Thousands of Your Dollars Wasted on Bad Energy Policy

When President Obama took office the price of gas was $1.86 a gallon. Today it averages about $3.50. If you are “lucky” enough to live in California it is over $4.00 a gallon. Gas goes up and down but why? And more importantly what does it mean to the economy and your family?

A few simple math equations to make the point:

To fill a 20 gallon tank:

At $1.86 it costs $37.20

At $3.50 it costs $70.00

The difference of $32.80 every time you fill up your tank.

Now let’s say you have to fill up once a week. The average commuter may have to do it more and depending on the car you drive it may vary as well.

At $1.86 the cost per year is $1934.40 a year to keep your gas tank full once a week.

At $3.50 the cost per year $3640.00 a year to keep your gas tank full once a week.

A difference of $1705.60 a year for a once a week fill up for one car.

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Franken to Chu: Doggone It, Like My State’s Company

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing last week on the Department of Energy’s budget request for fiscal 2013. Chris Edwards tipped me off to a particularly galling exchange between Energy secretary Steven Chu and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). Sen. Franken uses his allotted time to badger Chu about a federal loan that Energy conditionally committed to a Minnesota company in 2010 that apparently has yet to be approved.

The exchange begins around the 61 minute mark here. Our trusty interns, Devon Sanchez and Stephen Wooten, transcribed the exchange, which I’ll share a portion of:

Sen. Franken:

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USPS: Stuck With the Government Business Model

The U.S. Postal Service has released a new five-year plan for congressional consideration that it says would get the beleaguered government mail monopoly on sounder financial footing and thus avoid a taxpayer bailout. The plan repeats previous suggestions (i.e., workforce reductions, postal network consolidations, elimination of Saturday delivery, elimination of the retiree healthcare benefit funding requirement) and proposes an increase in the price of a first-class stamp from forty-five to fifty cents.

Whether or not it would achieve what the USPS hopes, it probably doesn’t matter given that asking Congress for greater operational flexibility is like asking a two year old to stop playing with their food. That’s why the focus should be on completely transitioning the USPS from a government-run business to a privately-run business (or perhaps businesses).

Over at the Courier Express and Postal Observer blog, Alan Robinson says that “just like all plans that came before, [the new USPS plan] started with the assumption that the Postal Service remains a quasi-governmental entity.” As a result, Robinson notes that the plan is missing two key ingredients for success that foreign posts have utilized: private capital and an expanded range of products and services.

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Obama’s Proposed Cuts and the Scope of Government

The president’s fiscal 2013 budget includes a 213 page document that contains 210 proposed cuts, consolidations, and other savings. That sounds like a lot until one finds out that the alleged savings would only amount to $24 billion in a $3.8 trillion budget. Not only would the cuts do little to reduce the size of government, they would…

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Another Log for the Government Spending Multiplier Fire

At the center of the debate over efforts by policymakers to “stimulate” the economy with government spending is the issue of fiscal multipliers. Some economists argue that government spending can be a free lunch: an additional dollar of government spending increases GDP by more than one dollar. Other economists say that government spending is not…

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Earmarks are a Symptom of the Problem

Washington Post investigation identified dozens of examples of federal policymakers directing federal dollars to projects that benefited their property or an immediate family member. Members of Congress have been enriching themselves at taxpayer expense? In other news, the sun rose this morning.

According to the Post, “Under the ethics rules Congress has written for itself, this is both legal and undisclosed”:

By design, ethics rules governing Congress are intended to preserve the freedom of members to direct federal spending in their districts, a process known as earmarking. Such spending has long been cloaked in secrecy and only in recent years has been subjected to more transparency. Although Congress has imposed numerous conflict-of-interest rules on federal agencies and private businesses, the rules it has set for itself are far more permissive.

Lawmakers are required to certify that they do not have a financial stake in the actions they take. In the cases The Post examined, not one lawmaker mentioned that he or she owned property that was near the earmarked project or had a relative who was employed by the company or institution that received the earmark. The reason: Nothing in congressional rules requires them to do so, and the rules do not address proximity.

With the fox guarding the henhouse, the most one can hope to accomplish is to limit the carnage. Many pundits, politicians, and policy wonks argue that a permanent ban on earmarks would be an effective limit. Unfortunately, that’s just wishful thinking as earmarks are merely a symptom of the real problem: Congress can spend other peoples’ money on virtually anything it wants.

Take the example of Rep. Candace Miller (R-MI):

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Biennial Budgeting: Baloney Budget Reform

I don’t recall ever agreeing with the left-liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), but their new paperon the drawbacks of the federal government switching to biennial budgeting is a good read. Congressional Republicans, including House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-AL), are the chief proponents of switching to a biennial budget cycle. By providing (qualified) support to the CBPP paper, I’m hoping to demonstrate to would-be GOP naysayers that criticism of biennial budgeting isn’t confined to one area of the ideological spectrum.

I don’t agree with everything in the paper and I don’t share some of the authors’ concerns, but here are three solid points that the paper makes:

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State Dependency on the Federal Government

The president’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal is scheduled to be released on February 13th. State officials are predictably sounding the alarm on the coming “deep cuts” to federal subsidies now that stimulus funds are running out and Washington is being forced to confront its mounting red ink. State officials have become addicted to federal subsidies…

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Obama Proposes New Department of Corporate Welfare

Contrary to what various news outlets are reporting, President Obama is NOT proposing to cut government. The administration is proposing to take four independent federal agencies that specialize in corporate welfare – along with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative – and combine them with corporate welfare programs at the Department of Commerce to…

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