Man With The Reverse-Midas Touch

Ilana Mercer, January 29, 2010

I’m really looking forward to hearing a speech by someone who is involved in innovation, knows America’s place in the world market and has fiscal responsibility. And I hope that Obama is listening very carefully when Steve Jobs speaks tomorrow.”

That was Penn Jillette on the eve of Barack Obama’s first, much-anticipated State of the Union Address. The celebrity libertarian magician was making mischief with one of Larry King’s stock questions. It takes a magician to know one.

On the day of Obama’s SOTU sermon, Jobs, Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc., launched a magic mobile device called the “iPad.” Perhaps Jillette thinks that the solution to America’s economic inertia lies in visionary produces like Jobs, and not in vain, profligate politicians like the president.

Technology is certainly a task for which Obama and minions are singularly ill-equipped. But that has not stopped them from tinkering ─ and attempting to bend industry in “green” directions. “We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities,” Barack boomed last night. “You can see the results of last year’s investments in clean energy -– in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries.”

Not according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Against its politically correct instincts, the IEEE was forced to “cast stones at a wide selection of … poorly conceived technology projects.” One of these was Government Motors’ “Chevrolet Volt, a car known as a plug-in hybrid because it will get most of its power from the wall socket in a garage.”

You see, unless the Big O issues a mandate compelling Americans to purchase the commie car, the Volt won’t be making money.

“The first year’s volume, by GM’s own calculations, is 10,000 units, and you can’t save a company with that. That’s chicken feed.” Or, as Johan de Nysschen, the president of Audi of America put it: “There are not enough idiots who will buy it.” These vehicles, ventured de Nysschen, are “for the intellectual elite who want to show what enlightened souls they are.”

Correction: Whether a vehicle is propelled by hydrogen-powered fuel cells or electricity, both electricity and hydrogen don’t magically materialize in the vehicle. They must first be generated. Be it coal, natural gas, nuclear or a hydroelectric dam, these cars are only as clean as the original source of energy that generated the vim that powers them. Someone who doesn’t understand this is hardly an intellectual.

According to yet another expert-IEEE assessment, “Lithium-ion batteries degrade substantially in just a few years. Owners will face decreasing range and, ultimately, the need to replace and recycle the car’s giant, expensive battery.” The verdict: “The Volt won’t save enough on gas to cover the higher purchasing cost.”

It was inevitable that the 2009 Guinness World Record for fuel economy was set by a non-hybrid: A 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI powered with Shell ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel.

The green command economy is fraught with waste, mismanagement, misallocation of precious resources, and worse. Its commander, the man with the reverse-Midas touch, should leave it to the free market to make magic.

Other Obama oratory which ought to be subjected to critical mauling: “Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted immediately and aggressively. … Economists on the left and the right say [the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] has helped save jobs and avert disaster.”

You lie: On January 9, 2009, more than 200 academic economists, corralled by the Cato Institute, signed a petition that rejected root-and-branch President-Elect Barack Obama’s economic stimulus:

It is a triumph of hope over experience to believe that more government spending will help the U.S. today. To improve the economy, policymakers should focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, saving, investment and production. Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth.

TAX CUTS VS. TAX CREDITS. “We cut taxes,” boasted Obama. “We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college.”

You lie: Obama has not cut taxes; he has cut welfare checks for workers, many of whom receive more in reimbursements from the government than they pay in taxes. Moreover ─ and with a flick of his forked tongue ─ the president simply redefined the meaning of a tax cut. A tax cut is a reduction in tax rates. It means letting a poor sod (or serf) keep more of his rightful earnings.

Obama’s “tax credits” are not tax cuts. Ask Wikipedia, the left-leaning online encyclopedia, according to which tax credits are “subsidies disguised as tax cuts. In other words, they are spending in the form of direct transfers from the treasury to individuals, except that they are administered by the tax authorities rather than the agencies usually responsible for welfare.”

A better definition of tax credits is social tinkering or engineering, as they target certain politically desirable constituents to the detriment of others. “Taxpayers can receive a raft of tax credits if they engage in various government-specified activities,” confirms Peter Ferrara, director of entitlement and budget policy for the Institute for Policy Innovation.

Obama: “Because of the steps we took, there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed.”

You lie: Government added over half a million workers to its swelling ranks in the second quarter of 2009, as the private sector shed more than a million. This is hardly coincidental. Think zero-sum economics, or parasite vs. host. The larger the parasitical sector gets, the weaker the productive host will grow. The first is sucking the lifeblood of the second.

No less a proponent of forceful distribution of private property than CNN categorized as only “half true” Obama’s claim that “2 million more Americans would be unemployed without the stimulus.”

It’s a projection. Economists can’t say for sure what would have happened if the stimulus had not passed; and whether those who got jobs through the stimulus would otherwise be unemployed.

Call me old fashioned, but someone who tells half-truths is still a wholesale liar.

January 29

CATEGORIES: Barack Obama, Economy, Energy, Environmentalism, Free Markets, Labor, Property Rights, Taxation, Technology