Free Markets, Free People
A bit of ego, a little dab of moral vanity, a smidge of hubris all driven by an agenda and you have the perfect definition of the political class worldwide. Of course I understate the smidges, bits and dabs by quite a bit. But that class has a problem. Other than boring economic stuff they are apparently lacking a great moral cause. So, it appears, they’ve decided to make one up with predicable results.
Dominic Lawson brings us up to date with the goings on in the UK beginning with helping us understand where the “green” movement has gotten them:
I was irresistibly reminded of this by Ed Miliband, the energy secretary, in his launch of plans to cut carbon emissions by switching to “renewables” for more than 30% of our energy use. This, he claimed, would “rise to the moral challenge of climate change”.
Miliband is of the generation of politicians struggling to find a great moral cause. Earlier in the Labour administration Tony Blair thought he had found it with wars of choice far from home, but that has, to put it mildly, lost its lustre. Now it is the “war against climate change”, given additional moral potency by the notion that the greatest concentration of sufferers from global rising temperatures would be among the world’s poorest.
Given the mostly positive press the fulminations of one Al Gore has received, what pol worth his salt could resist the call to save the world. “Go Green” young man and don’t dally because the earth has a fever!
And so Britain has tried to lead the effort. With high flying rhetoric and an aim to save Africa (really? Yup, so says Lawson), British politicans have bravely decided to throttle back their emissions and, apparently, kill their steel industry. Of course other than see the last vestiges of that industry leave forever, Lawson wonders, in the big scheme of things, if it’s worth it:
The UK is responsible for less than 2% of global carbon emissions – a figure set to fall sharply, regardless of what we do, as a result of the startlingly rapid industrial-isation of countries such as China and India: each year the increase in Chinese CO2 emissions alone is greater than those produced by the entire British economy. On the fashionable assumption that climate change is entirely driven by CO2 emissions, the effect on global temperatures of Britain closing every fossil fuel power station would be much smaller than the statistical margin of error: in effect, zero.
You see, Lawson, like many, has figured out the unfashionable truth – unless the big 3rd world emitters play ball, whatever dinky emitters like the UK do won’t amount to any net change. Whether or not you believe in AGW or not, running your economy on the shoals for no net gain seems something only a politican would do. And you’re right.
But those great moral crusades are beckoning and the political flesh is weak. Who wants to show up and serve their time in the spotlight with nothing but mundane governing to do. Politicians are driven to make a difference:
Gordon Brown claims: “Britain is leading the world in the battle against climate change.” Such remarks are regarded as absurd in the chancelleries of Europe: if you do take as a measure of such commitment the proportion of domestic energy already supplied by renewables, the UK occupies 25th place in the European Union league table, above only Malta and Luxembourg.
Never the less, “leading” certainly has had an effect, at least domestically. With a yawning energy gap promising huge problems in he very near future, the UK is leading by committing itself to 7,000 offshore wind generators.
Two problems with that. One they should have learned from Germany:
Indeed, Paul Golby, who runs the British operations of E.ON, Europe’s biggest wind-power producer, has told the government that a 90% fossil fuel or nuclear back-up will be needed for any of the National Grid’s future wind-power capacity. As Martin Fuchs, his German boss, pointed out: “The wind, sadly, does not blow where large quantities of power are required . . . on September 12 last year wind power contributed 38% of our grid power requirements at all times, but on September 30 the figure went down to 0.2%.”
Yes that’s right – wind is so unreliable that it must be backed up with more conventional methods of power generation up to the 90% mark. And:
The powerful wind-turbine lobby in Germany constantly harps on about the number of jobs “created” by its subsidised investment, quite ignoring the number of jobs destroyed by high-cost energy, or indeed the greater number of jobs that could be created if the same amounts were invested in more profitable activities. This is why the Bremen Energy Institute argues that “wind energy macro-economically has a negative employment impact”.
Peachy. Germany isn’t the only one that has learned “green” means fewer jobs, not more. Spain has also learned that lesson. A study of what has happened in Spain since it took essentially the same path as the UK in 2000 yielded these results:
* For every green job financed by Spanish taxpayers, 2.2 real jobs were lost as an opportunity cost;
* 9 out of 10 green jobs created by Spain over the past 10 years are no longer in existence today;
* Since 2000, Spain has spent €571,138 ($753,778) to create each “green job,” including subsidies of more than €1 million ($1,319,783) per wind industry job;
* Those programs resulted in the destruction of nearly 113,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy and;
* Each “green” megawatt installed destroyed 5.39 jobs in non-energy sectors of the Spanish economy.”
And what about all that wonderful green energy promised by the UK wind machines? Well, unfortunately it’s very expensive:
Miliband claimed last week that the result of his proposals would be an increase in costs to energy users of about 17%. However, the business and enterprise department admitted last year that Britain’s existing “climate policies” – even before Miliband’s latest Big New Idea – would add an extra 55% to energy bills. It’s obvious where this will lead: to the exit from Britain (and, indeed, Europe) of much of what remains of energy-intensive manufacturing industry – the euphemistic jargon term is “carbon leakage”.
