The Climate Money Trail

One of the most lucid recent commentaries that addresses the question of climate politics and money is by Australia’s Joanne Nova, who posted “The Money Trail” on March 4th. As we wonder again whether the consensus of scientists regarding climate change – if there ever was such a thing – is now unraveling in the wake of climategate, glaciergate, amazongate, methanegate, etc., it is important to also take another look at the money trail.

My own position on climate change has been consistent for many years. Back in 1995, when I launched www.ecoworld.com, I was determined, among other things, to present both sides of the climate change debate. A post from 2008 entitled “Environmentalist Priorities and the Global Warming Scare” offers links to dozens of reports EcoWorld published on the issue of climate change. These reports provide ample references to primary sources of data, and document a growing conviction that anthropogenic CO2 emissions have little to do with any recent climate change, that predictions of impending catastrophic climate events are improbable, and that the cure is worse than the disease. But what about following the money?

A June 2009 CIV FI post entitled “The Climate Alarm Industry” lists several reasons why it is ludicrous to accuse climate skeptics of being motivated by financial incentives, when the financial incentives to be a climate alarmist are several orders of [...] Read More

No Profits, No Pensions

California Gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown knows he’s in a fight. His presumptive Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, not only is doing a good job presenting herself as a socially moderate, fiscally conservative candidate, but she has abundant personal wealth she can tap in order to finance her campaign. So Jerry Brown has to turn to the only reliable source of campaign cash out there, the public employee unions.

In Joel Fox’s report of March 22nd entitled “Brown Embraces the Public Unions,” Fox quotes Brown as saying “California’s fiscal problems are not the unions’ fault but that of Wall Street and corporations.” Get ready for a campaign season filled with more bashing of corporations. And here are some reasons why this rhetoric is absurd, nihilistic, corrosive, deceptive, utterly bankrupt, and at least to-date, tragically effective:

Public sector unions are by far the most powerful source of campaign cash in California. They can pretty much spend as much as they want to make sure their candidates get elected, and their opponents are defeated. Without these unions, Jerry Brown wouldn’t have a chance against Meg Whitman. But is Brown only singing the union song in order to get their financial support? After all, in late February 2010, in a closed meeting with a group of California business leaders, Brown admitted the single greatest mistake he made as Governor back in the 1970’s was his decision to sign legislation allowing public sector workers to unionize.

Public sector unions [...] Read More

The Razor’s Edge – Inflation vs. Deflation

Deficit spending has been touted as a potential driver of inflation, because only with devalued (inflated) currency can we hope to erode the real value of our mounting levels of government debt. Continuing to print U.S. dollars, it is claimed, can only lead to too many dollars in the system, and hence a devalued dollar. We should be so lucky.

A few years ago, in Sept. 2007, in a post entitled “Inflation vs. Deflation,” I cited a recent (at the time) quote from Paul Kasriel, an economist with The Northern Trust Co. in Chicago. He explained the danger of deflation quite well, describing what happened in Japan:

“Japan experienced a deflation in recent years because the bursting of its asset-price bubble in the early 1990s created huge losses in its banking system. The Japanese banks had financed the asset-price bubble. When it burst, the debtors could not keep current on their loans to the banks and therefore were forced to turn back the collateral to the banks. The market value of the collateral, of course, was less than the amount of the loans outstanding, thereby inflicting huge losses of capital to the Japanese banks. With the decline in bank capital, the Japanese banks could not extend new credit to the private sector even though the Bank of Japan was offering credit to the banks at very low nominal rates of interest.”

Another way to put this is as follows: Liquidity is a function of two [...] Read More

Nonpartisan Healthcare Legislation

This phrase, “nonpartisan healthcare legislation,” is an oxymoron, unfortunately, but let’s try. And in the interests of full disclosure, my preference is to see private institutions continue to bear the primary responsibility for providing healthcare in America. So rather than moving healthcare into government-run programs, the primary goal of healthcare legislation should be to rewrite the regulations that govern healthcare. The marketplace can deliver healthcare more efficiently than the government, providing more quality healthcare to more people for less money – but to do this in an equitable manner, good regulations are essential. An earlier post, “Healthcare in America” listed some of these ideas – this post is to elaborate on those and add a few ideas that aren’t getting the discussion they deserve:

(1) Allow individuals the same tax deductions for their health insurance premium payments as businesses receive. No special breaks or special fees, no ceilings or floors on eligibility for the deduction, nothing. Whatever an individual or an employer spends for healthcare is deductible, and whatever healthcare benefits an individual receives are not taxable.

(2) Make it easier for associations and organizations to offer group health insurance plans, instead of only favoring companies who may or may not provide an individual a job for life. This is the only realistic way individuals who have the financial means to purchase quality healthcare, but don’t work for a company that has a group plan, to ensure their health insurance won’t be canceled if they [...] Read More

The Once & Future Governor Jerry Brown

Yesterday the 71 year old Jerry Brown made his formal entry into the California Governor’s race. In a three minute announcement posted on www.jerrybrown.org, he highlighted his experience as well as took some indirect shots at his opponents. What kind of a Governor Jerry Brown was, and what kind of a Governor he would make, are an interesting topic for discussion.

Jerry Brown first served as Governor of California in the years 1975 to 1983. Elected when he was only 36 years old, Brown inherited a State that was experiencing one of the best economies in its history. The first efflorescence of the high-tech boom happened during Brown’s years as Governor, it was also the heyday of the west-coast aerospace boom. Other sectors of the State’s economy, from housing to agriculture, and everything in between, had not yet fallen prey to the plague of over-regulation and environmentalist gridlock that has since diminished opportunities in the Golden State. Brown presided over some very good years for California.

Brown is still criticized by mainstream journalists for being Governor when Proposition 13 was passed. This is guilt by association at most, he campaigned hard against the initiative. But when Prop. 13 passed, something happened that is instructive about Jerry Brown – he implemented it with a vengeance. He respected the will of the voters. Something the critics ignore, however, is that Prop. 13 didn’t hinder California’s ability to balance its budget, it was something else Jerry Brown did that caused [...] Read More