why. And they will bury someone with investment capital if that someone has a good idea.

Anything the government ‘invests’ in, then, is a bad idea. Why? Because private investors say so.

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President Obama: Worse President than George W. Bush? Or Worst President Ever?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 8th, 2011

Obama Rolling up his Sleeves and Wagging his Finger

President Obama has taken out his wagging finger.  And he has wagged it.  Scolding Republicans to grow up and be like his daughters.  It is interesting he referred his daughters for an example of responsible behavior.  And not himself.  Because his track record on acting responsibly hasn’t been all that good as Charles Krauthammer points out and lists some of his failings (see The Elmendorf Rule by Charles Krauthammer posted 7/8/2011 on The Washington Post).

• Ignored the debt problem for two years by kicking the can to a commission.

• Promptly ignored the commission’s December 2010 report.

• Delivered a State of the Union address in January that didn’t even mention the word “debt” until 35 minutes in.

• Delivered in February a budget so embarrassing — it actually increased the deficit — that the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected it 97 to 0.

• Took a budget mulligan with his April 13 debt-plan speech. Asked in Congress how this new “budget framework” would affect the actual federal budget, Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf replied with a devastating “We don’t estimate speeches.” You can’t assign numbers to air.

Not even a modicum of responsibility there.  So he’s rather like the pot calling the kettle black.  He should perhaps have said “do as I say and not as I do even though I do not do as I say you should do but that’s okay because I’m smarter than you so there.  When will all of you finally get this?”

But the Republicans, insolent as they are, refuse to budge.  So Obama had to bring out the wagging finger to discipline these insolent children.  Advising them to be more like his own children.  Who do their homework in a timely manner.

My compliments. But the Republican House did do its homework. It’s called a budget. It passed the House on April 15. The Democratic Senate has produced no budget. Not just this year, but for two years running. As for the schoolmaster in chief, he produced two 2012 budget facsimiles: The first (February) was a farce and the second (April) was empty, dismissed by the CBO as nothing but words untethered to real numbers.

Obama has run disastrous annual deficits of around $1.5 trillion while insisting for months on a “clean” debt-ceiling increase, i.e., with no budget cuts at all. Yet suddenly he now rises to champion major long-term debt reduction, scorning any suggestions of a short-term debt-limit deal as can-kicking.

That’s right, neither the Democrats nor Obama has done any responsible fiscal legislating/governing for the past two years.  Looks like the responsible shoe is on the other foot.  And those deficits?  They’re records.  Over 5 times larger than those world-ending Reagan deficits.  Yet he has the audacity to wag that finger at the Republicans for not being responsible?  Perhaps he should be wagging that finger at himself. 

And what have been Obama’s own debt-reduction ideas? In last week’s news conference, he railed against the tax break for corporate jet owners — six times.

I did the math. If you collect that tax for the next 5,000 years — that is not a typo — it would equal the new debt Obama racked up last year alone. To put it another way, if we had levied this tax at the time of John the Baptist and collected it every year since — first in shekels, then in dollars — we would have 500 years to go before we could offset half of the debt added by Obama last year alone.

Obama’s other favorite debt-reduction refrain is canceling an oil-company tax break. Well, if you collect that oil tax and the corporate jet tax for the next 50 years — you will not yet have offset Obama’s deficit spending for February 2011.

It is clear the president is in reelection mode.  Because he’s stoking the fires of class warfare.  Rich people fly jets.  And own oil companies.  Rich people are getting sweetheart tax deals.  Saving them billions.  And he wants to put a stop to this unfairness.  And make it fair.  It won’t help to erase the deficit at all.  But it gives you something to campaign on.  Which he needs.  Because his policies have been an economic train wreck. 

The June Jobs Report is worse than May’s

How bad have those policies been?  The June jobs report is in.  And it’s worse than May’s (see June Jobs Report Lands With A Thud: Up Just 18,000 by Steve Schaefer posted 7/8/2011 on Forbes).

