Do your own Dirty Work

by Kieran Healy on March 17, 2006

David Bernstein writes admiringly of his friend David Boaz’s effort “to explain why conservatives love Bush so much, even though his economic policies are anything but conservative.” Boaz says,

Conservatives love Bush because the left hates him. If the New York Times would run a front-page story headlined “Bush Delivers the Big Government Clinton Never Did,” and the lefty bloggers would pick it up and run with it, maybe conservatives would catch on.

So here’s your challenge, lefty bloggers: If you don’t like the tree-chopping, Falwell-loving, cowboy president—if you want his presidency fatally wounded for the next three years—then start praising him. One good Paul Krugman column taking off from that USA Today story on the surge in entitlements recipients under Bush, one Daily Kos lead on how Clinton flopped on national health care but Bush twisted every arm in the GOP to get a multi-trillion-dollar prescription drug benefit for the elderly, one cover story in the Nation on how Bush has acknowledged federal responsibility for everything from floods in New Orleans to troubled teenagers, and maybe, just maybe, National Review and the Powerline blog and Fox News would come to their senses. Bush is a Rockefeller Republican in cowboy boots, and it’s time conservatives stopped looking at the boots instead of the policies.

Oh, please. Sure, let me be the first to step up and say people on the left think Bush is great because of all the damage he’s done. After all, “the left” and the Democratic Party are all about ruining America. Thanks but no thanks. Both Davids labor under the belief—genuine or disingenuous, who can say?—that “lefty bloggers” and their ilk are all in favor of irresponsible government spending, economic mismanagement, ham-fisted responses to security threats and natural disasters, gigantic handouts to energy and pharma companies disguised as environmental and health policy, phenomenally botched foreign policy interventions, and so on. If, after several years of this from the President, schmibertarian fellow-travelers now feel that, for the sake of their own conscience, someone needs to smear the GOP faithful as rubes more impressed by cowboy boots than good government, let them go ahead and do it themselves. (Where’s individual responsibility when you need it?) I recall, though, that when Tom Frank made something like this argument about a key part of the Republican base, it wasn’t very well received by those on the right.


Update 2: On reflection I’m happy to retract the “schmibertarian” jab. I think Bernstein is more of a neocon than a libertarian, and Boaz—and Cato generally, insofar as I’ve noticed—have been consistently libertarian in their critiques of Bush’s domestic and foreign policy. That said, “Do your own dirty work” is still the right response to Boaz’s “challenge.” At best he’s just trying to spread the blame around in a tongue-in-cheek way, and at worst he really does believe that liberals think spending money/expanding govt for the sake of it is just great.

Update: In an addition to his post, David Bernstein complains:

Kieran Healy is entitled to his opinion, but his implication that David Boaz and I were once Bush supporters who have now turned on him for “the sake of their own conscience,” is simply wrong. I’ve never been a fan of the president’s …

He points to a post of his from last November where he criticized Bush’s “hubris, sense of entitlement to power, and belief in the ameliorative powers of government action (in both the foreign and domestic realms) that one normally associates with the worst types of statists. And let’s not forget the Administration’s blatant lies about the cost of the Medicare law, and Karl Rove’s apparent plan to drive all well-educated, secular folks out of the party in exchange for the votes of the most ignorant elements of the fundamentalist community, a traditional Democratic stronghold.”

It seems clear Bernstein and Boaz have gotten a certain amount of glee out of the rage Bush has inspired in his left-leaning opponents over the years. And yet both of you also actually believe that many of Bush’s policies are terrible—- Bernstein hates his hunger for power and his courting of the religious right, and Boaz, I believe, disagrees with the war in Iraq. The natural thing would be to critique these policies directly. But that might give you Moonbat Cooties. So Bernstein and Boaz want the moonbats to do the job for them, by the bizarre means of praising the President for his spendthrift ways in order to erode his support amongst mainstream GOP voters.

I said “for the sake of your conscience,” then, not because I thought Bernstein once supported Bush and now does not, but because he doesn’t want to admit that much of “the left’s” critique of Bush has been (a) right and (b) not much different from his own in many respects. So, for the sake of his conscience, he and Boaz seem to prefer to retreat to the absurd belief that “the left” ought somehow to support Bush because they are happy to see the size of government grow through carefree spending for whatever reason. This would give him license to say that the President wasn’t a true conservative because—look!—Paul Krugman or whoever said isn’t it great that Bush has spent buckets of money. Of course, this isn’t going to happen. As Mark Kleiman points out today, being a bad conservative does not make you a liberal, however much Messrs Bernstein & Boaz might want to believe otherwise.

{ 82 comments }

1

Kieran Healy 03.17.06 at 3:11 pm

2

P O'Neill 03.17.06 at 3:17 pm

There’s a related line of argument that some conservatives are setting up for themselves as a fallback position for a Bush implosion — that it’s the Democrats’ fault for putting up weak candidates against him in 2000 and 2004. For instance, Insta and Kaus have been carefully threading Kerry/Gore sighs through their endless bashing of liberal positions over the last few years, which (from their perspective) beats having to take a position on how the guy in charge, and not those who ran against him, has screwed up so much.

3

Jaybird 03.17.06 at 3:53 pm

I wouldn’t mock this quite so much.

You saw it, somewhat, in the Clinton years. Democrats didn’t defend Clinton because he embodied Liberal attitudes (at least I hope they didn’t!) but because his opposition was sooooo odious.

4

Barry 03.17.06 at 3:55 pm

Rats from the sinking ship; liars will try to lie their way out of the trouble they lied themselves (and us) into;….

Take your pick. I choose all of the above.

5

Matt 03.17.06 at 3:57 pm

Bernstein has had this idea for a while. It’s very odd. His understanding seems to be that left-liberalism _just wants_ more government spending, no matter on what or how. It has no clear connection to reality, of course, but then, I don’t know if one should in this case expect much else.

6

sd 03.17.06 at 3:59 pm

Boaz’s prescription may be a bit absurd, but his diagnosis is close to spot on. What made and has made many on the right continue to support Bush even after he revealed himself to be incompetent on many fronts, was good old fashioned partisan anger at those on the left who critcized him in ways that seemed so unthinking and insane.

