Remember the good old days when Barack Obama was campaigning for president on the vacuous pledges of hope and change without saying exactly what changes we should hope for? Well, now he’s beginning to fill in the blanks with actual policy proposals, and it’s becoming clearer by the minute that vacuous was better.
For starters, there’s his comprehensive plan to control global warming and gain energy independence through a bureaucratic nightmare of controls, technological razzle-dazzle, discredited biofuel reliance and spending you wouldn’t believe. In just a couple of decades, our oil consumption will be down 35 percent, he says, but here’s my guess — the only thing going down will be the economy.
The global warming attack will come through cap-and-trade voodoo, a complex scheme that any number of economists have said would be only a fraction as effective as a simple, direct, but politically perilous carbon tax. Even the supposed need for a straightforward tax assumes we know enough about global warming to inflict this pain on ourselves. We don’t.
Our hero isn’t through yet, however, because he has this vision of taking alternative fuels that now produce a minute percentage of our energy needs and — through legislation and big bucks — prodding them into producing huge amounts of those needs. Someday we will likely have some technological breakthroughs of significance, but we have incentives enough to accomplish that in the free market, and we know for a fact that you cannot mandate new technology through the passage of bills.
A captive of the ethanol lobby (remember his yakking about the horrors of special interests?), Obama can’t get over his biofuels fixation despite all the evidence of the environmental and other harm, the costs and the minimal energy savings. While the next generation of biofuels is supposed to take us past all of this, that’s unsure even if we get to that second generation, which is far from given.
Let’s move on to another round of kissy-face with a special interest and another calamitous policy idea. Obama loves unions. He wants what they want, and what they want is a way of cheating workers out of secret ballots in deciding whether to form a union at a workplace.
The unions argue that having workers form their union through the simple device of signing cards is a way of keeping employers from rewarding or punishing them for their stance. But how do votes in secret enable employers to know who to reward or who to punish? The use of the cards is instead a means of allowing the unions to bring their own coercive pressure to bear, and for Obama to go along with this — to support a bill effecting this option — is an unprincipled outrage.
There’s much more, but let’s end up with just briefly reviewing how the candidate wants to spend us into oblivion.
The money for research on alternative fuels comes to $15 billion a year. Then, we are reminded, there’s $65 billion overall for his health insurance plan. He’s got a $6 billion-a-year plan for an infrastructure bank. He wants to establish a national service at $3.5 billion, and he wants to up foreign aid by $25 billion a year and education outputs by $18 billion a year.
He wants to give workers who don’t pay any income tax three times as much in "refunds" as they now get. His tax credit ideas come to tens of billions, and while he has lots of ideas for new taxes, they won’t pay for all of this or do much to offset some of his plans for tax reductions elsewhere.
Supposedly, these programs will generate jobs and make us more productive. The problem being that taking so much money out of the private economy could do the opposite. Debatable? Maybe. If Obama wins office and the Democrats extend their congressional control, we just may get a real-world test of the new Obama’s specific ideas.
(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)