Archive for July, 2011

The country can afford to pay its debt; it can’t afford to waste money

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

If the 14th Amendment says the validity of the debt shall not be questioned, then I guess every newspaper is violating the 14th Amendment as it discusses what might happen “if” the government stops paying on its debts.  But the whole idea is foolish.
As with anybody responsible, you don’t just stop paying your creditors.  First you cut out the luxuries.  Then you start negotiating with your creditors while you work out how to cut back on the necessities too.  You keep paying your debts, if you ever want anyone to lend you money ever again.
I don’t think we need to spend a billion dollars this year on NIDA, which exists solely to “prove” that already-illegal drugs are bad for you.  I don’t think we need to spend a billion dollars on a subway that will only run 17 blocks under San Francisco to Chinatown.  I don’t think we need to spend billions and billions monthly on killing people in other countries that never did us any harm.  Federal employment is not a right, and a bunch of federal employees might need to find other jobs.  Subsidies for farmers, oil companies, tobacco growers, could all be cut tomorrow with few negative effects.  The federal government doesn’t have to pay top wages on every construction job as a handout to union labor, either.  We could even consider closing Guantanamo — legalized torture doesn’t come cheap either.  We can vastly reduce what we spend on such things before we will ever have a problem being able to pay the interest on the debt.  But up til now there was zero pressure to STOP spending money on all these “luxuries” (or “bad ideas” if you prefer).

I’m GLAD that the country is finally having a public debate over how to put our fiscal house in order.  Insane profligacy by Congress and the President spending “other peoples’ money” has gotten us here, and the only cure is to stop doing that.  It would’ve been smart to stop last year, or last decade, rather than trying to stop suddenly at the start of August, but that’s the idiocy of Washington for you.

Gov’t lying, as usual, about banning lightbulbs

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu manages to fit a few lies into his press release (also repeated at the White House blog) such as “The standards do NOT ban incandescent bulbs.”  As usual, when a high government official’s mouth is moving, lies are coming out.  Indeed the “standards”, i.e. the law, DOES ban the vast majority of incandescent bulbs.  Perhaps he meant to say “The standards do NOT ban ALL incandescent bulbs.”  They just ban all the common and cheap incandescent bulbs.

The government spends all its time telling us how great some new bulb products are, without deigning to answer why, if those things are so great, people have to be forced to buy them by banning competing products. They even have the gall to compare this transition to “the change from VCRs to DVDs” — a transition in which CONSUMERS decided which product to buy, rather than bureaucrats.

My own experience with LED bulbs is that these “long life” bulbs tend to fail within weeks.  The LEDs may be perfectly fine, but the electronics around them fail much more quickly than ordinary incandescent bulbs.  I’m a big fan of LEDs; I give away more than a thousand LED flashlights every year.  But after returning three successive LED bulbs to the manufacturer after each failed within a month, I swore off AC-powered LED bulbs until they debug the damn things.  And CFLs don’t work with dimmers — and my entire house is fitted with dimmers (which save energy).  I even got the “dimmable” CFLs; they failed within weeks as well.

Here’s another example of how the Energy Department lies by omission.  Their FAQ asks, “What is the cost difference between the new lights and my incandescent bulbs? How much money will I save when I switch to these new bulbs?“, then doesn’t answer the question, because the answer is politically incorrect.  The answer is that the banned bulbs are cheaper to buy than all the ones left after the ban.  So the real effect of the ban is to force consumers to pay more today, on the theory that if the bulbs last long enough and if the energy price is as projected, they’ll eventually perhaps save money.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the real impetus behind passing this law was campaign donations from companies that make these expensive bulbs. It’s “too hard” to compete with cheap, familiar products unless the government bans them to make the innovator’s life so much easier.

Consumers, stockpile incandescent bulbs!  It’ll be so much easier than getting a friend to illegally ship them to you from a free country later.  Meanwhile, work on removing the rats in Washington from having any power over the sinking ship of the United States.