Say that Bush botched the response to hurricane Katrina because he hired incompetent yes-men or because he de-prioritized dealing with it or because he used poor judgement during the crisis and many conservatives, including myself, will be inclined to agree with you on the merits. But say that Bush botched the response to hurricane Katrina because he doesn’t think black lives are worth saving and you reveal yourself to be unhinged.

Say that the war in Iraq has gone badly because Bush was horribly wrong about the risks of pre-emptive war, or because he was seduced by neocon optimists detached from reality, or because he has tried to fight the war on the cheap, and many conservatives, including myself, will be inclined to agree with you on the merits. But say that the war has gone badly because it was all about rewarding cronies in the oil industry in the first place, or because Bush doesn’t want it to go well because that would get it off the front pages and thus the bad economy would be on the front pages, and you reveal yourself to be a paranoid and an uncharitable nutcase.

Politics is, for better or worse, somewhat tribal. The challenge for any minority party is to criticize the majority party without implying that its chieftains are utter monsters, because when you do that, you send the message to its supporters that they must be monsters too, because after all, they voted for the forces of evil in the first place. That may make you feel good about how morally righteous you are, but it doesn’t recruit allies and it doesn’t win elections.

P.S. I’ve made this argument in the comment sections of blogs before and the typical response has been “But Bush really does eat puppies and kill children!” Did your own graves, people, dig your own graves.

7

Kevin Donoghue 03.17.06 at 4:02 pm

Well I did my bit of Bush-boosting in November 2004, 8

abb1 03.17.06 at 4:11 pm

And Jesus answering, said to them: Take heed that no man seduce you.

For many will come in my name saying, I am Christ. And they will seduce many.

And you shall hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that ye be not troubled. For these things must come to pass: but the end is not yet.

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And there shall be pestilences and famines and earthquakes in places.

Now all these are the beginnings of sorrows.

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted and shall put you to death: and you shall be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.

And then shall many be scandalized and shall betray one another and shall hate one another.

And many false prophets shall rise and shall seduce many.

9

jim 03.17.06 at 4:15 pm

sd: “Politics is, for better or worse, somewhat tribal.”

Yes. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The enemy of the right is the left. Bush is the enemy of the left, therefore the right MUST support him.

10

joe o 03.17.06 at 4:19 pm

This is all an effort to get a “real conservative” elected in 2008. Fuck that. The time for “conservatives” to come to the aid of their country by stopping bush’s ill-concieved policies is long past. I think it is time to start associating the label “conservative” with Bush’s failures and the republican political establishment’s acquiescence.

11

Functional 03.17.06 at 4:23 pm

irresponsible government spending,

Irresponsible? Explain which of the following items is irresponsible, in liberal terms:

A sweeping expansion of social programs since 2000 has sparked a record increase in the number of Americans receiving federal government benefits such as college aid, food stamps and health care.
A USA TODAY analysis of 25 major government programs found that enrollment increased an average of 17% in the programs from 2000 to 2005. The nation’s population grew 5% during that time.

It was the largest five-year expansion of the federal safety net since the Great Society created programs such as Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s.

* * *

USA TODAY found three major causes for soaring enrollment in government programs:

•Expanded eligibility: Congress has expanded eligibility for programs in ways that attracted little attention but added greatly to the scope and cost of programs. Congress added food stamp eligibility for 2.7 million people by ending a rule that disqualified people from receiving food stamps if they had a car or truck worth $4,650 or more. The change, one of a series of expansions in 2001 and 2002, was designed to make it easier for food stamp recipients to work.

•Increased participation: The government has made applying for benefits easier, prompting more eligible people to get them. Forms have been shortened, office visits reduced and verification streamlined.

•Welfare reform: 1996 overhaul pushed millions of people off cash assistance and into the workforce. Congress expanded eligibility for benefits to support people with low-wage jobs.

economic mismanagement

Hard to know what you’re talking about here. No one has alleged that “economic mismanagement,” or anything that might be so described, is an example of liberalism.

gigantic handouts to energy and pharma companies disguised as environmental and health policy

Do you have any evidence for this characterization? What’s more, do you have any reason to believe that Bush has done any worse on this score than any real-life liberal politicians? Or do you maintain that programs signed into law by liberal Presidents are, by some miracle, able to avoid spending money in any way that rewards various liberal interest groups?

12

SamChevre 03.17.06 at 4:25 pm

I don’t know–I think Bernstein has a point. The stereotypical swing voters I know–rural, working class or poorer (when an insulated trailer is an aspirational good, you’re barely in the working class)–do not particularly like Bush–to the extent that they know anything about his policies, they dislike them. But they really really REALLY loathe anti-military protestors, so they figure Bush, who has annoyed them, must be better than the alternatives.

13

Sven 03.17.06 at 4:26 pm

The challenge for any minority party is to criticize the majority party without implying that its chieftains are utter monsters

I’m so sorry, man. I had Ward Churchill ballgagged in the basement, but the Instapundit pulled a Luke Skywalker on me and loosed ‘im.

14

abb1 03.17.06 at 4:27 pm

But “various liberal interest groups” are a majority of the US population, while “conservative” interest groups are a bunch of corporate CEOs.

15

Functional 03.17.06 at 4:34 pm

And Kieran, while you can no doubt uncover various ties between the Bush administration and some energy companies, the task here is to explain why Bush is any worse than a real-life liberal politician. Thus, you should take into account the Clinton administration’s collaborations with Enron (see here and here for just a few examples).

16

Jason Kuznicki 03.17.06 at 4:34 pm

If you mean by “schmibertarians” those who supported the Iraq invasion, you would do well not to count David Boaz in that number.

17

Functional 03.17.06 at 4:35 pm

That’s some perceptive thinking, abb1. I had never heard the theory that Enron and the like were a “majority of the US population” before. No wonder its bankruptcy had such an effect!

18

abb1 03.17.06 at 4:36 pm

Yes! I knew it! Our God is stronger than theirs!

The family of a Clinton County soldier serving in Iraq says divine intervention may have saved his life there after being shot.

Specifically, it may have been a metallic cross the man had kept with him since the days of growing up in Wilmington.

Kyle Green had only been in Iraq three weeks when he suffered the wounds last Friday.

