Out with the UnParty, in with ENERGY!

Nobody’s proposing a comprehensive energy plan, so I guess we’ll have to do it ourselves.

I’ve had this idea percolating lately that I wanted to develop fully before tossing it out. Maybe do a column on it first, roll it out on a Sunday with lots of fanfare. But hey, the situation calls for action, not hoopla.

So here’s the idea (we’ll refine is as we go along):

Reinvent the Unparty as the Energy Party. Not the Green Party — it’s not just about the environment — but a serious energy party. Go all the way, get real, make like we actually know there’s a war going on. Do the stuff that neither the GOP nor the Dems would ever do:

  • Jack up CAFE standards.
  • Put about a $2 per gallon tax on gasoline.
  • Spend the tax proceeds on a Manhattan project on clean, alternative energy (hydrogen, bio, wind, whatever), and on public transportation (especially light rail).
  • Reduce speed limits everywhere to no more than 55 mph. (This must be credited to Samuel Tenenbaum, who bent my ear about it yet again this morning, and apparently does the same to every presidential wannabe who calls his house looking for him or Inez).
  • ENFORCE the damn’ speed limits. If states say they can’t, give them the resources out of the gas tax money.
  • Build nuclear power plants as fast as we can (safely, of course).
  • Either ban SUVs for everyone who can’t demonstrate a life-or-death need to drive one, or tax them at 100 percent of the sales price and throw THAT into the win-the-war kitty.
  • If we go the tax route on SUVs (rather than banning), launch a huge propaganda campaign along the lines of "Loose Lips Sink Ships" (for instance, "Hummers are Osama’s Panzer Corps"). Make wasting fuel the next smoking or DUI — absolutely socially unacceptable.
  • Because it will be a few years before we can be completely free of petrol, drill the ever-lovin’ slush out of the ANWR, explore for oil off Myrtle Beach, and build refinery capacity — all for a limited time of 20 years. Put the limit in the Constitution.

You get the idea. Respect no one’s sacred cows, left or right; go all-out to win the war and, in the long run, save the Earth. Pretty soon, tyrants from Tehran to Moscow to Caracas will be tumbling down without our saying so much as "boo" to them, and global warming will slow within our lifetimes.

THEN, once we’ve done all that, we can start insisting upon some common sense on entitlements, and health care. Change the name to the Pragmatic Party then. Whatever works, whatever is practical, whatever solves our problems — no matter whose ox gets gored. Leave the ideologues in the dust, while we solve the problems.

How’s that sound? Can any of y’all get behind that?

57 thoughts on “Out with the UnParty, in with ENERGY!

  1. Dave

    Brad, I like your thoughts but you have it totally backwards in many ways. First of all, the greenies in the USA are the people who want high gas taxes, lower speed limits, etc. So, let’s make everyone happy. Let’s have two sets of pumps at each gas station. Greenies (those driving cars or hybrids that get over 30 mpg) will pay the extra $2 per gallon. Hey, they want that, lets give it.. SUV owners pay the regular price. Then, on speed limits. The Greenie cars are NOT ALLOWED in the fast lanes and have a 55 limit. That is the granny lane. The left lane is for everyone else. Do you see how this proposal makes ALL happy and meets everyone’s goals. We can do the same with home heating and all energy use. If you oppose ANWR drilling, OK, pay a premium to heat and cool your house. You simply declare that to your energy company. How often do you see a proposal that gives everyone what they want and need. Maybe I should run!!!!!

  2. Brad Warthen

    Um, Dave — you mean, it would make the greedy wastrels who don’t care about anybody but themselves happy, and accomplish nothing, since they are the problem in the first place.
    Or am I just not following you here.
    Let’s start again: We are at war; let’s act like it…

  3. chrisw

    Hey Brad,
    I appreciate your sentiment.
    I have been an energy miser for 20 years, and am regularly disparaged for being what I deem to be sensible.
    But from first hand experience…no one, and I mean no one cares about this. Everyone blabs about it…but rarely ever do they care enough to do something constructive. It is the most astounding thing ever. Even “global warming believing, sandal wearing, tofu eating lefties” are driving SUV these days.
    Good luck. I am with you,
    Don Quixote

  4. Brad Warthen

    I think you’re wrong, with all due respect. Our elected followers, from all parts of the spectrum, are climbing on board — in their own feeble ways. They don’t do that until they think we want them to.
    Pundits from Friedman to Krauthammer are jumping all over it, saying we must go far beyond what’s been mentioned.
    Top U.S. corporations, even, are asking for Cap and Trade.
    Mike Fitts just got a complimentary e-mail from Rep. Bob Inglis about his latest editorial re energy conservation. I hadn’t heard from ol’ Bob for years.
    The planets are aligning, Don Quixote. The time to strike is now. Here is your lance. Windmills are THE coming thing to tilt at. This is your moment.
    — Sancho Panza

  5. Chrisw

    I hope u are correct. I am behind u 100%.
    IMHO…the best answer is tax the energy usage…at home, business and at the pump. But ALL of the money will have to go for energy related things….otherwise it will never pass.
    Also, I think we should tax the fuel we import based on the amount of energy it took to get it here. We import most of our oil from Canada (this would be a boon for them), and this would penalize the Middle Eastern producers…and I can’t think of anyone that need penalizing more than that bunch.
    I am on board, Captain,
    Christian Fletcher
    First Officer

  6. Brad Warthen

    Mister Christian, I like very much the idea of taxing oil according to how far it had to come. I’d also add a “pain-in-the-butt” surcharge for any that comes from Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and if they don’t act right, Saudi Arabia and other “friendlies.”
    We’d have to phase those in, as we conserved more and developed alternative sources, but every means at our disposal should be aimed at achieving our strategic imperatives.
    Carry on, Mr. Christian. And while you’re at it, give that oil exec over there three dozen, well laid on. He has a mutinous look about him.
    Oh, note to all: I just “unpublished” an interruption from “Mary Rosh.” This is going to be a serious thread about vital ideas, not a place for tantrums.
    In fact, I’m dangerously close to taking enforcement up a couple of notches. People can either improve the tone of the dialogue, or they can go to having their comments pre-approved. As usual, I’m talking about the more obnoxious anonymous correspondents. They can either argue and contribute like civilized grownups, or not be heard.

