October Suprise, Much?

Well, the first day of October is technically Sunday, but this sure as hell counts:

During the period examined by the committee, Bush administration officials repeatedly intervened on behalf of Abramoff s clients, including helping a Mississippi Indian tribe obtain $16 million in federal funds for a jail the tribe wanted to build.
Abramoff was able to block the nomination of one Interior Department official using Christian conservative Ralph Reed as a go-between with Rove, according to e-mails between Abramoff and Reed.
Abramoff also tried to oust a State Department employee who interfered with their efforts on behalf of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, one of Abramoff s most lucrative clients.

Linking Delay, Ney and Burns to Abramoff was significant enough; Delay and Ney stepped aside and Burns is now headed toward defeat in one of the reddest states in the nation. But this is several orders of magnitude bigger than any Abramoff connection that’s come before. The best thing for Democrats this November is an image of a corrupt Republican party. Bush has been able to keep ethical issues out of the public eye through legalizing torture and the like. But there’s no way this isn’t going to set the national agenda for weeks to come. It’s enough to make one believe in karma.

5 thoughts on “October Suprise, Much?

  1. Sorry, Dylan, if this is off-topic. There is a nice article in the New York Times today about wind energy in India. Even though the main concern of the article is the Indian economy, the article makes clear that wind energy is already a huge, practical effort. You don’t have to be an expert to see that this is a completely world from solar power, carbon-dioxide sequestration, and hydrogen-powered cars. America (and not just Bush) is groping for breakthroughs while ignoring a practical solution.
    On the other hand, this is not quite a complete argument, because corn ethanol would appear to pass the same test as wind power. Corn ethanol is a more subtle deception. It looks like a practical business, but only because of subsidies and hidden energy costs that are so massive that they entirely negate its value. Of course I do not think that this criticism applies to wind power, but this part of the story is not quite plain as day.

  2. As always, the best test of a technology is how well it performs in a market free of subsidies. All we have to do is modify the market incentives to make pollution a factor (carbon taxes and cap-and-trade both work, though I prefer the latter) and let the market take care of the rest. As you say, corn ethanol and solar will wither away while wind grows.

  3. But there are no markets free of subsidies; that is too simplistic. A ban on voluntary subsidies biases energy production (and any other kind of business) in favor of technologies with latent costs. It has been argued that the latent cost of coal is much more than any needed subsidy for wind.
    You say that you are in favor of “incentives” over subsidies. But they are effectively synonymous. Indeed, selective taxation already is Congress’ favorite type of subsidy. So the question is not whether you should or should not have subsidies or other interventions, but which interventions have the best economic features.
    In this context, a specific solution like cap and trade is sometimes the best approach, depending on how it is implemented. The trade part is usually simple enough, but the cap is a sticky matter. The cap can amount to amnesty for past bad behavior.
    While cap and trade doesn’t resemble a traditional subsidy, a carbon tax would be an overall energy tax minus a non-carbon subsidy. But what is true is that it would be relatively uniform as subsidies go. Uniformity is generally a good idea for both taxation and negative taxation.
    In the case of wind power, the economic question of how to incentivize it has historically been secondary to just getting the political will to do so at all. For instance, the pollution tax credit has been repeatedly renewed, with disruptive dry periods in between, but Congress can’t seem to make it permanent. A permanent PTC, which is almost a clone of existing law, would do wind power a lot of good. But maybe it is better to link the “whether” and “how” questions.

  4. I should have said “arbitrary subsidies”. Of course we should alter the incentives so that polluting doesn’t pay. But we should alter them so that one specific technology does.

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