Now he’s on his way back to the Tri-state a changed man and soldier, both physically and, his family also claims, spiritually.
[...]
But when the bullet ripped through his fatigues, it suddenly stopped: deflected away by a metal cross Kyle had with him.

19

abb1 03.17.06 at 4:37 pm

Enron was a liberal interest group?

20

Functional 03.17.06 at 4:43 pm

On energy policy, yes. Absolutely. Enron and similar companies were eager to profit from renewable energy, projects to reduce greenhouse gases, etc.

Has it never occurred to you that liberal initiatives can also encourage corporate profiteering? No matter what the government does — liberal or conservative — there are going to be big corporations that will seek to benefit and use it to their advantage.

21

P O'Neill 03.17.06 at 4:43 pm

If only he could be given a third term, he would surely persuade Americans of the need to switch to a parliamentary system where all it takes to get rid of an embarrassing leader is a no-confidence motion

Or at least a French system with a more diluted executive branch and a legislative branch that actually reins them in every now and then.

22

soc anon 03.17.06 at 4:53 pm

This is a crude application of an old idea. See Lewis Coser, 1956, The Functions of Social Conflict. (Not that Coser was the first to have made the argument…)

23

abb1 03.17.06 at 4:56 pm

Look, environmentalists is a liberal interest group, that’s millions of people. Government implements environmentalist policies and millions of people benefit. Sure, some corporations will also benefit, good for them.

Now, large shareholders of the Exxon-Mobil is a “conservative” interest group. That’s hundreds of people, a few thousand at most. When they benefit – they benefit and that’s it. Everyone else loses.

24

david 03.17.06 at 4:58 pm

I really hope that the powers that be in the Democratic party don’t think functional and sd are swing voters. All signs suggest they do.

25

Brendan 03.17.06 at 5:04 pm

Oh I’m sorry. I thought the Democratic party HAD got down on its knees and had been ‘doing a Lewinsky’ on Bush for the last (x) years? If not, why have they not made a serious and coherent attack on Bush’s Iraq policy, even though they know it is horrendously unpopular? Or (m)any of his other policies for that matter.

26

Tim 03.17.06 at 5:07 pm

Folks, the point isn’t that liberals are supposed to like Bush. The point is that if you say something nice about him, you defuse a lot of people’s support of him.

27

Jaybird 03.17.06 at 5:14 pm

Shut up, Tim! You want us to start saying that at least Hitler made the trains run on time next?

Only a Thread-Nazi would try to impose what “the point” is on all of us!

NEVER AGAIN

28

Kevin Donoghue 03.17.06 at 5:23 pm

Say something nice about Bush? No problem. He has done wonderful work in furthering the foreign policy objectives of Iran and China. Largely thanks to him, Tony Blair has been brought crashing back to earth. He has persuaded many Europeans that the French were onto something during all those years when they argued that a countervailing power is needed to curb American arrogance. He has hugely entertaining moments – my personal favourite was the call for “a peeance, freeance Iraq”, but if you like slapstick maybe the bicycle stunt was better.

So much to enjoy. Where would we be without him?

29

asg 03.17.06 at 5:28 pm

I am not sure in what surreal sense David Boaz counts as a “schmibertarian”. He has never been a Bush supporter or an Iraq war supporter.

30

Functional 03.17.06 at 5:31 pm

Now, large shareholders of the Exxon-Mobil is a “conservative” interest group. That’s hundreds of people, a few thousand at most. When they benefit – they benefit and that’s it. Everyone else loses.

You’re just engaging in hypotheticals here. I prefer to be reality-based.

Tell you what: Look over Bush’s actual energy bill from last year (try Wikipedia’s description), and tell me which of those policies: 1) is aimed solely at Exxon-Mobil’s benefit, and 2) is not intended to encourage more energy efficiency (or some similar environmentalist goal).

When I look at what the actual bill did, I see a long list that environmentalists would mostly agree with:

The Act was intended to establish a comprehensive, long-range energy policy. It provides incentives for traditional energy production as well as newer, more efficient energy technologies, and conservation. More than 1,700 pages long, the Act has hundreds of provisions. Major items include:

Provides a tax credit of up to $3,400 for owners of hybrid vehicles;

Authorizes loan guarantees for “innovative technologies” that avoid greenhouse gases, which might include advanced nuclear reactor designs (such as PBMR) as well as clean coal and renewable energy;

Increases the amount of biofuel (usually ethanol) that must be mixed with gasoline sold in the United States to triple the current requirement (7.5 billion gallons by 2012);

Seeks to increase coal as an energy source while also reducing air pollution, through authorizing $200 million annually for clean coal initiatives, repealing the current 160-acre cap on coal leases, allowing the advanced payment of royalties from coal mines and requiring an assessment of coal resources on federal lands that are not national parks;

Authorizes subsidies for wind energy, and other alternative energy producers;

Adds ocean energy sources including wave power and tidal power for the first time as separately identified renewable technologies;

Authorizes $50 million annually over the life of the bill for a biomass grant program;

Many more items like this. As far as I can tell, responsible environmentalists would disagree with these goals NOT for being a handout to Exxon, but for not going far enough. Maybe they’d complain that “the biomass program should be $150 million, not $50 million,” but that doesn’t prove that Bush’s plan is nothing but a gift to corporate contributors.

I do see one (and only one) item that might cause you concern: “$2.8 billion for fossil fuel production.”

But again, the issue isn’t whether Bush is perfect, but whether he’s distinguishable from real “liberals” in this or other particular areas. Consider this:

Last summer, the Bush administration pushed an energy plan through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which gave the big energy companies a good return for their huge campaign contributions to Bush and his buddies. Not only does Bush’s plan open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, it nearly doubles federal subsidies for non-renewable, polluting energy sources (fossil-fuel production and risky nuclear power plants) from an already staggering $33 billion, to an even more outrageous $62 billion over the next 10 years (Financial Times, 2/12/02).

The plan also calls for 1,300 new fossil fuel and nuclear plants to be built. The bill failed to pass in the Senate, however, and in February, the Democrats’ introduced their “alternative” to Bush’s energy plan. But is the Democratic plan any better?

