November 14, 2019

America’s bi-polar legislature: The Club of Reward and Punishment

Posted on 31. Dec, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics

Not being a psychologist or mind reader I can’t point with certainty to the reasons our elected leaders act as they do, but if I were to make an educated guess I’d say that they all subscribe to the two kinds of people theory, aligning themselves with one of two schools of thought on how to legislate and motivate.

They are: the reward school — those who would rather change human behavior by offering incentives and the punishment school — those who believe that rigid rules and regulations will accomplish their goals.

I haven’t done extensive research on how successful each of these two approaches has been, but there are some actual decisions we can look at to see the fingerprints of the carrot and stick at work.

Let’s start with perhaps the classic example of a well-meaning law (punishment) that ended up being reversed after just 13 years in force (reward)… the Volstead Act or prohibition.

In 1920, all private ownership and consumption of alcohol was made illegal by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, and the Government crackdown on beer, wine and distilled spirits ended up creating a cottage, off-the-books industry which eventually spawned a tidal wave of an even bigger industry, organized crime.

Way to go, Temperance League and politicians! By not understanding human nature, the punishment school advocates used this law to take away a good from those who had abused it and punished the not guilty as well. Talk about collateral damage!

Now I’m not saying that the alcohol banners’ motives weren’t admirable. Fact is, we’d probably be better off without all the DWIs, spousal abuse, crisis intervention and treatment costs associated with alcoholism. They just used the then nuclear option and failed. By the way, liquor sales (not counting beer or wine) were nearly $20 billion in 2011, up 4% from the year before. Exports were up 16.5% to $1.3 billion.

Next is the oil depletion allowance, an incentive (reward) to oil companies going back to WWI that lets them deduct 15% of the money generated from their wells from their taxes. It essentially allows oil companies to treat oil in the ground as capital equipment which can be written down.

Proponents say it’s a small price to pay (reward) for eventually drilling themselves out of business as resources dry up, but detractors say that oil in the ground must never be treated as capital equipment but rather a national resource which they say is being used for the oil companies’ profits (punishment).

A recent bill introduced in May 2011 that would have removed this subsidy was voted down in the Senate by 45 Republicans and 3 Democrats. It seems that oil is bi-partisan.

A prime example of a piece of legislation that embodies both the reward AND punishment school of legislative thought is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare.

Whatever your own personal feeling about this legislation, it was a bill born of a steamrollered process (punishment), passed using reconciliation requiring only 51 Senate votes (punishment) and enshrined healthcare coverage for all Americans (reward) while instituting a penalty (punishment) for those who refused to buy health insurance.

The 2,300 page bill will effectively impose other taxes (punishment) and may result in a government takeover of an industry that represents 26% of our GDP (punishment or reward depending on your political point of view).

While it may be human nature to use both reward and punishment for social engineering, it is probably the ultimate mistake to use only one of them all of the time.

Every parent knows the value of a carrot and a stick in child-rearing. It’s a pity our legislators didn’t get the memo, especially as we face the prospect of going over a fiscal cliff into the abyss where there is only punishment to greet them.

- Editor

Our beleaguered Second Amendment

Posted on 29. Dec, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

The recent massacre of innocent children in Newtown, Connecticut got me to thinking about the Second Amendment to the Constitution and the controversy that swirls around it.

It is probably fair to say that this amendment is the most contentious among the 27 in that great document, though there have been instances where acts of violence have occurred after citizens have exercised their First Amendment rights, among others.

“The right to keep and bear arms” means different things to different people, but the innocent victims of crimes committed with guns haven’t the luxury of parsing that amendment.

They are the tragic reminder that the criminal and the mentally disturbed in our society have both the means and the opportunity to break the sacred covenant of peaceful coexistence that the framers of the Constitution wanted for us.

Each generation of Americans wrestles with the evil that is inherent in human beings, trying to understand what motivates people to take another person’s life, especially the lives of children.

For all our introspection, however, it hasn’t brought us much clarity.  Maybe the only conclusion we can draw is that evil exists and mental illness exists, and when these factors come together we’re all in peril, especially when any weapon can be obtained by these people.

So, knowing we cannot eliminate evil or are seemingly powerless to seriously treat the disturbed in our society we cast about, trying to do something, anything that will give us some consolation and maybe close the circle of grief.

This time we’re focusing on a new ‘gun bill’ that will shortly be introduced by California Senator Diane Feinstein that will focus on limiting the tools that the perpetrators use to commit their heinous crimes.

It would seem obvious, that by eliminating the spread of high-powered multiple-round capable semi-automatic weapons that we will stop crimes committed with those weapons, and while I commend Senator Feinstein or any person who is passionate about saving lives, I do not believe that her bill will work.

There are just too many of that particular type of weapon in circulation already (millions to be exact). Her bill would probably stop the further spread of those weapons, but it will do absolutely nothing to cure the mental illness that plagues far too many Americans who would use them or any weapon to wreak havoc on the rest of us.

We must be realistic about our gun laws. With over 300 million weapons currently in the hands of Americans (most law-abiding) we must do a better job in the screening process and on other fronts.

Here are a few areas we might focus on first knowing that the confiscation of guns is illegal or impossible to affect.

Suggestion #1: Tighten up the licensing process as it refers to background checks. Each state must have a foolproof means of eliminating persons with mental illness, illegal aliens, underage buyers or felons from getting a license to purchase a firearm, period.

Suggestion #2: Make Federal Firearm License holders (dealers) the first line of defense in insuring gun safety by requiring that first-time gun purchasers who qualify to buy a gun take a short on-site gun safety course and then have the Federal Government pay the dealers to administer it.

Suggestion #3: Allow purchasers of gun safes, gun locks and those who choose to de-commission firearms to get a federal income tax deduction (their choice to take it or not) for purchasing or de-commissioning them.

Suggestion #4: Require background checks of gun purchases at bona fide gun shows. If the seller is not a FFL holder then the seller and purchaser must go to a seller at the show who does have one to do the background check for them (a token reimbursement for that service should be given the FFL holder by the prospective seller and purchaser).

Suggestion #5: Encourage all states to issue certificates of reciprocity to other states for concealed carry permit holders.

Suggestion #6: Bring outlying states like Illinois and New York and the District of Colombia into compliance with other states’ regulations for gun ownership. It is simply not right to disadvantage law-abiding citizens in those states in favor of the criminals.

Suggestion #7: Encourage all schools to hire professional armed security guards or police officers to guard their students or allow specific school personnel to carry a concealed weapon (the criteria for this would be up to the individual school district). Strengthen other security procedures as well such as CCTV.

Suggestion #8: Offer a yearly free firearm safety course to those persons already in possession of a firearm. Proceeds for these costs would come from the individual states’ budgets, perhaps from the fees charged concealed carry permit holders or with voluntary financial support from gun manufacturers and gun dealers.

Suggestion #9: Develop a Federal public awareness program about firearms and firearm safety.

Suggestion #10: Encourage gun-owner groups like the NRA to support the above-mentioned suggestions.

Finally, our mental healthcare professionals must be given more resources to help identify, early on and on a continuing basis, those among us whose mental or emotional state puts them and the rest of us at risk should they gain access to a firearm. Gun safety and responsible gun use is just as important to our communities as the regulation and safe operation of a motor vehicle and should be treated with the same level of seriousness.

- Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whither Christmas Letters?

Posted on 29. Dec, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in NM, Social/Cultural

Christmas letters go back a long way to a time when people actually used something called a pen and dipped it in ink, made ornate letters on a piece of paper, put it in a special envelope and gave it to a man from the post office who actually came by the house to pick it up. Aaaah, nostalgia. The good old days. Times of yesteryear.

Good thing nostalgia is seen in the rear view mirror. Times were rough in the good old days. No electricity, no running water, no fancy central heating. Cold wooden toilet seats in a drafty outhouse that was separated from the main house by at least 20 steps that must be taken over ice or snow.

The one possible great old tyme exception was Christmas itself. There were practices then that made the holiday special and memorable, some I remember well like trudging out in the snow to cut your own tree and binding it to the top of the car or a toboggan for the trip home.

Making our own decorations and popping popcorn and stringing it for the tree. Taking out the old manger scene and placing it on the ledge above the water-filled radiator. Helping with the baking and the decoration of every kind of cookie imaginable. Smelling all the wonderful smells that filled every room of the house.

Taking our sleds to the post office to rescue those last presents that might be coming from afar and then hauling them back home wondering what treasures were inside. Then there were the church services (for me two – one Catholic the night before and one Lutheran on Christmas Day).

Churches resplendent with evergreen branches and huge white candles that cast soft shadows everywhere. Voices raised in songful praise of Jesus’ birth from the warmth inside while the fidgety among us gazed out the frost-encrusted windows to the snowy streets outside.

Christmas memories are like fingerprints. No two are alike. Every one is unique and personal. And while some may share a commonality that serves to bind us together, they are really best experienced by each one of us, on our own. So it is with Christmas letters.

We all view and report our world differently. That’s how it should be which is why I love Christmas letters! There, I said it, out loud and without apology! I feel the love of the parent when he/she talks about little Johnny’s first words or marvels at his first steps.

I grieve right along with the writer about the loss of a loved one or the death of a favorite pet. I whoop inside with joy when I hear about someone’s new job or hear about a wonderful vacation experience, and I nod in approval when a friend has an epiphany about life. I hang on every word. I suppose it’s the last remnant of the child in me, the child that still believes in the magic and significance of Christmas and the importance of good friends.

