Blaming the need for Generators on tax cuts? Income Inequality??

by Skip

“It’s manifestly silly (and highly polluting) for every fine home to have a generator. It would make more sense to invest those resources in the electrical grid so that it wouldn’t fail in the first place….So time and again, we see the decline of public services accompanied by the rise of private workarounds for the wealthy.”

I read this column by “vaunted” NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff and stared at amazement at the words that stuttered across my eyeballs.  What was I missing?  How come I could not divine the missing links to how the heck he starts off with one observation and lays blame on something that seems to be totally unconnected?  Look, he’s a high priced NY professional journalist and I’m just a ordinary schlub in central New Hampsha – is that it? Or is it because he’s a prominent member of the circle of stratospheric Lefties and I’m just a grassroots Rightist?  A “thinker” vs “knuckledragger” (as some on the Left tolerantly call folks like me)?  Are we on the Conservative side of the aisle, TEA Party philosophy, just incapable of understanding such lofty sentiments about how the need for generators is totally because some people have too much and the Government won’t take it away from them (reformatted and emphasis mine):

In upper-middle-class suburbs on the East Coast, the newest must-have isn’t a $7,500 Sub-Zero refrigerator. It’s a standby generator that automatically flips on backup power to an entire house when the electrical grid goes out. In part, that’s a legacy of Hurricane Sandy. Such a system can cost well over $10,000, but many families are fed up with losing power again and again.  (A month ago, I would have written more snarkily about residential generators. But then we lost power for 12 days after Sandy — and that was our third extended power outage in four years. Now I’m feeling less snarky than jealous!)

 More broadly, the lust for generators is a reflection of our antiquated electrical grid and failure to address climate change. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave our grid, prone to bottlenecks and blackouts, a grade of D+ in 2009.   So Generac, a Wisconsin company that dominates the generator market, says it is running three shifts to meet surging demand. About 3 percent of stand-alone homes worth more than $100,000 in the country now have standby generators installed…

 Every time I see “our”, I just shake my head.  So, Conflation #1 – We all own that grid according to St. Nich.  Hmmm, last time I knew, the majority of that grid is owned by large publicly owned companies (or, like here in NH, a co-op).  Sure, there are some electrical systems that are metropolitan in nature – the city owns it.  That means, in THAT case, that “we” own it – but only if you are a resident of that town, yes?

“Demand for generators has been overwhelming, and we are increasing our production levels,” Art Aiello, a spokesman for Generac, told me.

 That’s how things often work in America. Half-a-century of tax cuts focused on the wealthiest Americans leave us with third-rate public services, leading the wealthy to develop inefficient private workarounds.  It’s manifestly silly (and highly polluting) for every fine home to have a generator. It would make more sense to invest those resources in the electrical grid so that it wouldn’t fail in the first place.   But our political system is dysfunctional: in addressing income inequality, in confronting climate change and in maintaining national infrastructure.

 Let’s go back – we had a hurricane that stretches 1,000 miles in diameter that causes a lot of damage to personal and public property, and the reason why Generac is having a great time (assuming they have the cash flow to pay for the jump in labor and material costs to ramp up) is “wealthiest Americans”? Conflation #2 (yes, multipart):

  • Because some people are rich, the rest of us suffer(ah yes, class warfare)
  • Er, wouldn’t St. Nich belong to that former group – so is this a case of self-loathing? (class warfare with himself?)
  • Again, the electrical system belongs to COMPANIES – not to the PUBLIC (“all ur stuff belongs to US”)
  • By what mechanism does St. Nich believe workable to re-direct that money (by stationing watchers at every counter such that when the money is about to be exchanged, the watcher snatches it and gives it to a lineman and say “go!  string more up!”)
  • And those nasty rich people, how DARE they think about themselves and their families and not provide for the rest of society!
  • national infrastructure – tell me, sir, how well is NYC and other large cities doing in just keeping up with the potholes (given that your mayor is so busy with
  • trans-fats, guns, and Big Gulps)?