Aside from a few token nods to the environmental lobby, the Democrats’ Senate bill accepts the underlying agenda of Bush plan. The Democrats bill offers a $1.8 billion hand-out to big coal companies, $5.2 billion in hand-outs and tax breaks to the oil industry, and $1 billion in tax breaks for nuclear power expansion. The bill also earmarks $20 billion towards completing a pipeline to carry natural gas from Alaska to the lower 48 states. The pipeline will be privately owned and operated, so although the costs would be socialized, the profits are privatized!

31

Functional 03.17.06 at 5:34 pm

Point being, one could just as easily claim, “Democrats have put together an energy bill that includes subsidies to corporations. Liberals don’t support that sort of thing. Therefore Democrats are not liberals.”

Maybe there’s something to that. But then, who in the real world meets your pristine standard for being “liberal”?

32

Backword Dave 03.17.06 at 5:57 pm

Whodathunk it? I thought “Angel” from “Buffy” wasn’t such a good guy, but I never had him pegged as Bush apologist.

33

sd 03.17.06 at 6:03 pm

abb1 wrote:

“Now, large shareholders of the Exxon-Mobil is a “conservative” interest group. That’s hundreds of people, a few thousand at most. When they benefit – they benefit and that’s it. Everyone else loses.”

That’s simply wrong. Factually, substantively wrong. The vast majority – overwhelming majority – of equity wealth in the US is held by institutional investors. Pension and other retirement funds for blue collar workers, teachers, middle class white collar workers. Endowment funds of colleges, universities, charitable organizations. Things that benefit large corporations benefit tens of millions of Americans. It may be that those benefits are out-weighed by associated costs that tens of millions of Americans bear, but it simply economic illiteracy to suggest that public policies that benefit a $50B, $100B, $200B company are concentrated in the hands of a tiny number of plutocrats.

34

Don Quijote 03.17.06 at 7:11 pm

That’s simply wrong. Factually, substantively wrong. The vast majority – overwhelming majority – of equity wealth in the US is held by institutional investors.

Wrong, wrong , wrong!!!

Corporate Wealth Share Rises for Top-Income Americans – New York Times

In 2003 the top 1 percent of households owned 57.5 percent of corporate wealth, up from 53.4 percent the year before, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the latest income tax data. The top group’s share of corporate wealth has grown by half since 1991, when it was 38.7 percent.

35

quizzical 03.17.06 at 7:36 pm

The NY Times article referenced by Don Quijote includes the following:

“The analysis did not measure wealth directly. It looked at taxes on capital gains, dividends, interest and rents. Income from securities owned by retirement plans and endowments was excluded, as were gains from noncorporate assets such as personal residences.”

So it in no way supports his disagreement with sd.

36

Ray G 03.17.06 at 7:46 pm

A lot to comment on there so I’ll just pick out a little bit.

Historically speaking, the Right has been for smaller government, the Left for bigger government. That’s speaking overall; of course the GOP wants a bigger military and the Dems want something more akin to a modern FDR’s alphabet soup of bureacracies. The net result, if done along true ideological lines, would leave us with a smaller government under a Republican president.

This hasn’t happened of course, and that’s really the crux of the matter. Bush has bought off certain segments of the Right because he has taken a proactive approach to fighting terrorism, right or wrong, and he’s been able to convince everyone that he’s a good old boy who knows how to pray. And so people like him. Just as so many people simply liked Bill Clinton, warts and all.

So the bottom line is that; yes, genuine conservative ideals which coincide with libertarian ideals, hold that government should be held in the skeptical view and thus be kept as small as feasbily possible. When any Republican pol departs from this basic line of action, they are no longer conservative. Furthermore, the Left does generally believe that the government can spend its way to fewer social/economic problems. This leads the Federal government to take responsiblity for many things that are not the government’s responsibility. Any good conservative/libertarian holds that when the individual is “freed” of their responsibility, they are also losing freedom.

And so Bush is guilty of conducting himself as a liberal, regardless of whether or not the Left has had an overall valid critique of his administration’s policies. And regardless of whether or not Boaz and Bernstein agree with that critique.

37

sd 03.17.06 at 7:48 pm

don quijote:

Did you even read the article you linked to? I assume not, because if you had, you would have noticed:

“The analysis did not measure wealth directly. It looked at taxes on capital gains, dividends, interest and rents. Income from securities owned by retirement plans and endowments was excluded…”

Of course when you look at individual ownership of stocks you find that the wealthy own most shares. But institutions, not individuals, own a majority of stock. As of 2004, institutional investors owned about 70% of the shares in the 1000 largest US corporations. Of that, 41% was owned by pension funds, 22% by investment companies (much of which consists of the 401(k) assets of middle class white collar workers), 23% by insurance companies (most of which consists of assets against which life insurance claims to middle class families will eventually be paid), 12% by banks and 2% by non-profits.

Indeed, even taking your argument at face value (which, as noted above, is wrong to do), it still doesn’t confirm abb1′s asserion that “hundreds of people, a few thousand at most” benefit from corporate profits. The top 1% of housholds is what, maybe 1 million households? Not the vast middle class, to be sure, but not a handful of robber barons either.

38

Don Quijote 03.17.06 at 8:31 pm

Did not get past the second paragraph.

Indeed, even taking your argument at face value (which, as noted above, is wrong to do), it still doesn’t confirm abb1’s asserion that “hundreds of people, a few thousand at most” benefit from corporate profits. The top 1% of housholds is what, maybe 1 million households? Not the vast middle class, to be sure, but not a handful of robber barons either.

3 million individuals, 1 million households at the most, a very large interest group. When they benefit – they benefit and that’s it. Everyone else loses.

39

goatchowder 03.17.06 at 10:21 pm

Before I even read the news this morning, I was thinking about this very issue. What prompted it was that debt ceiling raise in the Senate yesterday, and how Democrats stood together in unity (Yikes! How often does that happen??!) in opposing it. I sent an email claiming we’ve entered a Bizarro World where Democrats are cranky old conservatives and Republicans are irresponsible, spend-crazy social engineers.

Then this morning I realised: this has nothing whatsoever to do with ideology. It’s all about power, and who has it.

Whomever is in power spends like they’ve just robbed a bank, becuase, well, THEY JUST HAVE! Ideology means nothing. You give these clowns keys to the treasury and they go bananas– here comes the pork! This is pure human nature: greed. The only ideological difference is what they spend it on: Democrats on social programs for the poor and middle class and pure science, Republicans on the military-industrial complex and their rich cronies. Then the party out of power gets all pissy and cranky and moralistic and starts tut-tutting about fiscal responsiblity. It’s a big farce.

