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This is my effort to share my thoughts with readers about concerns facing our country today.  I believe there is a good chance my grandchildren may be the first generation in the history of this great country not to have a better standard of living than their parents. If so, our generation is to blame. The clock is running out for damage control. .

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Friday
Dec192008

Words and Deeds

When President Obama speaks people faint. He is truly a great orator. On the heels of stutter bum (Bush) , he is even more impressive. But, whenever anyone in government speaks there is always a gap between the words and deeds. So many roadblocks to success.

When he introduced his green team, he spoke in glowing terms how this group would lead us forward to the promised land of energy independence though renewable fuels. Each of them said a few words about how they would make this happen. It's big stakes. We are betting our futures on them doing this. There will be no drilling onshore or offshore. It's a big lie. Had to lie since 85% of the public wanted it when gas prices were approaching $5, but no way will this administration do it. No nuclear. Always hedged on that.

It's this or nothing. Why am I skeptical? I think for good reason. For Chris Johnson and my other liberal contributors to this blog, I will use facts, something most liberals know little about. That's why Obama appeals to them, they run on emotions, not facts.

Since the late 70's the federal government has funneled billions of dollars into "Clean Coal". I could cite every effort and the cost of each, but it is both boring and sad. Here's a few. The energy policy of act of 2005 included more than $8 billion in subsidies for the coal industry. Since 1978,the federal government has invested $2.5 billion in clean coal technology. Bush had the clean coal power initiative in 2002 providing over $2 billion over 10 years. It's really hard to get a total handle on the dollars the government has dedicated to clean coal since the late 70's there have been so many efforts underway and so many dollars thrown around, but it's in the $20 billion range. 

Results. The Government Accountability Office has condemned the Clean Coal program as inefficient and a waste of taxpayer dollars. In 2001, the GAO stated: "From a management perspective, we found that many projects had experienced delays, cost overruns, bankruptcies, and performance problems." This project extends from Carter to Bush and all in between. So, not getting results for the dollars spent is not a partisan issue, it's a government inefficiency issue. Once again, the outfit that couldn't run the Chicken Ranch in Nevada could not manage billions in investment to provide clean coal. Since we are the Saudi Arabia of coal, it's kind of important. 

Now comes Obama. He thinks the government can find all the answers to renewable energy. He is putting it all on that outcome. He thinks the government can run the auto companies, the banks, and health care too.

How dumb are we? The government can't run the government let alone all these other subsidiaries. Why do we keep buying into this idea. How much evidence do we need before we tell them no more. As said before , when you put that last government issued log on the fire, remember you were one of the suckers born every minute who believed those sub marginal people on the green team could come though. 

This is what authority without accountability has always rendered. Disaster.

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    Words and Deeds - Journal - Our grandchildren will pay the price

Reader Comments (12)

Maybe they can convert this foot of snow global warming dumped on me to fuel?

December 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterScott King

Global warming and your foot of snow are both snow jobs. God delivered one and Al Gore the other.


Bill

December 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBill Robertson

<<Now comes Obama. He thinks the government can find all the answers to renewable energy. He is putting it all on that outcome. He thinks the government can run the auto companies, the banks, and health care too.>>

I find nothing in Obama's stated goals (I have actually read the fact sheets and campaign documents on Obama's website) that suggests that Obama's plans include running the auto companies or the banks or health care. Remember, it was the Bush Administration that chose to nationalize the financial services industry and bail out the titans of Wall Street. The Bush Administration has already blown through $350 billion doing that (let's not even mention the fact that they've used this money in ways that completely contradict what they said they were going to do with it). It's only in today's papers that we find them pushed into putting up less than 5% of that total to try and help protect the jobs of millions of middle class workers thoughout the country.

Oh and thanks again for the personal attention! Just so you have the facts about this liberal, I offer the following:
- I supported Barack Obama for President. I'm happy that he won and very hopeful that he'll bring about a change in our government's oil soaked priorities.
- I opposed the Wall Street bailout. I think that King Henry's execution of the bailout has been awful and hasn't done much of anything.
- I support help to the auto industry. I think that the management of GM, Chrysler and the UAW should be fired as part of any deal.
- I support the goal of eliminating our dependence on oil imported from dictatorships that wish us harm.
- I support the goal of diversifying our energy sources because it makes no sense to have all of our eggs in the oil addiction basket.
- I support offshore drilling for oil as long as it can be done responsibly. However, it is irresponsible to suggest that we can drill our way to energy independence.
- I would support an expansion of nuclear power if there was any credible way of dealing with the radioactive waste that will be deadly for thousands of years.
- I believe that there is a very high probability that global warming is a real problem caused by human activity and that we should be making investments to protect ourselves just as we make judgements about the probability of attacks from our enemies and make investments to our military to protect ourselves. I'm not so foolish to think that just because it snowed this week that global warming is just a product of Al Gore's imagination.
- I opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq and I think that we need to get out of there as quickly as we responsibily can. Nothing that has happened since that invasion has convinced me that Iraq possed a clear and present danger to us. The Bush Administration lied to us.
- I supported the invasion of Afganistan so that we could kill or capture those that actually attacked us and prevent it from happening again. We are losing ground in Afganistan because we have been distracted by our misadventures in Iraq.

