Friday, September 7, 2007

Lou Dobbs, Hater

Yesterday, my old nemesis Lou Dobbs was back on the anti-immigration warpath. His topic: H1-B visas and the support among presidential candidates for more of them at the expense of hard-working middle-class "Americans." I guess he's either hoping that you don't know what H1-B visas are, that you don't know who's most adversely affected by immigrants coming to the US, or that you don't know who the middle class is.

1. What is an H1-B visa? It is a visa for immigrants with a minimum of a bachelors degree, usually with some degree of specialization in some technical field. Do the visas uniformly get allocated to the most qualified or most in-demand? NO! But, I can only imagine how hot Lou would be at the administrative cost of our Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly INS) if they tried to evaluate each of the hundreds of thousands of applications to try to evaluate which ones were the best-suited to help our economy grow.

2. Who's most adversely affected by immigration? Not the middle class! The only group that has been shown (in empirical studies of the economy by well qualified econometricians) to be adversely affected by immigration (legal or otherwise) is the lower-tail, i.e. those with low education (high school dropouts) and low experience (18-25 years old). I don't dispute that these, less fortunate groups should be looked after, but I do think that there are better ways to do it than by cutting off the flow of immigrants who help our economy be the leader in innovative technologies.

3. Who is the middle-class anyway? Well, the median household in the US earns about $55,000. Last time I checked, the gardener who does upkeep around my townhouse or the carpenter putting up new units accross the way isn't pulling down anything near that. So, are the immigrants we're most worked up about really killing the middle class? I don't think so-- I really don't think that they're competing in the same labor markets as the "middle" class.

Lou Dobbs, Purveyor of Misinformation

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Presidential Energy Records, Part III

So, first of all, from reading the actual record it's apparent that the big issue is OIL. Also, there is a real dialectic between the parties on this topic: Republicans want to solve the energy issue by expanding production of oil and gas, whereas Democrats favor policies that curtail consomption. So by now you may be wondering, "As an 'expert' economist who do you think is right?" Well, I'm a two handed economist-- On the one hand they're both right, and on the other hand they're both wrong. Both stategies will help extend our ability to fuel our cars and heat and cool our homes in the short to medium run. Yet, both strategies are very costly, and neither strategy promises to be very effective in the long run.

Expanding production is problematic because many of the policies involve huge subsidies to corporations. Also, it is myopic because there oil reserves are relatively fixed, and sustaining current energy consumption may not be environmentally sustainable. Yes, Virginia, there is Global Warming.

Curtailing consumption is equally problematic because these policies also involve high costs, although the costs are somewhat more disguised. Regulations, like CAFE standards will serve to raise the prices of certain big-ticket goods, and may place undue burden on households and firms. Secondly, they may not serve their intended purpose, because markets are notoriously good at subverting rigid regulations governing quantity or price.

What is particularly frustrating looking at these positions is that there is an abysmally thin record on alternative energy- one vote here on biofuels and one on hydrogen cars there, and probably a bunch of blind "yeas" for ethanol to "support hard-workin' American farmers" and that's all. Realistically, since oil is what we actually use, finding ways to manage that resource is something we must do, but what will it take to start a real Political debate over energy alternatives that will be sustainable and compatible with a cleaner environment?

Presidential Energy Records, Part II

Part II of Saturday's post: the republicans on energy and oil from http://www.ontheissues.org/.

Sam Brownback
Voted NO on disallowing an oil leasing program in Alaska's ANWR. (Nov 2005)
Voted NO on $3.1B for emergency oil assistance for hurricane-hit areas. (Oct 2005)
Voted NO on reducing oil usage by 40% by 2025 (instead of 5%). (Jun 2005)
Voted NO on banning drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Mar 2005)
Voted YES on Bush Administration Energy Policy. (Jul 2003)
Voted YES on targeting 100,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2010. (Jun 2003)
Voted NO on removing consideration of drilling ANWR from budget bill. (Mar 2003)
Voted YES on drilling ANWR on national security grounds. (Apr 2002)
Voted YES on terminating CAFE standards within 15 months. (Mar 2002)
Voted YES on preserving budget for ANWR oil drilling. (Apr 2000)

Rudy Guiliani
No formal record on energy, but formal statements include:
Accept global warming & work toward energy independence. (Jun 2007)
Signing Kyoto would just move CO2 emissions to China & India. (Mar 2007)
No new energy tax; focus on alternatives instead. (Mar 2007)
Nuclear power is dangerous, but nobody's died from it. (Mar 2007)
Develop energy-independent technology, but not wind power. (Mar 2007)
Open Strategic Petroleum Reserve to battle high oil prices. (Feb 2000)
Oil crisis is “compelling justification” to use Reserves. (Feb 2000)

Mike Huckabee
Kyoto was a mistake, but "Earth in the Balance" is not. (Jan 2007)
Shouldn't limit oil production while increasing consumption. (Jan 2007)
Explore ways to harness nuclear power. (Jan 2007)
Promote alternative fuel technology. (Nov 2002)
Voluntary partnerships reduce greenhouse gases economically. (Aug 2000)
Kyoto Treaty must include reductions by all countries. (Aug 2000)
More funding to develop domestic energy supplies. (Sep 2001)
Use federal funds for nuclear cleanup, with state input. (Sep 2001)
Share offshore oil development revenue with states. (Sep 2001)