The reality is that whomever is in power will spend irresponsibly, and whomever is out of power will bitch impotently about it. When the people get fed up enough, they’ll vote the corrupt assholes out of power and vote in a different group of corrupt assholes.

That said, I agree with Democratic spending priorities and I would much rather my tax dollar go to domestic programs and the poor and middle class, than on war and the rich elite and mega-corporations. Of course this is solely because I’m middle class and neither the rich elite nor a corporation. I suppose I can’t blame them for wanting to look out for their own.

40

gundryggia 03.17.06 at 10:49 pm

Hooray for equities, your favorite asset class and mine. Rising tide. Boats. Why, I have a tiny fractional exposure to XOM my own self. And gee whiz, if Exxon’s profits increase 500% the consequent appreciation of my 401k might cover a tank of gas. What bounty! What a democracy!

41

John Quiggin 03.17.06 at 11:06 pm

Following up on Kevin, I think you could do a great pro-Bush post from a Francophile position. The Bush Administration has managed to change the perception of France from “declining ex-colonial power” to “leading enemy of the Anglo-Saxon world”, and has displayed

* Arrogance that makes Dominique de Villepin look like a humble son of the people

* Venality that makes Edith Cresson look like a sea-green incorruptible

* Dishonesty sufficient to make Jacques Chirac a champion of truth

Why wouldn’t Francophiles love Bush?

42

a 03.18.06 at 12:34 am

“He points to a post of his from last November…”

OK so he turned on Bush last November. But whom did he support in 2000? In 2004? If he supported Bush, then it is a bit disingenuous to say, because he had negative feelings in 2005, that he carries no responsibility for Bush.

43

DB 03.18.06 at 12:38 am

A,

If you actually bothered to click the link, you would see that the relevant post is from 2004, not 2005, and that it says “I didn’t vote for him in 2000, either.”

44

KCinDC 03.18.06 at 2:21 am

Goatchowder, aside from the issue of what they spend the money on, there’s the difference that Democrats raise taxes to pay for (at least some of) their spending, while Republicans cut taxes and hope that some magical fairy will show up in the future to pay for things. So with the Republicans you not only get spending on priorities that aren’t yours, but also get a bigger bill to pass on to your future self or your children and grandchildren.

45

lalala 03.18.06 at 2:29 am

Re #s 9 and 26 at least:

Data not being the plural of anecdote blah blah blah, but the avid Bush fans I know do not, when I back off from criticizing him for a moment, go “oh, well then, maybe I don’t like him so much.” They get all smug and patronizing and say something about me having to admit they’d been right all along.

(I here distinguish “avid Bush fans” from “marginally thoughtful conservatives,” and note that one of the latter just this past weekend confessed to me that he had come to “really hate” Bush but couldn’t bring himself to tell a mutual friend who belongs in the former category.)

46

abb1 03.18.06 at 4:56 am

Largest shareholders of Exxon, according to yahoo finance. The largest one by far ($16+ billion) is a British bank/investment company:

With a distinctive business model, Barclays Capital provides corporates, financial institutions, governments and supranational organisations with solutions to their financing and risk management needs.

Sounds like this is all somehwere in ‘supranational’ stratosphere; it’s not even about 1% of the US households, it’s more like 0.001% of the world’s richest households; it has nothing to do with any of us here.

47

nick s 03.18.06 at 7:16 am

Digby has certainly talked about the way that the conservative establishment may attempt to separate itself from a ‘not truly conservative’ Bush as a matter of self-perpetuation.

And frankly, the ‘oh, if only the Dems had put up a better opposition’ line isn’t going to wash. I’m waiting for the polls in 2009 that show only 25% of those who voted in 2000/2004 cast their vote for Bush. Or so they say.

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Tim Worstall 03.18.06 at 7:32 am

abb1. That’ll be the pension/index/insurance funds that Barclays manages then.

The market cap is 40 billion quid. There’s no way they’d actually have 25% of that in just one shareholding.
http://uk.finance.yahoo.com/q?s=BARC.L

Has to be funds managed for others, not direct ownership.

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abb1 03.18.06 at 7:49 am

Well, that’s what Yahoo says (see the link above): BARCLAYS BANK PLC holds $16,660,664,550 worth of the Exxon stock.

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J Thomas 03.18.06 at 8:07 am

I’m waiting for the polls in 2009 that show only 25% of those who voted in 2000/2004 cast their vote for Bush.

No way to tell how many of them actually voted for Bush.

Not with our current recount methods.

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Barry 03.18.06 at 9:19 am

This idea that many of the right love Bush just because the left hates him implies that those right-wingers are traitors against the USA. They are deliberately supporting somebody trashing the USA, because it makes some (the more patriotic) people of USA mad.

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Barry 03.18.06 at 9:43 am

I’ll accept David’s and David’s assertion. Which, to my mind, is a signed confession of treason against the USA. They supported Bush, in spite of the damage that he inflicted, just to piss off patriotic leftists in the USA.

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Tim Worstall 03.18.06 at 11:16 am

Yes, I know that’s what Yahho says. But here, from Barclay’s own site, is the reason why:

http://www.newsroom.barclays.co.uk/clients/

Barclays Capital is the investment banking division of Barclays Bank PLC which has an AA long-term credit rating and a balance sheet of over £924 billion. With a distinctive business model, Barclays Capital provides large corporate, government and institutional clients with solutions to their financing and risk management needs.

And

Barclays Global Investors is one of the world’s largest asset managers and a leading global provider of investment management products and services. It has over 2,700 institutional clients and over £780 billion of assets under management.

It transformed the investment industry by creating the first index strategy in 1971 and the first quantitative active strategy in 1978.

They’re managing money for other people. It doesn’t all belong to the bank.

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abb1 03.18.06 at 11:59 am

Of course they are managing money for other people, it’s an investment company. They are managing money for corporations, financial institutions, governments and supranational organisations. I’m just saying it has nothing to do with you and me.