You've done a lot of railing against the left and your impressions of the plans of the not-even-in-office-yet Obama Administration. I would be much more interested in your suggestions to fix some of the problems our country faces.

December 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChris Johnson

Hey Bill seeing as you think government can't do anything right how about you give back your Social Security checks and pay for your own medical care?

Fact is Chris makes a lot of sense except when he talks about US car companies and the UAW. Here are the facts courtesy of Car and Driver:

"Chrysler tied Toyota for productivity in car making as the best in North America, so say the results of the 2008 Harbour Report—the authority on automotive productivity—released June 5, 2008.

Once all the numbers were crunched—including the number of hours it takes for stamping, building transmissions, engines, and assembling vehicles—the two automakers finished in a dead heat at 30.37 hours per vehicle each.

In descending order, the rest of the pack are: Honda (31.33 hours), GM (32.29), Nissan (32.96), Ford (33.88), and Hyundai (35.10).

This near-parity is a far cry from a few years ago when the Japanese could out-produce the Big Three 2:1.

“But productivity doesn’t guarantee profitability,” Ron Harbour warns. The Japanese still make much more money on each car assembled and sold. The numbers are downright scary. Honda and Nissan make $1641 in pre-tax profit on every vehicle assembled, while the average profit on a Toyota is $922. Contrast that with $1467 lost by Ford per vehicle, a loss of $729 on average for GM, and $412 in the red on a Chrysler product."

With those kind of numbers you can understand why all car manufacturers fought congress over CAFE standards (with full complicity from the Republican party and Democrats from MI) to keep building large high profit margin vehicles. In lieu of government mandates, tax incentives for small car by buyers, serious gas guzzler taxes along with massive healthcare reform it was literally a life and death matter for US car makers. .

The American owned manufacturers aren't going broke because UAW workers make a lot more money than non-union workers. The difference is only about $3 an hour right now at the highest end of the pay scale. And on the lower rungs they all make about the same. Labor costs only account for 10% of the price of a vehicle anyway.

Here's the lie of omission Republicans tell (and Chris apparently hasn't bothered to fact check) when they blather about $70+ an hour Big Three labor costs vs. about $49 an hour for transplants: they don't mention that American car companies are on the hook for their retirees' pensions and healthcare. GM alone supports over 400,000 retirees in the US because they've been building cars here for a century. Toyota which has operated plants in the US for a couple of decades only has about 700 retirees here.

Outside the USA healthcare is provided by the host nation. That's a big reason why GM builds more cars in Ontario than Michigan today. It's also a big reason why we need to overhaul our national healthcare system. As it is the union and US car makers reached agreement last year on contracts that created a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, or VEBA, to be run by the UAW to take over an estimated $80 billion of retiree healthcare liabilities starting in 2010. Easing the pressure on carmakers from retiree healthcare costs was seen at the time as the single biggest concession the union could offer the companies. They pushed back the pay in dates for the car companies in the bailout negotiations and made all kinds of other concessions. But that was a stopgap measure at best. They started negotiating that pact in 2003 and it was all based on pre-crash economics.

What's killing everybody's car business is what's killing the rest of the economy: the credit market freeze. All car sales in the US (and worldwide) have been crushed:

(all figures compare November 2008 US sales with November 2007)
Chrysler -47%
GM -41%
Ford -31%
Toyota -34%
Nissan -42%
Honda -32%
Mazda -31%
Hyundai/Kia -39%
Volkswagen Group -22%
BMW Group (including Mini) -27%
Mercedes-Benz (including Smart) -30%

If it appears those CEOs don't know what they should do now it's because they don't and here's why:

10 best-selling models in May 2008

1. Honda Civic
2. Toyota Corolla/Matrix
3. Toyota Camry
4. Honda Accord
5. Ford F-series
6. Chevrolet Silverado
7. Nissan Altima
8. Ford Focus
9. Chevrolet Cobalt
10. Chevrolet Impala