  7. Uncle Elmer

    THIS kind of discussion I can agree with. Americans have usually pushed for the best technology we can (or are at least aware of) with the bizarre exception of energy. Our lighting, transportation, and power distribution technologies are for the most part a century old! We should challenge ourselves to sunset technology the way some states do legislation. The “pay as you throw” version of energy pricing is way overdue and the best incentive you can imagine for spurring the R&D we need to make the Middle East irrelevant.
    Let me add one to your list – shut off streetlights at night! In the long run it’s much more resource-wise to outline roads with reflectors than scorch our neighbors with sodium lamps while they are trying to sleep.

  8. chrisw

    I have several “buddies” involved in trying to straighten out this bus system “mess” that we all find ourselves in. I am really leaning on them to have a FREE bus system. No charge, ever.
    The county and city waste millions every year on issues far less important that energy conservation. Just look at the FORTUNES being spent on the Woodrow Wilson house and the Township Auditorium (both problems had solutions that were not chosen that did not require vast expenditures by the local governments).
    Great ideas are out there. Great things are doable…but you will be surprised how quickly people fall of the energy efficient wagon when asked to sacrifice. But I am hopeful, and ready to fight for the cause.
    All this sucking up and being nice is making me dizzy, so I am heading off to bed.
    Thermostat set at 67. New fangled high efficient light bulbs turned off, and hybrid SUV resting silently in the drive.
    Haughty and self righteous, green and decidedly pompous,
    I am,
    Aka the energy miser

  9. chrisw

    PS…I once pitched an “off the cuff” idea to the owner of the LA Times. I asked him donate the entire back page of the newspaper …as a sort of community “driving log”. I suggested he design a campaign that would ask everyone to tear off the page and keep it in their car. The page was sort of a calendar with spaces to detail where, when and why you used your car. (of course, Brad, the page could include advertising!)
    So, at the end of the month there would be a travel log of the driving habits of the community. From that information, campaigns (with useable metrics) could be initiated to demonstrate to the community in the consequences of their habits, and options available to them. Even kids could be included with fun stuff about conservation.
    I argued it could be fun, interesting and profitable to everyone. He thought it was silly, and told me to keep hunting…the quail would be rising soon!
    So much for that idea…

  10. Doug

    While we’re saving energy, why don’t we stop printing newspapers? Think of the money that could be saved if people just used the online version. No trucks needed to distribute them, no cars needed to deliver them to the door, no power required to run huge printing plants. Seems like a no brainer to me.
    Again, Brad, what are you bringing to the table to support this energy drive? Please list the makes and models of cars your family owns. I assume you only have a single hybrid car and your family shares it along with driving bicycles for local trips. I also assume you drop by and pick up Cindi Ross-Scoppe and Warren Bolton each day in your carpool. And you never, ever drive above 55 and take the car keys away from your kids when they do, right? And your thermostat is set on 62 in the winter and 82 in the summer, right?
    Here’s a case where you can put your money where your mouth is instead of telling everyone else what to do…
    I’d support a gas tax with 100% of the proceeds going toward new energy sources.
    But you know the auto and oil lobbies will never let it happen. Let’s see which of your political darlings (Biden, Graham, Lieberman, etc.) has the guts to propose something like that. Or how about cutting all the NASA funding which provides marginal and questionable benefit and putting those dollars toward energy research? Again, the aerospace lobbyists would kill that idea in a heartbeat.
    As for 55 mile an hour speed limits – never. Why not focus on improving fuel performance to make it a non-issue? (Expecting a strong rebuke from Lee on why it is technically impossible).
    You want to save energy? Prohibit parents to drive and pick up kids from school every day. The amount of gasoline wasted each day in the school pickup lines is incredible. And how about implementing strict development standards that eliminate traffic backups like those that exist on Harbison, Two Notch, Clemson, etc? Oh, wait that might impact the big developers who run this county.
    You want to attack this from the easy side — more police clamping down on drivers who are safely driving at a reasonable limit (70) You need to look at where the waste really is going on.
    As Sammy Hagar said, “I can’t drive 55”.

  11. Doug

    If Brad ever implements his “taking my ball and going home” posting strategy, feel free to send your comments to me. I’ll post them (with your “byline”) under my name. I’ve got no fear of reprisal. We’re talking about words and ideas here, not physical threats. Brad wants hosannas for his “big ideas” and it turns out that about 75-80% of the dozen or so readers of this blog rarely agree with him. I know Brad withers under your microscope, but I would think we all could benefit from having our ideas vetted by someone like you.

  12. G. R. L. Cowan, boron combustion fan

    Calling for speed limit enforcement is sensible, but not in combination with a call for higher fossil fuel taxes. If you want cops to enforce speed limits, you don’t increase the guaranteed-oil-profit part of their pay, you reduce it; you reduce petroleum-derived motor fuel taxes.
    Are petroleum imports to the USA taxed more than domestic production? That, similarly, might explain why domestic production faces political opposition.