Sure enough, that’s precisely what is happening:
Jeremy Nicholson, the director of the Energy Intensive Users Group, which represents such industries as steel and aluminium, is exasperated beyond measure: “A future administration will have to say in public what ministers and their officials already admit in private, that the renewables target is neither practical nor affordable. Outsourcing our emissions is not a solution to a global problem. Politicians need to understand that unilateral action will come at a terrible cost in terms of UK manufacturing jobs, investment and export revenue, for no discernible environmental gain – is that really what they want?”
Apparently so, since that is precisely the road the US and UK, without either China, India or the rest of the 3rd world, is headed.
What about the “exasperated” steel and aluminum industuries in Britain?
Well their demise has already begun:
Thousands of British steelworkers and their families are holding a protest march Saturday in a town in northeast England where the looming closure of a Corus steel plant threatens to throw families into poverty.
Closure is expected to result in the loss of 2,000 jobs at the plant, and another 1,000 elsewhere.
But others say the status of the plant, known as Teesside Cast Products, as one of the main regional employers means its closure will result in a loss of local high street spending that could balloon into nearly 10,000 job losses.
On the day Nicholson said this to me, last Thursday, Anglesey Aluminium, the biggest consumer of electricity in Wales, announced that it would cease production, precisely because it could see no prospect of signing up to a long-term supply of electricity at a rate at which it could make a profit. And on the day of Miliband’s announcement, a group of Labour MPs presented a “Save Our Steel” petition, saying: “We need to make sure we act before the light goes out.”
It may well be that the English steel mills will become unable to compete globally, even at current domestic energy prices; but deliberately to make them uncompetitive is industrial vandalism – and even madness when the consequence of Miliband’s Martin Luther King moment may be the lights going out not just for producers but for all of us in our homes. This is worse than a futile gesture: it is immoral.
Indeed. But the moral vanity and hubris involved in the belief one is “saving the world” apparently trumps any concern for the lives of others and the reality such policy brings in its execution.
The immoral part, as it pertains to the US, is we know this from watching what has happened in Europe and elsewhere. Yet apparently, if the administration has its way, we’re going to see the same immorality visited on us here shortly.
Ever have your mom or dad say “I don’t like that tone, young man?” Or words to that effect? Well our national daddy is monitoring the speech of bankers and apparently he’s just not happy with their tone:
President Obama says he sees a lack of humility among leaders of the financial community.
While noting that some of the nation’s most powerful banks had repaid federal bailout money, Mr. Obama said: “What you haven’t seen (in the financial sector) is a change in culture, a certain humility where they kind of step back and say gosh, you know, we really messed things up.”
Speaking of lack of humility, I’m wondering is when he’ll step back, look at that pork laden “stimulus” bill which was nothing more than a political payoff and has done absolutely nothing to stimulate anything and say “gosh, you know, I really messed things up”.
Instead we get the spin cycle on steroids while he has the temerity to lecture others on “messing up”.
Joseph C Phillips writes an excellent post at Big Hollywood addressing the health care issue (it’s a comparison between Canada’s system and ours which goes beyond just the obvious differences). In it, he gets to the moral essence of what those who want the type of reform Democrats are promising are really asking for. It is, as you’ll see, a damning review:
I must remember to share this article with my friend Bryan. Bryan is a cancer survivor. I have had friends that have lost their battles with cancer so his continued presence on this earth is a great joy to me and a fact of which I am sure he is also no doubt ecstatic. Bryan is particularly interested in the current state of health care costs because his insurance paid for what he terms a “measly portion” of his treatment- he is currently burdened with the cost of what his insurance did not cover. He simply can’t afford the astronomical cost. His complaint is echoed by many clamoring for nationalized healthcare. What remains unclear is under what moral principle one man can demand that others pay for his healthcare and whether any policy not firmly grounded in a moral truth can be just.
Bryan’s story perfectly illustrates the truth that the rising cost of healthcare has coincided with the rising quality of healthcare. It is true that not too long ago he would have paid considerably less for his cancer treatment. The bad news is that he would not have been around long enough to spend his savings. New drugs and new technologies lengthened his life as it they have for hundreds of thousands of others. Progress comes with a price tag.
Bryan was not denied care. In fact no one in America is denied healthcare. He had insurance and he has an income with which to pay what the insurance didn’t cover. The fact is– he would much rather spend his money on something else other than hospital bills reaching into the thousands of dollars. What better solution than a system where cancer treatment is paid for by someone else? He may be interested to learn that the U.S. ranks first in the world in cancer survivor rates and that breast cancer survivors in Canada have filed a class action suit against several hospitals that forced them to wait 12 weeks for radiation therapy. Obviously neither Bryan nor other national healthcare advocates want to wait in lines or have others decide if they are to live or die. What they want is someone else to foot the bill even if children receiving a public education must suffer.
Those three emphasized lines are the crux of the battle. On one side, you have people who want the care but want someone else to pay for it. They’d like to call that “fairness” because they can’t afford (or don’t want to pay) the cost of the care necessary to save their lives. On the other hand, we have costly treatments being developed that save the lives of people who previously wouldn’t survive the disease. Those who develop and administer those treatments want to be paid what they’re worth. That is the incentive that drives further research and development of advanced treatments.
