New Mileage Requirements are as Pointless as 2007 CAFE Changes

Few people seem to understand that our new mileage standards are not going to make a significant difference in fuel efficiency; they are nothing more than a gift for the agricultural/ethanol/biodiesel lobby.  The new standards have the same flaws as the 2007 CAFE modifications.

Their major flaws are the following:

  1. They exist.  The market already determines that vehicles with poor mileage have difficulty selling compared to their efficient in-class counterparts.
  2. They will actually do nothing to increase mileage.  For example, the 29MPG Chevrolet Impalas that have been selling since late 2005 count as 46MPG vehicles under this new standard.  Yes, that’s right, one of the largest sedans on the road from the 2006 model year already exceeds the 2015 fleet-average requirement by 7MPG.  This is because they are Flex Fuel Vehicles and there is a significant “mileage credit” given to alternative fuel vehicles.  Of course, these vehicles may never have a drop of E85 poured into their tanks; all that matters is that they are technically FFVs.  The new requirements only guarantee that more vehicles will be cheaply modified to attain “Flex Fuel” stickers.  Assuming an automaker does this across all of its models, a 25MPG car average and 15MPG truck average should meet the requirements.
  3. If this mileage increase actually did require 39MPG for cars, people would be going postal.  Your choices would be limited to unsafe, gutless vehicles (unless the manufacturer paid the fine).  Even Toyota pushed back on the original 2007 requirements as it was simply too difficult to squeeze that much more mileage out of an internal combustion gasoline engine in a car significant segments of the market would want to buy.

Overall, it will probably sell a little more E85.  Cynically, I wonder if the President’s roots in the 3rd-largest corn producing state have anything to do with his enthusiasm for this.

Did MSNBC just lose it?

So Maddow, Olbermann and Shuster went crazy this week, repeatedly making “tea-bagging” jokes about the “tea parties”, often for several minutes at a time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not offended by this, but what a stupid move for a news network that wants to be seen as legitimate.  Olbermann tried to justify it last night (maybe it was the night before) by saying “next time don’t use a colloquialism for a sex act to name your event!”.  The real joke is that they didn’t.  Since these things were called “tea parties”, and not “tea-bagging parties”, the only thing in common is tea, so the joke was a stretch at best.  Is no one allowed to refer to tea anymore? Maybe next week we can talk about those limey British, with their daily tea-BAGGING time. Hilaaaaarious. 

The thing that pisses me off is that MSNBC is trying to pull legitimacy from something I support (reigning in government spending) just because they see it as a criticism of Obama. They painted the crowds as “racist”, “anti-government”, far-right, and ignorant.  Many people at these events didn’t support the spending of the Bush years, or the past few decades in general.

The Administration's New Plan for the Auto Industry

I’ve hesitated to write about the government’s intervention in the auto industry, as it seems silly based on the scale of investment so far (auto bailouts are only about 1% of what we’ve put toward stimulus and the financial sector),  but today’s announcement from Obama, following his rejection of both GM and Chrysler’s business recovery plans,  warrants a little attention.  I thought the following things were significant, ordered from best to worst:

1) The prospective of a managed bankruptcy was intruced as an alternative to drawing this out.  If I had to grade this move: A+++.  This is absolutely key, and actually should have been done faster.  Union reaction of course has been negative, as they may lose a lot, but legacy costs are the 800lb gorilla here. The math is overwhelming. In fact, it brings to mind how completely stupid the concerns over bonuses and corporate jets were.  Idiots in congress were hung up on visceral million-dollar issues while ignoring that GM drops 7 billion on legacy costs per year.

2) The Federal Government will back vehicle warranties.  I obviously don’t like the extent of government involvement to this point, but since we’re already invested I think this is potentially a good move as it may curb some fear and generate some greatly  needed short-term sales.

3) GM CEO Rick Wagoner must step down if GM wants to receive more in government loans.  While I agree that Wagoner is kind of a chump, this is a terrible move and feels an awful lot like a government power grab. I’m actually shocked the administration did it. Even taking into consideration that the government has some leverage when giving these types of loans, they should concern themselves with the what and not the who, and even that should be limited to decisions directly related to a return to profit. Do we really want our government picking CEOs? Their record in market intervention certainly doesn’t warrant it.

