† Republicans rumble in Vegas: During the Western Republican Leadership Conference debate in Las Vegas, Rep. Ron Paul (TX) had this to say on the topic of federal energy subsidies: “[Q]uite frankly, the government shouldn’t be in the business of subsidizing any form of energy. And nuclear energy, I think, is a good source of energy, but they still get subsidies …” And TX Gov. Rick Perry agreed with him: “We don’t need to be subsidizing energy in any form or fashion.”
Yet neither presidential candidate was always dead-set against federal energy subsidies, and in 2008 they teamed up to lobby Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman to approve a federal loan guarantee to help NRG Energy expand a nuclear facility in Texas, The Washington Post reports:
On Wednesday, Perry spokesman Mark Miner said he thinks loan guarantees are not the same as “subsidizing” corporations, because a well-managed company will not default and leave taxpayers liable for repayment. The governor said energy promotion will be a hallmark of his jobs creation plan during the presidential campaign.
Through a spokesman, Paul defended his support for the local nuclear project as an effort to spend already-approved funding. He, along with 30 other Republicans, opposed the creation of the federal account in 2005. He also opposed the 2009 stimulus plan.
“As a Congressman and as President, Dr. Paul will work to eliminate all federal intervention in the energy market. However, until that happens, he will do his best to ensure that the money Congress appropriates is spent in the best way possible,” Jesse Benton, his aide, said in a statement.
† Separated at birth?: The death of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi at the hands of rebel forces puts to rest the rumor that he and former NY Gov. David Paterson were actually the same person (related article, second item on the page):
† Was Steve Jobs a closet Republican?: The Huffington Post gives a sneak peek at Walter Isaacson’s soon-to-be-released biography of the late Apple CEO, and this excerpt suggests that Jobs – who was never known to suffer fools gladly or otherwise -- was a not fan of President Barack Hussein Obama’s. Here is a description of a meeting between the two men a year ago (emphasis throughout, The Stiletto):
Jobs was characteristically blunt. He seemed to have transformed from a liberal into a conservative.
"You're headed for a one-term presidency," he told Obama at the start of their meeting, insisting that the administration needed to be more business-friendly. As an example, Jobs described the ease with which companies can build factories in China compared to the United States, where "regulations and unnecessary costs" make it difficult for them.
Jobs also criticized America's education system, saying it was "crippled by union work rules," noted Isaacson. "Until the teachers' unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform." Jobs proposed allowing principals to hire and fire teachers based on merit, that schools stay open until 6 p.m. and that they be open 11 months a year.
† Obama Creating Green Jobs That Americans Won’t Do: When Fisker got a $529 million federal government loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, Vice President Joseph Biden called the electric car manufacturer “a bright new path to thousands of American manufacturing jobs.” But two years later, “[w]ith the approval of the Obama administration … the job of assembling the flashy electric Fisker Karma sports car has been outsourced to Finland,” ABC News reports:
"There was no contract manufacturer in the U.S. that could actually produce our vehicle," the car company's founder and namesake told ABC News. "They don't exist here."
Henrik Fisker said the U.S. money so far has been spent on engineering and design work that stayed in the U.S., not on the 500 manufacturing jobs that went to a rural Finnish firm, Valmet Automotive.
"We're not in the business of failing; we're in the business of winning. So we make the right decision for the business," Fisker said. "That's why we went to Finland." …
In a lengthy interview, Fisker said he apprised the Department of Energy of his decision to assemble the high-priced Karma in Finland after he could not find an American facility that could handle the work. They signed off, he said, so long as he did not spend the federal loan money in Finland -- something he says the company has taken care to avoid. He said the decision, ultimately, was to help prevent his company from following the path of Solyndra, which exhausted nearly all of its loan money on a high-tech solar manufacturing plant in Freemont, California.
"If you just start doing like what Solyndra did, making a factory in a place where it was too expensive to manufacture … [you] obviously fail," he said.
Note that when Fisker says “handle the work,” he doesn’t mean the skill of the workers or the sophistication of the production facility. He means the regulatory and tax burden, plus high union salaries and inefficient work rules, that make the U.S. a less attractive place to do business than Finland.
But the Karma gets worse mileage than an SUV, meaning raising the issue of why Fisker received a government subsidy to promote “green energy” technology in the first place. Well, it turns out that one of the company’s major backers is CA-based venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. One Kleiner Perkins senior partner, billionaire partner John Doerr, just happens to be a member of President Barack Hussein Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness; another senior partner of the firm is former vice president Al Gore.
