Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Explain this

The Democrats who voted for the health care bill use the 'Interstate Commerce' clause as the authority for regulating health insurance.   How does that work considering that health insurance is already not allowed to be sold across state lines.  Therefore, by DEFINITION, health insurance is NOT interstate commerce.

Somebody please explain it to me.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Stop Subsidizing Everything!!

An article from the Cato Institute describes my frustration with "part-time" conservatives:
Government Support for Nuclear Energy Misguided
Peter van Doren have long argued that the case for government intervention in energy markets is flimsy: "Despite promises in the 1950s that nuclear power would soon become 'too cheap to meter,' 50 years of lavish federal subsidies and regulatory preferences have yet to produce an industry that can turn a profit without taxpayer help."Calling the plan "radioactive corporate welfare," Taylor says the plan is highly misguided:President Obama announced this week he would allocate billions of dollars in loan guarantees to build a new nuclear power plant in Georgia, the first new nuclear power plant in the U.S. in thirty years. Cato scholars Jerry Taylor and
A good default proposition regarding the government's role in the economy would state that the government should not loan money to an enterprise if the enterprise in question cannot find one single market actor anywhere in the universe to loan said enterprise a single red cent. It might suggest — I don't know — that the investment is rather … dubious. Alas, like all good propositions regarding the government's role in the economy, this one is being left by the roadside by the Obama administration.
Many conservatives who regularly defend free and open markets praised Obama's decision to subsidize nuclear energy. The editors of National Review wrote, "the president has sent a clear message to the country — and to environmentalists — that nuclear will be part of the country's future energy mix. For that message, he deserves our approbation." Cato scholars have repeatedly warned against supporting such subsidies in energy markets, criticizing so-called "free-market advocates" who lose their way when it comes to energy policy. Taylor and Van Doren write: 
Rather than defend free markets, [conservatives] bang the table about the need for national energy plans and government timetables for energy-plant construction…. How is the conservative case for the above subsidies any different from the liberal case for subsidizing solar or wind energy, or high-mileage automobiles — or, for that matter, the case for government backing of financial institutions and automobile companies? It isn't, and conservatives should not check their skepticism about central planning and the bureaucratic ordering of markets at the door when they walk into the energy-policy funhouse.
Taylor and Van Doren further outline a plan for sound energy policy in the Energy Chapter of the Cato Handbook for Policymakers. For more, read Richard L. Gordon's 2008 Policy Analysis on energy policy and government subsidies that makes the case against government intervention in energy markets.

I recognize that nuclear is good, necessary, and a WAY better energy generator than wind and solar. But encourage it by LOWERING REGULATIONS/RESTRICTIONS!!! Stop thinking the only way that anything will ever develop is if government throws money (Other People's Money) at that market.

When supposedly fiscal/limited government conservatives jump on the subsidizing bandwagon just because that money would be going toward something they like or agree with, it makes me question the validity of their claims of truly being limited government. I know, I know, "But we need energy independence ASAP! It's about our national security. It's about lowering energy costs for those struggling. We can't wait to battle for lower regulations or for the market to mature itself. We must act

Sound frighteningly like another party I know.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Under the cover of darkness

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has the responsibility to police the business world (in the name of "Protecting America's Consumers"). They have a great deal of power to regulate corporations. And their power to enforce of these regulations is even greater. At the very least, they can just drag the process out to the point of enormous expense and loss of business.

With such power, in our government, there are supposed to be checks and balances. Congress should have bipartisan discussions about the power the FTC and all sub-organization agencies have and specifically those in positions of power in those agencies. Instead, what often happens is wholesale bypassing of discussion/debate.

These appointments (and who knows how many others) get tossed in at the end of the day (~8pm) with about a dozen people in the room, many of which are probably clerks and staffers (see video - slider time; ~625:30).  No discussion of qualifications, biases, philosophy; just basically "Approve them all."

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to consider Executive Calendar Nos. 603, 604, 610, 625, 629, 630, and 700 so that the nominees be confirmed en bloc, the motions to reconsider be laid upon the table en bloc; that no further motions be in order; and that any statements related to the nominations be printed in the Record; that the President be immediately notified of the Senate’s action, and the Senate then resume legislative session.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

This is incredible. Now I'm not Congressional parliamentary procedure expert, so I may be reading this all wrong, but it seems that just  saying, "I'd like to pass this as long as nobody objects." when nobody else is in the room doesn't smack of a republic (or even a democracy). 

