The Worst Presidential Election Ever

Unlike with the first two of this year's debates, last night I didn't have something better to do, so I actually watched a good chunk of the debate.  And of course, my reward was to be reminded over and over again why this is the worst presidential election ever.  

I could comment on many things, but let me narrow the focus.  There's not much point in paying attention to anything the candidates say about how they will deal with foreign affairs or foreign powers, because whatever they say now, it will all become inoperative in the specifics of any situation that might arise.  And who really cares about the name calling and character attacks?  If you follow the news at all, you are not going to learn anything new about their respective bad characters from what they say about each other.  

But I do care about domestic economic policy, and what candidates say on that subject can be a rather good predictor of what they will do, or at least try to do, once in office.  So my ears perked up around the middle of the debate when moderator Chris Wallace said he was going to "move on to the next topic," namely "the economy," and asked each candidate to "please explain to me why you believe your plan will create more jobs and growth for this country and your opponent's plan will not."  The exchange that followed really encapsulated the awfulness of the whole thing for me.  The candidate's answers are a little long for this blog post, so I will edit them for space, while attempting to capture the essence.

Hillary went first, and proceeded to lay out a vision where all improvement in human economic condition comes from additional government spending, rules, and programs, all to be paid for by taxes and yet more taxes on the successful.  She didn't put it in exactly those terms, but the idea that private economic activity is the source of wealth and needs to be allowed to flourish doesn't seem ever to have occurred to her.  Here is the somewhat edited version:

I want us to have the biggest jobs program since World War II. Jobs in infrastructure and advanced manufacturing. I think we can compete with high wage countries and I believe we should. New jobs in clean energy. Not only to fight climate change, which is a serious problem but to create new opportunities and new businesses. I want us to do more to help small business, that’s where two-thirds of the new jobs are going to come from. I want to us raise the national minimum wage because people who work full time should not still be in poverty. And I sure do want to make sure women get equal pay for the work we do. I feel strongly that we have to have an education system that starts with preschool and goes through college. That’s why I want more technical education and community colleges, real apprenticeships to prepare young peel for the jobs of the future. I want to make college debt-free and for families making less than $125,000, you will not get a tuition bill from a public college or a university. . . .  [W]e are going to have the wealthy pay their fair share. We're going to have corporations make a contribution greater than they are now to our country. That is a plan that has been analyzed by independent experts which said that it could produce 10 million new jobs.     

This is an economic program truly worthy of a Venezuela or a North Korea, and couldn't be more destructive on many levels.  A government "jobs program" is going to create zillions of jobs in "advanced manufacturing"?  Can anybody give a single example where any government has succeeded at such an endeavor?  Indeed, this is exactly what New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is in the midst of failing at spectacularly.  And there will be lots of jobs in "clean energy," to create "new opportunities and new businesses"!  Sure!  Dozens more Solyndras!  How ignorant do you have to be not to know that so-called "clean energy" jobs only exist by reason of massive government subsidies, which tells you that they destroy rather than create wealth, and that the so-called "opportunities" can only exist for Hillary's politically-connected cronies like the "FOBs" and the donors to the Clinton Foundation.  And then we'll price all poor kids completely out of the job market with a greatly increased minimum wage!  And then, deep into unsustainable and exploding deficits resulting from out-of-control entitlements and the new Obamacare program, let's create another huge new entitlement of free college!  It can all be paid for by having the "wealthy pay their fair share."  Does she have any idea that much of this money to be taken from the wealthy was going to be invested in businesses and now won't be?  But don't worry, "independent experts" (who? Paul Krugman?) tell her that this world of massively increased spending and programs and taxes will "produce 10 million new jobs"! 

Really, Hillary could not possibly have handed Trump a better opportunity to rip her to shreds.  But it was not to be.  To be fair to him, he did start out OK with a couple of sentences about her destructive plans for big tax increases:

[H]er plan is going to raise taxes and even double your taxes. Her tax plan is a disaster. . . .  We will have a massive, massive tax increase under Hillary Clinton's plan. 