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Functional 03.18.06 at 4:22 pm

Interesting that the discussion has devolved into the irrelevant tangent over who owns Exxon stock, leaving unanswered the obvious observation that 1) Kieran Healy is incorrect in claiming that Bush’s energy bill consisted of “gigantic handouts to energy . . . companies disguised as environmental . . . policy,”, and likewise, 2) Abb1 is even more incorrect in claiming that Bush’s energy bill was exclusively to the benefit of Exxon-Mobil, causing “everyone else” to “lose[].”

These statements are, at best, wild exaggerations. More importantly, if you look at what Bush’s energy bill ACTUALLY did, without knowing that Bush had signed the bill, you’d probably think it was the work of a liberal. THAT’s the point: If not for misinformed and irrational Bush hatred, liberals would be praising Bush for his willingness to agree with their policies in various areas.

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Walt 03.18.06 at 5:24 pm

Functional: Maybe it’s that you have no idea what liberals believe?

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serial catowner 03.18.06 at 6:30 pm

Yeah, the Bush energy bill might do this and it might do that. But what it actually does do is point the U.S. down a coal-nuclear path with penny-on-the-acre leases for big companies and rate hikes for consumers.

Well, we have seen how things turn out when Bush and his gang run them. An energy bill giving a small tax break for a few hybrid vehicles, coupled with another bill giving a huge tax break for any gas guzzling highway hog, is business at the same old stand- one step forward, and a long march back.

At least my father can rest in peace, for if the past 50 years ahve taught us anything, it is the inevitable degeneracy of the intellect of those who inherit money. He called it inbreeeding, but the size of the genetic pool is now so large that, with the exception of the Hiltons, it must be a learned response.

The British Empire grew rich with the mechanism of the funded debt, and survived hard times by pullling in the belt and making the needed sacrifices. A story that seems never to have been told in the ivy-covered private schools of America.

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Functional 03.18.06 at 9:16 pm

Walt — and maybe it’s that you have no idea what Bush’s policies actually are?

Seriously, it’s easy to trade cheap insults. Do you have anything else to add to the discussion?

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Z 03.18.06 at 11:16 pm

If not for misinformed and irrational Bush hatred, liberals would be praising Bush for his willingness to agree with their policies in various areas.
Sometimes a good laugh is so nice!

Why wouldn’t Francophiles love Bush?
Misinformed and irrational Bush hatred. Seriously though, that Bush could make Chirac look good is the closest equivalent of a political koan I can think of.

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Lewis Carroll 03.18.06 at 11:49 pm

“Historically speaking, the Right has been for smaller government, the Left for bigger government. That’s speaking overall; of course the GOP wants a bigger military and the Dems want something more akin to a modern FDR’s alphabet soup of bureacracies. The net result, if done along true ideological lines, would leave us with a smaller government under a Republican president.”

This is highly crafted mythology, and simply not borne out by the facts:

http://www.eriposte.com/economy/other/demovsrep.htm

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Functional 03.19.06 at 12:25 am

Z — a good laugh is certainly easier than refuting anything that I’ve said (my posts being the only place on this entire webpage where you can find any factual information whatsoever regarding Bush’s actual energy bill).

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Z 03.19.06 at 1:34 am

Fair enough functional, so let us look at some facts then. Is it true that the Energy Policy Act contains provision that environmentalists like? Yes, the contrary would be surprising, it is 500 pages long. However, subsidies for nuclear power ($4.3 billions according to Wikipedia), fossile fuel production ($2.8 billions), ethanol industry, car industry (via the FreedomCAR act); the exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act; the absence of clear provisions to reduce greehouse gas emission; inclusion of subsidies that will providentially help the Texas Energy Center (providentially located in DeLay’s home town of Sugar Land)… Those aren’t things that “liberals” like too much, you know. And it does lend credence to the belief that the Bush administration is working more than occasionally at diverting public money to private corporations. Oh, and by the way, it is perfectly described by a tiny sentence: “gigantic handouts to energy companies disguised as environmental policy”.

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abb1 03.19.06 at 4:20 am

I didn’t even mention any energy bill. Energy bill (and any other bill) can’t be atributed to the Bush administration alone, bills are passed by the congress.

All I said was that large shareholders of the Exxon-Mobil is a republican interest group – in contrast to enviromentalists being democratic interest group. Not only this is NOT incorrect – is it even controversial?

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Functional 03.19.06 at 10:11 am

Abb1 — if you weren’t talking about anything that the Bush administration has actually done in terms of energy policy, then you make a point that is true but utterly irrelevant to Healy’s assertion.

Z: You do realize, don’t you, that you contradict yourself: “subsidies for nuclear power,” and “the absence of clear provisions to reduce greehouse gas emission.” If liberals are interested in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (and they are, aren’t they?), then the number one thing they should support is nuclear power. Nuclear power produces no carbon emissions at all. It’s the way that more advanced countries (such as France) get most of their electrical power. True, disposing of nuclear waste is an interesting engineering problem, but on the whole, it’s certainly safer than coal mining.

In other words, if we make some progress towards using more nuclear energy, that would do infinitely more towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions than any amount of meaningless jawboning about the Kyoto Protocol.

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Functional 03.19.06 at 10:31 am

Also, Z, recall that Healy (inaccurately) summed up the Bush energy plan as if it had no environmental benefits at all, and as if it consisted solely of handouts to large companies. But why is this relevant? Because it’s supposed to prove that Bush hasn’t really done anything to further “liberal” goals. The implication here is that true “liberal” politicians wouldn’t do anything to further the interests of corporate contributors.

In that regard, you should consider the article that I quoted above. So that you won’t have to take the trouble to scroll upward, I’ll quote the relevant bit again:

Aside from a few token nods to the environmental lobby, the Democrats’ Senate bill accepts the underlying agenda of Bush plan. The Democrats bill offers a $1.8 billion hand-out to big coal companies, $5.2 billion in hand-outs and tax breaks to the oil industry, and $1 billion in tax breaks for nuclear power expansion. The bill also earmarks $20 billion towards completing a pipeline to carry natural gas from Alaska to the lower 48 states.

Does this mean that no Democrats are true “liberals”? No. (Ever heard of the “no true Scotsman” argument?) It means that liberals ALSO give their contributors some handouts along with furthering various environmental goals at the same time.