4) The Government may “provide a generous credit to consumers who turn in old, less fuel-efficient cars and purchase cleaner cars”.  I hate this kind of crap. First of all, left-wingers in congress have a long, annoying history of talking down to the domestic auto industry about putting too many eggs in the SUV basket, yet no one ever acknowledges why they did it.  They did it because for the last few decades, the great minds in our government have kept in place a huge tariff on trucks that makes it much more profitable for domestic companies to build and sell them here.  (With a little hassle, foreign competitors can build separate plants here and get around it.) And the reason failure manifested in truck and SUV sales is gas prices are unpredictable. If they suddenly run unexpectedly high, trucks and SUVs don’t sell.  So what happens if they run unexpectedly low?  Just check out Prius sales since late 2008.  They can’t sell them – and even worse, they weren’t profitable when they were selling, despite subsidies, because the things are very expensive to make. And don’t get me started on the subcompact cars that will inevitably be pimped. The “Smart Car” is the stupidest car I’ve ever seen. Yeah, can I get in line to sacrifice my life for 3 more MPG? But at least our bogus safety rating system routinely rates those cars at 4 and 5 stars.  This is because comparisons only include vehicles within 250 lbs of the same weight. We conveniently ignore that you are 4-5 times more likely to die in such a car if you crash into any larger class vehicle. The administration and congress need to stop creating artificial incentives for our industries and let companies make decisions based on true market conditions. But then, that would be capitalism.

Barack Obama isn't bipartisan – Waaaaah!

OK, you sniveling cry-babies, let’s all have a reality check on “bipartisanship.”

First of all, I can’t believe this is even something that’s still discussed.  Since it’s such a moronic topic, let me just pour a few 55-gallon drums of verbal nuclear waste to make it uninhabitable for a long time.  Or at least as long as the average American’s memory, which should buy us a couple weeks of silence.   

The idea that Obama or any politician is not “unifying” or “bipartisan” should not be shocking; very few politicians on either side actually desire bipartisanship. Obviously that’s because they’re typically partisans- and even if they aren’t, it’s dangerous to “reach across the aisle” (regardless of what you think of Lieberman, take a moment to remember what party leadership tried to do to him), so they vote with their party. Even a so-called “maverick” like McCain typically only diverges from the party line 10-15% of the time.  From my recollection, I think you’ll find Obama in the more typical 0-1% zone.  But let’s remember an obvious, usually-unstated fact here – crossing the aisle in itself is not necessarily a good thing (what?!) – it really depends on what you’re crossing for, doesn’t it?  McCain’s biggest household name bipartisan effort was McCain-Feingold, one of the biggest campaign finance reform failures of all time.

What I really wonder is if those complaining about Obama’s partisan rhetoric on Monday could kindly remind me when he personally claimed to be a Republicrat?  He made no secret of his voting record.  Why do you think Obama’s voting record was so similar to Clinton’s? Anyone who did their homework knows that if you go look it up, every vote they took (listed at ontheissues.org) during the time they were in the senate was the same, save for one which was a pretty minor issue.  They both voted like mainstream Deomcrats.  So if all of the left’s Hillary-haters are right, and Clinton is supposedly so polarizing, and her votes were exactly the same as Obama’s over a four year period, how is he going to be unifying to the two parties?  People made that assumption without doing their homework, based on surface level perceptions reinforced by partisan spinsters.  But there’s good news, Obama supporters – you can counter this with two words, “Who cares!”,  and you’ll be exactly right.  The purpose of our government is to protect its people’s life, liberty and property, not to generate ideal conditions for a Democrat-Republican lovefest (although that does sound hot).

At the end of the day, maybe a few uneducated people who think bipartisanship is important and didn’t do their homework before the election (you know, the morons labeled  “undecided” on all those election year graphs) got duped.  But they’re not the ones making all the noise.  What’s lame is the continued, completely disingenuous cries from hardcore Democrats AND Republicans that they actually care about bipartisanship. They don’t.  Hell, I’m a Libertarian and the only kind of bipartisanship I care about is the kind that gives us supposedly-Democratic social liberties and supposedly-Republican fiscal conservatism. In other words, libertarianism. We all just want it done our way, let’s get real and drop this brain-dead topic.

