George F. Will on Obamanomics

Steven Laib stevenlaib at SBCGLOBAL.NET
Mon Aug 25 12:48:51 MDT 2008


Little Rhetoric Riding Hood

By George F. Will
Sunday, August 24, 2008; B07

<http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/Barack+Obama?tid=informline>Barack 
Obama has made his economic thinking excruciatingly clear, so it also 
is clear that his running mate should be Rumpelstiltskin. He spun 
straw into gold, a skill an Obama administration will need to fulfill 
its fairy-tale promises.

Obama recently said that he would "require that 10 percent of our 
energy comes from renewable sources by the end of my first term -- 
more than double what we have now." Note the verb "require" and the 
adjective "renewable."

By 2012 he would "require" the economy's huge energy sector to -- 
here things become comic -- supply half as much energy from renewable 
sources as already is being supplied by just one potentially 
renewable source. About 20 percent of America's energy comes from 
nuclear energy produced using fuel rods, which, when spent, can be 
reprocessed into fresh fuel.

Obama is (this is part of liberalism's catechism) leery of nuclear 
power. He also says -- and might say so even if Nevada were not a 
swing state -- that he distrusts the safety of Nevada's 
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/Yucca+Mountain?tid=informline>Yucca 
Mountain for storage of radioactive waste. Evidently he prefers 
today's situation -- nuclear waste stored at 126 inherently insecure 
above-ground sites in 39 states, within 75 miles of where more than 
161 million Americans live.

But back to requiring this or that quota of energy from renewable 
sources. What will that involve? For conservatives, seeing is 
believing; for liberals, believing is seeing. Obama seems to believe 
that if a particular outcome is desirable, one can see how to require 
it. But how does that work? Details to follow, sometime after noon 
Jan. 20, 2009.

Obama has also promised that "we will get 1 million 
150-mile-per-gallon plug-in hybrids on our roads within six years." 
What a tranquilizing verb "get" is. This senator, who has never run 
so much as a 
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/International+Dairy+Queen+Inc.?tid=informline>Dairy 
Queen, is going to get a huge, complex industry to produce, and is 
going to get a million consumers to buy, these cars. How? Almost 
certainly by federal financial incentives for both -- billions of 
dollars of tax subsidies for automakers and billions more to bribe 
customers to buy cars they otherwise would spurn.

Conservatives are sometimes justly accused of ascribing magic powers 
to money and markets: Increase the monetary demand for anything, and 
the supply of it will expand. But it is liberals such as Obama who 
think that any new technological marvel or other social delight can 
be summoned into existence by a sufficient appropriation. Once they 
thought "model cities" could be, too.

Where will the electricity for these million cars come from? Not 
nuclear power (see above). And not anywhere else, if Obama means 
this: "I will set a hard cap on all carbon emissions at a level that 
scientists say is necessary to curb global warming -- an 80 percent 
reduction by 2050."

No, he won't. Steven Hayward of the 
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/American+Enterprise+Institute+for+Public+Policy+Research?tid=informline>American 
Enterprise Institute notes that in 2050 there will be 420 million 
Americans -- 40 million more households. So Obama's cap would require 
reducing per capita carbon emissions to levels probably below even 
those "in colonial days when the only fuel we burned was wood."

Regarding taxes, Obama says that "we don't want to return to marginal 
rates of 60 or 70 percent." The top federal rate was 70 percent until 
the Reagan cuts of 1981. It has since ranged between 50 in 1982 and 
today's 35. Obama promises that expiration of the Bush tax cuts will 
restore the 39.6 percent rate. He also favors a payroll tax of up to 
4 percent on earnings above $250,000 (today, only the first $102,000 
is taxed), most of which also are subject to the highest state income 
tax rates. When the top federal rate was set at 28 percent under 
Reagan, payroll taxes were not levied on income over $42,000, so the 
top effective rate of combined taxes was under 35 percent. Obama's 
policies would bring it to the mid-50s for many Americans, close to 
the 60 percent Obama considers excessive.

There never is a shortage of nonsensical political rhetoric, but 
really: Has there ever been solemn silliness comparable to today's 
politicians tarting up their agendas as things designed for, and 
necessary to, "saving the planet," and promising edicts to "require" 
entire industries to reorder themselves?

In 1996, 
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/related/topic/Bob+Dole?tid=informline>Bob 
Dole, citing the Clinton campaign's scabrous fundraising, exclaimed: 
"Where's the outrage?" In this year's campaign, soggy with 
environmental messianism, deranged self-importance and delusional 
economics, the question is: Where is the derisive laughter?

<mailto:georgewill at washpost.com>georgewill at washpost.com
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