In a stark reminder that the U.S. economy has been mired in slow growth, the Labor Department reported Friday that nonfarm payrolls added just 18,000 jobs in June and unemployment came in at 9.2%…

The stunning lack of improvement in June’s report – April’s payrolls figure was revised to 217,000 from 232,000 and May’s cut by more than half to 25,000 from 54,000 – rocked Wall Street Friday morning, as index futures sharply reversed after indicating small opening gains earlier. The Dow Jones industrial average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq were all signaling a red start to the trading session after solid gains Thursday.

And as bad as the May report was, the current report revises the May numbers down.  Fewer jobs were added than originally reported.  April’s, too.  It’s a trend.  Both a downward trend in job creation.  And the revising of previous reports.  Which means the anemic 18,000 jobs reported in June will likely be revised down in the July report.  There’s no good economic news out there.  The stimulus spending failed in a big way.  Which is why Obama is resorting to class warfare.  Because economically he has been an utter and absolute failure.

The June Jobs Report is even worse than it Says

And as bad as the June report was, it’s worse (see Without Dropouts, Jobless Rate Would Be Over 11% by Phil Izzo posted 7/8/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

The share of the population in the jobs market, called the labor-force participation rate, fell to 64.1% last month — the lowest level since 1984 when women were still just beginning to enter in full force… The participation rate was 66% at the start of the recession and 65.7% when the recovery started in June 2009. If the participation rate were still at that level, the unemployment rate would be more than 11% right now…

There’s also a problem of underemployment. A comprehensive gauge of labor underutilization, known as the “U-6″ for its data classification by the Labor Department, accounts for people who have stopped looking for work or who can’t find full-time jobs. That number shot up in June to 16.2% from 15.8% a month earlier.

If we count the people who have given up looking for a job the actual unemployment rate would be as a high as 11%.  If you add in all those only working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job the unemployment rate jumps up to 16.2%.  These are horrible numbers.  How horrible?  These are more Great Depression numbers than George W. Bush numbers.

The Green Energy Bubble

America became the world’s largest economy thanks to the innovation of the private sector.  Great entrepreneurs like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford took risks.  The government didn’t have to tell them how to make steel better, more plentiful and cheaper.  Or how to make gasoline better, more plentiful and cheaper.  Or how to make automobiles better, more plentiful and cheaper.  That’s capitalism in the free market.  The private sector takes risks in pursuit of profits.  And when it does it makes things better, more plentiful and cheaper.  When people like Carnegie, Rockefeller and Ford are left alone to do what they know how to do best.  Create wealth.  And jobs.

Obama, on the other hand, believes he knows best.  That he’s smarter than these entrepreneurs.  And that he can direct the private sector to do his bidding.  Which, of course, in his Ivy League world, should result with economic activity.  And jobs.  Even if you’re telling people to build stuff the market doesn’t want (see The Coming Clean Tech Crash by Devon Swezey posted 7/7/2011 on Forbes).

The global clean energy industry is set for a major crash. The reason is simple. Clean energy is still much more expensive and less reliable than coal or gas, and in an era of heightened budget austerity the subsidies required to make clean energy artificially cheaper are becoming unsustainable.

Clean tech crashes are nothing new. The U.S. wind energy industry has collapsed three times before, first in the mid 1990s and most recently in 2002 and 2004 when Congress failed to extend the tax credit that made it profitable. But the impact and magnitude of the coming clean tech crash will far outstrip those of past years.

After one of the worst housing bubbles in U.S. history we now have a green energy bubble.  That’s about to pop.  And you know what happens when a bubble pops?  You get a recession.  To correct for all that malinvestment (to borrow a little Austrian School vernacular).  Which is pretty bad considering we’re still trying to recover from the first bubble.  And may very well still be in a recession despite all the massaging of economic data to say otherwise.  So if we’re still in a recession perhaps the pop of this bubble will push us into depression.  If we’re not in one already.  Based on those god-awful employment numbers.

As part of its effort to combat the economic recession, the federal government pumped nearly $80 billion in direct investment and tax credits into the clean energy sector, catalyzing an unprecedented industry expansion. Solar energy, for example, grew 67% in the United States in 2010. The U.S. wind energy industry also experienced unprecedented growth as a result of the generous Section 1603 clean energy stimulus program. The industry grew by 40% and added 10 GW of new turbines in 2009. Yet many of the federal subsidies that have driven such rapid growth are set to expire in the next few years, and clean energy remains unable to compete without them.