I’m not the reporter type, so my Christmas letters don’t usually include a list of what I’ve done. Instead, they include the, what I’ve learned from what I’ve done. That’s trickier to write about because the lessons often come much later. However…

I’ve learned that there is such a thing as too much political reporting and too much TV and too much sugar and too little exercise and too many low information voters and too many commercials and too many empty promises and too much hyperbole and too few really good friends with really good intentions and too much unjustified distrust and too little compassion for those among us who make mistakes.

I’ve also learned that growing older is okay, that it’s not something to be feared, avoided, despised, shunned… or stopped. I’ve learned, too, that the world around me is constantly changing and not necessarily for the better, that the gulf between us is growing while the promises to bridge it are broken.

I’m still mystified about our violent nature, our penchant for calling each other names and the way we disparage motives different from our own. I’ve learned that our economy is not a well-oiled machine and that when people are thrown out of work, they are not simply unemployed; they are essentially exiled from our society. I’ve learned that iphones, ipads and other similar diversionary devices have become the false idols that keep us from realizing God’s promise for us. There’s a line in Jonah’s prayer to God that pretty well sums it up.

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of Thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed, I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.” And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Believe that experience or not as your own personal religion dictates, but sometimes I get the feeling that the world is getting ready to do the same thing to us and wake us up from this daze of self-absorption. Then I remember why it is we are up to our ass in alligators. We have not only forgotten to drain the swamp, we have also forgotten how.

Which brings me back to the subject of Christmas letters. I believe that Christmas letters should be written more often than once a year and by more people and sent to yet even more people! Maybe by doing that we would realize that there is infinitely more that binds us together as one than separates us as many. Happy New Year.

- Editor

 

2012 – A bewildering election

Posted on 19. Dec, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

Around 48% of American voters are licking their wounds while about 52% are licking their chops now that the greatest show on earth has finally come to an end.  I’m speaking of course about the Presidential election – the one that cost campaign contributors over a billion smackeroos.

In its wake, I’ve struggled to understand how 95% of all Blacks, 71% of all Hispanics and 55% of all women (who have all suffered the most since 2008) voted for the man who has presided over the biggest economic catastrophe since the 30s (I know, I know, ‘Bush did it all and left the President with a mess.’).

That mantra’s been heard more often than Hail to the Chief – and you really have to have some high numbers to outdo the times the President’s triumphal entry music is played, believe me.

Seems that voters were not as concerned about rising unemployment, escalating poverty, widespread food stamp use, falling house values, a burgeoning national debt and the coming fiscal cliff as I thought.

That’s where the Republicans were wrong, too. They thought the American electorate was singularly focused on America’s pocketbook. After all, previous generations thought with their wallet, why should this one have been any different? The answers were right in front of the Republicans all along, and had they looked, they would have recognized the telltale signs of a coming Democratic victory.

The President’s party had kept people on the ground in key parts of the U.S. after the 2008 election as a kind of motivational ‘mod squad.’ They steadily organized get out the vote campaigns, and they were deeply immersed into fund raising – with the President holding out the biggest tin cup man had ever seen!

They had also devised a masterful and winning strategy that included destroying the opposition by playing the ‘old white men’ race card on candidates, labeling them as against women’s reproductive rights because they didn’t support government-provided birth control or abortions.

They cozyed up to the media and celebritydom full-well knowing that Hollywood actors occupy choice real estate on America’s Mount Olympus. Then they used the social media to shotgun their message of coolness, progressivism, and inclusivity to the mind-numbed living on or by this new American jungle drum of mediocrity.

Admittedly, the Republicans willingly shot themselves in their own feet from time to time or hung themselves with rope happily supplied by the DNC. For example, I would really like to know which boneheaded consultant told Governor Romney that he should use a phrase like self-deport when talking about his immigration reform ideas. Personally, I believe the Governor lost all or most of the Hispanic vote that night on the strength of that one, hyphenated word.

The huge African-American/Black vote came as no surprise, as most political analysts believed that that community would readily support their man for another four. What was shocking was the size of the percentage AND the fact that the Republicans hadn’t bothered to cultivate that vote or at least Conservative Black voters long before the final months of the campaign.

Military tacticians and corporate strategists would do well to study the Obama re-election campaign.

It was both successful and revelatory. Not only did it help a President remain in the White House but it also unveiled the real America for all to see.

We know more about our electorate now than ever before. We know it listens to NPR, the Daily Show and Bill Maher. We know it is easily persuaded by ethnic or gender-charged messages delivered by specialty haranguers. We know it values smartphones, Facebook and You Tube over church on Sunday, and we know that it is perpetually hungry for something new.

I have no doubt that the new Administration will definitely give them that in spades. It remains to be seen what they’ll do with it. I think I know what the other 48% will do.

- Editor

Senator Ingle retained as Senate Minority Floor Leader – All three Republican leaders retained

Posted on 19. Dec, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

(Santa Fe) New Mexico State Senator Stuart Ingle (R-Portales) was elected by acclamation tonight by the Senate Republican Caucus  to retain his leadership position as Senate Minority Floor Leader.  It is a leadership position he has held since 2000.  All three current leaders in the Republican Caucus were elected by acclamation to retain their current leadership positions.

“While the entire State Senate is undergoing many changes because of the many new Senators who will begin serving in January, the leadership  in the Minority Caucus will remain the same.   Our members know what to expect from us and the Senate as a whole knows that the Minority Leaders who were voted by acclamation tonight will continue to work across the aisle for the good of the entire state,” Senator Ingle said.  “We welcome the new freshman Senator who will be serving with us  and we know each and every one of them will be dedicated to making the state a better place. It is going to be an interesting time in the legislature.”

Before being Minority Floor Leader, Ingle served as Minority Whip and Senate Minority  Caucus Chair.

Senator Ingle has served as a State Senator since 1985. Senator Ingle serves Senate District 27 in Eastern New Mexico that includes portions of  Chaves, Curry, De Baca, Lea and  Roosevelt counties.

State Senator Bill Payne (R-Albuquerque) will continue to serve as Minority Caucus Whip,  a leadership position he has held for four years and State Senator Steve Neville (R-Farmington) will retain his leadership position of Senate Minority Caucus Chair, a position he has held for two years.

Senator Payne was first elected to the Senate in 1996, where he now is the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, a member of the Energy Council, a Commissioner of the Uniform Law Commission, and the recognized leader for utility, veteran/military affairs, and natural resource issues in the Senate.

Senate Neville began serving the Senate in  January of 2005.  Senator Neville serves on both the powerful Senate Finance Committee and the Legislative Finance Committee.

The term of the leadership positions is four years.

The Senate will be comprised of 17 Republicans members  and 25 Democrat members  for a total of 42 Senators when all are sworn in for the upcoming legislative session which begins January 15, 2013.

This information was submitted by: Diane Kinderwater  505-986-4702

 

Legislative Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee to hear testimony on Marijuana

Posted on 19. Dec, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

DPA: Reducing Marijuana Penalties will Improve Lives, Save Taxpayer’s Dollars and Significantly Reduce the Burden on Law Enforcement Resources

Santa Fe, NM – the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) will be testifying to the Interim Legislative Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee about the importance of decreasing penalties for adults who possess small amounts of marijuana. DPA is scheduled to present at 10 am in Room 307 at the State Capitol in Santa Fe.

The proposed legislation reduces the penalty structure for possession of up to 1 ounce to no fine or penalty, and 2 ounces to 8 ounces from a misdemeanor to a fine. Currently, in New Mexico, possession of up to 8 ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor that can include large fines and jail time.

“Although misdemeanors seem relatively insignificant they are anything but minor,” stated Dan Abrahamson, Director of Legal Affairs for Drug Policy Alliance.  “A misdemeanor can ruin a person’s job prospects, affect child custody, access to health care, and have hefty fines that low-income families in New Mexico cannot afford to pay.”

This proposed legislation is badly needed.  There is a common misconception that New Mexico’s local law enforcement agencies do not arrest people for marijuana possession.  The data tell a wholly different story.  According to the Marijuana Arrest Research Program’s analysis of the Uniform Crime Reporting data, in 2010 there were 3,277 marijuana possession arrests for a rate of 159 per 100,000. Marijuana possession arrest rates vary widely throughout the State, based in part on marijuana use levels as well as local enforcement policies.

Dona Ana, Chaves, Sandoval, San Juan and Bernalillo counties led the State in the number or arrests for marijuana possession, collectively representing 63% of the State’s total number of possession arrests (2,055 arrests).  Dona Ana County alone represented 28% of the State’s total (901 possession arrests).

“The proposal to reduce adult marijuana possession penalties is a step in the right direction by allowing police to issue a ticket rather than arrest someone for possessing tiny amounts of marijuana,” stated Emily Kaltenbach, the New Mexico State Director of Drug Policy Alliance. “This legislation is pragmatic – we are confident that if signed into law it will improve lives, save taxpayer’s dollars and significantly reduce the burden on law enforcement resources.”

Around the country, similar change is afoot.  There is growing momentum to reduce penalties for small amounts of marijuana, with California reducing penalties in 2010, Connecticut in 2011 and Rhode Island earlier this year. In the most recent November elections, both Colorado and Washington approved initiatives to legalize and regulate the recreational use and commercial production of marijuana.