  13. Herb Brasher

    Brad, I never thought I’d end up defending Mary, but she (or “he” — OK, I don’t know) has a point. And as I will comment on a thread below–sometimes people yell pretty loud, because nobody is listening, and it’s a life and death matter. In fact, I want> somebody to yell if it’s a life or death matter.
    Turning things around on energy is a great thing to work on, but we have been building our whole society and infrastructure on cheap energy for decades. We moved to the suburbs because of cheap energy. We’ve doubled the size of our homes in the last twenty-five years because of cheap energy. (We seem to have doubled the size of our vehicles, too, or so it seems to me in my “little” Ford sedan.) We throw away styrofoam and plastic by the truckload (I used to hoard styrofoam cups–and wash them out 25 times or more, in Germany, because it was almost impossible to find one.) What is it going to take to turn this ship around? A heck of a lot of education and investment, and barring some cataclysmic event, I would imagine decades of work. And do we have the incentive for that? The job is mind-boggling massive.
    I remember seeing a chart at a parish church in Germany in 1977, showing that Americans use twice as much energy per person as the average German, and three times as much as the average Swiss person. And although German homes have also gotten larger, on average, I wouldn’t be surprised if the average American isn’t consuming 5 times as much as the average European now–and we seem to imagine that we have a divine right to do so.
    Yes, we’ve got to do something. But this is one place where we may need to decide what Z is before we start moving to B.
    And I’m for Uncle Elmer’s suggestion, but let’s don’t turn down the street lights completely. This is a pretty violent society–and I can’t prove it statistically, but I would imagine it would get a lot more violent if you turned off the lights at night.

  14. Herb Brasher

    My comment about the sedan above makes it sound like I’m not part of the problem, but I am. For one thing, I live in the suburbs, too. And the suburbs are moving way out, so that we can get away from problems, and our property values keep going up, right? How do you deal with that without massive government intervention, which is perfect anathema to the American philosophy of life?

  15. Dave

    Let’s start somewhere as we are at war. Lighting consumes 30% of ALL energy use in the USA. Here’s a starter list:
    All athletic events go back to daytime only. High school, College, Pro, Nascar, no exceptions.
    All stores close at 8 PM, with a merciful exception for a 2 week Christmas shopping period.

  16. chrisw

    I suspect every head of household in America could lower their energy consumption by 25%…if they wanted to.
    But leadership on this issue can not come from moonbats and hippies and Al Gore types…it must be mature and sober (and interesting), non-partisan and forward thinking.
    The most powerful reason for me to lower my consumption was talking to strapping young men coming back from Iraq. They should have been home with their girlfriends, not fighting a war in which the opposition is financed by money derived in large part from our energy inefficiency’s.
    We can do this. We should do this…but I think absent a persuasive and interesting campaign, nothing will detract our fellow citizens from their wasteful ways. The government is not capable of this task, so it must be a “people up” movement.

  17. bud

    Brad I’m with you on most of your proposals. A couple that are perhaps a bit marginal: the 55 speed limit and drilling in the Anwar. The energy savings from 55 has to be weighed against the lost time and the money spent to enforce it. Those resources would be better spent on other initiatives. As for the Anwar, it just doesn’t seem like it does anything but provide a false sense of security. For now, let’s just suck it up and continue importing oil while we move to other energy resources. It is time to weem our way off fossil fuels.
    One idea that seems to have very little downside is increasing our use of windmills. I was sitting in a parking lot the other day watching one of those old ventilation spinners on the top of a house. Even though the wind was relatively light at the time the thing was spinning like crazy. With 10 or 20 small, efficient rooftop windmills hooked to a car-style generator it seems like the average home could reduce electricy use by 20% or so. Combined with extensive use of compact florescent light bulbs, solar hot waters and common sense thermostat settings the elimination of half of all current electric use doesn’t seem far fetched.
    As for cars. Now this one is really easy. The feds should provide huge tax breaks for folks that drive plug-in hybrids. Plug the thing into the windmill generator at night and if the wind is blowing, voila, a free trip to work in the morning! These things should sell like crazy if gasoline prices increase and a tax break is provided.
    At the powerplant level windmill again seem quite practical. Some European nations generate 15%+ of their electric needs. Many of our sparsely populated western states have virtually unlimited potential to generate electricity this way. The History Channel had a program that featured a company that used CO-2 emissions to breed algae rather than pumping it back into the atmosphere. The algae was then used for a variety of purposes including the creation of bio-diesel fuel. The company’s experiment proved so successful they’re expanding it to a much larger scale.
    Hydrogen power my eventually work out but there seems to be so many technical problems right now. Likewise, bio-diesel and ethanol may make a contribution but we’re not quite there yet. In spite of the many problems it creates we simply must consider the use of nuclear.

