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Archive for September 12th, 2010

Like other forms of so-called stimulus spending, the money devoted to supposed “green” energy programs has been a net drain on the economy. This is hardly a surprise, particular since the much-trumpeted Spanish experiment turned out to be a flop, destroying two jobs elsewhere in the economy for every green job created. But what is surprising is that the political crowd in Washington seems to be getting the message. The Washington Times reports that even the left if backing away from flushing more money down this hole.
Noticeably absent from President Obama’s latest economic-stimulus package are any further attempts to create jobs through “green” energy projects, reflecting a year in which the administration’s original, loudly trumpeted efforts proved largely unfruitful. The long delays typical with environmentally friendly projects – combined with reports of green stimulus funds being used to create jobs in China and other countries, rather than in the U.S. – appear to have killed the administration’s appetite for pushing green projects as an economic cure. …Peter Morici, a business professor at the University of Maryland, said much of the green stimulus funding was “squandered.” “Large grants to build green buildings don’t generate many new jobs, except for a few architects,” he said. “Subsidies for windmills and solar panels created lots of jobs in China,” but few at home. …Despite the massive infusion of government funding in recent years, renewable technologies have captured only a tiny share of the energy market and remain heavily dependent on government funding to be viable. Because of the need to constantly renew government funding, private investors remain skittish about committing to new projects.

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It must be the time of year for confessions. Cuba’s former dictator recently confessed that the Cuban model is a failure. That was a surprise, but now we have a remarkable admission from a Democrat member of Congress, who admits that “if you don’t tie our hands, we will keep stealing.” But since this looter voted for the faux stimulus, cap and trade, and Obamacare, it’s obvious that he is a proficient kleptomaniac. But if this Washington Examiner column is correct, Congressman Periello may need to find a new career in a couple of months.
On March 16, when confronted by members of the Jefferson Area Tea Party, Rep. Tom Periello, D-Va., made a startling confession: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned up here (in Washington) and I didn’t really need to come up here to learn it, is the only way to get Congress to balance the budget is to give them no choice, and the only way to keep them out of the cookie jar is to give them no choice, which is why – whether it’s balanced budget acts or pay as you go legislation or any of that – is the only thing. If you don’t tie our hands, we will keep stealing” …Perriello unwittingly gives voters in the Fifth District the most compelling reason to throw him – and the rest of his fellow Democrats, who have been in charge of Congress since 2006  – out of office in November. … Perriello – who rode into office on President Obama’s triumphant coattails – is now one of the most endangered Democrats in the country. A SurveyUSA poll has him running 26 points behind Republican state Sen. Rob Hurt, thanks to his liberal voting record – and his mouth. Perriello voted against the bank bailout (TARP), but he’s been House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s loyal foot soldier ever since. He voted for the stimulus, for cap and trade, and for Obamacare, backing the House leadership 90 percent of the time. All that party loyalty is now backfiring on him big time.

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I touched a raw nerve with my post about Fidel Castro admitting that the Cuban model is a failure. Matthew Yglesias and Brad DeLong both attacked me. DeLong’s post was nothing more than a link to the Yglesias post with a snarky comment about “why can’t we have better think tanks?” Yglesias, to his credit, tried to explain his objections.

This leads Daniel Mitchell to post the following chart which he deems “a good illustration of the human cost of excessive government.”…this mostly illustrates the difficulty of having a rational conversation with Cato Institute employees about economic policy in the developed world. Cuba is poor, but it’s much richer than Somalia. Is Somalia’s poor performance an illustration of the human costs of inadequate taxation? Or maybe we can act like reasonable people and note that these illustrations of the cost of Communist dictatorship and anarchy have little bearing on the optimal location on the Korea-Sweden axis of mixed economies?

I’m actually not sure what argument Yglesias is making, but I think he assumed I was focusing only on fiscal policy when I commented about Cuba’s failure being “a good illustration of the human cost of excessive government.” At least I think this is what he means, because he then tries to use Somalia as an example of limited government, solely because the government there is so dysfunctional that it is unable to maintain a working tax system.

Regardless of what he’s really trying to say, my post was about the consequences of excessive government, not just the consequences of excessive government spending. I’m not a fan of high taxes and wasteful spending, to be sure, but fiscal policy is only one of many policies that influence economic performance. Indeed, according to both Economic Freedom of the World and Index of Economic Freedom, taxes and spending are only 20 percent of a nation’s grade. So nations such as Sweden and Denmark are ranked very high because the adverse impact of their fiscal policies is more than offset by their very laissez-faire policies in just about all other areas. Likewise, many nations in the developing world have modest fiscal burdens, but their overall scores are low because they get poor grades on variables such as monetary policy, regulation, trade, rule of law, and property rights.

So, yes, Cuba is an example of “the human cost of excessive government.” And so is Somalia.

Sweden and Denmark, meanwhile, are both good and bad examples. Optimists can cite them as great examples of the benefits of laissez-faire markets. Pessimists can cite them as unfortunate examples of bloated public sectors.

P.S. Castro has since tried to recant, claiming he was misquoted. He’s finding out, though, that it’s not easy putting toothpaste back in the tube.

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