This proposed legislation represents yet another important step in the growing movement to stop treating people who consume drugs as criminals in need of incarceration. Its principal impacts are reducing arrests of drug users, especially those who are young and/or members of minority groups; allowing police to focus their precious and limited resources on more serious crimes; reducing criminal justice system costs; and better enabling individuals, families, communities and local governments to deal with drug misuse as a health rather than criminal issue.

In recent years American attitudes have shifted dramatically on this issue: For the first time, support for marijuana legalization topped 50% nationwide last year, according to Gallup, and a recent Mason-Dixon poll found that 67% of Republicans believe that the federal government should get out of the way and let states enforce their own medical marijuana laws, rather than prosecute people complying with state law. As marijuana reform becomes a mainstream position, political candidates and elected officials will find it is less and less of a political third rail.

These arrests impose significant costs on individual, families and communities, as well as on police, prosecutors, courts and taxpayers generally. Furthermore, these arrests provide few if any benefits. As with the impact of most bad drug policies, the people bearing the brunt of the problem are poor, not white, and young.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation’s leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.

This press release was submitted by: the Drug Policy Alliance www.drugpolicy.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marita Noon closes out 2012

Posted on 19. Dec, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Energy/Environment

We’re pleased to bring a collection of Marita Noon’s most recent articles for the months of November and December and thank her for her contributions to our reader’s EQ (energy quotient). – Editor

ARTICLE: Obama cares more about Big Bird than real birds

The number of days until the election can now be counted on both hands. Regardless of the outcome, we know one issue will be buried under the fiscal-cliff news—where it hopes to fly under the radar. This one issue? The extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy—which is bound to be present in lame-duck session negotiations, as it is currently scheduled to expire on December 31.

Using taxpayer dollars, the PTC supposedly “makes wind power more competitive with other sources of electricity”—though wind energy is still more expensive than traditionally fueled electricity and raises the costs for both residential and industrial users.

Throughout the year, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has been working valiantly, but unsuccessfully, to get the PTC extended. They are now down to the wire and are getting panicked—sending military veterans to meet with staffers of GOP members who are believed to be “persuadable,” and even calling on pension fund managers to put pressure on House and Senate leadership. Their only hope for salvation is the lame-duck session.

Should Romney win, the lame-duck pressure will be even stronger as he has stood in opposition to the PTC extension. In a Romney White House, wind energy will need to be viable without taxpayer subsidy or borrowing from China. After twenty years, it should be, but as we’ve seen, it isn’t.

By contrast, President Obama is proud of his “investments” in wind energy. In April 2011, before Pennsylvania wind-turbine manufacturer Gamesa started layoffs, he gave a speech at the Fairless Hills plant in which he announced: “I want the United States to be the leading manufacturer of wind power. I want it made right here in the U.S. of A.” Throughout the campaign season, “President Obama has traveled to wind-heavy swing states like Iowa to tout his support for the subsidy.”

Gamesa is just one of several wind turbine manufacturers who’ve announced layoffs because of the impending PTC expiration. Others include Clipper Wind in Iowa and Vestas in Colorado. All blame the “uncertainty of the PTC.” Orders for new turbines have “screeched to a halt.”

Stories of closures and lay-offs make a very weak case for the PTC’s extension, as none of those tell the net-jobs picture. Many independent studies have concluded that wind development is a net jobs loser, but AWEA isn’t mentioning that detail, and is hoping that “persuadable” Republicans won’t notice that reality. Layoffs in the wind industry pale in comparison to those faced as a result of the Obama Administration’s harsh regulations impacting coal mining and coal-fueled power.

Dramatic stories of closures and lay-offs make a compelling case for the PTC’s extension and pressure “persuadable” Republicans to give in—and the AWEA is counting on it. While most of us are watching polling data, the AWEA is applying pressure.

No one wants to be the meanie who puts people out of work—especially in this economy. But, especially in this economy, the real costs must be considered.

A new report, Subsidizing Big Wind: The Real Costs to Taxpayers, has just been released. Subsidizing Big Wind points out that the PTC “is only one of the subsidies given to the wind industry.” In it, Robert Bryce analyzes all the subsidies the wind industry enjoys: direct subsidies, subsidies in the form of mandates, subsidizing wind-energy jobs, and subsidizing wind companies by exempting them from prosecution. The report shows that “no other part of the energy industry receives such preferential treatment.”

Direct subsidies

Supporters of renewable energy love to cite the so-called subsidies, or tax-preferences, given to the fossil fuel industry. However, a dollar-to-dollar comparison doesn’t give a true picture. As addressed in Subsidizing Big Wind, there are several different ways to make an honest comparison between liquid fuels and electricity; a per BTU basis or barrels of oil equivalent —both look at the actual amount of energy produced.

Using Energy Information Administration’s BTU data, Bryce concludes that, “on a raw, per-unit-of-energy-produced basis, subsidies to the wind sector are more than 200 times greater than those given to the oil and gas sector.” Another way to look at it is “using data from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)”—which is a “barrels of oil equivalent per day” model. The BP/CBO view shows the “wind sector is getting subsidies about 12 times greater than the amount of tax preferences provided to the oil and gas sector.”

Subsidizing Big Wind also does an apples-to-apples comparison with nuclear power. Using the “barrels of oil equivalent per day,” the wind-energy sector is getting about 6.5 times as much in subsidies as the nuclear sector.

Subsidies in the form of mandates

“Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia are subject to mandates for renewable-electricity production, which is affecting the cost of electricity for about 220 million Americans.” In addition to more expensive electricity, these mandates, usually called a Renewable Portfolio Standard, make “the addition or upgrade of 11,400 miles of transmission lines” requisite—a cost that will be borne by the end users at $4-5 per month for the average residential customer.

While traditional energy sources may get some favorable tax treatment, “there are no requirements at the federal level or the state level for consumers to use coal, oil, or natural gas.” Bryce states: “There is no reason that the wind-energy sector should be entitled to both direct subsidies and the indirect subsidies that come in the form of mandates.”

Subsidizing wind-energy jobs

Here we are with the jobs claim. “The evidence shows that whatever jobs are created by the wind sector come at a significant cost to taxpayers, and those costs are, again, an indirect subsidy.” Subsidizing Big Wind looks at several different case studies. One gives us a $329,000 per-job cost. A Texas report puts each wind-related job at a $1.6 million cost to the state taxpayer. At the Shepherds Flat wind project in Oregon, each job costs taxpayers $14 million. “Wind-related jobs are simply too expensive to be sustainable.”

Subsidizing wind companies by exempting them from prosecution

We’ve all heard stories of birds and bats being killed by wind turbines—earning them the “giant bird Cuisinart” moniker. The birds being killed aren’t just sparrows or pigeons. They are eagles and raptors that “are protected by two of America’s oldest wildlife-protection laws: the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Eagle Protection Act.” While the wind industry isn’t prosecuted for the “unpermitted bird kills,” the oil industry gets hauled into court and is required to pay hefty fines for the deaths of a few ducks.

The bird deaths have become so dramatic, 91 environmental groups have signed a petition asking the US Fish and Wildlife Service to create regulations to better protect migratory birds. “Eric Glitzenstein, a Washington, D.C.–based lawyer, who represents several environmental groups on the bird-kill issue, said: ‘It’s absolutely clear that there’s been a mandate from the top’ echelons of the federal government not to prosecute the wind industry for violating wildlife laws.”

“Despite pressure from environmental groups, the Interior Department has indicated that it may issue permits to the wind industry that will guarantee that certain wind projects are exempt from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Eagle Protection Act for up to 30 years. The Obama administration has delayed taking any final action on the permits until after the November 6 election.”

Following Romney’s debate remark about defunding Big Bird, Obama has made opposition to the killing of Big Bird a campaign issue. Yet, Obama’s support of the PTC is, in effect, a plan to fund bird murder—a plan “persuadable” Republicans are being pressured to support. They are being told that there will be no problematic political fallout from including the PTC in a package of other miscellaneous tax-extender items. The PTC extension could well get buried in an omnibus bill, filled with some other things most Republicans want.

Addressing the PTC payment phase out—as written in the current legislation, David Kreutzer, Ph.D., writes: “What proponents of a PTC extension really seem to want is a perpetual series of extensions to provide an immortal tax benefit.”

Right now, the PTC extension is being pitched to the House Ways and Means Committee (as a predecessor to coming to a vote for the whole House). Calls from constituents, especially to Ways and Means Committee members, can alert them that there is problematic political fallout if they move the extension forward. Will you pick up the phone (202-224-3121) and tell them that the real cost of wind energy subsidies is too high?

Don’t let the threat of killing Big Bird obfuscate the bigger issue of murdering real birds, of hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of dollars per job, of mandates that are raising energy costs, and of obscene subsidies for an energy source that couldn’t make it in the free market. Tell your congressional representatives to say, “No,” to the PTC extension—regardless of the package in which it is hidden. (For more info see PTCFacts.Info.)

 

ARTICLE: The Obama Administration wastes no time in “payback” for energy creators

Part of the hope the Romney campaign offered was a comprehension of the role energy plays in the American economy—especially energy that is abundant, affordable, and available. He made “energy” the number one point of his five-point plan. During his now-unsuccessful bid for the White House, he met with industry leaders from a variety of sectors to determine what would unleash job growth and economic development. Those meetings, and America’s current predicament, brought about a transformation in his thinking and resulted in specific agendas designed to roll back the Obama Administration’s onerous regulations—specifically those imposed by Lisa Jackson’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Many of the EPA regulations, such as the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards for Power Plants and Boiler MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) Rule, are particularly destructive to the coal industry. Understanding the deathknell the Obama Administrations’ regulations were issuing to the coal industry and, more particularly, the miners and their families in Appalachia, the region rallied around Romney.

