Samuelson On Climate Change Epilogue: A Telling—And Irresponsible— Rebuttal


As one of the commenters to the recent post here about Washington Post op-ed columnist Robert Samuelson’s clear-eyed assessment of climate change hucksterism noted, Samuelson’s analysis isn’t exactly a bolt from the blue. Such inconvenient truths are seldom articulated in the mainstream media, however. (A similar article turned up in, of all places, The Huffington Post, which usually favors climate change fascists calling for the arrest of people like Samuelson and other critics whose blasphemy is ensuring the end of the human race.) Samuelson’s column prompted this Washington Post Letter to the Editor from Peter Hildebrand, who is director emeritus of the Earth Sciences Division of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. It caused me to spit out my morning coffee yesterday:

In his defeatist op-ed concerning climate change, “Can we set the planet’s temperature?” [Dec. 28], Robert J. Samuelson sold short human abilities for scientific understanding and for creative innovations that change and improve how we live. As the Paris climate accord notes, we have solid scientific understanding of our options for limiting Earth’s rising temperature, and, with this knowledge, we can set a path for achieving these goals.

Mr. Samuelson failed to realize that we are already in a second Industrial Revolution, an energy revolution, that will be as unstoppable and positive as the first one. The switch to a largely renewable energy mix is already underway, driven as much by economic opportunity and technological innovation as by a social imperative based on scientific understandings. Mr. Samuelson also failed to note that in order to ensure that our grandchildren have the comfortable life they deserve, this energy revolution is critically needed. We need to embrace and support this revolution, not fight it.

That’s some rebuttal, isn’t it? Samuelson presents facts that persuasively suggest that that the measures “agreed on” in Paris are based on speculation, unwarranted belief in inadequate energy alternatives, and unrealistic projections, and this climate change advocate, presumably a scientist, responds with, essentially… Continue reading

Robert Samuelson’s Objective, Reasonable Analysis Of Climate Change Policy: Now Watch Him Get Called “A Denier”

samuelsonI’ve been reading and marveling at Robert J. Samuelson’s commentary on economic matters for decades. He lacks the panache of George Will, the certitude of E.J. Dionne, the passion of Charles Krauthammer, the comforting wishy-washiness of Kathleen Parker, and the partisan alliances of almost everybody. He’s just smart, articulate, observant scholar who gives his readers a sharp and objective analysis that often defies conventional wisdom. He annoys conservatives and liberals in equal measure, and I suppose is not a scintillating presence, since he is almost never on TV talking head panels.

Finally, he put his cerebral skills to work on the issue of climate change policy. Here, in part, is what he has concluded… Continue reading

Robert Samuelson And Social Security’s Pro-Rich Bias

A typical nuanced view of the problem...

                                    A typical nuanced view of the problem…

My father was in the private pension business before he died, and the idiocy of how Social Security was set up drove him to distraction. I’m pretty sure he voted for Ross Perot in 1992 because Perot argued that it made no sense not to means test the program. I’m tempted to take a copy of Robert J. Samuelson’s op-ed last week to Arlington National Cemetery and leave it on his gravestone.

Samuelson is reliably one of the most rational, thoughtful and probing of all the op-ed columnists. Last week he wrote about how the life-expectancy gap between the wealthier segments of U.S. society and the poorer ones made Social Security as it is currently constituted a significant contributor to the income gap that progressives desperately want to make a key issue in the 2016 election, because dividing the nation by class (and race, ethnicity, religion and gender) is a big part of their playbook.

He wrote…

“The figures come from a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which estimated life expectancies for workers born in 1930 (now 85) and 1960 (now 55) at age 50. The findings are stark. For the richest fifth of men, there was a 7.1-year increase in life expectancy, from 81.7 for those born in 1930 to 88.8 years for those born in 1960. Meanwhile, for the poorest fifth of men, life expectancy fell slightly, from 76.6 years for those born in 1930 to 76.1 for those born in 1960. The changes for the remaining men also parallel income: For the second richest fifth, the increase was 8 years to 87.8 years; for the third richest, 5.3 years to 83.4 years; and for the fourth richest, 1.1 years to 78.3 years.”