But from there it was immediately off into irrelevancies.  I'll make Japan and Germany and South Korea and Saudi Arabia pay us for their defense!  We have "horrible" trade deals (NAFTA) and I'll do better ones!  We'll bring our jobs back!  That's about it.  Here's the (somewhat edited) transcript:

[W]hen I said Japan and Germany and I'm not just singling them out. But South Korea, these are very rich countries. Saudi Arabia. Nothing but money. We protect Saudi Arabia. Why aren't they paying? . . .  We're protecting people. They have to pay up. And I'm a big fan of NATO but they have to pay up. She comes out and says “we love our allies. We think our allies are great.” Well, it is awfully hard to get them to pay up when you have somebody saying we think how great they are. We have to tell Japan in a very nice way, we have to tell Germany, all of these countries, South Korea. We have to say, you have to help us out. . . .  So my plan, we’re going to negotiate trade deals. We’re going to have a lot of free trade. More free trade than we have right now. But we have horrible deals. Our jobs are being taken out by the deal that her husband signed. NAFTA. One of the worst deals ever. The jobs are being sucked out of our economy. You look at the places I just left. You go to Pennsylvania, you go to Ohio, you go to Florida, you go to any of them. You go to upstate New York. Our jobs have fled to Mexico and other places. We're bringing our jobs back. I'm going to renegotiate NAFTA. . . .  We're going to cut business taxes massively. They're going to start hiring people we're going to bring the $2.5 trillion that’s offshore back into the country. We are going to start the engine rolling again because right now, our country is dying.

OK, at the very end he did work in that bit about tax cuts for businesses, which is not a trivial point.  But other than that, he basically veered off on tangents and forgot to mention what his economic plan is or why it is superior to Hillary's government-only vision.

The phrase "It's the economy, stupid" is generally given more credit than anything else for getting Bill Clinton elected in 1992.  Today, it's still "the economy, stupid," and we continue to live with a way sub-par economy afflicted by too high taxes, too much spending, and too many regulations.  We have before our very eyes the living cases of Venezuela, not to mention Cuba and North Korea, to teach us what happens to an economy when the government takes everything over.  And we have the entire European Union to show us that when the government gets up to 50% of the economy and above everything goes into stagnation.  But the Republican candidate seems unable to articulate the optimistic free market small government vision.

It's a good thing there aren't any more debates.   

The Government Puts A Gigantic Lead Weight On The Scale Of This And Every Election

Trump's new big thing in the campaign is the claim that the election has been "rigged" against him.  The word "rigged" conjures up an image of election officials somehow stuffing ballot boxes or jiggering with electronic voting machines to produce a false count of votes cast.  Given our highly decentralized election system, largely run by state rather than federal officials, that scenario is rather improbable.  But just because the election is not "rigged" -- in the sense of the government definitively determining in advance the number of votes for each candidate -- does not mean that the government does not exercise huge influence to swing the election the way it wants the election to go.  A better analogy for this huge influence, rather than a direct "rigging" of the vote, would be the placing of a big weight on the favored side of the scale.  And this is not some minor thing like the proverbial "thumb on the scale"; it's more like the placing of a gigantic lead weight on the favored side of the scale.  

Of course, the favored side of the scale is the side that supports continuing and expanding all existing government programs and functions, plus adding new programs and functions; and on the disfavored side is found any candidate who might disrupt the status quo.  In the current election, that means that the forces of government want Hillary to win.

In a post on Monday at RealClearPolitics, George Will comments that even in the absence of actual "rigging," "Mr. Trump has a point if he would just make it more clearly."  As an example of concrete government action to favor one side of elections over the other, Will cites the IRS efforts in 2010, '12 and '14, as well as the current election, to delay and obstruct the formerly routine granting of tax-exempt status to conservative-side organizations. 

We know -- we don't surmise -- we know that the 2010, '12 and '14 elections were rigged by the most intrusive and potentially punitive institution of the federal government, the IRS. . . .  I have talked to lawyers in a position to know [and] they say it's still going on. The IRS is still intolerantly [sic - intolerably] delaying the granting of tax exempt[ions] to conservative advocacy groups to skew the persuasion of this campaign.       

Again, I would use the term "placed a gigantic lead weight on the scale" rather than "rigged."  Still, with this example (as opposed to the stuffed-ballot-box hypothetical) the point is clearly-established and valid.

