Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Now What?--Part Three

I remain undecided about John McCain. But I'm mapping points of policy agreement. And--in addition to his attitude toward the war on terror and international trade--John McCain gets it right on a third issue -- the free market for energy:
Yes, I oppose subsidies. Not just ethanol subsidies. Subsidies. And not just in Iowa either. I oppose them in my own state of Arizona. I am a proud of the conservative tradition that the government can sometimes best serve the interests of the American people by knowing when to stay out of their way. And I've always been reluctant to grow the size of government to do the business of the American people for them or to favor one industry over another or because one sector of our economy has better lobbyists than another. I want the government to do its job, not your job, to do it better and to do it with less of your money. I want our economy to grow, not the size of government. And I don't want government to divert resources from the growing industries that hold the key to America's continued economic success. Excessive and intrusive regulation undermines the flexibility needed for business success.

There is no economic force on this globe that is stronger than free people. Entrepreneurs lie at the heart of innovation, growth, and advancing prosperity. Entrepreneurs should not be shackled by excessive regulation that raises the cost of business. Entrepreneurs should not be disadvantaged by earmarking and pork-barrel spending that favors politically connected competitors.

I trust Americans, I trust markets and I oppose subsidies. As President, I'll propose a national energy strategy that will amount to a declaration of independence from the risk bred by our reliance on petro-dictators and our vulnerability to the troubled politics of the lands they rule. That strategy won't be another grab bag of handouts to this or that industry and a full employment act for lobbyists.

Yes, that means no ethanol subsidies. But it also means no rifle-shot tax breaks for big oil. It means no line items for hydrogen, no mandates for other renewable fuels, and no big-government debacles like the Dakotas Synfuels plant. It means ethanol entrepreneurs get a level playing field to make their case -- and earn their profits.
Amazingly, McCain's remarks came at a campaign stop last fall in ethanol subsidy-heaven: Iowa!

(via Weekly Standard blog)


OBloodyHell said...

> I remain undecided about John McCain

Carl, I can see remaining unhappy about McCain, but what is the alternative? Barack "Messiah" Obama, or Hillary "Clinton Dark" Clinton? Is there really a choice here?

If there's no choice, what is to remain undecided about?

If the Dems had put up a moderate, like... well, I dunno, I can't think of a moderate Dem... or even a principled one, like Lieberman, I might see a question.

But until the Dems get punished enough for failing to grasp that centrist candidates win -- every time -- they aren't going to change, and you can't use them to punish the GoP for failing to stick to the principles that they purportedly stand for.

The choice is already made for any rational person, it seems to me. I don't grasp any argument which could possibly justify risking having a racist, socialist pig or a self-aggrandizing, narcissisitic, socialist crook in the office of the PotUs at this time. We could afford the latter in the 90s. Not any more. There's a job to do, and it doesn't leave time for their emotional problems.

Carl said...


The issue isn't so much who to vote for--a Republican vote in DC is irrelevant. The question is who I campaign for (and to a lesser extent to whom I contribute). Normally, I take about a month off to work for the Republican presidential campaign: in 2004, I was General Counsel for Ft. Myers Florida. During that time, I take a leave of absence from my day job (otherwise, it could be an unlawful campaign contribution).

I'm certainly not considering voting or campaigning for Hillary or Obama. Still, for me, the "choice" is whether to spend time and opportunity costs on John McCain.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I had the same question as OBH - thanks for answering.

Property rights, a la Kelo. We conservatives supposedly cared deeply about that two years ago.

Carl said...


I agree with you in spirit, but I actually think Kelo rightly decided.

OBloodyHell said...

> I actually think Kelo rightly decided.

OK, I went over your Kelo commentary again.

1) I thoroughly disagree with your assertion that this won't get massively abused at EVERY level of government. It's the pattern for the US government (and all governments, really) -- give them power and they will work desperately and thoroughly to find amazingly ingenious ways to abuse it. Give them Rico and they'll use it to punish Mom and Pop for not noticing that Jr. had a dozen pot plants growing in the woods on the south forty... and fill the government coffers in the process. Give them the Patriot Act, and within six months the DoJ is holding seminars for local DAs on how to use it for local cases... ones which don't have the slightest thing to do with terrorism. Make Hillary the First Lady, and she promptly tries to use the FBI to investigate her husband's political critics.

