June 17, 2006
New Direction for America
The Democrats call it a New Direction for America. But to me, it looks like the same old same old.
The Democrats' recently announced New Direction for America was apparently intended as a parallel to Newt Gingrich's Contract with America as a set of ideas to be implemented if the Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives in this fall's elections.
Let me focus today just on the Democrats' plan to address our energy challenges:
LOWER GAS PRICES AND ACHIEVE ENERGY INDEPENDENCE. Crack down on price gouging; eliminate billions in subsidies for oil and gas companies and use the savings to provide consumer relief and develop American alternatives, including biofuels; promote energy efficient technology.
Umm, so that's it? That's the Democrats' energy plan? Well, I'm all for brevity, but a few more details might be welcome, such as:
- I have not seen a sensible definition of "price gouging" anywhere. Whatever it is, though, it certainly sounds bad, and I'm glad that the Democrats are serious about protecting us from it. Of course, it's not clear how whatever is being proposed here differs from the Federal Energy Price Protection Act of 2006 (H.R. 5253).
- Nor have I seen any evidence that anticompetitive behavior by U.S. firms is making a significant contribution to gasoline prices. I have, however, seen polls suggesting that many Americans believe it is. Now, you don't suppose our leaders would write legislation on the basis of opinion polls rather than hard evidence, would you?
- There doubtless are some subsidies that I would favor eliminating. I suspect that more of what the Democrats have in mind is tax increases on the oil companies, and again here there are some ways in which this might be implemented that I would support. However, as I've noted before, any revenue the Democrats think they might gain from this is already spoken for, and then some.
- More fundamentally, how in the world would lower subsidies or increased taxes on energy producers possibly result in an increase in the supply of gasoline?
All of which seems to leave us with the heart of the proposal in the last nine words: "develop American alternatives, including biofuels; promote energy efficient technology." Now, who could be against that? Or, who could be for it, since there are no specifics of exactly what it entails?
This surely is no energy plan, but is instead a collection of empty slogans. Once again America's leaders display their complete contempt for the intelligence of American voters.
Posted by James Hamilton at June 17, 2006 02:04 PMdigg this | reddit
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Tracked on June 19, 2006 08:58 AM
DeLong had one of his coffee drinking sections where he really blasted this notion that Democrats should be for lower gasoline taxes. Now I like the statement about fiscal responsibility - but we all know that means tax rate increases, which the platform failed to say. Credit to the CAL Democrat who wants to be our next governor. At least Phil is willing to say tax increases even as Arnold girlie man can't say it.
Posted by: pgl at June 17, 2006 06:10 PM
Oh my dear sweet Jesus.
(No, I am not an evangelical fundamentialist Christian.)
But when the word came down that Karl Rove had escaped indictment that (or something similar) instantly ran through the minds of just about every Democratic elected official. And suddenly each and every one of them lost his/her ability to enunciate anything approximating a solid position on any issue lest the 'master of mind manipulation' immediately paint them as cowards, fools, spenders, elitists, leftists, un-American, 'not-like-us' or all of the above and more.
So now that KR remains in the game be advised that the 2006 election is HIS game to play and the feckless Democratic candidates will dance at the end of his strings. Look ahead to both houses remaining Republican. [I do need to give the man a tip of the hat though...he really DOES know that segment of the 'American people' who live more than fifty miles from our two oceans...knows their fears.]
So here we are with two final years of Bush power with no effective opposition party.
Oh my dear sweet Jesus.
Posted by: esb at June 17, 2006 08:25 PM
When is the last time Deomocrats proposed anything other than pandering to the masses?
(Not that Republicans since Bush are much better.)
Posted by: algernon at June 17, 2006 08:45 PM
Given that the Republicans have been winning elections with incompetence, pablum, wedge issues, and avoidance of real problems, the Democrats have no doubt reached the conclusion that they must be similarly content free.
That is a bad strategy for Democrats. There is absolutely no way for them to assemble an election platform as useless as that stemming from the Texas influenced Republican party (and if you don't know what I mean, just take a look at the Texas republican platform).
And since when are the American voters so intelligent? Is this some sort of populist propaganda? Other than the small numbers of people I run into who actually think more than a few moments about what is going on in the world, I find most American voters are largely uninformed and little interested in a package of realistic proposals.
Hanging out in the halls of academia, particularly in the social sciences, might create an impression that people are engaged with the issues, that they want sensible proposals from their leaders. I've not experience that. A few steps away from academia, even the smartest people seem preoccupied with the endless trivia that surrounds them, thinking according to platitudinous talking points usually alligned with party affiliation and ideology.
I'm curious though. As an independent, I'm not too impressed with the Democrats. They have no direction whereas the Republicans seem to have the WRONG direction--and have for years, even preceding Bush's presidency of pure pandering and incompetence.