If you look at the description of the Senate Executive Calendar, you'll see that it does contain nominations: 

This section identifies Presidential Nominations submitted to the Senate for confirmation, placed on the Executive Calendar with a sequentially assigned calendar number and ready for Senate floor consideration.

But that description doesn't seem to imply that they can just bypass consideration. So I take this to mean that these nominations are supposed to considered by both parties on the floor.  Apparently not.

Here's how I read these statements individually:
I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to consider Executive Calendar Nos. 603, 604, 610, 625, 629, 630, and 700 
Ok, nothing major here. It seems this is just wanting to elevate these particular items to the floor for consideration [tomorrow?].  Then they will discuss each of them individually, right? 
so that the nominees be confirmed en bloc
Oh.  Well, at least they can't be confirmed with the Republican motions to reconsider (objections) blocking them.
the motions to reconsider be laid upon the table en bloc
huh? All of them?  Just like that? Well, as long as the the Republicans can resubmit their motions before confirmation...
that no further motions be in order
Wait, what? Now Republicans CAN'T submit motions to reconsider?
and that any statements related to the nominations be printed in the Record; that the President be immediately notified of the Senate’s action, 
Read: "Appropriate paperwork be done"
and the Senate then resume legislative session. 
"Just move along. Nothing to see here." Well surely nobody would allow this to just go by unchallenged.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Oh come on! 

I'm not only getting on the Democrats, I'm sure Republicans did the same blasted thing during their tenure. But that doesn't excuse the practice of what appears to be rubber stamp approving all the weasels while the farmer is asleep.

Almost makes one wonder if someone could just slip in there real quick right before adjourning when there are like 2 clerks and a transcriptionist and say, "I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to consider Executive Calendar number 777 to direct all tax dollars to this offshore account; that a small island be granted to me; that all motions in objection be tabled; that no further motions be in order; that take-backs aren't allowed; that I'm rubber and you're glue; that no paperwork be filed on this in the Record; that the President be immediately notified of my retirement; and the Senate then resume legislative session."

Without objection, it is so ordered.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Government vs Free Markets

Now I'll admit I don't know everything, or even very much, about the operations of the United States Postal Service. I work with computers and electronic mail is how I prefer to deal with everything. However, today I came across yet another indicator that, in the long run, government typically cannot compete with the free market, even on ground slanted in their favor, let alone on even ground.

The post office is now suggesting that they will to do away with Saturday delivery. In addition, there is the ever-present threat of closing post offices.

istockphoto_1393704_money_from_the_mail.jpgThis is because the post office is, and has been, operating at a significant loss for several years now (even before the recession began). Their last quarter in the black was back in 2006 (and that was while issuing over $2 billion in bonds ... aka debt). They operated Q4 (Oct-Dec) of 2009 at a deficit of, get this, $300 million! In 2008 and 2009 they apparently lost $2.8 billion and $3.8 billion respectively. It was on target to be nearly $7 billion in losses for 2009, but by issuing bonds (shown as 'Debt' in the chart) the yearly revenue didn't end up being as bad.
Interestingly, notice that the difference in mail volume barely changed between 2005-2007. Really only 2009 was the first year to see a significant drop in volume and yet a huge swing in revenue took place starting in 2007.

The USPS has been struggling even beyond its fiscal problems. Even Obama said so. Though underlying the deteriorating work environments and aging employees (and a congressional requirement to pre-fund health benefits to employees), most of the problems come back to money. To combat this trend, there have been discussions regarding how to improve the post office's fiscal situation. Some have even mentioned fully privatizing the post office (note: that's from 1995).

Keep in mind, the USPS isn't strictly a government agency.  It only gets about $3 billion of federal tax money. It operates primarily from the revenue from its services. However, at the same time, there are a significant number of advantages (note: I'm not sure how old that article is as it claims the Post Office has made profits in the preceding years, which isn't the case currently) that they have over any truly private organization. It's sorta positioned as a pseudo-governmental entity:  Lots of the benefits of government with many of the freedoms to act like business.

Yet despite the advantages, it looks like some difficult times ahead for the USPS.