On Friday, November 9, a coal industry newsletter stated: “In President Barack Obama’s second term, U.S. coal producers are bracing for tighter regulation of everything from emissions from coal-burning plants, to coal ash, to respirable coal dust in mines, to Appalachian surface mining activities. … One example is the U.S. EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, one of the most costly rules in EPA history.”

In her book Regulating to Disaster, economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth describes the regulations this way:

“The Mercury and Air Toxic Standards for Power Plants rule will make electricity generation far more complex and expensive, especially in the eastern half of the United States. It will require the closure of many coal- and oil-fired power plants, and placement of emissions control equipment on others.”

“Maximum Achievable Control Technology means that plants and boilers have to use the most stringent methods possible to get heavy metals out of the air, even if these methods cost billions and the benefits are worth far less—as the case with the new utility rule. That is why many plants will have to close.”

Furchtgott-Roth explains that the new regulations mean “higher electricity prices for these parts of the country, which are already suffering from declining manufacturing.” Interestingly, she points out that the “battleground states of Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Florida and Michigan” will be hit particularly hard by the increased electricity rates brought about by the regulations—regulations that a Romney presidency would have likely overturned.

For example, while I did not have access to Team Romney’s plans for either the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards or Boiler MACT, I do have white papers on other blows to coal, such as the Cooling Water Intake Structures Rule—which “affects thousands of existing power plants and manufacturing facilities that generate electricity or manufacture other goods and that also withdraw at least 2 million gallons per day of cooling water.” The Romney document states: “The proposed rule imposes a huge regulatory burden for little environmental benefit; EPA’s own estimate of total annualized compliance costs for the impingement standard alone is $384 million, while it estimates that the cost will yield only $18 million in annualized benefits. Moreover, the rule requires the power industry to bear cumulative costs that have not been analyzed by EPA.” It delineates actions to be taken through either litigation and/or executive order.

Following the Obama victory, the specifics of the Romney plan are irrelevant—other than to note that plans did exist that would have saved jobs and kept electricity rates low. In West Virginia, which has had 80% of its electricity generated from coal, regulations have already nearly doubled electricity rates in just the past few years.

Valerie Jarrett, often referred to as the brains of the White House, is reported to have threatened anyone who opposes them with punitive actions: “After we win this election, it’s our turn.  Payback time.  Everyone not with us is against us and they better be ready because we don’t forget. The ones who helped us will be rewarded, the ones who opposed us will get what they deserve. There is going to be hell to pay.”

The coal industry, already under attack, came out en masse for Romney in hopes of saving their communities and livelihoods. In the current climate, a Romney victory was their only hope.

In September, Alpha Natural Resources announced major lay-offs—with 400 jobs already eliminated and nearly 1000 more to take place in 2013, production cuts, and the closure of eight mines. Presumably, a Romney win could have reversed the economic devastation—in Eastern Kentucky alone, more than 2000 jobs have been lost in 2012.

Apparently Teco Energy also saw the writing on the wall and was hoping against hope for a Romney presidency. Two days after President Obama was re-elected, Teco Coal Company announced major lay-offs. Likewise, Murray Energy released a statement saying “it would give pink slips to 102 workers at its West Ridge Mine in Utah and 54 at its underground mine in the southern Illinois town of Galatia.”

In a prayer Bob Murray read to his staff before letting them go, he said: “My regret, Lord, is that our young people, including those in my own family, never will know what America was like or might have been. They will pay the price in their reduced standard of living and, most especially, reduced freedom. … Lord, please forgive me and anyone with me in Murray Energy Corp. for the decisions that we are now forced to make to preserve the very existence of any of the enterprises that you have helped us build. We ask for your guidance in this drastic time with the drastic decisions that will be made to have any hope of our survival as an American business enterprise.”

Wasting no time on the “payback” threat, also on Friday, the Department of Interior (DOI) “issued a final plan to close 1.6 million acres of federal land in the West originally slated for oil shale development.”

With the Jarrett threat dangling, the EPA is likely to tighten the regulatory screws on the coal industry—raising electricity rates and increasing lay-offs in an already hard-hit region. The DOI will continue to restrict oil and gas development—pumping up gasoline prices and hurting the middle class and the poor.

Many of us hoped to wake up Wednesday, November 7, to a feeling of freedom, flexibility and fun. Instead, we find ourselves facing four more years of regulation, restriction, and rancor.

 

ARTICLE: Exclusive: DOE corruption—appointed and elected officials should face prison time

An exhaustive review of 350+ pages of leaked emails regarding the Obama administration’s handling of the various green-energy loan and grant programs makes several things very clear: they lied, engaged in favoritism, and rushed application approvals to suit the political agenda of the White House. At the same time, worthy projects that went through a complete due diligence process were denied or ultimately withdrawn, as the lengthy approval process “taxed investors’ patience”—as was the case with Aptera Motors, which worked closely with the DOE for two years.

Paul Wilbur, President and CEO at Aptera, didn’t think they were treated unfairly. He told me, “At the end of the day, we couldn’t get through the process.” But, he admits, he hasn’t read the emails.

Aptera was trying to build a very efficient electric vehicle with an under $30K price point. Wilbur met with Secretary Chu who could see the value in the technology. But our research shows that value was not the deciding factor in which projects got funded and which ones didn’t. Wilbur reports that he didn’t donate to any candidate. He wanted to keep the whole process clean and do what was “good for America.”

The report from the House Oversight Committee says Aptera first applied for an ATVM loan in December of 2008 and “shut down on December 2, 2011.”  The report implies that Aptera was led on: “After numerous negotiations with DOE, in September 2011, Aptera received a conditional loan commitment of $150 million if the company was able to raise $80 million privately.” And: “The loans given to Fisker and Tesla gave Aptera hope that DOE would eventually act on their application. More importantly, since the DOE continued to engage with the company throughout the time period, management was convinced that DOE was interested and willing to provide financing for the company.”

Aptera’s 100% US technology has since been sold to a Chinese company.

Aptera was applying for an Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan (ATVM). Only five loans were given out through the program and all have political ramifications. Christine Lakatos, who has worked with me on the green-energy, crony-corruption reports I’ve written, has done thorough research on the topic. She has read each and every one of the 350+ pages of emails released on October 31 and has written a blog post specifically addressing the ATVM program and its hi-jinks.

As she cites, Fisker and Tesla (which Romney referenced in the first debate), got loans in 2010 and then the Vehicle Production Group’s loan was the only ATVM loan closed in 2011; all have ties to Obama bundlers. The other two ATVM loans went to Ford and Nissan—both of which, according to the House report, “were heavily engaged in negotiations with the Administration over fuel economy standards for model years 2012-2016 at the time the DOE was considering their applications. Both companies eventually expressed publicly their support for these standards, which the Administration described as the ‘Historic Agreement.’”

Armed with the sweeping knowledge of the House reports and subsequent hearings, evidence from DOE staffers (many of whom were appointed by Obama), Lakatos’ research, and personal experience, a different ATVM applicant has now taken its case to court citing “corruption and negligence.”

On November 16, 2012, XP Technology filed a lawsuit against the federal government concerning the DOE’s denial of XP Technology’s loan guarantee application. The complaint alleges: “criminal activities did take place by DOE staff and affiliates.” A November 23 press release announces that XP Technology is now represented by Cause of Action, “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that uses investigative, legal, and communication tools to educate the public on how government accountability and transparency protects taxpayer interests and economic activity.”

According to the document filed on November 16, “Plaintiffs backgrounds include extensive issued patents on seminal technologies in use world-wide, White House and Congressional commendations and an engineering team of highly experienced auto-makers.

Plaintiff brought a vehicle design which was proposed as the longest range, safest, lowest cost electric vehicle, to be built in America in order to deliver extensive American jobs nationwide. No other applicant, or award ‘winner’, has succeeded in meeting, or intending to meet, that milestone. XP Technology developed a patented lightweight, low-cost, long-range, electric vehicle using air-expanded foam-skinned material for a portion of the polymer body and received numerous patents, acclaim and superior computer modeling metrics over any competing solution.

XP presented a vast set of letters of support to DOE from pending customers. Major auto-industry facilities and engineers had joined forces to bring the vehicle to the defense, commercial and consumer market.”

Over the weekend, we had an exclusive interview, on condition of anonymity, with a senior official at XP Technology about the lawsuit and the experience.

He reported: “Staff from within the DOE have provided evidence which is quite compelling.” As Aptera’s Wilbur made clear, the individuals within the DOE were very thorough. One of the emails, in the 350+ pages, was from Secretary Chu himself in which he criticized staffers for taking a “principled stand,” which held up the approval process of projects the White House wanted advanced. Another indicated that the pressure to rush was coming from “above the agency.” Overall, the emails show that projects were rushed so that announcements could coincide with visits, speeches, and photo ops—as well as providing talking points for the president.

Our XP source told us “We experienced, and have been provided evidence of, applicant submissions and reviews being modified in order to benefit some and disadvantage others, and the business connections between the different parties associated with the ones that benefited is quite extraordinary.”