Nobody should be surprised that wealth equals health. It is difficult to pinpoint why the gap is so large, but should we have to? It seems intuitively obvious. Many  disadvantages–race, upbringing, family stability, good roles models, education, character, intelligence, opportunities, culture, neighborhoods—that undermine quality of life simultaneously or in combination with each other handicap earning ability  and health before we even get to the question of medical care.

Samuelson goes on… Continue reading

The Irresponsible, Greedy 1% and the Hypocritical, Greedy .01% of the 1% Who Get Away With Attacking Them…That Is, Hillary Clinton

...for less than an hour's work. But it's HARD work, know: talking.

…for less than an hour’s work. But it’s HARD wor…you know: talking.

Robert Samuelson accurately categorizes America’s CEOs as a new economic aristocracy in his most recent column. Why CEO salaries are so absurdly high is caused by many factors, some of which the columnist lists, but that fact is inescapable that the salaries cannot be defended by rational arguments. This is in stark contrast, by the way, to similarly high-salaried entertainers and sports figures, who tend to really earn their money. There is, after all, only one LeBron James, Tiger Woods, or Jon Stewart. Corporate CEOs, though they would like to think they are unique talents, seldom are. Could you replace most of them for considerably less than the going rate of 20 million dollars a year? Absolutely.

Thus continuing to accept such absurd salaries and attendant benefits while the economy stutters, their companies restrict hiring and the gap between worker salaries and executive compensation widens is unethical, pure and simple. Doing so is based on greed and willfully ignoring the consequences of the conduct, as Samuelson points out, though he hardly needs to, so obvious should it be to corporate executives and outside observers alike:

“Americans dislike aristocracies. Unless companies can find a more restrained pay system, they risk an anti-capitalist public backlash. This is the ultimate danger. For all the flaws of today’s system, government regulation of pay — responding to political needs and pandering to popular prejudices — would be much worse.”

Just as irresponsible as these gorging, selfish, unrestrained and greedy executives are the class-dividing hypocrites who try to exploit public resentment and pander to those popular prejudices while profiting from the same irrational system of misaligned resources that make those CEOs the equivilent of sultans. I know I have been critical of Hillary Clinton regularly of late, but I am not responsible for flaunting her in  front of my wincing eyes and abused ears on a daily basis. How dare she try to pose as an advocate of a rational system of wealth distribution? And how pathetic that her tone-deaf and logic-free supporters tolerate it!

In a weekend interview with the  Guardian, Clinton pronounced herself a fit champion of populism and a credible agent of reform for skewed income levels because progressives “don’t see me as part of the problem because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names; and we’ve done it through dint of hard work.”


Those progressives are gullible and naive idiots then!

Thanks for that clarification. Continue reading

“There Is No Debt Crisis” ? Boy, That’s A Load Off My Mind!

"So far, so good!"

“So far, so good!”

The confluence of head-exploding statements and news keeps coming, with the worst being the recent unconscionable announcements out of the mouths of the President and some of his political adversaries that “there is no debt crisis.”

This is exactly like the old joke about the man falling from a 40 story window, being asked by someone on the tenth floor, shouting through a window as he passes, “How are you doing?” “So far, so good!” he answers. Yet these ridiculous, idiotic or intentionally dishonest statements by President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and others are being cited by the news media as reassuring! No, there’s no debt crisis, if you regard that falling optimist as not being in a smashing-to-pulp-on-the-sidewalk-crisis. The debt increased by a trillion dollars last year, and looks as if it will increase by close to a trillion more by October, 2013. The government has no leadership on the issue, and the various sides appear incapable of forging a solution, with the current Administration actually going out of its way to try to make less than 2% in budget cuts under the absurd sequester hurt as much as possible, to convince a math-deficient public that cutting the size of government is not only impossible but undesirable. This scenario doesn’t demonstrate that there’s a debt crisis? Continue reading

A Frightening Figure, Setting Off Ethics Alarms

We don't even know how to play Russian Roulette responsibly.

On Friday, the day before Christmas Eve when much of America was thinking about sugar plums,  lay-away plans, and protesting Christmas pageants, the Federal Accounting Office released its analysis of  the net present value of the nation’s Social Security and Medicare obligations, “net present value” being  the total funds that would have to be set aside today to pay the costs of these programs in the future. Seldom do figures so clearly indict the unethical practices and statements of so many.