Duncan Hunter
Voted NO on removing oil & gas exploration subsidies. (Jan 2007)
Voted NO on keeping moratorium on drilling for oil offshore. (Jun 2006)
Voted YES on scheduling permitting for new oil refinieries. (Jun 2006)
Voted YES on authorizing construction of new oil refineries. (Oct 2005)
Voted YES on passage of the Bush Administration national energy policy. (Jun 2004)
Voted YES on implementing Bush-Cheney national energy policy. (Nov 2003)
Voted NO on raising CAFE standards; incentives for alternative fuels. (Aug 2001)
Voted NO on prohibiting oil drilling & development in ANWR. (Aug 2001)
Voted NO on starting implementation of Kyoto Protocol. (Jun 2000)

John McCain
Voted YES on disallowing an oil leasing program in Alaska's ANWR. (Nov 2005)
Voted NO on $3.1B for emergency oil assistance for hurricane-hit areas. (Oct 2005)
Voted NO on reducing oil usage by 40% by 2025 (instead of 5%). (Jun 2005)
Voted YES on banning drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Mar 2005)
Voted NO on Bush Administration Energy Policy. (Jul 2003)
Voted YES on targeting 100,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2010. (Jun 2003)
Voted YES on removing consideration of drilling ANWR from budget bill. (Mar 2003)
Voted NO on drilling ANWR on national security grounds. (Apr 2002)
Voted NO on terminating CAFE standards within 15 months. (Mar 2002)
Voted YES on preserving budget for ANWR oil drilling. (Apr 2000)

Ron Paul
Voted NO on criminalizing oil cartels like OPEC. (May 2007)
Voted NO on removing oil & gas exploration subsidies. (Jan 2007)
Voted NO on keeping moratorium on drilling for oil offshore. (Jun 2006)
Voted YES on scheduling permitting for new oil refinieries. (Jun 2006)
Voted NO on passage of the Bush Administration national energy policy. (Jun 2004)
Voted NO on implementing Bush-Cheney national energy policy. (Nov 2003)
Voted NO on raising CAFE standards; incentives for alternative fuels. (Aug 2001)
Voted NO on prohibiting oil drilling & development in ANWR. (Aug 2001)
Voted NO on starting implementation of Kyoto Protocol. (Jun 2000)

Mitt Romney
No-regrets policy: biofuel, nuclear power, drill ANWR. (Jun 2007)
Big Oil should reinvest profits in oil refineries. (Jun 2007)
Develop alternative energy but also drill in ANWR. (Dec 2006)

Tom Tancredo
Voted NO on criminalizing oil cartels like OPEC. (May 2007)
Voted NO on removing oil & gas exploration subsidies. (Jan 2007)
Voted NO on keeping moratorium on drilling for oil offshore. (Jun 2006)
Voted YES on scheduling permitting for new oil refinieries. (Jun 2006)
Voted YES on authorizing construction of new oil refineries. (Oct 2005)
Voted YES on passage of the Bush Administration national energy policy. (Jun 2004)
Voted YES on implementing Bush-Cheney national energy policy. (Nov 2003)
Voted NO on raising CAFE standards; incentives for alternative fuels. (Aug 2001)
Voted NO on prohibiting oil drilling & development in ANWR. (Aug 2001)
Voted NO on starting implementation of Kyoto Protocol. (Jun 2000)

Fred Thompson
Voted YES on drilling ANWR on national security grounds. (Apr 2002)
Voted YES on terminating CAFE standards within 15 months. (Mar 2002)
Voted YES on preserving budget for ANWR oil drilling. (Apr 2000)

Presidential Energy Records, Part III

So, first of all, from reading the actual record it's apparent that the big issue is OIL. Also, there is a real dialectic between the parties on this topic: Republicans want to solve the energy issue by expanding production of oil and gas, whereas Democrats favor policies that curtail consomption. So by now you may be wondering, "As an 'expert' economist who do you think is right?" Well, I'm a two handed economist-- On the one hand they're both right, and on the other hand they're both wrong. Both stategies will help extend our ability to fuel our cars and heat and cool our homes in the short to medium run. Yet, both strategies are very costly, and neither strategy promises to be very effective in the long run.

Expanding production is problematic because many of the policies involve huge subsidies to corporations. Also, it is myopic because there oil reserves are relatively fixed, and sustaining current energy consumption may not be environmentally sustainable. Yes, Virginia, there is Global Warming.

Curtailing consumption is equally problematic because these policies also involve high costs, although the costs are somewhat more disguised. Regulations, like CAFE standards will serve to raise the prices of certain big-ticket goods, and may place undue burden on households and firms. Secondly, they may not serve their intended purpose, because markets are notoriously good at subverting rigid regulations governing quantity or price.

What is particularly frustrating looking at these positions is that there is an abysmally thin record on alternative energy- one vote here on biofuels and one on hydrogen cars there, and probably a bunch of blind "yeas" for ethanol to "support hard-workin' American farmers" and that's all. Realistically, since oil is what we actually use, finding ways to manage that resource is something we must do, but what will it take to start a real Political debate over energy alternatives that will be sustainable and compatible with a cleaner environment?