The leaked emails support this accusation, specifically regarding the “business connections.” In her post, Lakatos calls it “green fraternizing.” The emails show that certain applicants and decision makers went bike riding together, had coffee meetings, sleepovers, beer summits, parties, dinners, and fundraisers.

While he didn’t provide us with a name, the XP official said, “We experienced a senior senator blockading our efforts and then providing favors to a competitor, which then benefited his family financially.” The discovery the law suit will provide will expose the “senior senator,” but our previous research shows that Senator Harry Reid’s actions seem to fit the XP official’s comment.

XP Technology believes that “DOE officials changed the first-come-first-served published rules and standards of the funding in order to take applicants in order of who they favored and who had purchased the most influence instead of the order in which they applied, as required.”

Having extensively studied the DOE’s various loan programs, including the ATVM, Lakatos and I agree with our source’s startling conclusion: “Based on the evidence provided by investigators, and experienced directly by our team, it is hard to imagine that at least one or more elected, or appointed, officials might not be seeing measures ranging from censure or even federal prison time.”

Time, the lawsuit, and subsequent investigation will tell.

While the House Oversight Committee has been digging deeply into the mismanagement and corruption of the green energy loans, the media has paid little attention. Other than our report, the October 31 release of the emails cited here received virtually no news reporting. Even the Fox News Channel ignored the story. The plight of promising companies like Aptera and XP Technology would have gone unnoticed if not for the lawsuit. The legal complaint attracted attention.

On November 16, the Heritage Foundation broke the XP story: “A lawsuit filed in federal court on Wednesday alleges mass favoritism in the Department of Energy’s decisions to award federal grants to major car companies to develop electric vehicles, according to a legal complaint obtained by Scribe.”

On November 19, Lakatos, whose work is listed as “evidence” in the legal complaint, received a call from Fox News’ Gary Gastelu—who reported on the story on November 20. The next day, Fox News covered the lawsuit on America’s Newsroom. Even the Drudge Report picked up on the story.

XP has a litigation website on which the company states: “The case has nothing to do with complaining about not getting the loans. It has everything to do with HOW the applicants didn’t get the loans!” They are communicating with other applicants about participating in the lawsuit.

The XP story and subsequent media coverage offers a lesson for others—especially industries who have been wronged by the Obama Administration’s practices (such as energy). The lawsuit may—or may not—send officials to federal prison, as our XP source suggests, but it could go a long way to winning in the court of public opinion.

ARTICLE: The Green Climate Fund: redistributing wealth from the West to the rest

COP 18 started last week in Doha, Qatar, where climate campaigners will, again, try to get governments to commit to a $100-billion-per-year “Climate Fund” to redistribute wealth from the West to the rest—though $100 billion is already being considered “inadequate.” The Climate Fund “is designed to transfer wealth from the developed world to the developing world to fund mitigation and adaptation to climate change.”

COP 18 is the latest in high-level, international meetings designed to continue progress on a comprehensive agreement to address global climate change. (COP stands for Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.)

Considering that alarmists believe that carbon emissions from coal and oil-based energy is the primary driver of climate change—rather than natural causes, it is ironic that COP 18 is being held in Doha, in the heart of the OPEC region. Reports claim that Qatar has some of the “highest emissions per capita” and has barely been involved in climate negotiations. Some have even said: “having one of the OPEC leaders in charge of climate talks is like asking Dracula to look after a blood bank.”

Even most of the 17,000 people who’ve converged in Qatar, according to the Los Angeles Times, “maintain low expectations for the massive confab.” Heading into COP 18, an AP report states: “Judging by previous conferences, the negotiations in Doha will ebb and flow, with progress one day being replaced by bitter discord the next.”

Apparently, the predictions were correct. After two days in Doha, according to the AP, “the talks fell back to the bickering between rich and poor countries that has marked the negotiations since they started two decades ago.” Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, the vice chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said “the slow pace of the talks was ‘frustrating’ and that negotiators seem more concerned with protecting national interests than studying the science that prompted the negotiations.”

With Doha’s grim outlook, and the “disappointing” results of the Bali Action Plan, Copenhagen Accord, Cancun Agreements, and Durban Platform, why should we pay any attention to the climate change talks taking place in Doha?

Superstorm Sandy.

Think Progress’ Climate Progress site offers an overview of the “UN Climate Change Negotiations.” Within the seven pages, they claim that: “the American public’s belief in global warming has never been higher, having grown to 70 percent in September 2012. More than three-quarters of U.S. voters want elected officials to take steps to address global warming.” On page 5, it states “polls show that this past summer’s extreme weather and drought were the strongest drivers of this change in the intensity of Americans’ concerns about climate change. If these polls were run again today, after Hurricane Sandy hit the Atlantic Coast, this concern would no doubt be even higher.”

Regarding the storm, von Ypersele said: Hurricane Sandy was “probably not a coincidence.” Following the superstorm, “global warming has re-emerged as an issue in Washington.” Addressing climate change, the AP said: “The issue had been virtually absent in the presidential campaigning until Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast.” The UK Guardian claims that Superstorm Sandy “put climate change back on the domestic agenda.” And, the LA Times confirms the storm’s importance in Doha: “Sandy’s fresh reminder of the potential consequences of global warming has been a dominant theme in the first days of the two-week meeting.”

The climate activists in Doha acknowledge that moving forward without US participation will be difficult. European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard believes “We need the US to engage even more.” And they see Sandy as the impetus for more US involvement. Elliot Diringer, executive vice president and climate expert at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, claims that due to Sandy, “the discussion in the United States is different now, even from a month ago.”

But, was Superstorm Sandy truly an “apocalyptic vision of what climate change could look like;” a sign that “if we aren’t already, we all may soon be on the frontlines of climate change;” or was it a stroke of luck, a PR coup, for those, such as Janet Redmon, co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, who are looking to “promote the Green Climate Fund as the main channel for public finance?” The Climate Progress document calls “the financial commitments” “the most critical at this point.”

According to the AP: “Delegates in Doha will also try to finalize the rules of the Green Climate Fund, which is supposed to raise $100 billion a year by 2020. Financed by richer nations, the fund would support poorer nations in converting to cleaner energy sources and in adapting to a shifting climate that may damage people’s health, agriculture and economies in general.”

I contend that Sandy provided Green Climate Fund supporters with the marketing muscle it needed to breathe life into the destined-for-failure COP 18. Even the AP piece I’ve quoted here, acknowledges that storms such as Sandy are “a rarity for the Northeast.” But are the “monster storms” and “scorching heat waves” really evidence of the “freakish weather” that “will occur more often on a warming planet?” A look at history, such as the samples below, validates my premise that they are not the result of climate change.

Yes, major hurricanes are a “rarity” for the Northeast, however between 1954 and 1955 (a time when CO2 levels were below the prescribed 350 PPM), the east coast was hit with five major hurricanes. The difference is that Sandy happened to hit the news center of the world, thus it made big news.

What about the “scorching heat waves” or “freakish weather?”

I’ve previously addressed the lack of warming over the past 16 years, but a review of temperature records (as provided by NOAA) for our fifty states brings some interesting perspective. For example, South Dakota has a high temperature record of 120 degrees F—certainly that is “scorching”—but it was set in 1936. Seventy years later, almost to the day, South Dakota, once again, hit a high of 120 F. We see similar records in Connecticut where the high is 106 F—reached in 1916 and 1995. Kansas has been as high as 121 F twice—both in July of 1936, where Maine has hit 105 F twice—both in July of 1911. Maryland’s high is 109 F—between 1898 and 1936 the state has was that hot 6 times. Within this past summer’s heat wave, not a single new state temperature record.

And the “freakish weather?” This summer, a “fast-moving, long-lived, large, and violent thunderstorm complex” hit Washington, DC. Regarding this storm, known as a “derecho”—Spanish for straight, a fast-moving line of severe “straight-line” winds associated with a squall of violent thunderstorms—Jason Samenow, of the Washington Post’s “Capital Weather Gang,” wrote: “It raises the question about the possible role of manmade climate warming (from elevated greenhouse concentrations).” Yet, the 2012 derecho that hit DC, was really par for the course—however, like Sandy, this one happened to hit a population center filled with influencers and decision makers. Derechos are fairly common—expected throughout the Midwest and east coast, according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, from one every four years to four every three years. Derechos were first recorded in 1888, based on a significant derecho event that crossed Iowa on July 31, 1877.

But, the climate alarmists can’t be bothered with facts. An article titled: “UN Climate scientist: Sandy no coincidence,” attributes the following to van Ypersele: “The scientific backing for man-made climate change is now so strong that it can be compared to the consensus behind the principles of gravity. It’s a very, very broad consensus. There are a few individuals who don’t believe it, but we are talking about science and not beliefs.”

Last week, I had lunch with 5 scientists from different disciplines: a meteorologist, a geologist, a physicist, a hydrologist, and an engineer with expertise in computer modeling. While they may have argued the finer points, each was steadfast in his conviction that climate change is not a man-made crisis. Each cited stories of confronting a climate change alarmist with the facts, only to be rebuffed—“the science is settled.” Each affirmed that true science isn’t done by consensus. A scientist welcomes the challenge—and when the science is settled (such as the principles of gravity), it stands up to the challenge.

Using fear as a motivator, the climate change talks operate from an assumed “consensus” of “a warming world is a dangerous world, with flooding of coastal cities and island nations, disruptions to agriculture and drinking water, and the spread of diseases and the extinction of species.” But as my lunch with five scientists—all just from New Mexico—represents, there is not “consensus” (even if that were how science worked). As the data I’ve cited make clear, “monster storms,” “scorching heat waves,” and “freakish weather” have happened throughout the ages (and will continue)—before the industrial revolution and before CO2 had risen to supposedly alarming levels.

