A conservative news and views blog.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The New Malaise

Last night, America pulled on her bell bottoms and platform shoes, and reminisced about the days of disco in a retro performance by President George W. Carter, er. Bush in his annual State of the Onion speech.

That`s not to say that Bush`s speech was all bad, or not forward thinking in spots; it`s just that too much of it could have been sandwiched between new episodes of `What`s Happening` and `Three`s Company` and nobody would have noticed. Everything old is new again.

We were treated to a Lollapaloooza of `70`s culture; alternative fuels, windmills, and fuel economy standards, government directed reform of the healthcare industry, and what to do about Iran. Military screwups, appeals for fiscal responsibility (with no intention of making any effort) and even some good old fashioned Women`s Lib (Madam Speaker, you can burn your bra now!) were tucked in there. Disco lives!

First let`s deal with the President`s energy proposals. He calls for a 20% gasoline reduction by 2017. That sounds sensible, but is it?

He wants to force automakers by law to increase fuel efficiency standards. The original CAFE standards were met because of the coming of microcomputer technology, which made precision timing and efficiency possible. That ship has sailed, and any new efforts in that direction have already been implemented by car manufacturers. What`s left? Barring a breakthrough of some sort, the weight of the vehicles will need to be reduced (as they were during the mid-seventies), making the vehicles less safe-at a time when trial lawyers are the bread-and-butter of the Democratic Party and liability lawsuits are running rampant.

He also wants to expand the use of ethanol derived from corn for fuel. Now, they have been trying to get the fuel ethanol industry off the ground since the `70`s and it hasn`t caught fire for a good reason-it`s too damn expensive! Look, making alcohol from corn requires the same process as making whiskey. You first start by making `liquor` which is essentially beer, then distill until you have a very high proof booze. (How will the government stop people from drinking it?) Because of the basic inefficiency of the process, it is cheap enough to make a gallon or two of moonshine, but to make enough to run a car requires gallons and gallons of alcohol. Alcohol puts out less energy than gasoline, so you will need to fill up more frequently. (That`s why it`s often added to premium gas; it slows the rate of burn so the gasoline will burn smoother i.e. it raises the octane.) It is going to take a lot of corn to make enough fuel to be viable. This will drive up the price of grain, and guess who will subsidize the price? The U.S. taxpayer, that`s who! We would be better served to import sugarcane, but the farm lobby won`t stand for that.

Also, by reducing our consumption of gasoline, we will artificially drive prices up. The Arab world will be able to make more money, since their fuel will be in higher demand (since people will drive more) and they`ll make more per barrel. Furthermore, the Chinese will have access to a larger supply then at present; do we want them to have as much gasoline as they want? Japan and Germany lost WWII in part because we had gas and they didn`t. We may rue the day we quit buying so much oil and opened the field for China.

Look, the OPEC nations can raise production as much as needed to keep oil prices where they want them, and ethanol will have to be subsidized to compete. This is a matter of basic economics; the Petroleum Sheiks can undercut the price if needed, and Americans will either have to pay more in taxes or pay more at the pump.

That`s not to say that steps shouldn`t be taken; I favor developing hydrogen cars, and producing the hydrogen with nuclear reactors. That is the cleanest, safest, and most economically viable alternative (in my humble opinion).

Wind and bio-diesel are wacko fantasies from the green `70`s, and the President should not belittle the American public with this tripe!

The President`s health care plan has a bad odor; it reeks of John Maynard Keynes. This sort of redistribution via targeting from the tax code has proven itself to be a prosperity killer in the past, and I don`t have any reason to be optimistic now. Many of the Americans the President thinks will buy health insurance will not do so, and the insurance companies will have to cover their losses at the top of their market by raising rates all around. This proposal is a loser.

Balance the budget? With all due respect, the President wouldn`t veto any spending from his own party when he had the chance. What makes us think that he will be able to accomplish this feat with the Democrats, whose political success depends solely on how many votes they can buy from the public coffers?