  18. Mark Whittington

    Please send me a copy of your posts that are deleted. I am much interested in hearing what you have to say.
    Recently I purchased An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore. Undoubtedly, Gore’s documentary is one of the best films that I’ve seen in years. Gore did an excellent job of identifying the problem, yet the film is somewhat short on solutions. I wasn’t aware of the severity of the problem, so I am much indebted to Mr. Gore for his didactic presentation. One can only wonder how much we would have progressed over the past years, given Mr. Gore’s erudition and wisdom vs. what (who) we are stuck with now.
    I don’t accept all of Brad’s notions concerning socially acceptable behavior nor do I share his views about an energy plan as being part of some giant neo conservative global war effort. Yet we do need a workable energy plan, so even if we have to work to some objective in spite of Brad’s missteps and interference, then I say so be it.
    If Mr. Gore’s graphs showing the near one to one correspondence between temperature and CO2 hold to be true at such high levels, then indeed we will soon be in a bad way. I suppose that for a substantial number of the earth’s communities it already may be too late for successful intervention.
    Government in itself is not bad. Government of, by, and for the people in fact is quite necessary and beneficial. Global free market capitalism on the other hand is detrimental to us all, and left unchecked, Globalization will most certainly be the undoing the human race altogether. As always, the problem will only become worse because the people who control everything are bought and paid for by moneyed interests. That’s what the Corporate State (euphemistically called “the public/private partnership” today-what my dad was fighting against in WWII) is all about. Unequivocally, the same economic system that steals the wealth of the people and concentrates wealth into the hands of a few is the system that threatens the existence of our progeny.
    We may be able to impede the consequences of Globalization and global warming at some time in the future, but it will require scrapping capitalism to do it. I suspect that the seas will have to rise a bit before the people demand change and hold corporate power accountable. I hope that I am wrong.

  19. chrisw

    If u think capitalism pollutes you should go to Russia, India or China (and anywhere else where the alternatives to capitalism are practiced)…and see REAL pollution. The difference is they produce so much less than we do on a per capita basis.
    Where is it that they practice this marvelous economic system of which u speak?

  20. Brad Warthen

    Oops. Mary disappeared again.

    Basically, this is a test in behaviorism. Personally, I never really subscribed to that school of psychology; I tended more toward the existential (give me a break, I was only 19). But I like to be open-minded, and the great thing about behaviorism is that it is empirical. We can test it. I’m testing to see if Mary’s behavior changes, and if so, how. Here’s the thing about it — if "she" takes on another name, we will still know her by the behavior, which is the problem to begin with. It’s a sort of circular thing. The question becomes, will she run in circles in the maze, or express herself in a civilized manner? We’ll see.

    Doug, two things: I’ll be glad to e-mail Mary’s originals to you if you’d like. They’re not gone; they’re just "unpublished." (Sounds Orwellian, doesn’t it?)

    But I have a better idea. I’m going to edit them to be civilized, Southern style. They will still make precisely the same points, only without the childishness. I’ll post them like that.

    Second thing for Doug: I’ve been wanted to abandon the dead-tree thing since the early 80s. The market isn’t there yet. It’s growing — our online ad business is going up like a rocket. Trouble is, it’s still a minor fraction of the overall business. The market — readers and advertisers — still want a paper product. That IS, as you say, extremely wasteful. First, newsprint and ink, plus associated production costs, make up about half our overall expenses. Then there’s all the dead trees, and the trucks to deliver it. Newspapers are going to be doing business with a big ball and chain until we can go completely to online.

    Why don’t we just do it? Because online won’t pay the cost of newsgathering. We need the paper for that.

    It’s an even bigger conundrum than Mary’s.

  21. Mark Whittington

    At this point in time, there is no country that uses a system such as the one I am describing. For example, even the most progressive Scandinavian countries have wealth distributions that appear to the naked eye to be nearly indistinguishable from our wealth distribution.
    Conservatives like the idea of efficient government, as do I. I don’t want to create a giant government that taxes people and then gives little in return in the form of services. I’m advocating a system that uses tax credits to compensate for the inherent (statistical) unfairness of capitalism. I never use the term “flat tax” because I know how it would be used politically, but an equally re-distributive flat tax on wealth would be one of the simplest, most effective ways to make the system fairer. A better alternative would be to shift wealth based on a normal distribution. The knowledge needed to create a fair economic system didn’t exist until a few years ago. In order to tax people fairly, you have to know how and why the wealth distribution develops. I spent a lot of time developing a model economy that reproduces the correct wealth distribution, so it’s easy to figure out how to flatten out the distribution through re-distributive taxation. It would be very hard to figure out how to use taxes to create a society where wealth is distributed normally without a computer based model economy.
    Here is the numerical difference between our current lopsided economic system and a future fair economic system that distributes wealth normally:
    Top1% owns 35% of wealth
    Top10% owns 75% of wealth
    Top 20% owns 84% of wealth
    Bottom 60% owns 5% of wealth
    Bottom 40% owns 0.13% of wealth
    Top1% owns 2% of wealth
    Top10% owns 16% of wealth
    Top 20% owns 29% of wealth
    Bottom 60% owns 48% of wealth
    Bottom 40% owns 28% of wealth