So, if the globe has stopped warming and if Superstorm Sandy was really just another strong hurricane that happened to hit the most populated portion of the United States with never-before-seen consequences, what are 17,000 people doing this week in Doha, Qatar? Perhaps it is, as so many spokespersons reference, really about the Green Climate Fund, the financial commitments. Or is it, as stated in CFACT’s Doha update: “UN’s Green Climate Fund to cost you,” really a “massively wasteful UN slush fund?”

Author’s note: Special thanks to meteorologist Robert W. Endlich for the assistance with the historical data.

 

ARTICLE: A look at economic/energy solutions from both sides

The stalemate going on in Washington about the fiscal cliff highlights the two very different economic viewpoints held, not just in Washington, but across America: more government, more taxes; less spending, lower taxes. But there is a third prong that is largely absent from the discussion: growth and creating new wealth—and energy can play a big role, but it, too, has two divergent sides.

To have success, both sides need to feel that they are getting what they want.

Energy should be part of the current fiscal cliff discussions because all recessions since 1973 have been preceded by a spike in oil prices. In the last decade, we’ve seen a consistent climb in oil prices—with the average household’s gasoline expenditure now more than double what it was in 2002—coupled with a steady decline in Gross Domestic Product.

High energy costs are a drag on the economy—which is important to Republicans. But they also mean less federal and state tax revenues and lower revenues endanger entitlement programs—which are important to Democrats. Earlier this year, it was announced that Social Security is going to run out of money three years earlier than projected last year. The 2012 Social Security Trustees report states: “This is the largest actuarial deficit reported since prior to the 1983 Social Security amendments, and the largest single-year deterioration in the actuarial deficit since the 1994 Trustees Report.” The report cites “many factors.” However, it blamed “a surge in energy prices in 2011” for “lower average real earnings levels over the next 75 years than were projected.”

Energy can give both sides what they want. To achieve this, Democrats will need to understand that oil is important and Republicans will need to acknowledge that there is some role for government to play. Can both parties feel that they are getting what they want without sacrificing their core principles?

A new proposal put forth by the Energy Security Leadership Council (ESLC—a project of Securing America’s Future Energy [SAFE]) believes that there is a bipartisan solution that can improve the US economy, promote fiscal stability, and protect national security.  ESLC brings together two sides that don’t typically communicate, yet have a common interest: energy security.

One side is made up of high-volume oil consumers such as FedEx, Southwest Airlines, Coca-Cola, Waste Management, and Royal Caribbean International—and is chaired by FedEx’s Fred Smith. The other side is composed of former military leaders committed to improving US energy security through reduced oil dependence—led by former Marine Corps Commandant General P. X. Kelley. The oil consumers understand that rapid swings in prices directly affect the bottom line. The military leaders understand that US dependence on foreign oil limits our flexibility on foreign policy. Without the need for middle-eastern oil, our approach to Libya might have been totally different.

These two sides have come together and drafted: A National Strategy for Energy Security: Harnessing American Resources and Innovation. At a press conference where the proposal was released last week, co-chairs Smith and Kelley said: “As long as our nation remains dependent on oil, restoring economic growth and stabilizing our fiscal outlook will be undermined by the manipulated and volatile prices of a cartel-dominated global oil market. This report offers a framework for policymakers to leverage domestic energy abundance in support of mitigating the urgent and severe threat posed by oil dependence.”

Their plan includes some items that will be more attractive to Democrats and others with greater appeal for Republicans—though as Robbie Diamond, Founder, President and CEO of SAFE explains it, most of the suggestions will happen anyway within the next 30 years, but the plan lays out a path to expedite America’s energy security and economic recovery.

For example, Democrats will appreciate the proposal’s suggested “Energy Security Trust Fund,” seeded with revenue from new production—not new taxes; diversifying the fuel base of the transportation sector; and the suggestion that the Department of Energy “reorient” itself toward R & D activities to catalyze technologies most likely to improve US energy security.

While Republicans will warm to the plan’s ideas for development of energy resources in the Outer Continental Shelf—with coastal states granted revenue sharing as an incentive; state participation in developing “best practices” for hydraulic fracturing; and improved federal permitting processes for major energy projects by streamlining authority, promoting transparency, and reducing frivolous litigation. Something for both parties—while benefitting America with a unified plan.

In our conversation, Diamond emphasized that the plan calls for government investment in R & D, not in individual companies. R & D is a role that has been historically and successfully held by government. If the concepts can stand on their own, the consumers will choose them. By contrast, current government “investing” picks winners and losers, and the heavy emphasis on wind and solar resources does nothing to improve energy security—hence the idea of the DOE “reorientation.”

Diversification of the fuel base for the transportation sector is important, even though the myth of peak oil has been shattered. Because of the global market, geopolitical crises can create a supply shortage, or cartels can slow production—both can cause price spikes. The report points out that both Canada and Norway are oil self-sufficient, yet they still face global pricing. By incorporating America’s abundant supply of natural gas and plug in electric vehicles where feasible, the US needs less foreign oil and is less susceptible to market manipulations with its volatility, and, additionally, the US market is more secure.

While the US natural gas and oil boom won’t result in greatly reduced oil prices, maximizing production can make our economy stronger, create jobs, and lower the trade deficit—and should be encouraged while protecting the environment.

As avoiding the fiscal cliff will require some give and take on both sides, the National Strategy for Energy Security: Harnessing American Resources and Innovation proposal offers insight as to how the two sides could find a solution without sacrificing their core principles. The ESLC started with the goal: energy security—and then together mapped out ways to reach it. They didn’t put ideology first, as has been done on the fiscal cliff negotiations.

Agendas are being set right now in Washington, DC, and the economic boost and energy security America’s resources and innovation can provide should be part of the solution.

 

ARTICLE: The shale gas revolution: re-industrialize the economy, reshape the global energy market

The United States doesn’t usually look to Britain for guidance—the last time may have been when Winston Churchill was Prime Minister. That time has come again. This time, the US should follow the leadership of Prime Minister David Cameron, who last week said: “Britain must be at the heart of the shale gas revolution.” He pointed out that ignoring the “revolution” could be giving their economy “much higher energy prices than would otherwise be necessary.”

But, the most significant aspect of his comments may well be that the “shale gas revolution” has the potential to “re-industrialise” the economy. That one word—“re-industralise”—may hold the key to the Obama Administration’s opposition to our own “shale gas revolution.”

America’s own “shale gas revolution” is, in large part, responsible for the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) recent announcement citing a 29% increase in natural gas production. The resource is so plentiful that supplies show a storage surplus and prices have remained near decade lows. As a result, in the past seven years, America has flipped from a potential liquefied natural gas (LNG) importer, to an exporter. Energy companies have proposed 16 projects to export LNG to Europe and Asia. The projects would, according to the New York Times, “generate thousands of construction jobs, spur further development of natural gas fields and generate lucrative export earnings.” Yet the Obama Administration has only approved one export terminal—stalling the economic development the remaining 15 projects would create.

According to Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for the Western Energy Alliance, there are two “concerns” preventing approval of the 15 pending projects:

1) Fear that LNG exports will raise the cost of natural gas and, therefore, hurt consumers, and

2) Fear that LNG exports will cause environmental harm.

To point number 1, it is interesting to note that one of the loudest opponents of the huge opportunity to generate “thousands of construction jobs” and “lucrative export earnings” (which would have a positive impact on our balance of payments) is Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA). Markey, “a critic of both fracking and natural gas,” “has introduced two [now-failed] bills in Congress with the stated purpose of protecting US consumers from increased natural gas prices,” while preventing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from approving new LNG export terminals.

Following the approval of the first LNG export terminal, Markey issued a press release stating that LNG exports: “will increase electricity and heating prices for American consumers.” This is the same Markey of the Waxman-Markey bill (often referred to as the cap-and-trade bill), about which the Congressional Budget Office said would have a $175 per household annual cost—which Markey minimized by saying it was “the cost of about a postage stamp a day.” (Note: other reports found the annual per-household cost of the cap and trade bill to be $1500.) So, in 2009, he was okay with raising energy prices on consumers, yet now, in 2012, he wants to block LNG export terminals due to potential price increases for American consumers.

In a five-page letter to Secretary Steven Chu, dated January 4, 2012, in which Markey states: “I am worried that exporting America’s natural gas would raise energy costs for American consumers,” Markey calls upon the DOE to explore the “consequences” of exporting natural gas. He asks specifically for scenario comparisons: He asks specifically for scenario comparisons:

“Please compare this export scenario to a scenario in which no natural gas is exported, providing your near- and long-term expectations for

(1) domestic supply and consumer prices;

(2) U.S. economic competitiveness and manufacturing;

(3) consumption rates of oil, coal and natural gas in the United States and foreign countries; and

(4) greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and globally.”

Several such studies have been completed. One from the US EIA was released in January 2012 and found that “increased natural gas exports lead to higher domestic natural gas prices, increased domestic natural gas production, reduced domestic natural gas consumption, and increased natural gas imports from Canada via pipeline.” However, “the EIA also noted that U.S. natural gas prices are expected to increase even before considering the possibility of additional exports. Nonetheless, increased natural gas exports are expected to lead to higher domestic natural gas prices, although the precise amount depends on the ultimate level of exports and the rate of phasing in increased exports.”