So, isn’t Bush doing exactly the same thing? He signed a bill that includes some corporate handouts (just as liberals do), and that does a lot of beneficial things for the environment as well (look at the Wikipedia list again; at least 90% of the items are obviously designed to benefit the environment in some fashion).

Now maybe Bush’s energy package doesn’t go quite as far as you would like. That’s a fair criticism, if you can back it up. But it’s just propaganda to claim that his bill consists of nothing but corporate handouts disguised as environmental policy.

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liberal 03.19.06 at 11:05 am

functional wrote, look at the Wikipedia list again; at least 90% of the items are obviously designed to benefit the environment in some fashion… [Emphasis added]

Inane. Any number that’s not weighted by dollar amounts is meaningless.

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Functional 03.19.06 at 1:22 pm

OK, “liberal” — go to it. On one hand, you’ve got “$2.8 billion for fossil fuel production.” Does anyone know what that really is, by the way? Who’s getting the subsidy, and for what exactly?

Then on the other hand, you have this:

$4.3 Billion for nuclear power

$2.7 billion to extend the renewable electricity production credit

$?.? Billion for the Freedom Car initiative (1.7 billion 2003 CATO estimate)

$1.6 billion in tax incentives for investments in clean coal facilities

$1.3 billion for conservation and energy efficiency

$1.3 billion for alternative motor vehicles and fuels (ethanol, methane, liquified natural gas, propane)

$?.? Billion for hydrogen research

Plus:

Provides a tax credit of up to $3,400 for owners of hybrid vehicles;

Authorizes loan guarantees for “innovative technologies” that avoid greenhouse gases, which might include advanced nuclear reactor designs (such as PBMR) as well as clean coal and renewable energy;

Increases the amount of biofuel (usually ethanol) that must be mixed with gasoline sold in the United States to triple the current requirement (7.5 billion gallons by 2012);

Seeks to increase coal as an energy source while also reducing air pollution, through authorizing $200 million annually for clean coal initiatives, repealing the current 160-acre cap on coal leases, allowing the advanced payment of royalties from coal mines and requiring an assessment of coal resources on federal lands that are not national parks;

Authorizes subsidies for wind energy, and other alternative energy producers;

Adds ocean energy sources including wave power and tidal power for the first time as separately identified renewable technologies;

Authorizes $50 million annually over the life of the bill for a biomass grant program;

Contains several provisions aimed at making geothermal energy more competitive with fossil fuels in generating electricity;

Requires that no drilling for gas or oil may be done in or underneath the Great Lakes;

Requires that Federal Fleet vehicles capable of operating on alternative fuels be operated on these fuels exclusively (Section 701.)

Sets federal reliability standards regulating the electrical grid (done in response to the Blackout of 2003);

Requires the Department of Energy to study and report on existing natural energy resources including wind, solar, waves and tides;

Provides tax breaks for those making energy conservation improvements to their homes; For the umpteenth time, all of the above shows that Bush accepts the basic liberal premise that the government ought to do three dozen different things to improve the environment.

Now maybe he doesn’t do ENOUGH; or maybe he doesn’t do it PRECISELY on your terms; or maybe he mixes in a few corporate subsidies (just as all liberal politicians do).

None of that detracts from the overall point of David Boaz and David Bernstein: If this bill had been signed by a liberal politician, all of y’all would be cheering it on, praising the President who signed it, and attacking the nitpickers who criticized one or two elements of the deal.

You’re just proving the Davids’ point, in other words. When a liberal politician comes up with a plan (on energy, immigration, the environment, education, whatever), liberals will gently point out that they have one or two reservations about the plan, but will otherwise support it. When Bush signs a bill that has dozens of items, and that is maybe 80% of what a liberal President would have proposed, all of sudden you whip around and pull out the one element of the bill that you don’t like, and then pretend that the bill consisted of nothing else.

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Functional 03.19.06 at 1:23 pm

Sorry; formatting error. Most of that post was a quote from Wikipedia. This was my closing observation:

For the umpteenth time, all of the above shows that Bush accepts the basic liberal premise that the government ought to do three dozen different things to improve the environment.

Now maybe he doesn’t do ENOUGH; or maybe he doesn’t do it PRECISELY on your terms; or maybe he mixes in a few corporate subsidies (just as all liberal politicians do).

None of that detracts from the overall point of David Boaz and David Bernstein: If this bill had been signed by a liberal politician, all of y’all would be cheering it on, praising the President who signed it, and attacking the nitpickers who criticized one or two elements of the deal.

You’re just proving the Davids’ point, in other words. When a liberal politician comes up with a plan (on energy, immigration, the environment, education, whatever), liberals will gently point out that they have one or two reservations about the plan, but will otherwise support it. When Bush signs a bill that has dozens of items, and that is maybe 80% of what a liberal President would have proposed, all of sudden you whip around and pull out the one element of the bill that you don’t like, and then pretend that the bill consisted of nothing else.

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abb1 03.19.06 at 2:22 pm

Well, what about some of those “criticisms” in the wiki article:

* The Washington Post contended that the spending bill is really a broad collection of subsidies for United States energy companies; in particular, the nuclear and oil industries [3].

* Texas companies in particular benefit from the bill. This criticism is heightened by the fact that the President, the United States House Majority Leader and the House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman are all from Texas.

* A Philadelphia Inquirer editorial on July 28th, 2005, suggested Congress had a “let’s pass it and claim we did something” attitude.

* Even supporters of the bill concede that the bill will do little to lower oil prices immediately, and that any changes the bill has enacted will not happen overnight.

* John McCain denounced the 2003 bill (which was not passed) as the “No Lobbyist Left Behind” Act[4].

* Speaking for the National Republicans for Environmental Protection Association, President Martha Marks said that the organization was disappointed in the bill: it did not give enough of a short to conservation, and continued to subsidize the well-established oil and gas industries that don’t require subsidizing. [5]

* The bill has had the unintended effect of causing shortages of E85, an ethanol and gasoline blend of fuel, in many parts of the country. Section 701 of the bill requires US Federal fleet flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) to operate on alternative fuels 100% of the time. Formerly, such FFVs were required to be operated by the end of 2005 on alternative fuels only 51% (i.e., the majority of the time) by Executive Order 13149. (See Executive Order 13149 [6], dated April 21, 2000.) This effectively means that the US Government’s use of E85 has been doubled, with the unintended results of limiting public availability of E85 fuel and increasing its price. Although the price of corn has not changed, from which ethanol fuel is derived, the shortage has removed the price incentive to switch to alternative fuel.