  22. Doug Ross

    Posting this under my name to meet the requirements.
    Mary Rosh says:
    1. The nuclear energy idea is idiotic, because
    a) the plants are dangerous and expensive.
    b) electricity generation uses relatively little oil. TWO PERCENT of
    electricity generation in 2001 was oil-fired.
    So Warthen’s idea is to waste vast sums of money and to expose the
    population to considerable danger, and create waste that will last for
    hundreds of centuries – WITHOUT SAVING ANY OIL!!!
    2. The light rail idea is stupid, because it’s too expensive and too
    inconvenient unless the population is pretty dense, which is not true
    most American cities. Imagine light rail in South Carolina, for
    You have to get people from their houses to the station, and you have
    to get
    them from the station to their destination. THat’s a huge pain,
    bus transfers at both ends, unless the population around the train
    is dense enough to support the train, and the workplaces and other
    destinations at the other end of the line are clustered closely enough
    around the station.
    3. The $2.00 per gallon gasoline tax wouldn’t bother me, but it would
    devastate a lot of people, particularly in South Carolina and other
    conservative states where the income isn’t that high. It would create
    devastating economic burden for millions of people who could least
    4. Drilling in ANWR wouldn’t supply a significant percentage of our
    The whole proposal to drill in ANWR was just a mechanism to transfer
    resources to Bush campaign contributors.
    5. All this drilling and refinery building Warthen proposes is another
    example of his willingness to create burdens and hardships, so long as
    fall on others. Any energy policy should be analyzed in terms of what
    needs are and what is the best way to supply our needs.
    6. I don’t object on principle to the idea of developing new
    including hydrogen. The main problem with hydrogen, though, is
    distribution. And it’s vitally important not to use technological
    initiatives simply as mechanisms to transfer federal money. For
    any hydrogen fuel initiative carried out in South Carolina is likely to
    amount to nothing more than a simple transfer of federal money to South
    Carolina, because South Carolina doesn’t have the educated population
    necessary to carry such an initiative through to success.
    7. It’s not going to be easy to develop an economical way to replace
    of the oil that lies under sand and costs $3.00 per barrel to get out
    of the
    ground. We need to concentrate first on managing our demand so that we
    avoid shortages that drive the price way up. Sometimes shaving 2% or
    3% off
    of our demand will do that. There’s no need to lurch into some crash
    program to replace 100% of our imported energy, without considering the
    alternatives and consequences of doing so.
    8. The reason Warthen wants a crash program, and wants to pretend that
    crash program is vital for our survival, is that he wants to pretend
    he’s a man by pretending that we are “at war” with the whole Middle
    and that this is an important part of the “war”. There are, of course,
    plenty of ways for us to provide for our security without trying to
    the Middle East by military force, or by devoting excessive resource or
    accepting excessive negative consequences in order to achieve an
    set goal of complete energy independence. Using diplomacy, for
    For example, when Iran offered in 2001 to help us pursue al Qaeda, and
    offered numerous other overtures of friendship and assistance, we could
    have, you know, talked to them instead of making threats. None of that
    of thing would satisfy Warthen, however, because it doesn’t carry
    risk of danger (to others) and the burdens and sacrifices (borne by
    If Warthen really feels we’re at war, and that extreme sacrifice is
    important, let him lead the way.

  23. chrisw

    Hey Mark,
    Thanks for the info.
    But I do not understand. The “under $50,000” group pays so litle in taxes that I can’t see how tax credits can help them much.
    Can u shed a little light on this.

  24. Henry

    55 MPH??? Thats an answer to a mighty dumb queston. You gotta be kidding.
    The Demonrats also have it wrong by taxing domestically sourced oil instead of oil coming from terrorist states.
    We should immediately place a minimum adn an adjustable $10 per barrel tariff on foreign oil which would then to to 1. Alternative energy subsidies in the US and 2… YES to build HIGHWAYS. One reason we’er burning so much gas is that we’re sittng in bottle neck traffic everywhere. On I-85, you are constantly accelerating and decelerating, wasting fuel because the road is simply operating too close to capacity.
    I sense that everyone in this country is out to gore someone elses ox. To tell you the truth, no one will ever get this whole energy thing figured out. In the meantime, let’s hope we don’t freeze in the dark.

  25. Mary Rosh

    Chris, first:
    OWWWW!!!! IT BURNS!!!!!
    If you really want to analyze the effects of tax policy on one group or another, you have to consider ALL the taxes that they pay, instead of ignoring categories of taxes that you don’t want to think about and pretending that the fact that you ignored a category of taxes means that the group in consideration doesn’t pay taxes.

  26. chrisw

    Hey Mary…
    I am being serious here. I was not trying to be obtuse. I am not necessarily disagreeing with Mark…I am just perplexed about how his system works.
    I am fairly well versed with regards to “all taxes paid” and credits and issues like the earned income tax credit. But the point remains that to redistribute wealth by tax credit would be difficult, as the total amount paid by low earners is not that great. At some point you would have to leave tax credits, and move to a pure redistribution via the IRS to make it all work.
    Please show me where am I wrong. This subject interests me as I have real problems with current wealth distributions.

  27. Mary Rosh

    Yeah, it can’t be done just with tax policy, I think. Krugman (I think) wrote a piece a month or so ago discussing the wealth and income imbalance and said that increasing inequality of economic power had a lot to do with it. It seems to me that enormous amounts of income seem to go to people in the financial services industry, way beyond what they contribute to increased wealth. It seems to be more a function of, they have the opportunity to get their hands on money, so they rake off for themselves as much as they can. I’d strengthen worker protections a lot, and implement policies designed to give workers a lot more bargaining power. I’d do what I could to reverse the effects of globalization. You can face down the forces of globalization pretty easily if you’re willing to. Malaysia basically stopped the Asian meltdown in 1998 by implementing currency controls. There were all sorts of dire predictions about what was going to happen to Malaysia; well, none of it happened. The thing to remember is that you don’t have to give special privileges to capital to get it to do stuff that’s worthwhile. Capital follows profitable opportunities. It doesn’t MATTER if you don’t let people screw around with your currency. Letting foreigners screw around with your currency and use it to speculate doesn’t do anything for the citizens of your country. People will invest in factories and things like that to the extent to which the fact that you stop excessive speculation by the financial services industry won’t stop investment in productive activities.
    I’d enforce immigration; I wouldn’t have any guest worker programs, or amnesty for illegals, or anything like that. The idea that illegals come to do jobs Americans won’t do is just absurd. They won’t do jobes for the wages employers want to pay when they can’t get any illegal workers. I wouldn’t have ANY kind of work permit that didn’t allow people to change employers.
    Productivity in this country has gone up a LOT, without a corresponding increase in wages; I’d focus on getting wages up.
    I’d overhaul the health care system. That would stop a big flow of money out of workers’ pockets into the financial services and insurance industry.
    Those are just some ideas. I wouldn’t focus that much on tax credits; I think they should be used only to counter inequities that were induced by the tax system; if you want to counter inequalities from other sources, why not approach them more directly?