The crash won’t be limited to the United States. In many European countries, clean energy subsidies have become budget casualties as governments attempt to curb mounting deficits. Spain, Germany, France, Italy and the Czech Republic have all announced cuts to clean energy subsidies.

Can’t compete without them?  So what was the point in giving them all of those subsidies in the first place?  Were we forever going to pay for a more costly energy while less costly energy (i.e., fossil fuel) was available?  Apparently so.   Being that the life-blood of an economy is energy that would have just raised the cost of all businesses.  And the price of all consumer goods.  Less disposable income means less demand.  Less demand means fewer jobs.  Not a good plan, really.  Unless your goal is to put the country into a depression.

And the problem is global.  So the coming economic crisis will be global.  As if the European Union didn’t have enough financial crises on their hands already.  This could even hurt those emerging markets of China, India and Brazil.  Who depend on these export markets.  As we depend on them.  To buy our debt.

The U.S. has tried this clean energy before.  And all of these attempts ended in failure.  For the reasons already noted.  But if we’ve tried this so many times before, why haven’t we figured out how to do it right?  To find that innovation that makes it cost-competitive with fossil fuels?

Why is the United States still locked in this self-perpetuating boom-bust cycle in clean energy? The problem, according to a new essay by energy experts David Victor and Kassia Yanosek in this week’s Foreign Affairs, is that our system of clean energy subsidization is jury-rigged to support the deployment of only the least-risky and most mature clean energy technologies, while lacking clear incentives for continual innovation that could make clean energy competitive on cost with conventional energy sources. Rather, we should “invest in more innovative technologies that stand a better chance of competing with conventional energy sources over the long haul.” According to Victor and Yanosek, nearly seven-eighths of global clean energy investment goes toward deploying existing technologies that aren’t competitive without subsidy, while only a small share goes to encouraging innovation in existing technologies or developing new ones.

Oh, that’s why.  Because the government is in the business of picking winners and losers when it comes to the lottery of free government money.  Which is par for the course.  For government spending is about political cronyism.  That money is spent based on political forces.  Not market forces.  Which is a shame.  Because spending that money isn’t necessary.  Because there is an incentive to create cost-competitive green energy.  Unfortunately, that incentive is being distorted by the government subsidies.

It is clear that the current budgetary environment in the United States presents challenges to the viability of the fast-growing clean energy industry. But it also presents an opportunity. By repurposing existing clean energy policies and investing in clean energy innovation, the United States can be the first country to make clean energy cheap and reliable, a distinction that is sure to bring major economic benefits in a multi-trillion dollar energy market.

Get rid of all that malinvestment and that multi-trillion dollar energy market will provide the necessary incentive for the private sector to solve the green energy problem. Making it cost competitive with fossil fuels.  For whoever cracks that nut will be the next Carnegie.  The next Rockefeller.  The next Ford. 

You want to create a green energy market?  Okay, I’ll tell you how to do it.  Step one, get government the hell out of the way.  Step two, eliminate the capital gains tax.  That will motivate people to spend money on solving the problem because if they’re successful they’ll be richer than the Kennedys.  Step three, enjoy your green energy.

Barack Obama and his Keynesian Economics have Failed

President Obama has no chance of reelection if he has to run on his economic record.  Because his economic record may prove to be the worst of all time.  And he knows it.  Hence the finger wagging.  And the class warfare.  He has spent more than any other president.  And not just a little more.  A lot more.  Before him the worst post-war federal deficits were around $200-400 billion.  Since Obama they’re around $1.5 trillion.  And yet he scolds Republicans for being irresponsible because they refuse to raise the debt limit without getting real spending cuts.  As if the Republicans spent all of that money.  Not him.  Or his Democrats.  If he was so worried about defaulting on American debt obligations he shouldn’t have spent money his administration didn’t have.  But he did.  And now he’s wagging his finger at Republicans.