10 best-selling models in November 2008

1. Ford F-series
2. Chevrolet Silverado
3. Toyota Camry
4. Toyota Corolla/Matrix
5. Honda Civic
6. Honda Accord
7. Dodge Ram
8. Chevrolet Impala
9. Honda CR-V
10. Nissan Altima

Even more disturbing here's the 11/08 drop off from 11/07 of fuel efficient models:

Toyota Prius -48% (the gold standard stumbles)
Toyota Corolla/Matrix -13%
Toyota Yaris -17%
Scion (all) -45%
Honda Civic -30%
Honda Fit -8%
VW Rabbit -44%
Nissan Versa -18%
Nissan Sentra -39%
Ford Focus -38%
Chevrolet Aveo -36%
Chevrolet Cobalt -54%
Pontiac Vibe -14%
Kia Spectra -33%
Hyundai Accent -11%

Nissan already cut production this year of 225,000 vehicles and the other day announced they're dropping production another 78,000. Toyota's new Prius plant in MS is now on hold. I could go on and on but the point here is everybody's business is in the toilet.

We need an industrial base in this country fellas and the Big Three are the biggest component of it. If you think bankrupting them and throwing millions of people out of work and/or stealing benefits from hundreds of thousands of their retirees is the answer then don't be surprised when your party continues to lose elections. The only way to save our car companies in the short term is to give them billions to ride out the credit freeze and then do what Paulson didn't: demand the bailed out banks loan that money. In the medium term the only way to save our car makers (and all American business) is to overhaul our healthcare system so our guys can compete on an even playing field with the rest of the world.

December 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermarkg8

NET ZERO

Our world needs to be serious about Appropriate Technology when it comes to the energy issues and climate change we have.

The political world wants to use Alternative Energy. This does not address the reduction of the waste as the energy is passed through the system. Please do not misunderstand, Alternative Energy has its place but is not the cure all for our immediate issues.

Or world need to be putting the majority of our dollars and resources (man power) into the reduction of what we consume first. Only then should we be investing in technologies that we have no idea on how long it will take to bring them to market. Let’s use the 80-20 rule, 80% into what we have and 20% into new.

We already have off the shelf technology to build houses that are true Net Zero (meaning no utility bill). So why are we not doing this? You the consumer need to demand this from your local codes, architect, builder, and manufacture of the appliances and products in your home. And if the home does not perform as promised all should be held accountable,

We can even make the majority of existing homes at least 60-80% more efficient then they are. Through a Home Performance Evaluation by a qualified Building Science Person, then remediation by a company that knows how to do Home Performance Remediation. Then a test out to be sure the house performs. This is by products that are off the shelf and are available today!!!

So instead of looking for the silver bullet approach lets do the thousands of silver bb’s and reduce our consumption along with the technology we have to use renewable energy. Together these two avenues will lead us to the desired goal, less pollution, reduced climate change, less dependence on fossil fuels, many jobs and we can start today.

For those who do not believe homes can be so energy efficient look at the Austrian Passive Home.

And this is only what can be done in the residential market that uses about 21.75% (http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/diagram1.html) of our nation’s energy. There are huge efficiency increases that can be made in the other sectors. This along with Renewable Energy could make the world NET ZERO, what a thought.

Andy Wahl
Whole House Performance
Our 23 yr old house produces more electricity than we consume. This is year 7 of our 2.8 KW PV system. Each year we work on a project to reduce our energy bill.

December 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAndy Wahl

Chris, Mark, and Andy:

Chris, you're welcome for the plug. Never got the aplology for the attack on Obama's gifts to the U.N. I'm sure it was just an omission. Thanks for your list of things you support. Still don't know if you believe the government can make the renewable energy thing work.

Mark, I have low expectations of drawing social security very long and you should count on none. Appreciate all the data on the auto industry. Guess it gets down to whether you beieve people would buy cars from a bankrupt company. GM is a benefits company that makes cars, eh?

Andy, working on the demand side is a big part of our challenge. Look what it's done to oil prices the last few months. I'm stlll not sure how we fly airplanes on wind and solar.

Bill

December 20, 2008 | Registered CommenterBill Robertson

Bill we can afford to pay your Social Security checks but we can't afford your Medicare. There's nothing wrong with SS despite what you've heard - except it's politicized leadership - another legacy of the Bushies.