  28. Mary Rosh

    Totally screwed up one portion:
    “People will invest in factories and things like that to the extent to which the fact that you stop excessive speculation by the financial services industry won’t stop investment in productive activities.”
    should be
    “People will invest in factories and things like that to the extent that they believe they can profit by doing so. The fact that you stop excessive speculation by the financial services industry won’t stop investment in productive activities.”

  29. Mark Whittington

    Chrisw and Mary,
    You both make valid points, and I much appreciate your comments. Let me say though that according to the model, small changes in the degree to which taxes are re-distributive can (will) have a significant impact on the wealth distribution. However, there are a multitude of ways to make the system better aside from changing the tax code.
    I can promise you this-I’ll do my best to get an improved, interactive, user friendly model economy program for you to use as soon as I’m finished writing and debugging it. My problem in this respect has been twofold:
    1. The graphical programming language that I usually use has high licensing fees for distributed applications.
    2. The language I usually use is great for arrays of numbers, but it lacks the concept of objects.
    So after eliminating C++, Java, and a 3D gaming language, I finally settled on Microsoft’s relatively new C# programming language. I’m writing the economic agent and graphing classes right now, and I hope to be finished in a couple of months. With this program, you’ll be able to change tax rates and the method of taxation in any way that you wish. Also, I’ll make sure to graphically display the agents so you can see them as they invest, exchange, and receive returns. A new feature will be individual object memory and decision making (that’s why I’m using objects this time). Also, you’ll be able to vary the rate of exchanges, monitor currency fluctuation, view the Pareto coefficient in real time, change axes from linear to log for viewing Pareto and Boltzmann-Gibbs portions of the distribution, view real time wealth averaging and color coded agent position within the distribution, and view percent of wealth for various portions of the population. Finally, there will be a separate graph that shows the real time shell structure of the agents in the upper end of the distribution. I hope to make this program very cool and useful. I get excited just thinking about it. Thanks.

  30. chrisw

    will u have a “model for dummies”…what you describe may be too much for my brain…after all, I am a public school graduate!

  31. Ready to Hurl

    Mark, I echo chrisw’s plea to make it simple– and I’m a private college prep school grad.
    I don’t suppose that such a project could be made for an individual state. Sanford’s obsession with apparently making SC taxes the most regressive in the nation should be debunked as soon as possible.
    Also, while the current extremely unequal distribution of wealth is pernicious to the future of a democratic republic, I wonder how you came up with your proposed “model” future distribution.

  32. bud

    Could some of these Pro-Sanford, conservative die-hards explain why SC has nearly the highest unemployment rate in the nation? As a state that is so averse to unions, minimum wage hikes and other employment perks for business shouldn’t we have a LOW unemployment rate??

  33. chrisw

    Let me say this without hesitation or equivocation.
    Not one employer, of any size at all, in this entire state has a full compliment of workers. EVERYONE needs help. The problem is finding drug/drink free people with a valid DL’s.
    I stopped by three businesses on Friday…and combined there were 15 jobs left wanting. Good jobs…in the 12. to 20 buck an hour range with benifits…for HS diploma and DL.
    Booze, drugs and other personal failings such as the inability to regularly get out of bed are gnawing at the core of the working populace in SC. Add to that the MILLION reason how a working man can lose his right to drive …and you end up with workers stuck in MacDonald’s or at the corner pantry.
    You should review how many ways a man can lose his license to drive in SC…ways that have nothing to do with his ability to drive such as failure to pay spousal support, or failure to maintain a tag on an abandoned car, or a 20 year old getting caught with a beer in his hand while at Myrtle Beach….while his car is parked in the driveway on Cola!
    These “personal failings” are usually the result of sorry parenting and a lousy educational system. I have not a clue how to fix the parenting…and we have just elected the status quo in the education department…so I see no change in the future.
    So, in response to you post…we need workers. We need them badly and are willing to pay good wages. But we just can’t find them…anywhere! In fact, my buisness is about to outsource our call service…not to India, but to Charlotte!

  34. Ready to Hurl

    I guess that South Carolinians just aren’t good enough for being ruled by conservatives since the founding.

  35. chrisw

    Are you trying to be as petty as possible? Or is there another reason for such a dismal and pointless remark?

  36. bud

    chrisw, it’s called cause and effect. SC is very conservative. Because of that we don’t perform very well in most standard of living measures. Liberal states on the other perform much better.

  37. Ready to Hurl

    Chrisw, conservatism seems to suffer from the same problem that Communism suffered from– the populace just aren’t up to the demands.
    Brad (and a number of conservative commentators) have actually blamed Americans’ deficiencies for the drop in support for the Iraq occupation.
    Lee would say that liberal policies have caused the dissolution of American character.
    You blame South Carolinians’ personal deficiencies for the state’s economic backwardness.
    Since SC has never been a liberal state there seems to be a error in blaming liberals.
    Sorry, if that’s too petty. Maybe I should START drinking so conservatism looks better.

