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And the Band Plays On

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So. It seems that our semi-illustrious president has once again succumbed to the temptation to appear before America’s voters in order to spread his own unmistakeable concoction of snake oil liberally sprinkled (as always) with half-truths, ignorance and outright lies. In yet another attempt to hornswoggle the nation’s voters into buying into one more of his half-baked, ill thought out “plans” to deal with a crisis too good to waste, but which is not considered as such by either Congress or the populace, the president appeared yet again on TV last Tuesday night.

This time, he informed us, he is turning his attention to the problem (in his view) of the environment; a consideration that, given the sorry state of our economy in particular the massive unemployment problem, gets little attention from an individual in danger of losing his or her home, or who has already lost a job, and now must worry about providing for themselves and their families. In fact, the environment “problem,” even among the pampered princes inside the Beltway, seems to be receiving very little of their attention either, as they scurry through their rabbit warrens in the Capitol, the Russell Senate Office Building or any of the other DC dens of iniquity inhabited by the Ruling Class.

But this lack of attention no longer worries our president; he has learned from experience that he can rule by fiat; he can, and has, simply ordered new regulations and forced change on the people. With no longer any need to win over or convince the Republican swine, he can do it all by himself!

And that, of course, is exactly what he proceeded to lay out for us on Tuesday: his plan for (singlehandedly) solving the problem of global warming; why, he won’t even need the help of the King of the Carbon Consumers, Al Gore! No siree, ol’ Al can just continue to trot around the globe in his private jet and leave the lights burning in his Nashville castle 24/7/365 for the rest of his life; the president can take care of the whole thing hisself, eyup.

Obama Climate Change Speech June 2013 Scaled 300


So what did the president tell us he’ll do? Well, truth to tell, not much, specifically.

Sure, he talked alarmingly about that Ol’ Debbil carbon and how it must be eliminated, but we didn’t get a lot of detail about how this will be done; he spoke in generalities, without much in the way of facts:

So the question is not whether we need to act, but whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world we leave to our children, and to future generations.

[Whoa, waitaminnit! Isn’t all life on Earth carbon based? Well, how did it get to be such a bad guy?]

This plan will cut the dangerous carbon pollution that contributes to climate change. For years, groups like the American Lung Association have warned us that carbon pollution threatens our health and the air our children breathe. We limit the mercury, sulfur, and arsenic in our air and water, but today there are no federal limits on the amount of carbon pollution that power plants can pump into the air. That’s not safe. So we’ll work with states and businesses to set new standards that put an end to this limitless dumping of carbon.

Gee, thanks, Mr. president, but how we gonna do all that? And if we start to “protect” the environment to the extent you advocate, won’t that raise the price of energy considerably? And when you raise the price of energy, don’t you also raise the price of practically everything all of us, including the poor, consume? Won’t higher energy costs raise food costs? Shelter costs? Don’t the poor already spend a much greater proportion of their income on food and shelter than you or I? It seems to me, Barack, that your new, higher energy costs will prove to be highly regressive; I don’t think you’ve thought that one through very well.

Not only have you not thought this through, it appears your pet economist, the Nobel Prize-winning Paul Krugman, hasn’t either. In an article by a professor of economics at the University of Georgia, Professor Jeffrey Dorfman quotes Krugman as saying, “Suppose that electric utilities, in order to meet the new rules, decide to close some existing power plants and invest in new, lower-emission capacity. Well, that’s an increase in spending, and more spending is exactly what our economy needs.” To which Professor Dorfman replies, far more intelligently than Krugman, in my opinion,

Now if we build a brand new power plant while continuing to operate all the ones we have, that can lead to economic growth because we are increasing the productive capacity of the economy. But shutting down a plant that is fine in every way except for producing emissions that worry some people is the same as when a natural disaster destroys property. Something that had value no longer exists. The idea that replacing the previous item leads to economic growth is one of the most basic fallacies in all of economics, known as the broken window fallacy…The obvious problem with this fallacy is that the money spent on repairing a window, or to build a new power plant, would have done something else productive in the alternative

Imagine that! an economic concept as basic as the Broken Window Fallacy, and Professor Krugman misses it??

Well, hell, no wonder Obama’s been unable to fix the economy thus far!

Yawn. If you watched TV last Tuesday evening, I hope you watched something more enlightening; something like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

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About Clavos

Raised in Mexico by American parents, Clavos is proudly bi-cultural, and considers both Spanish and English as his native languages. A lifelong boating enthusiast, Clavos lives aboard his ancient trawler, Second Act, in Coconut Grove, Florida and enjoys cruising the Bahamas and Florida Keys from that base. When not dealing with the never-ending maintenance issues inherent in ancient trawlers, Clavos sells yachts to finance his boat habit, but his real love (after boating, of course) is writing and editing; a craft he has practiced at Blogcritics since 2006.
  • bliffle

    The “Broken window fallacy”, like the “Law of supply and demand” and “invisible hand”, etc., are the favorite targets of 1st yr. Econ students at bull sessions across the globe. Many counter-examples. Even their authors are fond of disproving them, e.g., Adam Smith. The problem is that econ relationships are neither linear nor time-invariant. They also fail a lot of other common math tests like ergodicity. But they are the favorites of the math-naive, which means most of the citizenry.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Tell me – in fifty years or so (when neither you nor I will likely be here), will people care about the cost of electricity when much of Florida’s being swamped by rising sea levels? Not to mention the fact that with a few gigatonnes more of warm water, that’s that much more calories of energy in that warm water…which leads to stronger storms more often.

    Now I know that you may not be worried about what’s going to happen after you pass on…but I bet you do care very much about what happens to those who work for you, and to their families…and their livelihood is going to go bye-bye as the sea level rises – because while boats float, it’s hard to sell them if there’s a lot fewer rich people around because they’ve all moved away from an almost-completely flooded south Florida.

  • Clav

    Well, Rob, you might indeed be right in re the focus on retrofitting fossil fuel power stations being Krugman’s point, but Krugman (assuming Dorfman’s quote is accurate) doesn’t come right out and say that in plain English, does he? No, he dances around the idea, approaching it only indirectly, thus leaving his remark open to either interpretation.

    Now why would a wise, learned man such as Professor Krugman do such a thing? Well, perhaps because, these days his job (and his boss) need an economist who is also a politician — perhaps even more politician than economist, and obfuscation and confusion are the politician’s stock in trade, thus I feel obligated to acknowledge and recognize Mr. Krugman’s skill at both.

    As to whether building new plants might be better use of my money or not: maybe, but here again, you assume that the “existing äging” plants are so decrepit that the cost of building new ones will be less than continuing to operate the older ones. But without data, that’s only a strawman as well.

  • Rob Knaggs

    (Ah, I see the new Blogcritics writers’ interface is still doing that let’s-bugger-up-the-poor-sucker’s-URLs thing, like what used to happen on the old platform when it used to do that thing.)

    Far as I know, there’s as much emphasis on retrofitting fossil fuel power stations to make them low emitters as there is on knocking them down and replacing them with new ones. I think this is more what Krugman has in mind rather than Dorfman’s strawman.

    And I think the parable of the broken window can just as well cover the utility operators and their existing, aging power plants, since the money spent on keeping them in running condition might better have been spent on constructing and operating new, more energy-efficient ones.

  • gkubrick

    Paging, Dr. Dreadful