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liberal 03.19.06 at 4:30 pm

functional wrote, For the umpteenth time, all of the above shows that Bush accepts the basic liberal premise that the government ought to do three dozen different things to improve the environment.

Hardly. It could, for example, show that Bush had to compromise with people who wanted those things in order to get goodies for the oil companies.

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liberal 03.19.06 at 4:56 pm

functional wrote, Walt—and maybe it’s that you have no idea what Bush’s policies actually are?

Seriously, it’s easy to trade cheap insults. Do you have anything else to add to the discussion?

Pot-kettle-black.

Most of the “facts” you’ve cited come from that Wikipedia entry.

Note first that the entry appears to be a work in progress, and an incomplete one: “A fellow editor requested that someone provide references or sources for the information in this section.” The numbers for the tax breaks are confusing; for two of them, numbers are given as “?.?”. More importantly, it doesn’t state the duration of the tax breaks.

The quality of research in the article is questionable, given that the number for the tax breaks for the nuclear industry is pulled from a nuclear industry website.

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liberal 03.19.06 at 4:57 pm

BTW, how is a large tax break for the nuclear power industry something that would be sought by liberal politicians?

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Functional 03.19.06 at 5:39 pm

We’ve already been through this: Any informed liberal who wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should want to encourage the use of nuclear power. That’s the number one thing that our country could do that would emulate those European countries that have been successful at reducing such emissions.

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Functional 03.19.06 at 5:44 pm

I suppose Bush should say nasty things about nuclear power. Instead, he should pose as someone who favors various international agreements that have zero chance of success (read: Kyoto). End result: No change in carbon emissions, but Bush would have uttered the right sentiments. That’s what makes a good liberal, right?

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Barry Freed 03.19.06 at 6:06 pm

We’ve already been through this: Any informed liberal who wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should want to encourage the use of nuclear power.

I love that troll.

True, disposing of nuclear waste is an interesting engineering problem, but on the whole, it’s certainly safer than coal mining.

It tastes great when mixed with Kool-Aid, or so I hear.

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Functional 03.19.06 at 6:38 pm

If you’re ignorant of how nuclear power works (and the fact that it has zero carbon emissions), why not at least keep silent? Less embarrassing that way.

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Z 03.19.06 at 7:18 pm

First this
The Bush Administration has managed to change the perception of France from “declining ex-colonial power” to “leading enemy of the Anglo-Saxon world”

then this

It’s the way that more advanced countries (such as France) get most of their electrical power
Seriously, my country is on fire these days. Functional, as much as I enjoy discussing with you, there is something that prevents it: you have assumptions about “liberals” and what they should do that I do not share. I suggest that it might be you are mistaken about what they believe or should believe.

That’s what makes a good liberal, right?

I don’t know what makes a good liberal, but here are a few energy policies I would personnally think sound: 1) An immediate end of exploitation of nuclear energy. 2) The establishment of strong system of internalization of externalities, perhaps via a taxes on CO2 emmission. 3) Strong incentives to reduce energy consumption, probably via the most effective tool that I can think of: a sharp increase of prices. 4) Strong incentives to adopt renewable energies.

Comparing this with the actual act, you now understand (I hope) why I don’t like it. And you can thus direct your justified exasperation to the proper target.

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Functional 03.19.06 at 7:29 pm

If you want the end of nuclear energy, then you necessarily want drastically higher carbon emissions. There’s no way around this. Just so you know.

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Gar Lipw 03.19.06 at 11:44 pm

>If you want the end of nuclear energy, then you necessarily want drastically higher carbon emissions. There’s no way around this. Just so you know.

Nonsense. Nuclear is more expensive than efficiency, more expensive than wind. If you really were serious about nuclear as a way to decrease carbon emission, then you would have to favor breeder, not light water reactors; while uranium is a common element on earth, uranium that can be extracted and processed for less energy than is produced is rare; uranium that can be so processed economincally rarer still. If we were to drastically increase the percent of power provided by uranium, we would use up the cheap uranium quite quickly and nuclear power would be even more expensive than it is – comparable to solar thermal with thermal storage. Similarly breeder reactors in practice have proven comparable in price to run to solar thermal with storage (which is why that breeder reactors for power production rather than for military purposes either end up being shut down or converted to light water reactors).

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Gar Lipow 03.19.06 at 11:47 pm

Hit post before I was done. Bottom line – the list of renewable technologies that is less expensive than nuclear the way it would have to be done if it were to actually provide a high percentage of our energy includes:

efficiency
wind
wave
geothermal
hydro
High temp solar thermal for electricy
low temp solar thermal for space and water heating
biomass.

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Dr. Uncle Cap'n Mr. Goto-san 03.19.06 at 11:52 pm

Or do you maintain that programs signed into law by liberal Presidents are, by some miracle, able to avoid spending money in any way that rewards various liberal interest groups?

Straw man. TWENTY FUCKING YEARS AGO, Kevin Phillips pointed out in “Wealth and Democracy”(and backed up his thesis with historical data) that consistently, repeatedly, during the periods that “conservative” administrations (and by this I mean, backed by the richest and most powerful people, and, not coincidentally happening to be the Republicans and their ideological ancestors) correlated quite strongly with (1) massive increases in the public debt and (2) relatively poor growth in the GDP.

Democratic or “progressive” administrations, OTOH, correlated consistently with (1)relatively small increases in the public debt, if not reductions of it (see Clinton, Bill) and (2) relatively strong increases in the GDP. Furthermore, over the last 36 yrs (a period where the Federal government was controlled more often than not by Republicans), inequity in income has grown steadily (Phillips wrote this in the mid-80s, but it was true up to that time, and it’s still true).

The trope that “Conservatives run the economy better than Democrats” is only true if you believe that “The Economy” consists only of the top 1% in income. “functional” might agree with that assessment, but why in the hell should his opinion matter to me, for example??

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Functional 03.20.06 at 9:52 am

The last two commenters are amazingly irrelevant. Nothing that I said implied that Republicans are better at managing the economy, or that nuclear plants are cheap to construct.

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