How, morally, do you demand others pay for your health care problems? We’d all scream and holler if we were required to help pay for our neighbor’s roof if it was damaged in a storm. Through no real fault of his own, his roof was damaged. And insurance only paid a portion of it. Would we accept the idea the government has a moral right to take our money to pay for his roof?
Of course not. We might help him voluntarily or we might not, figuring it was his responsibility to plan and save for such an eventuality. But we’d certainly never accept the premise that government had any moral right to demand we pay for our neighbor’s roof. Yet with health care, that premise remains front and center.
Phillips hits the nail right on the head when he notes his friend Bryan would “much rather spend his money on something else other than hospital bills reaching into the thousands of dollars.” Of course he would. So would we all. But that still begs the question of what moral right we have to obligate others to that duty? Notice I didn’t ask how we do it “legally”. As Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union should have taught us, the immoral can be made legal at the stroke of a pen.
The Democrat’s solution, of course, is to declare what Bryan wants to be a “right”. What it would really be is a legal privilege granted and enforced by the coercive power of the state. Morally, it would be no different than declaring that every citizen has a “right” to a sound roof and legally making it the obligation of every other citizen to pay to ensure that “right” is fulfilled.
We wouldn’t stand for that. Yet we’re watching that exact immoral premise being approvingly considered by a portion of the population which has no problem with the coercive obligation of their fellow citizens to their selfish wants in the name of “fairness”.
If health care is so darn terrible here, how does we manage rankings like this?
[T]he World Health Organization ranked the United States No. 1 out of 191 countries for being responsive to patients’ needs, including providing timely treatments and a choice of doctors.
Isn’t that the essence of good care?
Oh, but it is expensive and not everyone has insurance.
Well they have a plan to take care of the latter problem. Get it or government will fine you and assign you:
When you file your taxes, if you can’t prove to the IRS that you are in a qualified plan, you’ll be fined thousands of dollars — as much as the average cost of a health plan for your family size — and then automatically enrolled in a randomly selected plan (House bill, p. 167-168).
And of course the way to make it less expensive is to use less of it, right?
It’s one thing to require that people getting government assistance tolerate managed care, but the legislation limits you to a managed-care plan even if you and your employer are footing the bill (Senate bill, p. 57-58). The goal is to reduce everyone’s consumption of health care and to ensure that people have the same health-care experience, regardless of ability to pay.
Paying for all of this will be a breeze:
The price tag for this legislation is a whopping $1.04 trillion to $1.6 trillion (Congressional Budget Office estimates). Half of the tab comes from tax increases on individuals earning $280,000 or more, and these new taxes will double in 2012 unless savings exceed predicted costs (House bill, p. 199). The rest of the cost is paid for by cutting seniors’ health benefits under Medicare.
There’s plenty of waste in Medicare, but the Congressional Budget Office estimates only 1 percent of the savings under the legislation will be from curbing waste, fraud and abuse. That means the rest will likely come from reducing what patients get.
You did get that line in there where it says “the rest of the cost is paid for by cutting senior’s health care benefits?” And, as Dale pointed out, they have a wonderful idea of how to manage that:
One troubling provision of the House bill compels seniors to submit to a counseling session every five years (and more often if they become sick or go into a nursing home) about alternatives for end-of-life care (House bill, p. 425-430). The sessions cover highly sensitive matters such as whether to receive antibiotics and “the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration.”
This mandate invites abuse, and seniors could easily be pushed to refuse care.
Because they’re usually in such robust physical and mental health at the time such “counseling” would take place that they’re sure to stick up for themselves and further treatment.
No matter how tight the cost though, you can count on layer upon layer of bureaucracy finding the money necessary to exist and flourish:
Shockingly, only a portion of the money accumulated from slashing senior benefits and raising taxes goes to pay for covering the uninsured. The Senate bill allocates huge sums to “community transformation grants,” home visits for expectant families, services for migrant workers — and the creation of dozens of new government councils, programs and advisory boards slipped into the last 500 pages.
Is it any wonder Obama wants all this passed quickly? It’s the jobs portion of his “stimulus” plan. Oh, wait, that can’t be right because none of this begins to take effect until 2013 (except the taxes, which begin in 2011), one year safely on the other side of the next presidential election. In fact it won’t be fully in effect until 2018.
So what’s the rush again?
This is a legislative turkey that needs badly to be led to the chopping block. We don’t have the problem we’re being told we have, nor is there such wide-spread dissatisfaction with what we have that the government must step in.
The most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll (June 21) finds that 83 percent of Americans are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the quality of their health care, and 81 percent are similarly satisfied with their health insurance.
There is absolutely no rush for any of this except politically. It comes under the heading of “using political capital while you have it” and right now Obama has it. The problem, and the reason for the rush, is there a hole in the political capital bag and the assets are draining out much more quickly than they thought they would.
I’m all for having them hold the bag and watch it empty without giving them the opportunity to wreck a system that for the vast majority of us seems to be working pretty well. If they want to do anything, they can remove the insurance mandates, pass the legislation to allow a real free insurance exchange to establish itself and get the hell out of the way.