So I'm curious: what's the Republican energy plan? Twelve steps for oil addiction? What should the Democrats do to win elections? Because you can't govern if you can't win elections (though the Republicans make it very clear you can win elections without the ability to govern).
The energy plan pablum delivered to us by the Democrats should be placed within the context of flag burning amendements, gay marriage amendments, and similar diversionary nonsense that constitutes the level of debate these days.
When the Republican party can paint as patriotic a group of draft deferrment chicken hawks, while maligning the character of those who actually served--when the Republican party succeeds in doing this--I see no reason to expect public statements of plans and proposals to be anything more than posturing, innuendo, and atmosphere.
Posted by: T.R. Elliott at June 18, 2006 08:00 AM
"Nor have I seen any evidence that anticompetitive behavior by U.S. firms is making a significant contribution to gasoline prices"
I have yet to see you adress the issues raised by Steven Roach, Richard Bernstein, and others that "speculation" through the futures market has increased the price of gasoline. If true, which I tend to think it is, is anticompetitive behaviour.
"There doubtless are some subsidies that I would favor eliminating. I suspect that more of what the Democrats have in mind is tax increases on the oil companies, and again here there are some ways in which this might be implemented that I would support."
Right wing strawman. Your political opinion. Giving big oil subsidies, protection, monopolies, etc. at this point is a ludicrous concept, no matter how the Republicans have already spent the return of revenue from cessation of the subsidies.
All in all, the Democratic energy plank is weak. About the best that can be said is that it is less corrupt than the Republican plank. The problem is that no one has a good energy "program". If there ever was a microeconomic problem in need of a market based solution, this is it.
Why in the world would you insinuate that the suggestion that tax increases are a sinister plot cooked up by the Democrats to destroy the economy. You are an economist. The irresponsible spending by the current administration and congress, combined with the loss in revenue caused by tax cuts have made tax increases inevitable. Budget deficits are nothing more than future tax increases.
Posted by: zen at June 18, 2006 08:05 AM
It's a nice wish list to say "LOWER GAS PRICES AND ACHIEVE ENERGY INDEPENDENCE" but knowing what we do about real-world constraints, it's kind of embarassing to see it in any policy discussion.
We've got to hold elected officials' feet to the fire. We've got to demand policy that is a little more real.
Posted by: odograph at June 18, 2006 08:10 AM
Zen, I talked about the role of speculation here.
I'm afraid that I have no idea what you think I was insinuating about tax increases.
Posted by: JDH at June 18, 2006 08:51 AM
"All of which seems to leave us with the heart of the proposal in the last nine words: "develop American alternatives, including biofuels; promote energy efficient technology." Now, who could be against that? Or, who could be for it, since there are no specifics of exactly what it entails?"
For Christ's sake, is this the level of analysis the esteemed James Hamilton brings to the world? "There's no detail?"
There's not SUPPOSED to be detail on that page, it's an outline of many things they're thinking about: it's an OVERVIEW!
You are an embarassment to the blogosphere.
Posted by: RN at June 18, 2006 08:09 PM
I will add one Republican energy initiative of substance - build more nuclear power plants.
Bush appointee Nils Diaz as chairman of the Nuclear Regulator Commission suggested 100 new reactors.
Last summer's Energy Bill, largely the work of Republican Pete Dominici as chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, got us off the dime with insurance against government schedule slippage.
While 100 new reactors is a bit into the future, we can easily see 30 new reactors commenced in the next 5 years.
Republicans are not perfect, of course: Arnold and Jeb don't seem in any hurry to drill off the California and Florida coasts, respectively.
Still, Republicans seem to have long had a firmer grasp on energy realities than the Democrats. The latter just like to scare bad, blame big, and promise the impossible.
Posted by: Joseph Somsel at June 19, 2006 08:11 AM
I hate to post consequetively, but here's a critical analysis of Senator Ken Salazar's (D-Co) energy proposals that follows the professor's thoughts:
Posted by: Joseph Somsel at June 19, 2006 08:58 AM
Yep, then one blows............
The Republicans don't have a firmer grasp of energy policy, just one that can get more money.
Considering all those "clean" energy options are easily available for America to help use in its energy production, but chooses not to, I blame the people who deserved to be blamed.
Posted by: Johnson at June 19, 2006 12:19 PM
Yeah this looks like a case of You show me a sensible energy plan and I'll show you an energy plan that's not politically feasible.
We need to change public policy. But before we do that we're gonna have to change the way we think about public policy. And before we do that we need to change the way we think about thinking.
I'll go now.
Posted by: Ben at June 19, 2006 09:14 PM