Another report (an independent assessment done by the Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions and Deloitte MarketPoint LLC), conversely, “found that any price increases resulting from US LNG exports would be quite minimal”—with an average price increase of 2% (according to a Bookings Institute report analyzing the various pricing studies that have been conducted on the impact of US LNG exports on the domestic price of natural gas).

Finally, on December 6, 2012 a new study was released from the DOE—which the Wall Street Journal reports is “central” to the Administration’s decision on approving exports and notes that “The Department of Energy had said it wouldn’t issue permits for exports to countries lacking a free-trade agreement with the U.S., until the study was done and it could be assured that exports were in the national interest.” The NYT reports: “domestic prices would not rise sharply as a result of exports and that export revenue would generally help most Americans.” And, the WSJ states: the “long-awaited government study” “has the potential to reshape the global energy market.” The report, which analyzed more than a dozen scenarios for US production and LNG exports found that “across all these scenarios, the U.S. was projected to gain net economic benefits.”

On Wednesday I was flying from Albuquerque to Denver. As luck would have it, I was seated between two men who were both involved in the natural gas industry—though neither knew each other. In preparation for my conversation with Kathleen Sgamma, I was reading up on the just-released study. I was reading an article titled: “Report: Natural Gas Exports Would Benefit US Economy,” when I came upon this:

Across all these scenarios, the U.S. was projected to gain net economic benefits from allowing LNG exports. Moreover, for every one of the market scenarios examined, net economic benefits increased as the level of LNG exports increased. In particular, scenarios with unlimited exports always had higher net economic benefits than corresponding cases with limited exports.

I laughed. I read the quote to my seat partners, who also laughed. We questioned why this was even news. Then I read the next line—which not part of the report, but part of the article: “Some in the oil and gas industry contend the idea is a no-brainer.” Touché.

If this is a “no-brainer,” why the delay? Why did, in August 2012, a bipartisan group of lawmakers (ten Democrats and thirty-four Republicans) write a letter intended to pressure the Obama Administration to speed up approval for pending LNG export applications? Because, as Sgamma told me, the Administration has ceded power to environmentalists who have all kinds of excuses.

The WSJ supports Sgamma’s claim. The WSJ article points to Obama’s “political risk because of criticism from environmental groups, which have been among his strongest supporters.” Addressing the opposition, it says: “Environmental groups, meanwhile, fear that allowing exports would encourage more natural-gas production.” Sgamma told me: “The environmentalists hate that we have this abundance of natural gas.”

The Sierra Club has spearheaded opposition to new LNG export terminals. In response to the new report, Sierra Club executive director, Michael Brune says: “It is baffling that this report omits the serious threats increased fracking and gas production pose to our water, our air, and the health of our families.”

As I frequently cite, based on my own study of environmental groups goals regarding energy (as found in my book Energy Freedom), environmentalists would rather have us all living in caves. They oppose shale gas development and fracking—as evidenced by the Sierra Club’s position reversal on natural gas, found in its new “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign—for fear, as PM David Cameron said, regarding England, it could “re-industrialise” the economy. Just days after Cameron made this statement, the British government gave fracking the “green light.” Now, with the release of this newest report, it is time for the US to follow the UK’s lead and allow the shale gas revolution to reshape the global energy market. The Administration needs to stop dragging its feet and give the pending applications for LNG export terminals the green light.

Sgamma affirms that “Western producers are able to increase production as natural gas is exported abroad. We have the capability in the West to meet the growth in demand that would result, as indicated by the current oversupply of natural gas. Western producers are able to ramp up production to meet export demands, while maintaining an abundant supply of affordable energy for the domestic market as well. … Economists have not fully appreciated how available spare capacity today, constant improvements in technology, and new discoveries into the future will likely maintain the downward pressure on price.”

She closed our conversation with these important questions: “How much worse does the economy have to get? How much longer are the American people willing to tolerate policies that prevent job creation and economic growth today?”

Remember, it is the Obama Administration, under pressure from environmentalists and the likes of Rep. Markey, which is preventing US consumers from benefitting from an “increase in wealth transfer and export revenues.” The economic benefits, as proven by the latest study, far outweigh the potential for higher energy prices. It is time to allow the shale gas revolution to reshape the global energy market.

These articles were submitted by the author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon, who serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.


Leo Hindery closes out 2012

Posted on 19. Dec, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

We’re pleased to bring a collection of Leo Hindery’s most recent articles for the months of November and December and thank him for his contributions over the course of 2012 – Editor

ARTICLE: Elections have consequences – and carry messages

Dick Gephardt, the esteemed former House Leader, often said that “elections have consequences” and always “carry messages.”

The consequence of the elections just past is pretty obvious. Despite a staggering $6 billion having been spent on all of the federal races (“Consider the Source,” Center for Public Integrity, 11-05-12), and all those speeches and all those political ads, we still have the makings of further partisan gridlock.

Yet the message to the new Congress from the electorate is nonetheless quite precise: get on with it! And coming as this message appears to out of the expressed anxiety of millions of voters regarding their prolonged un- or under- employment, their stagnant wages and their economic insecurity, “it” is an immediate comprehensive effort aimed at rebuilding our middle class economy.

A thoughtful look at how the elections played out in Ohio – the state that largely gave President Obama his reelection victory and reelected Sherrod Brown its Senator – suggests what that economic agenda should look like.

There, a majority of the voters understood the imperative of bailing out the auto industry and committed themselves to a future that still includes manufacturing as a cornerstone of a balanced economy. And in doing so, they and a majority of voters throughout the country rejected the philosophy that government plays no constructive role in our economy, clearly preferring instead that, when needed, it help protect and foster high quality jobs which meet the diverse needs of our society.

Of course, they also rejected the Governor Romney’s belief that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with offshoring jobs to China, which he did repeatedly when he ran Bain. And they also rejected his jobs policy which largely consisted of more tax cuts for the wealthy rather than meaningful investment in our middle class and resuscitation of our manufacturing sector.

If Congress listens to this message, it will develop and pursue an agenda based on the core economic premises that:

·         Near-term large-scale job creation through government stimulus efforts, on the one hand, and long-term deficit cutting, on the other, are not mutually exclusive;

·         Government does create good jobs, millions of them in fact; and

·         Government cannot continue to gut the principle of progressive individual taxation without further eviscerating the middle class.

Well-conceived employment stimulus efforts are, because of their very large multiplier effects, at least deficit neutral in the medium term and, most likely, substantially deficit reducing. Thus Congress doesn’t have to choose between stimulus and austerity – it just has to get each challenge’s priority and timing right. And when it does it will also be able to find responsible pathways to resolving the recommendations of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (i.e., ‘Simpson-Bowles’), major entitlement reform and the pending ‘fiscal cliff’.

Implicit in achieving this balance, however, must be immediately resuscitating and then materially growing our depleted manufacturing sector.

Over the past 12 years, U.S. manufacturers have cut 31% of their workforce, or nearly 6 million workers, and manufacturers’ contribution to GDP has fallen to just 12.2%, from 22.7% in 1970. Yet despite this, the sector still has by the largest multiplier of all sectors of the economy, its productivity and jobs-producing R&D consistently outpace all other sectors, and it more effectively and respectfully employs workers of all skill and education levels.

In order for the American manufacturing sector to again have an employment base of 20% or more of total U.S. employment and contribute a fairly similar percent of the nation’s GDP – which is what’s required to stop our economy from lurching from one consumer-credit-driven bubble to another – we need:

i.            An American manufacturing policy that integrates government policies related to access to financing, R&D and investment tax credits, taxation, trade and subsidies, and domestic procurement;

ii.            An all-of-government effort to make the new abundant reserves of lower-cost natural gas and alternative energy sources quickly available to the nation’s manufacturers;

iii.            An independent National Infrastructure Bank, with a capitalization of at least $1 trillion, to invest in the large-scale rebuilding and upgrading of our country’s much depleted infrastructure;

iv.            Fundamental corporate tax reform that changes the provisions of the tax code which currently discourage some American manufacturers from expanding domestically and eliminates the incentives which encourage other manufacturers to close plants here and ship jobs overseas; and

v.            Reformed trade with China.

Regarding the second premise, of course government creates good jobs, right now 22 million of them that the private sector can’t fill, including teachers, police officers, firefighters, soldiers, epidemiologists and anti-terrorism agents (“The Myth of Job Creation,” New York Times, 10-21-12). We are already far past the point where further cuts of these jobs are appropriate by any measure, and preserving the ones remaining must be a priority of any new stimulus initiatives. This said, however, when it comes to these jobs, we must much more responsibly and sensitively address the related pension burdens which already exist and any new ones that might be created.

Finally, there is the reality of our broken individual income tax system, with its resultant extreme income inequality which, according to recent research by economists at the IMF, indisputably slows economic growth, causes financial crises and weakens business demand. Just since 1980, the share of national income going to the richest 1% of Americans has doubled, from 10% to 20%, and more recently, more than 90% of all of the income gains since the Great Recession began have gone to the top 1% (“The rich and the rest,” The Economist, 10-13-12).

We need to bury once and for all the thoroughly discredited ‘trickle down’ philosophy, and three perfect places to start would be to treat “carried interest” as the ordinary income which it indisputably is, increase capital gains tax rates for the extremely wealthy back to the levels they were under President Reagan, and bring fairness and fair tax treatment back to executive compensation which today is on average the most extreme in the developed world.