  38. bud

    It really makes sense that liberal states perform better. They provide a more socially just environment that allows workers to make a decent wage. This attracts a more skilled workforce who in turn attract a better class of businesses. Take chrisw’s example of outsourcing to Charlotte. Charlotte is more liberal than Columbia. It’s workers earn more thereby attracting skilled labor away from backwards towns like Columbia. This in turn generates an incentive for people like chrisw to seek business opportunities in places like Charlotte. The more liberal the place the more attractive it becomes and the better the place performs. A quality life starts from the labor level up not the other way around as Rush Limbaugh falsely claims.

  39. chrisw

    Your argument completely discounts any notions such as social, economic and racial factors as well as historical events and their influence on the state. In other words, you left the real world out of your computation.
    You guys must be pulling my leg. If not, I certainly can not help you correct such a silly proposition.

  40. Mark Whittington

    I’ll be sure to make the base level GUI easy to use and understand.
    RTH, those percentages were derived from a normal distribution. A normal distribution plots probability density vs. a random variable. For my purposes, I need a random variable vs. probability, so I converted a normal PDF to what is called a “percent point function”, or an “inverse distribution function”, where the random variable is wealth and the probability corresponds to the number of people ranked in order of wealth. There isn’t a closed formula for this kind of function, so it has to be computed numerically.
    I’m sorry for the jargon. Personally, I hate the symbols (and jargon) used in mathematics and statistics. I’ll take graphical programming symbols over the standard (old) notation any day.

  41. bud

    Chrisw, all you have to do is look at a map to see how much better the liberal states perform. Conservatives are so hidebound in their defense of the gospel according to Rush that they simply can’t recognize the obvious. That is in liberal states people live longer, more prosperous lives. They are not afflicted with the problems we in the conservative states suffer with to nearly the same extent. Take traffic fatalities. The four safest states in the country (MA, MN, CT and VT), based on 2005 statistics, all voted for John Kerry and Al Gore in the last two elections. The most dangerous states were MT, SD, SC, MS and LA, all solidly red Bush states and VERY conservative. The same is true for practically every measure of quality of life. Liberal states perform better, people live longer and earn more money.
    So why do people still vote for the failed policies of conservatism? Perhaps the Republicans just do a better marketing job.

  42. bud

    By the way chrisw, the historical and economic events you make reference to were events controlled by conservatives. It may take a long time to undo all the harm conservatives have created over the centuries. So let’s get started. Vote liberal.

  43. Ready to Hurl

    Your argument completely discounts any notions such as social, economic and racial factors as well as historical events and their influence on the state.

    Chrisw, you cite four factors. As Bud said, South Carolina conservatives of each era effectively shaped the effect of each.
    The founders of SC shaped the mal-distribution of wealth, power and social status. Conservatives of each era have maintained it under different guises and to varying degrees ever since.
    “Historical events” in SC are undeniably shaped by conservatives.
    Did you have slavery in mind? It was an economic system founded and fostered by conservatives to the benefit of a tiny ruling class.
    The Civil War? It was an outgrowth of defending slavery and the economic system benefiting that tiny ruling class.
    Jim Crow? It was the re-assertion of that tiny ruling class’ domination.
    Even the high tide of liberalism or progressivism, FDR’s New Deal, had to strike a deal with the tiny, conservative ruling class of SC: blacks could get a few economic crumbs but actual political power, civil rights and economic opportunity were reserved for whites– especially those born into the elite.
    Perhaps you attribute SC’s backwardness to the hot climate and racial composition. Do you think that the heat and humidity (prior to AC) made people less industrious or prone to intellectual pursuits? Do you think that the black population inherently is a drag on economic and intellectual development (other than when needed for manual labor)?
    Don’t take offense. The last viewpoint is a distinct possibility in SC.
    Anyway, I just wonder what social, economic, historical, and racial factors have retarded the flourishing of SC.

  44. G. R. L. Cowan, boron combustion fan

    “ENFORCE the damn’ speed limits. If states say they can’t, give them the resources out of the gas tax money.”
    Um … wouldn’t they take the money, promise to enforce speed limits, and say to each other in the hall, “Let’s not and say we did?”? So as to … you know … not reduce the money?