And what did we get for all that spending?  Further proof that he and his administration are economically incompetent.  Government spending doesn’t create jobs.  And government doesn’t know better than the private sector.  He can talk with all the righteous indignation and all-knowing condescension he wants but it doesn’t change that fact.  America’s greatest economic achievements and innovation was done without Government butting into the private sector.

Barack Obama and his Keynesian economics have failed.  Time to try something new.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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LESSONS LEARNED #19: “Philosophical debates can be effective but character assassination is more expedient, especially when no one agrees with your philosophy.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 24th, 2010

THOMAS JEFFERSON HATED Alexander Hamilton.  So much so he hired Philip Freneau as a translator in his State Department in George Washington’s administration.  You see, Jefferson did not like confrontation.  So he needed a way to slander Hamilton, his policies and the Washington administration without getting his own hands dirty.  And that was what Freneau was supposed to do with the money he earned while working in the State Department.  Publish a newspaper (National Gazette) and attack Hamilton, his policies and the Washington administration.  Papers then were partisan.  More so than today.  Then, lies and libel were tools of the trade.  And they knew how to dig up the dirt.  Or make it up. 

Another scandalmonger, James Callender, was slinging dirt for Jefferson.  And he hit pay dirt.  Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds of Philadelphia had a lucrative business.  They were blackmailing Alexander Hamilton.  Mr. Reynolds had his wife seduce Hamilton.  Which she did.  And did well.  They had an affair.  And Mr. Reynolds then blackmailed him.  Jefferson pounced.  Or, rather, Callender did.  To keep Jefferson’s hands clean.  Hamilton, Callender said, was using his position at the Treasury Department for personal gain.  He was using public funds to pay the blackmailer.  They found no proof of this.  And they did look for it.  Hard.  But when they came up empty, Jefferson said that it just proved what a good thief Hamilton was.  He was so good that he didn’t leave any traces of his treachery behind.

Of course, when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.  And Jefferson’s association with Callender would come back and bite him in the ass.  In a big way.  Upset because Jefferson didn’t appropriately compensate him for all his loyal dirt slinging (he wanted the postmaster’s job in Richmond), he publicized the Sally Hemings rumors.  And after breaking the true story of the Hamilton affair, many would believe this scoop.  That Jefferson was having an affair with one of his slaves.  It was a dark cloud that would forever hang over Jefferson.  And his legacy.

Hamilton admitted to his affair.  Jefferson admitted to no affair.  Hamilton would never hold public office again and would later die in a duel with Jefferson’s one-time toady, Aaron Burr.  This duel resulted because Hamilton was doing whatever he could to keep the amoral and unscrupulous Burr from public office (in this case, it was the governorship of New York).  When the election of 1800 resulted in a tie between Jefferson and Burr, Hamilton urged the House to vote for Jefferson, his archenemy.   Despite what had appeared in the press, Hamilton did have morals and scruples.  Unlike some.  Speaking of which, Jefferson would go on to serve 2 terms as president.  And all of that angst about Hamiltonian policies?  They all went out the window with the Louisiana Purchase (which was unconstitutional, Big Government and Big Finance).

RONALD REAGAN WAS routinely called old, senile and out of touch by the entertainment community, the media and his political foes.  But he bested Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet Union, something Jimmy Carter never did.  He said ‘no’ at Reykjavik because he told the American people that he wouldn’t give up the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).  He knew the Soviet Union was bleeding.  Communism was a farce.  It inhibited human capital.  And impoverished her people.  SDI may have been science fiction in the 1980s, but capitalism wasn’t.  It could do it all.  Including SDI.  The Soviet Union was on the ropes and Reagan would give no quarter.  The days of living in fear of the mushroom cloud were over.  And capitalism would deliver the knockout punch.

Reaganomics, of course, made this all possible.  Supply-side economics.  Which follows the Austrian school.  Say’s Law.  ‘Supply creates demand’.  You don’t stimulate the economy by taxing one group of people so another group can spend.  You stimulate it by creating incentives for risk takers to take risks.  And when they do, they create jobs.  And wealth.