The President does seem to be waking up on Iraq, but I fear he has slumbered far too long. He listened to his advisors who kept whispering `democracy` in his ear, and he gave up the momentum we had in order to nation build-and that was a serious tactical error. If democracy was the end-all and be-all, most of the world would be prosperous and free, since most of the world has experimented with democracy at one time or another. What happened to Rhodesia? What happened to Lebanon? For that matter, how could the democratic Weimar Republic have put Hitler in power, if democracy is the answer?

That`s not to say we shouldn`t create democratic institutions in Iraq and elsewhere; it`s just that we shouldn`t hope that these will be easy to build and will solve all our problems. You have to win the war before you build the peace; and we paused with the war less than half over. We needed to take out Syria and Iran-they are the sources of infection.

Uh, we still need to take out Iran, and urgently. If they get atomic weapons they will use them-on us. That must be stopped. I didn`t hear any credible plan from President Carter.

I don`t mind a little political gladhanding, but the President came off as a sycophant with his effusive praise of ``Madam Speaker``; I fully expected to hear a rendition of `I am woman`!

Not that the speech was terrible, or that the President came across as defeated; quite the contrary, I thought he had the right tone and demeanor. I just wish this guy would quit trying to be `a uniter instead of a divider`-unity with the Democrats means capitulation. President Bush just doesn`t seem to understand that.

Lastly, I have to scream to the Heavens at the stupidity of Mr. Bush`s call for amnesty for illegals! How, pray tell, does he plan on balancing the budget if he is going to build an enormous bureaucracy to run the guest worker program? How will gasoline consumption decrease with millions of Mexicans roaming the countryside? He surely cannot be so naive as to believe that this will stop the flow of illegals coming across the border; the newly legalized people will move up, leaving their low paying jobs to a new crop of illegals. (Of course, the newly legalized will join labor unions and become good Democrats.) Ever throw breadcrumbs to birds? What starts as a few becomes a massive flock when the food is free! Illegal immigration is much the same; the more we regularize it, the more will come.

And we won`t just have poor Mexicans coming-Al Qaida and their friends will be there, too!

Welcome to the new Malaise!



Blogger BobG said...

Your analysis is excellent. Bravo!

6:27 AM  
Anonymous learner said...

Tim as usual good work. I saw several things last night. 1)Bush made fun of the Demos by calling them the Democrat Party not the democratic party.2)Most of what he said he was going to do is what the demos are going to use as platforms in the 08 campaign.3)This is to your views on Iran. There are other forces that do not want a nuclear Iran these being Egypt(who just ordered 70 fighter bombers from GB and wants them now)and Saudi Arabia.They have as much to fear from a nuclear attack as does Israel.Shiite/Sunni split. As I trip around the web I have come across several Iranian/American and Iranian/Canadian web sites.The people who run them still have friends and family in Iran who say that Iran is ripe for revolution.if this doesnt happen geologist point to the fact that Iran sits on a fault that they believe will shake Iran to itty bitty pieces and whatever pieces are left will probably be toast by nuclear leakage. The geologist are looking for this to happen sooner then later. On our home front Tech review came out with a story that a company in Texas has come out with a barium-titanate battery/super capacitor that can run an electric car 500 miles at a cost of $9 of electricity and would only take 10 minutes to recharge. Nanotech professor at Univ. of Iowa has come up with a honeycomb nano device to convert animal fat or veg. oil into biodiesel with no hazardous waste. Point is there are technologies that can replace oil so we can let the Chinese and Arabs eat all they want.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Timothy Birdnow said...

Thanks, Bob!

Good points, Learner; Bush did a good job with subtleties. Also, you`re right about the possibilities of a mideast nuclear arms race; Egypt and Saudi Arabia cannot afford to let Iran develop the means to blackmail them, and they have the money to pull it off.

I hadn`t heard about the nano biodiesle, although I had read about the battery. Thanks

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Siddhartha Vicious said...

Basic economics state that when demand for a product goes down, price will also drop until an equilibrium is reached at a lower price, and the product continues to sell.

That may not be the case with oil, as there are dozens of other potential markets for it, but wouldn't it be nice if a little less of the hatred directed against the US was funded by our own oil payments?

11:53 AM  

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