  45. mikej

    To those who think that nuke plants are dangerous….Shame on you. People are always afraid of things they do not understand. I was a nuclear reactor operator on a submarine in the navy for 6 years. I know firsthand how dangerous nuclear plants are. They aren’t, with the exception being when they are run by idiots. Of all of the incident reports that we used to read, at least 99% of the problems were due to operator error. Nuclear plants are not inherently dangerous.
    Oil corporations like Exxon Mobil (which by the way made more net profit than any other corporation before it, ever, last year) that have all the money-hungry, greedy politicians in their pockets are inherently dangerous to your and my securities.
    Superbly corrupt “war” corporations like Halliburton (which also has profited extremely nicely from hefty $$$$$ contracts in Iraq/Afghanistan) and the prior politicians who sit on their board of directors, etc…… are inherently dangerous.
    That, every single day of my life, I see single persons in a 7500+ pound gas-guzzling monster SUV, chatting it up on their cell-phone, driving 85 m.p.h in a 60 m.p.h zone – is inherently dangerous.
    The vast majority of my peers (I am 26 years old, male, and I have my undergraduate degree in nuclear engineering) are ignorant of what is really going on in the world. They could care less that we’re caught between two peoples fighting in a civil war who have been bickering amongst each other for centuries. They could care less that our government (local, state, and federal) wastes the 50 or so percent of the check they give them. They could care less that all we have to do is raise the average fuel economy in our country by 5-7 m.p.g and we could completely eliminate our need for Arab oil. The reason why they could care less? Because they’re too busy worrying about who Brad Pitt is dating, or what new Itunes they can download, or what happened on the O.C. last night, or how they can “pimp” their ride, or how many pictures they can take with their mp3-playing, camera, computer, cell-phone.
    What I’m getting at, is that our country, especially my peers, but as a whole…We are distracted. We all, with those not fitting the mold being a very small minority, could care less. We are accustomed to paying very little for energy, and we are accustomed to using more of it per capita than the next 10 top consuming countries, combined. We are accustomed to having certain luxuries, and if we don’t get them, we feel like we are being slighted. My peers would love nothing more than to continue wandering through life with their blinders on. Sheep being led to the slaughter by greedy dog politicians, and the corporate pigs who own the dogs.
    I have rambled on enough. But, in closing, I would like to make sure that my point is clear. The problems with our society, economy, government, etc.. are far-reaching, and require drastic measures. We have too many snobs who think they are entitled to drive a big SUV, entitled to live in a big house, entitled to watch a 70″ plasma-screen HDTV, entitled to pay for it all with their credit card. Well, mark my words, all those people will be the downfall of our society. All the foreign nations to whom we are debtors (Like China) will one day ask (demand) that we pay up. Whether we pay in dollars, resources, troop blood, or anything else we hold so dear…THEY WILL PROBABLY CARE LESS.

  46. M. Essick

    I read the comments regarding the danger of nuclear power. NO ONE hav been killed or to our knowledge injured in generating nuclear power. Coal mining is a NECESSARY part of operating coal-fired power plants. Thuosands have been killed mining coal and even though mining is safer now, a significant number continue to be killed each year. Nuclear power is unlikely to kill nearly as many as the coal fired power industry.

  47. mikej

    Just so everyone knows…I was tested before I went in the navy for my internal contamination levels (bad) and it was negligible. I was tested after I left the navy, and again, it was negligible. The total amount of ionizing radiation (bad stuff) that I received while I was on a submarine that was, unfortunately for me, operational more than any other submarine in the fleet, was about 200 millirem. Most pilots get more than that in a couple flights. Nuclear power is ridiculously more safe than coal-fired or gas-turbine power plants.
    You say that nuclear waste is bad for the environment and dangerous….Maybe the largest source of our greenhouse gases isn’t bad.
    The new generation of nuke plants being designed are inherently safe. The reason for this is that as the moderator temperature increases, it adds negative reactivity, causing reactor power to go down. A meltdown is impossible. Not only that, but they will be able to be set up to produce electricity AND hydrogen. With a properly set up superconductor system cooled by hydrogen, the gains in efficiency /safety and reduction in total costs of energy and our dependence on the middle east would be beyond most expectations.
    The technology to produce this system of energy transfer already exists, but the people who have become retarded wealthy off of America’s insatiable appetite for energy will do everything within their power to stop any movement which will endanger their check. They don’t give a rat’s ass about the future of our world. They are greedy and powerful, a bad combination.

  48. bud

    As a tree-hugging environmentalist I concede it’s time to go nuclear. No doubt there will be unforseen problems but the known problems with coal and oil are very substantial. This must be done in conjunction with a strict conservation effort.

  49. G. R. L. Cowan, boron combustion fan

    “No doubt there will be unforeseen problems” — nah. I foresee an end to all problems. From this moment forward, it’s all cool. There will be three girls for every boy, and two boys for every girl.
    Beyond whatever conservation efforts individuals make because they haven’t the money or don’t want to spend it, if “strict” implies government, there is an interesting way to do that: (1) determine how much profit government makes on fossil fuel. Let’s say in the US that’s $150 billion a year.
    (Gasoline is heavily taxed by various levels of government, but so is domestic heating oil and natural gas, and coal-mining states make some money taxing that, although its low to-the-producer price per MWh limits how much more they can take.)
    (2) Set a mark somewhat higher, say $200 billion a year. Fund conservation efforts in proportion to the difference between that mark and the total government petrodollar take.
    So if conservation efforts get 5 billion this year, and as a result government’s oil money take drops to 145 billion, the difference widens to $55 billion and next year the conservation office has a $5.5 billion budget. They are motivated to succeed.
    Notice how different this is from directly taking “carbon tax” money and “using it to fund conservation and alternative energy”, i.e., structuring the program so that failure is rewarded. Everyone who advocates carbon tax in this way understands clearly that this would be the effect; it’s impossible to get them to admit it, they don’t SEEM to understand, but that’s because they’re all dollar-crazed phonies.

  50. Lee

    What a bunch a ignorant, childish notions for energy reform – and from a newspaper editor. How sad that those with the least understanding of the issues, but the biggest mouth or microphone, try to set the agenda.

  51. Lee

    Well, the easiest way to reduce energy use in the US 10% immediately is to deport the 22,000,000 illegal aliens.
    Now, would you like me to dismantle the fascist planks proposed by Brad Warthen?

  52. s. wilson

    Lower the speed limit to 55? Don’t most people in South Carolina drive 55 or slower in the left lane on the interstate anyway?
    New energy sources? Look on the bottom of a solar panal. You will see a sticker from BP oil or Exxon-mobil. Alternative sources are here, there is just no incentive to use them.

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