The recent elections clearly showed that in the minds of the electorate it’s past time to restore vibrancy to the middle class and restore for all citizens the American Dream of equal opportunity, economic advance and fair employment. What the elections also clearly showed was that the American people want a government that, when appropriate, will intervene in the economy to protect jobs and promote job creation.

ARTICLE: Campaign Finance is a Women’s Democracy Issue

Which corporations are financing whose campaigns? What are their political surrogates saying about Planned Parenthood and rape? Should we boycott? After 2012 these are big civil rights questions for women to consider.

(WOMENSENEWS)–As a “white male feminist” (and businessman) — I know this description of myself sounds strange, but I’m going to try to make a point — I’ve been asking myself what would happen if progressives, especially women, used their combined political and economic muscle to bring corporate political donors to heel.

What if women lead the charge to make campaign finance reform the next great civil rights fight?

Two Supreme Court decisions (Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission and, later, American Tradition Partnership v. State of Montana) and an appellate court decision (SpeechNow v. Federal Election Commission) have fundamentally transformed our political system and our democracy to a degree we’ve just been able to grasp from the results of this year’s elections, when an unprecedented $6 billion was spent on the federal elections: presidential, Senate and House combined. Never has our electoral process been more captive to vast sums of money from a handful of large corporations and wealthy individuals.

And for all the scorn rightfully heaped on Citizens United, it’s actually the SpeechNow case that’s been the most destructive.

SpeechNow allows not-for-profit organizations to accept unlimited contributions from individuals for independent expenditures, which birthed (i) “super PACs,” which can accept unlimited contributions but must disclose donors and (ii) especially pernicious, tax-exempt — or 501copyright — organizations (often referred to as non-disclosing groups or dark money groups), which are not required to disclose the sources of their funding — especially pernicious. Under the current Supreme Court and Congress, the prospect of putting reasonable curbs on the political contributions of the extremely wealthy seems quixotic at best.

However, I’m convinced that curbing the political spending of corporations — their disclosed contributions and, especially, their masked contributions through intermediaries and their anonymous contributions through tax-exempt organizations — needs to turn into a civil rights fight for this time, of the sort in which we engaged in the ’60s and ’70s. Only this will allow us to see a future where the nation’s large corporations are no longer unfairly influencing our federal elections and, in the process, often helping to steal our civil liberties.

Attack on Rights

None of the large corporations currently dominating federal elections is, as far as I know, opposed to civil liberties. However, these companies — of which American Electric Power, Aetna, Prudential Financial, Dow Chemical, Merck, General Electric and the oil companies rank among the nation’s most significant political contributors –consistently fund (usually anonymously through an intermediary such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or through one of the new tax-exempt organizations) federal candidates who enable attacks on reproductive rights for women; resist equal rights for gays and lesbians and fair immigration reform; advance regressive tax policies; and/or seek to limit the influence of unions.

Remember it was Congressman (and vice president “wannabe”) Paul Ryan who believes that the women’s health exception in abortion laws is a “loophole big enough to drive a Mack Truck through,” and it was Congressman Todd Akin who dismissed the significance of rape as he opposed contraception and abortion. And it’s Ryan and Akin and their ilk who’ve been receiving massive amounts of corporate campaign contributions.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, arguably the largest and most prominent of the so-called intermediaries, earlier this year indicated that it planned to spend as much as $100 million on the 2012 elections. An analysis of campaign spending data from the Center for Responsive Politics by Public Citizen’s Chamber Watch and the Main Street Alliance shows that in 29 of 35 Senate and House races where the Chamber contributed money, it was the biggest or second biggest “dark money spender” in the race.

There is no “freedom to spend anonymously” in the Constitution; so once we know which companies are dominating political giving, and to whom they’re donating, we should take action. Product boycotts, as we used them widely in the 1960s, spring to mind.

Representing America

Civil rights organizations have so far mainly hung back from campaign finance reform, believing, understandably, that each organization’s primary concern is its respective community of interest.

However, we are entitled to a government that represents all of America — women, not just largely white males; people of color; the working class, not just management; and small business owners, not just large corporations — rather than one that is controlled by the wealthiest individuals and the largest companies. Otherwise, our civil liberties will be recast by those who are little more than prejudicially elected puppets of those who’ve become the oligarchs of America.

If we cannot stop unrestrained spending through legislative action, which seems unlikely, then we need to at least ensure that strong disclosure laws are in place to guarantee transparency and begin the process of re-establishing our electoral rights.

We especially have the right to know if we are supporting hate and discrimination when we go buy a light bulb or a gallon of gasoline or a chicken sandwich, and we always have the right to protest and boycott.

In the recent elections it was women — white, African American, Latina and Asian (and pension-recipients and small business owners) — who essentially reelected President Barack Obama and elected four new pro-choice senators and 20 new female pro-choice representatives.

Leading New Charge

Now it should be women (and the progressive “male feminists” who respect and love them) who lead this new charge. A charge which says no more purchasing from anti-women and anti-civil liberties companies, no more turning a blind eye to the harmful social agendas of extremist candidates, no more anti-Planned Parenthood efforts, no more deportation of Mexican mothers whose children were born here, no more “knocking off” Big Bird and no more same-sex-marriage resistance.

And while they’re at it, women should say to the managers of the nation’s pension plans — public (e.g., CalPERS) and private (e.g., GE) alike — that it’s past time to use their massive shareholdings to force public disclosure of all corporate political contributions and lobbying expenses.

They should also press the Securities and Exchange Commission to compel public companies to disclose their direct and indirect political contributions, since they might affect shareholders’ decisions to invest.

I end with a plea that all civil rights, civil liberties and labor organizations start demanding — through marches and boycotts — an end to corporate political contributions that work against a fair and inclusive society. In order to restore balance to our democracy we have no choice — in terms of our civil rights — but to march again against hostile companies, refuse again to buy the products of these companies and decline again to invest in them.

 

ARTICLE: It’s nonsense to suggest the state has no role in commerce

Obama’s proposed ‘one-stop-shop’ business department would help American companies to succeed, writes Leo Hindery. President Barack Obama said that the most “salient message” from the election was the voters’ demand that all levels of government and the private sector work together to “help the middle class move forward”. He’s right.

Real unemployment, in all categories, remains above 16 per cent; wages for 90 per cent of workers remain stagnant; there is little business confidence despite cash-rich treasuries; and the trade deficit in manufactured goods is a persistent $300bn each year.

Voters, particularly those in the industrial heartland, and only slightly less so on each coast, have demanded a more balanced economy. They want an economy that restores the vitality of the manufacturing sector. These workers supported the bailout of the auto industry because they believed there was no reasonable alternative. And they feel that the private sector, acting alone, cannot sufficiently advance the economy or protect their interests.

It is no surprise then that during the campaign Mr Obama called frequently for combining the executive branch’s nine distinct department and agency commerce-related efforts into a reconfigured “department of business”. It is not a new department but, rather, under a reconstituted and renamed commerce department, a consolidation of responsibilities and activities.

Given the complexity of the steps that need to be taken to speed up economic recovery, Mr Obama’s proposal is not just practical and expedient, it is also imperative.

The steps to be taken are obvious. First, adopt a manufacturing and industrial policy that integrates the government’s policies related to financing, research and development, and investment tax credits, taxation, trade, subsidies and domestic procurement.

Second, overhaul the corporate tax code to change the provisions that discourage some US companies from expanding domestically. Eliminate the incentives that encourage other companies to ship jobs overseas and lower tax rates in exchange for eliminating certain special tax breaks.

Third, invest significantly in the rebuilding and upgrading of the nation’s infrastructure, ideally through a new, independent national infrastructure bank, with a capitalisation of at least $1tn.

Finally, create a justice department bureau to enforce trade agreements and protect the nation’s intellectual property. The current system places trade agreement negotiation side-by-side with enforcement, often in the same hands, and without prescribed IP protection protocols.

With Mr Obama’s proposed “one-stop-shop” reform of the commerce-side of the executive branch, whose stated goal is to “help American businesses succeed”, there would just be a single, encompassing department of business with focused front-end guidance, resource allocation and follow-up. It would replace the nine disconnected agencies whose efforts are further complicated by the multiplicity of Congressional oversight committees.

A rationalised business department is the best hope for a unified, national effort to boost productivity. We last saw such an effort during the extraordinary inter-department, inter-agency period of co-operation of the second world war.

“Helping the middle class move forward” and “helping American businesses succeed” means, of course, creating millions of high-quality jobs. In this, business leaders have a vital and primary role to play – from identifying the steps that the administration and Congress should take to helping the administration be as effective as possible.

In difficult times, what distinguishes great business leaders is an ability to position their companies – and in the process the national economy – for growth and success. While Mr Obama undertakes his executive branch reform, chief executives should be supporting this reform rather than falling back on the discredited libertarian canard that government has no meaningful role to play in the nation’s commerce. It is imperative in these challenging times to find a way to cut deficits while at the same time investing for the future. The creation of a department of business would be a reflection of enlightened political and corporate leadership.

These articles were submitted by Leo Hindery Jr. who is chair of the U.S. Economy-Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation, co-chair (with United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard) of the Task Force on Jobs Creation, founder of Jobs First 2012 and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the former CEO of ATandT Broadband and its predecessors, Tele-Communications, Inc. (TCI) and Liberty Media, and is currently an investor in media companies.


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