† Fed Up With Farmers: In a rare demonstration of bipartisanship, the Senate voted 84-15 to kill federal farm subsidies to farmers who already make more than $1 million a year (related article, eighth item on the page), The Washington Times reports:
The vote was stunning not just for the size of support, but also for the coalition it assembled — liberal Democrats eager to target millionaires, and conservative Republicans who want to see federal spending trimmed.
"Rather than taxing millionaires, the first thing we ought to do is quit giving them subsidies," said Sen. Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who offered the amendment to the massive spending bill the Senate was debating into the early morning hours Friday.
President Obama and his congressional allies have tried to impose a surtax on those with million-dollar incomes, but Republicans and a few Democrats have blocked those efforts each time, showing little stomach for tax increases.
Friday's vote, though, suggests that there may be some appetite for a more surgical strike at benefits that go to the wealthy.
But when it comes to farm subsidies, it’s always one step forward and one step back. A new farm bill will be introduced in the Senate that ends a $5 billion agricultural subsidy but replaces it with another one, The New York Times reports:
[L]awmakers and their farm lobby allies are seeking to send most of that money – under a new name – straight back to the same farmers, with most of the benefits going to large farms that grow commodity crops like corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton. …
Vincent H. Smith, a professor of farm economics at Montana State University, called the maneuver a bait and switch.
“There’s a persistent story that farming is on the edge of catastrophe in America and that’s why they need safety nets that other people don’t get,” he said. “And the reality is that it’s really a very healthy industry.” …
Lawmakers’ reluctance to simply eliminate a subsidy without adding another in its place demonstrates how difficult it is for Washington to trim the federal largess that flows to any powerful interest group. Indeed, the $5 billion program that lawmakers are willing to throw under the tractor, known as the direct payment program, was created in 1996 as a way to wean farmers off all such supports – and instead was made permanent a few years later.
The new subsidy is being championed by Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, and Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota.
† Oh, How Times Have Changed: Presidential candidate Herman Cain likes to say that he grew up "po" -- which is one rung below being "poor" on the economic ladder. Here's how he describes the difference between "po" and "poor" to CNN talk show host Piers Morgan:
Cain: Well, when your dad was working very, very hard, and we could only get lunch money one day a week to go to grade school, and the other four days our lunch consisted of whatever my mother could scrape together from the dinner the night before. We would have sandwiches with no meat, we might have sandwiches with jelly … they couldn't afford to give us a 25 cent coin for lunch money five days a week, and it was just my brother and I.
Morgan: What do you remember about that, the fact that you had so little?
Cain: What I remember most about having so little is we appreciated what little we had. We were thrilled when we could buy lunch on Fridays with the rest of the kids. It wasn't that it was that big a deal. And Friday's lunch was usually a hot dog, an apple, and a carton of milk but on that day we could go to the cafeteria and eat with the other kids.
As The Stiletto previously noted, “it has become a pedagogic article of faith that feeding children the meals at school that their parents should be providing at home is linked to better performance.” Cain got school lunch only once a week – unlike today’s mothers, Cain’s mother fed him breakfast and dinner at home (see related article; sixth item on the page) – but without the benefit of eating government-provided meals, he went on earn a BS in mathematics from Morehouse College, and an MS in computer science from Purdue – while working his way through school developing ballistics for fighter planes and aircraft carriers for the U.S. Navy.
† There’s No Such Thing As Free Healthcare: MA lawmakers are confronting the state’s spiraling health care costs, which RomneyCare “left unaddressed” (related article, tenth item on the page) and are working on legislation “to radically revamp the way doctors, hospitals and other health providers are paid,” The New York Times reports:
Although important details remain to be negotiated, the legislative leaders and Gov. Deval Patrick, all Democrats, are working toward a plan that would encourage flat “global payments” to networks of providers for keeping patients well, replacing the fee-for-service system that creates incentives for excessive care by paying for each visit and procedure. …
The networks would receive an annual fee for the care of each patient, with higher payments for patients deemed to be greater health risks and with bonuses for high-quality care. In theory, the healthier these so-called accountable care organizations can keep their patients, the more reimbursement they can pocket as profit. Insurers are already required to accept all applicants in Massachusetts, as will be the case nationally, in 2014, if the new federal health care law survives its legal and political challenges.
Per capita health spending in the state is 15 percent above the national average, and private health insurance premiums rose between 5 and 10 percent each year from 2007 to 2009. One goal of the new legislation is to hold health care spending increases to 3.9 percent a year three years after the global payments scheme goes into effect by “rein[ing] in the ability of the state’s most prestigious teaching hospitals and physicians’ groups to negotiate high rates of reimbursement.” Ronald Reagan warned about this five decades ago.
A survey by the Massachusetts Medical Society found that nearly 60 percent of physicians – and higher rates of specialists – said they were not likely to join a voluntary global payment system.