Government powers get abused.

Keep them small and tightly limited.

2) "Compensation" -- who the heck gets to decide what is adequate compensation? The government -- you mean those guys whose interests it is in to take the land? Gee, thanks. I question whether 25% of the people who've lost their land to ID have felt the money offered -- esp. straight up at the beginning -- was even close to the worth of the property in question.

3) Want to bet that there is a large statistically-demonstrable disparity between the value of land for tax collection purposes (i.e., millage, etc.) and the value of land for ID taking? That, once the land is being "taken" that its value strangely becomes much lower?

4) This becomes a mechanism for petty abuse. If one public official is POed with a citizen, there is virtually nothing to stop them from using this power to screw with that person (not that that ever really happens, no, no, never). What's the threshold here? If it "offers" to bring in $1 more of revenue? How much "additional revenue" is required before you can point a GUN and someone, throw some money at them, and tell them to get off of the land that has been in their family for five generations? -- and it's not like it even has to be done, all you have to do is be willing to misuse the power. There's nothing that says that the taking has to actually complete whatever project was used to justify it, so the locality in question only has to supplant, at worst, the tax revenue from the original owner... not actually DO anything that actually will BRING IN new revenue*.

5) As to historical precedent, one certainly comes to mind -- "Hey, Red Man! Screw that treaty we gave you ten years ago. We want that land for ourselves, after all. Get off that land and go move here, instead..." I think there's a reason that behavior of the US government is not held in high regard.


I believe "greater income" for the public coffers is not by any means the idea of the founders when they provided this power to the government. I believe that any taking should and must argue why THAT location is solely acceptable for the task in mind (and building a shopping center is inadequate justification in that context -- one site may be better but not so much as to justify violation of the rights of the property owner)


As far as this "devolving down to state's rights", etc., there are and must be limits on those powers which derive from the Constitution itself. Otherwise, the whole argument you used can justify why slavery is acceptable in one state but "the citizenry of another state declines". Why it is "ok to discriminate on the basis of (race/sex/age/whatever, take your pick)" inside this state but not another.

Property rights are a very significant element, if not a lynchpin, of the collective rights of Americans.

ID should be *difficult* to implement, so that the government always seeks alternatives to the use of its capacity for force to attain its goals. Offering more money is the obvious one. Finding other suitable locations for whatever "public facility" is planned is another.

The Kelo decision makes a mockery of property rights in this country. It says, basically, that land in the USA actually all belongs to the government, and only the government. We just get to "use it" for now... until the government decides to take it away from us.

This attitude is NOT the one that made this country free and successful.

And if you don't think that is the longer-term view of property rights, then I suggest you should go and rent the Oscar-winning 1937 Frank Capra film, "You Can't Take It With You", which centers on a case much like the Kelo decision. At no point does anyone even vaguely suggest that the government might get involved in an obviously similar case. The entire idea was outside the realm of consideration.

*In Gainesville, FL, there is a case, which, albeit having not the slightest thing to do with ID, shows how one might abuse the power. Some prime real estate in at a key intersection was bought out by a real estate company with the claim that they were going to build a high-rise set of shops and luxury apartments. Then they claimed that they needed money from the city, in the form of tax incentives, to justify the project (after demolishing much of the area, mind you). So they get $40 million over the next 20 years (approximately $100 in tax per head per year for every man, woman, and child in the city). Then came the downturn in real estate, financial woes, etc... and the property, with everything on it demolished, has now been lying fallow for rougly two years, and bringing in JACK for the city or the county, beyond the basic tax value of the empty land.

What is to stop someone from doing anything similar with land taken by ID? Take it, then renege on the project. "Gee, sorry commissioners (psst! Screw you, former property owner!! Hahahaha!!)". :-/

Doesn't happen? BS. There are lots of petty people out there, and some of them have wealth, and they don't hesitate to screw with someone who annoys them.

Carl said...


I think you're confusing law and policy; further response to come.