He continues with a screed fully up there with an Occupier:

So time and again, we see the decline of public services accompanied by the rise of private workarounds for the wealthy.  Is crime a problem? Well, rather than pay for better policing, move to a gated community with private security guards!  Are public schools failing? Well, superb private schools have spaces for a mere $40,000 per child per year.   Public libraries closing branches and cutting hours? Well, buy your own books and magazines!   Are public parks — even our awesome national parks, dubbed “America’s best idea” and the quintessential “public good” — suffering from budget cuts? Don’t whine. Just buy a weekend home in the country!   Public playgrounds and tennis courts decrepit? Never mind — just join a private tennis club!   I’m used to seeing this mind-set in developing countries like Chad or Pakistan, where the feudal rich make do behind high walls topped with shards of glass; increasingly, I see it in our country. The disregard for public goods was epitomized by Mitt Romney’s call to end financing of public broadcasting.

Ah yes, blame EVERYTHING on those rich people who choosing where to live, exercise their freedom to school choice and the like.  It doesn’t matter that the vast majority of the rich worked hard and invested well – it seems that St. Nich believes that the rich are to be the responsible ones, nay, a demand only for their money, to solve Government’s ills.

And that is the key here – he lays out the ills but blames the wrong entities: the politicians.  After all, they are the ones that actually set the taxes.  They are also the ones that actually run government – the Feds, the States, and the local towns and cities that actually responsible for the hiring of police, the library staff, maintain the infrastructure, and the like.  They also are the ones, those of the Blue States and Cities, that are now on shaky collapsing financial grounds because of mismanagement.  They are the ones who set the policies and the financial environments against which St. Nich is railing.

Los Angelos, Detroit, Chicago, California, Illinois, the CA cities that have already gone broke (the same in RI) – who has been in charge as debt has piled up and services having to be cut and REAL public goods go unattended?  Yes, that would be the Progressives – mostly of the Dem Party, but throw in the Repubs as I stare at our $16 Trillion debt.

Sidenote: by the way, I note that for this call for renewed spending on public infrastructure and goods, he mentions not the ongoing deficit and climbing debt. Er, Nicholas?  What effect has this had (other than bolstering the politically connected, the unions – where was the infrastructure spending there, St. Nich?

This question of public goods hovers in the backdrop as we confront the “fiscal cliff” and seek to reach a deal based on a mix of higher revenues and reduced benefits. It’s true that we have a problem with rising entitlement spending, especially in health care. But I also wonder if we’ve reached the end of a failed half-century experiment in ever-lower tax rates for the wealthy.

 I would disagree – and lay at his feet both the failed and failing experiments, not in “ever-lower tax rates for the wealthy” but in government doing too much without considering the cost or the result.  Just look East – Greece, Spain, Portugal….the German taxpayers are paying an awful high price for poor governance and a penchant for living beyond their means.  That is now coming to fruition here in the US as we see the outcome of “self-assured incompetance” – governance by people that in earlier years wouldn’t be allowed near the keys of the dog pound.  We also are seeing the result of our elected officials blithely handing over the keys to their bureaucracies.  Let them make the hard decisions – rarely do they have to suffer for the ramifications and they never have to run for re-election and have to confront voters with hard questions about votes taken.

No, St. Nich, we are seeing the results of people who should have never been given a glimpse of the reigns of power as they have only used them to haul the problems that needed to be solved down the road (like Obama and the Dems making Obamacare’s tin can rattle only after this just past election).

No, St. Nich, the problem is not income inequality or even a tax system that is the most Progressive in the developed world (a fact that this “Hahvad” grad knows well, along the difference that the tax codes make (“Financial tycoons now often pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries”) between different kinds of income (which, I point out, the tax code that politicians created).  The problem is in looking at government, a ground zero, as a pie to be divvied up among the special interests.  And as we have seen (too often), not always in the best interest of either taxpayers or citizens.

St. Nich also fully realizes that the public utility companies are highly regulated. By Government.  They don’t compete in the open marketplace (even still) – but they ARE allowed a given rate of return on their investment.  Good times, bad times – they can depend on a profit set up – Government.  Sure, St. Nich, they can and will get tongue lashings when they don’t restore the power in a speed that the public wants (which is, pretty much, the next day).  Sure, St. Nich, some legislators will convene hearings and some bills may get introduced. At the end of the day, however, it will continue to be same-o, same-o.

Why, St. Nich?  These Public Utility Companies will only do what they are metric’d to do.  Because the Government protects them.  Because Government encircles them.  Because in many ways, they act just like the Government that oversees them?

 Not even the hum of the most powerful private generator can disguise the failure of that long experiment.

Failure, St. Nich?  I’m kinda betting that if you asked the residents of Coney Island and Staten Island, they’d be pointing the bony finger at another #FAIL.

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