McCain and Obama don't measure up.

From my admittedly modest knowledge of American history, I’m pretty sure of one thing: If Thomas Jefferson had been alive and in attendance at Tuesday’s debate, the first thing he would have done is walk up on stage and punch both candidates in the mouth.

In the midst of our country’s largest financial crisis since the early 20th century (if not longer), these candidates offered no real solutions.  In fact, neither candidate has even given us the slightest clue of how their sloganesque claims could mathematically become reality.  They haven’t even tried, being so strong in the (correct) belief that they don’t have to.  The followers of their respective parties, of course, ignore this and continue their Orwellien worship of this pair of slogan dispensing disgraces.

Ron Paul correctly predicted our current housing disaster in 2002, and even correctly predicted what our government’s knee-jerk reaction would be, but was virtually laughed out of this year’s presidential race for being too “extreme”.  Let’s take a look at who we wound up with instead – Obama started off strong with this polling-driven nugget about our current economic crisis: “…the failed economic policies of the last eight years, strongly promoted by President Bush and supported by Sen. McCain, that essentially said that we should strip away regulations, consumer protections, let the market run wild…”.  If this doesn’t sum up presidential campaigning, I’m not sure what would.  Let’s see if we can determine what the goals of this scripted line were:

1) Use “eight years” to pin the problem exclusively to the party of the current president.
2) Use “supported by McCain” to tie your opponent to the unpopular president.
3) Use the “strip away regulations” Republican stereotype to add credibility to the comment.

That’s all well and good except for a couple things: first of all, “stripping away regulations” is exactly the opposite of what caused the problem.  The U.S. Community Reinvestment Act, passed by and several times amended by our congress over the last few decades, adding more and more risk, “encourages” banks to lend to “all segments of their community” since having banks decide what loans would lead to profitability on their own would be “discriminatory”.  The federal reserve controls interest rates through its own regulation, as opposed to letting the market set them.  In 1995, Fannie Mae and Freddic Mac began receiving “affordable housing credit” for purchasing mortgage-backed securities (for low-income borrowers) from none other than the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  All of these factors, which combined to form a perfect storm, operate outside of market-driven conditions and directly under the regulation of the United States government and Federal Reserve. 

Further, the assertion that McCain wants to “strip away regulations” gives way too much credit.  In fact, McCain’s first reaction to this situation was that a new agency should be created to deal with such crises.  This is the typical government approach: reward yourself for your own ineptitude by making yourself larger.  Resistence to this kind of garbage used to be the strength of the Republican party.  Today, they bring about irrelevent arguments about earmarks that are determined after spending levels have already been set and then talk about how they will lower taxes despite not cutting any programs from a budget that’s already out of balance.  The Democrats are no better in this category, feigning that a reduction from the $100 billion spent annually in Iraq would fund massive socialization of health care that already costs over $700 billion (largely do to the inefficiency of its centralization, which would only be increased) and hasn’t even increased care rates for the poor and elderly.  And of course, no significant program cuts to speak of.  What would Jefferson have said about this?  He is, after all, the man who said: “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

And of course, both candidates supported a bill to tax the American people as part of an injection of close to a trillion dollars into a failing industry that was basically deservedly seeing the results of its malinvestment.  This comes at the expense of the American people not only in terms of the direct taxation, but also in terms of the resulting devaluation of every dollar they’ve saved (even before this bill, $600-$700 billion had been added in liquidity from thin air), not to mention every dollar they are payed by their employers until salaries adjust for the resulting inflation.  This is why I’m pretty sure Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t have cared for these guys.  His desire was for “a wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.”  Of course, given Jefferson’s opinion on sound money in general (“Never spend your money before you have earned it”) one has to wonder what he’d think about debt-backed securities, debt-backed currency, and a debt-ridden government.

What personally distresses me is that so few people even seem to care.  Maybe John Adams said it best in a letter to Jefferson: “All the perplexities, confusion and distresses in America arise not from defects in the constitution or confederation, nor from want of honor or virtue, as much from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation.”

At any rate, you can start to see a couple patterns in these candidates’ positions: fix problems created by intervention with more intervention, and count on your quasi-religious following to forget fifth grade math while they’re fawning over you.  It’s worked so far.