03 March 2012

Something occurs to me

I, as a political outcast (and thereby nutcase), have my own numerous bones to pick with the current administration. What is interesting me upon reflection is that conservatives have at least two ready made bones in the form of political missteps, or even scandals if they wish to label them as such, on which to pick their teeth and I've heard very little out of their candidates and spokespeople on these issues.
1) Fast and Furious, the DoJ gun-running to Mexican criminal gangs.
2) Solyandra, the DoE running money to specific firms.

As far as the second, it is kind of a complicated argument to say that the government shouldn't be involved in industrial policy by picking winners and losers within in a particular industry by favouring those firms with money or grants. Economics is already hard enough to explain without the specifics of complicated interactions and distortions behind government involvement in this way. Generally speaking, while I don't favor massive subsidies to green energy programmes and firms involved in said programmes, I'm not sure that a generally opposed view would conclude that the US government, or even the several states, should not be involved in sponsoring research into fields like solar panels or other forms of cleaner energy or otherwise incentivizing American businesses and citizens to adopt stronger energy efficiency in their methods or even providing a clearer disincentive to their consumption of less clean energy sources. I think better cases for clean energy than the methods being used by the administration are made when pointing out the difficulties of getting lower level forms of currently available energy generation off the ground. For instance, we have thousands of small dams that generate no electricity or could use smaller nuclear reactors (of the sort used to power our submarines as but one example) than are industrially sound within the energy sector and both of these, while not costless environmentally, are far better than coal and are possible to generate without substantial trade deficits (which I think are largely meaningless but which are politically unpopular). Or a better case is made when pointing out the distortions caused by substantial subsidies for housing and highway development increasing energy footprints, or local and state environmental legislation, however well-intended, which moves relatively useful development in desirable, low-footprint, locations like California into less desirable and high energy locations like West Texas or Arizona. I also think better cases are made by pointing out the inefficiency of our current and often substantial subsidies to ethanol, gasoline, oil, and coal and that negating many of these would have the, presumably, desirable effect of increasing the economic competitiveness of cleaner energy (and at the very least pushing us toward more efficient ethanol production than corn based fuels). I suspect then the reason this one gets no play is that
a) it's hard to explain to most people why it's a problem and Democrats can try to play the "we're trying to create green jobs" card in response. Which has actually very little to do with what they were doing in this instance.
b) A fuller explanation involves generally core Republican sponsors in the energy sector (oil and ethanol, though the latter is the bipartisan "corn"/agricultural lobby) getting screwed by a better and more efficient policy than we currently have. Meaning they're not going to bite the hand that feeds them. That presumably applies also to nixing the massive economic and environmental distortion that is the home mortgage interest deduction. That's not happening either.
c) It also generally is politically advantageous to continue to allow the wacky state level legislation to preference development and industry in moderate to heavily Republican states like Arizona or Texas as opposed to California. 

As far as the first scenario. I think honestly this ought to be a major liberal selling point against Obama more so than conservative. It involves guns, crime, the drug war, and immigration. Conservatives aren't going to make much hay on this because, until recently, most of the people who died were Mexicans or other Central Americans rather than "Americans", and thus are often viewed as unworthy of any humanity to their base. It involves guns and the presumed public response to any form of gun violence is something like "tighter gun laws" (the actual appropriate response to this case would be "don't use the government to encourage the selling of weapons to known criminals"). It involves the massive violence revolving around the American war on drugs and its spillover effects in places like Colombia, Afghanistan, or especially Mexico, and that war is, for whatever reason, very popular among conservatives. And so on.

What is left over instead is a sequence of increasingly absurd notions like a "war on religion". Something the Obama administration has actually been relatively good for the religious side of that "war" on (with a few notable exceptions like the weirdness of our health care insurance distribution system involving employer based exemptions on things like birth control, something that really shouldn't even be an issue because employers shouldn't be providing health insurance as a primary mode of receiving it in the first place and is thus hardly a religious issue but rather an economic efficiency problem). Or the more bizarre suppositions that he's some sort of secret Muslim (as though that would be unconscionably bad, and really the Islamophobia industrial complex is by far the most damning element of the right's behavior over the last several years. "Death panels" and a smattering of racist or horribly sexist remarks are serious issues for them, but not like this one), or some other secret form of non-American. Or that he has been "apologizing" for America. Even though he's expanded the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen, started a war in Libya, might still start something in Syria or Iran, and had Osama and several other prominent terrorists killed. Most of those complaints don't even make any logical sense and are directly refuted by easily available evidence. They're not even weak campaign messages as a result because they rally few, if any, independent voters to their cause and, in some cases, can work to actively repel them.

If this is the best they can do, I'd have to say, my usual course of throwing away my vote on third party candidacies is looking quite good (of course, I was intent on doing so years ago, to say nothing of months ago when this particular primary season began). I think they'd do better if they adopted even small portions of the two above problems and treated them with greater seriousness than to have CSPAN attention for a few Congressmen. Maybe that will happen in the general election but I rather doubt it given the list of candidates likely involved.
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