In fiscal 2011, the cost of the catching up on the required funding of Medicare and Social Security rose from $30.9 trillion to $33.8 trillion. That $2.9 trillion increase should be regarded as adding to the $1.3 trillion cash deficit for fiscal 2011, making a $4.2 trillion deficit—and this coming in a year in which the rising national debt was supposedly recognized, at last, as a threat to America’s stability, prosperity, and welfare. The costs of Social Security and Medicare are rising at a frightening rate, nearly doubling in the last decade, with little or nothing being done to address the problem. And there is good reason to believe that the Medicare estimates are based on unrealistic assumptions. The GAO report also includes an alternate, less rosy scenario (or perhaps “more putrid” is a better phrase) in which the projected Social Security-Medicare debt is more than $46 trillion. How serious is that? Well, the combined value of the equity in U.S. homes and the value of all publicly-traded companies is less than 20 trillion dollars.

What do these figures tell us about the ethics of the various players on the national scene? Continue reading

The Selfish, the Irresponsible and the Cowardly, Pushing the US to Fiscal Disaster

Greek food, America! Better get used to it, becuase we'll have to swallow what the Greeks are swallowing we can't find some leaders with courage.

Failure is now all but ensured by the so-called Super Committee, a gimmick designed by our leadership-averse President and his pathetically inept legislative counterparts in Congress (both parties, now) to provide themselves with bi-partisan political cover when they again ducked their obligation to solve the nation’s fiscal mess. For those of you who, like me, have wondered how Greece and Italy could reach their current miserable status when the fiscal disaster now facing them was obvious years ago, the answer is plain. They tolerated a fatal combination of selfish interest groups, pampered and lazy voters, and elected leaders who distorted, dithered and ducked their duties, until it was too late. And that is exactly what happening here.

There is no need to waste invective on the committee itself, which is beneath contempt. What they have come to was predictable, and I, along with many others, predicted it. But the predictions still did not have to come true, if, for example, these hostages to toxic ideologies really cared about the country as much as keeping the power to ruin it, or if President Obama hadn’t calculated that his best chances of re-election would be to let the committee founder with him being able to claim no role in its betrayal. rather than to do his job—leading–and try to make sure it succeeded at the risk of failing himself…again.

Betrayal is the word that I use, and that is what it is. Continue reading

Robert Samuelson’s Brilliant, Ethical, Hopeless Proposal

Great idea, Robert. Too bad it requires courage and honesty.

I don’t generally regurgitate other writers’ essays, but in this case I am making an exception. Robert Samuelson, rare among op-ed columnists in that he is a truth-teller without party bias, has a column today that proposes a joint act of integrity and heroism by Barack Obama’s immediate predecessors. His idea, if implemented, could have a major impact on breaking the impasse in Congress that threatens the nation’s future. It could be accomplished without bureaucratic red tape, and is profoundly responsible and ethical. And it would burnish the legacies of two former presidents who could use some burnishing.

Will it happen? Never. That’s the disturbing part. Continue reading

The Damage of Health Care Reform “By Any Means Necessary”

I have no idea whether the health care reform bill, assuming it finally gets passed in one form or another, will make things better or worse, and if you are honest about it, neither do you…and neither, I am certain, do most of the elected representatives who will have voted for it or against it (or for it and against it) by the time the dust clears. To only cite the most obvious proof, the bill’s current form was just posted yesterday, giving Congress 72 hours to read and understand over 2,000 pages of technical jargon and badly-written prose. I don’t believe I have ever read 700 pages a day for three days at any point in my life, and if I have, I know it had to be something more diverting than a health care bill.

Relying on second-hand analysis—also by individuals who haven’t read the current bill—simply puts us (and the members of Congress) at the mercy of the biases of those rendering the opinions. For example, one of my favorite commentators, Robert Samuelson, has persuasive arguments against the bill here and here, while one of my least favorite, Paul Krugman, weighs in on the bill’s virtues here and here. Now, I think Krugman has squandered his credibility by blatant untruths in the past (One howler, his infamous statement about the national health care systems of Canada and Great Britain that “We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false” is derisively quoted almost daily by Wall Street Journal blogger James Taranto as he relays tales of national health care horrors from the London press), but the man has won a Nobel prize: maybe he’s right and Samuelson is wrong. I really don’t know.

I do know this, however: whether the bill proves to be disaster or panacea, the manner in which President Obama and the Democrats have gone about passing it has done real and lasting harm.  Continue reading