Saturday, October 04, 2014

The Pied Piper of Green . . .

God bless Howie Hawkins . . . I always enjoy listening to an intelligent conversation about current issues and politics, and you can count on that from Mr. Hawkins, rather than the public-relations focus-group-tested  rhetoric you get from mainstream politicians.  Mr. Hawkins elevates the grade-level of the discourse, and for that you have to welcome him and thank him.

Nevertheless, Mr. Hawkins, in the report of his presentation to the OD Editorial Board, really offers nothing more to the voters of New York State than promises of what many would like to see . . . a Utopian vision if you will . . . of things that have already been tried but would end up causing more harm than good in the long run.
Employment assurance: People who are unemployed will be able to find full employment by doing community service or public work.
Roosevelt's WPA may have put people to work, but it prolonged the Depression by distorting market forces... keeping people in "public" make-work jobs rather than jobs in the private sector doing things for which there is a demand. This has been done before (Soviet Russia) and does not work. When the government puts people to work, it builds things that bureaucrats want rather than things that people (i.e., the "market") want . . . Remember the Yugo? I wonder how Mr. Hawkins feels about "workfare?"
Affordable housing . . .it matters in New York City and other larger areas...
Not necessarily . . . There is plenty of "affordable housing" in Detroit . . . and there will be in New York City, too, once the green ideas take hold.
. . . increasing the minimum wage - possibly to $15 per hour
This is the "living wage" shibboleth: That everyone, whatever their job, should be paid enough to support themselves and their families. While "living wage" is a nice outcome . . . and has actually been achieved in some places without government mandate (like North Dakota where fracking is allowed, or Switzerland which has no minimum wage) it is a distortion of the "market" and ultimately must fail unless the entire economy is government rather than "market" controlled (which again, like Soviet Russia, ultimately will fail). YOU pay someone wages based on the perceived value of services YOU receive in return. If a minimum wage is set, that means that people earning the minimum are most likely NOT providing a commensurate value of services in return . . . YOU are "overpaying" them. Of course, value is relative to the local economy. If it is humming with near zero unemployment, then you will likely pay a "living wage" to others to get menial tasks done.
Clean energy . . . “To me, it’s a no-brainer,” Hawkins said. “Lower electric costs, full employment, clean energy. That’s the way to go.”
No-brains is more like it! Wishing does not make these things so. It's time that we learn from others.  As already noted in der Spiegel, the German "green energy" policies have turned electricity into a luxury item -- busting the "lower electric bills" myth. In Spain the promise of "green energy" lead to a 26% unemployment rate! So much for "full employment."  And Clean?  How clean is it with windmills chewing up and solar reflectors frying birds?  With entire landscapes covered with windmills or solar panels?  And with landscapes festooned with powerlines?  What happens when these "large footprint" projects fail . . . or just get old and wear out?

Mr. Hawkins says things that a lot of people like to hear . . . like children enjoying a fairy tale.  And the more plausible-sounding the tale, the greater the enjoyment. . . . But it is still a tale.

Mr. Hawkins is the Pied Piper of Green.    


Anonymous said...

Yawn .... Why not make the minimum wage 30 or better yet 40 dollars an hour.What is magical about 15 dollars? Just trying to keep the poor man down. If the current minimum is too low how can anyone object to a raise $40 or is that TOO HIGH? After all there has to be limits .

Anonymous said...

I don't know whether FDR's WPA prolonged the depression or not. But, it did help millions of breadwinners & their families from starving to death by providing employment to those who had no job & no prospects of finding one. Not to mention the thousands of public works projects that were built, many of those still standing today as a monument of what men & women can accomplish if given the opportunity. For that alone the WPA should be lauded. Unless you subscribe to the theory that hard working Americans & their families should be allowed to practically starve because of some political differences.

Strikeslip said...

Anonymous 5:39 - "Hard working Americans" (I presume you mean those who intend to be hard working) should not be allowed to starve. A WPA type of scheme by itself would not be a bad idea for these people -- but is this needed on top of the myriad of social welfare programs that we have now to keep people from starving which were not available during Roosevelt's time? That is why I mentioned "workfare" in my post because "workfare" has some similarities with a WPA type of program. "Workfare" after it was implemented in the 90s (with the cooperation of BOTH political parties) ultimately removed a lot of people from the welfare rolls, by giving them practical experience that could be used to secure employment in the private sector, and giving them a sense of pride that would be a disincentive to living off the taxpayers -- which had become a way of life for some families. Unfortunately workfare has been jettisoned under the current administration.

Another thing to consider if WPA were re-implemented today: The workers would be Unionized (something that Roosevelt was against for government employees) and would expect Union wages and benefits. With jobs like that, there would be no incentive to look for work in the private sector.

If WPA were re-implemented today, what "public works" would be built? Will they be needed projects like a renewed Tappan-Zee bridge? Or projects like the ones at Griffiss "International" Airport for which there is no market (and, ultimately, no value)? In a sense, we may already have the 21st Century version of WPA at Nano Utica since the taxpayers are essentially paying for those jobs. Whether real "value" will be produced, only time will tell.

Strikeslip said...

PS The truth about what ended the Great Depression