Tax and spend is a failed Keynesian, zero-sum economic policy.  When you take from the earners and give to the non-earners, we just transfer purchasing power.  We don’t create it.  For some to spend more, others must spend less.  Hence, zero-sum.  The net some of goods and services people are purchasing remains the same.  Different people are just doing the purchasing.

When Apple invented the Macintosh personal computer (PC), few were demanding a PC with a graphical user interface (GUI).  But Apple was innovative.  They created something they thought the people would want.  And they did.  They took a risk.  And the Macintosh with its mouse and GUI took off.  Apple manufacturing increased and added jobs.  Retail outlets for the Macintosh expanded and created jobs.  Software firms hired more engineers to write code.  And other firms hired more people to engineer and manufacture PC accessories.  There was a net increase in jobs and wealth.  Just as Say’s Law predicts.  Supply-side economics works.

Of course, the Left hates Reagan and attacked Reaganomics with a vengeance.  They attacked Reagan for being pro-rich.  For not caring about the poor.  And they revised history.  They say the only thing the Reagan tax cuts gave us were record deficits.  Of course, what those tax cuts gave us were record tax receipts.  The government never collected more money.  The House of Representatives (who spends the money), awash in cash, just spent that money faster than the treasury collected it.  The record shows Reaganomics worked.  Lower tax rates spurred economic activity.  More activity generated more jobs and more personal wealth.  Which resulted in more people paying more taxes.  More people paying taxes at a lower rate equaled more tax revenue in the aggregate.  It works.  And it works every time people try it. 

Because Reaganomics worked and showed the Left’s policies were failures, they had to attack Reagan.  To discredit him.  They had to destroy the man.  Except when they’re running for elected office.  Then they strive to show how much more Reagan-like they are than their conservative opponents.  Because they know Reaganomics worked.  And they know that we know Reaganomics worked.

GEORGE W. BUSH was routinely called an ‘idiot’ by the entertainment community, the media and his political foes.  Yet this ‘idiot’ seems to have outwitted the elite of the liberal Left time and time again.  I mean, if their policies were winning, they would be no reason to have attacked Bush in the first place.  The Left hated him with such vitriol that they said he blew up the Twin Towers on 9/11 as a justification for invading Iraq for her oil.  It was Big Oil’s lust for profit, after all, that was driving this Texan’s Big Oil policies.  And taking Iraq’s oil would increase Big Oil’s sales and give her even more obscene profits.

If Bush was an idiot, he must have been an idiot genius to come up with a plan like that.  Then again, gasoline prices crept to $4/gallon following the Iraq War.  Had all that oil gone on the market according to plan, that wouldn’t have happened.  Unless the plan was to keep that oil OFF of the market, thus, by rules of supply and demand, the price of oil (and the gasoline we make from it) would go up thus enriching Big Oil through higher prices resulting from a lower sales volume.  My god, what evil genius.  For an idiot.  Of course, gas taxes, numerous summer gas blends (required by the government’s environmental policies), an aging and over-taxed pipeline infrastructure and insufficient refinery capacity (the government’s environmental policies make it too punishing even to consider building a new refinery) to meet increasing demand (soaring in India and China) had nothing to do with the rise in gas prices.

IS THE POLITICAL Left evil?  Probably not.  Just amoral.  They have an agenda.  They survive on political spoils and patronage.  Old time politics.  Enrich themselves through cronyism.  If tribute is paid they’ll extend favorable treatment.  If tribute is not paid, they will release their wrath via hostile regulation, litigation, Congressional investigation and punitive taxation.  Just like they did to Big Tobacco (and, no, it wasn’t about our health.  They could have just made tobacco illegal.  But they didn’t.  Why?  It just brings in way too much money to the government.  Via sin taxes.  And federal lawsuits.  And with it being addictive, it’s a frickin cash piñata for them.)

They know few agree with their philosophy.  But they don’t care.  It’s not about national prosperity.  It’s about power.  And they want it.  That’s why they can’t debate the issues.  They know they can’t win.  So they attack the messenger.  Not the message.  If you don’t believe that, you can ask Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and just about any other Republican.  Well, you can’t ask Lincoln or Reagan.  But you can guess what they would say.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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