The Social Security Administration uses 2% of the money it collects to run the program. Most of what it takes in is paid out to current recipients and the surplus is used to buy US Treasury bonds, the safest investment paper on the planet for the SS Trust Fund . George Bush called those bonds "worthless IOUs". If that's the case then he's screwed himself because most of his money is in US treasuries too.

A little historical background is in order here. We've been building that Trust Fund since 1983. When Reagan and the Republican party got their butts handed to them in the mid term elections in 1982 for trying to cut SS Reagan and Tip O'Neill agreed to set up a commission headed by Alan Greenspan to solve what was then a looming problem. With stagflation raging in the late 70s and early 80s the SSA was hemorrhaging cash as annual cost of living increases were threatening to outstrip revenue coming into the system. And unless we increased SS taxes to put aside money for the future there'd indeed be no way for my huge generation of baby boomers to ever collect.

Greenspan's team recommended doubling payroll (FICA) taxes. Congress passed the bill and Reagan signed it into law. Last time I looked it up there was about $1.7 trillion dollars in the Trust Fund.

Congress borrows that money back, about $200 billion a year, by buying more treasury bonds. They've put that money to work to paper over part of the massive budget deficits brought on by dumb tax cuts Republicans have insisted on all these years. That may be kicking the can down the road but the government might as well stuff the money in mattresses if they're not gonna put it to work. And the Trust Fund needs to earn interest to grow.

You might remember Al Gore's lockbox from 2000. He was going to strengthen the SSTF even more by making sure every dollar of our then US budget surplus went into it. While the oh so liberal media mocked him for talking about it so much even Bush agreed. Of course it didn't take long for Bush to break that promise and squander the budget surplus on tax cuts that went mostly to the rich.

The Social Security Administration makes annual best, middle and worst case projections for the Trust Fund's solvency. While making economic predictions 10 years into the future let alone 30 or 60 years is dicey at best, the best case scenario over the last 30 years has historically been the most accurate.The worst case scenario is 2041, the middle case 2070, and the best case projection says it remains solvent forever. Of course the politicized SSA under Bush used the worst case scenario 2041 as the year the Fund would go dry while comparing it to a best case scenario for the stock market when he was trying to privatize SS in 2005.

But for the sake of argument let's say the world goes to hell in a handbasket, stays there and the TF is drained by 2041. Then current tax receipts will still pay out about 75% of benefits to then current recipients.

That's the good part. But by about 2018 payroll taxes won't completely cover payouts anymore. That surplus we're using to buy T-bonds to put in the TF is going to flip into deficit as baby boomers retire en masse. To solve that problem we're going to have to tap the TF, that's what we built it up for. So how do we do that? Congress will have to do some or all of the following:

A. carve money out of the regular US budget to cash out those
bonds.

B. Borrow more money by Issuing more bonds

C. Attract and legalize many more young immigrants to rebuild the
tax base.

Like I said Medicare is the real problem but that's a subject for another post.

December 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermarkg8

Mark:

Agree with you data. One flaw.. all assues a certain level of employment. If unemployment cotinues to rise all bets are off. It will look more like Madoffs Ponzi Scheme, which it does resemble. I have paid in more in than I will even get back. Also, health insurance is a whole different critter. Try to find a dentist in the UK. No wonder we joke about their teeth.

Bill

December 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBill Robertson

"all assumes a certain level of employment. If unemployment continues to rise all bets are off"

Well all the more reason to keep the Big Three and their suppliers in business. Putting three million more people out of work isn't going to help us stop a slide into economic depression.

December 22, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermarkg8

Social Security is basically an insurance program. It insures us against abject poverty in our retirement years. It's not a Ponzi scheme at all.

I don't have dental insurance and haven't been to a dentist in a decade. But thanks to those commies who put fluoride in our water way back when I don't have any problems with my teeth. ;-)

December 22, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermarkg8

By the time you need to go all you will get from the commies is wooden ones like George Washington had. Heh, they worked for him, why not?


Bill

December 27, 2008 | Registered CommenterBill Robertson

In honor of the Manuscript Division's centennial, its staff has selected for online display approximately ninety representative documents spanning from the fifteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. Included are the papers of presidents, cabinet ministers, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, military officers and diplomats, reformers and political activists, artists and writers, scientists and inventors, and other prominent Americans whose lives reflect our country's evolution. Most of the selected items fall within one of eight major themes or categories which reflect the division's strengths. Each of these themes is the focus of a separate essay containing links to digital reproductions of selected documents. A detailed description accompanies each document, and additional information about the parent collections may be obtained by following links to catalog records and finding aids.

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