Will's post is brief, and only gives the one example.  Are there others?  If you start giving the matter a little thought, and coming up with a list of examples, you really wonder how it is possible for any Republican to be competitive in any race ever.  Let me start:

  • Government benefits.  During the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney famously stated that he had little hope of winning the votes of some 47% of Americans because they either received some form of government benefits and/or paid no income taxes.  He was rightly criticized for the specifics of his statement -- the biggest single group of the 47% being Social Security beneficiaries, who in fact voted for Romney in large numbers.  But there was an underlying valid point, namely that receipt of payments from government programs makes the recipients substantially more likely to vote for candidates who favor the continuation and growth of those and other such programs.  According to Census data here covering 2011 (released in 2013 - they always have big lags), the figure had gone up another 2% to 49%.  It likely has crossed the 50% threshold today.  Further Census data here released in 2015 have some 21.3% of the population (over 52 million people) participating in the so-called "means tested" federal benefit programs -- food stamps, WIC, housing assistance, Medicaid, etc.  It's not that not a single one of those people will ever vote against the status quo; but do you think that this massive handout enterprise might swing the vote in a national election by, say, 5% or 10%?  It's hard to imagine that it does not.
  • Labor unions.  One group of organizations in this country has been granted the privilege by the government of taking for themselves money deducted without specific approval from millions of people's paychecks.  That group of organizations consists of labor unions.  A large percentage of the money so deducted -- some say it's the majority, although exact figures are impossible to come by -- goes to support favored candidates in political races.  Almost all of the money goes to Democrats.  Although union members theoretically have the right to prevent their involuntary dues from being used for political purposes, that right has proved almost impossible to enforce, under procedural rules coming from the unions themselves and from the government's NLRB.  Any union member who wants to try to enforce his theoretical right must conduct a lonely and self-funded battle through multiple obstructions and appeals.  An article from yesterday's Wall Street Journal puts the amount of money contributed by labor unions during the current election cycle (January 2015 to August 2016), to support Hillary Clinton and Democratic candidates for the Senate, at $108 million.  That's up 38% from the prior election cycle.  And labor unions also provide massive support for get-out-the-vote efforts, including such things as phone banks and driving people to the polls, again almost entirely funded with involuntarily-collected dues and spent on behalf of Democrats.  How much does this "union factor" swing the vote in national elections?  Three to five percent would be a good guesstimate.
  • Academia and non-profits.  Of all the identifiable interest groups in our country, the one most closely associated with near-unanimous support of the Democratic party and its candidates is academia.  Many surveys of professors put support for Democratic and progressive causes (i.e., growth of government) at well upwards of 90%.   Many professors also proselytize their students in favor of the progressive agenda.  The federal government (and also all state governments) massively fund and subsidize academia.  A 2015 report from Pew published in Inside Higher Education put total federal spending on higher education in 2013 at $76 billion; states spent some $73 billion the same year.  The federal number has increased substantially since.  Thus, between federal and state money, around 40% of all funding for this pure-Democrat higher education constituency comes from the taxpayers.  Has there ever been a single academic who lived off government grants advocating for elimination of his/her own grant?  How about a single academic who has advocated that the whole massive government grants-to-academia thing is a bad idea?  And after academia proper, add in a massive government-funded not-for-profit sector, largely devoted to so-called "anti-poverty" efforts that never remove a single person from poverty, and absorbing many tens of billions of federal dollars for itself annually -- and delivering the votes of its employees with near-unanimity to Democrats.  Altogether, another 2-3% swing?
  • Fake government statistics.  As repeatedly discussed on this website, all major government statistics on things like the economy and poverty are fraudulently conceived and reported so as to deceive the people into going along with increased government spending and growing programs supposedly intended to ameliorate falsely-depicted problems.  As examples, the GDP statistics adopt the ridiculous convention of counting all government spending on goods and services as a 100% addition to GDP.  Thus progressive politicians can pretend with apparent justification that completely wasteful added spending grows the economy, while any attempt to cut even the most wasteful spending can be falsely portrayed as shrinking the economy.  Similarly the government statisticians have adopted false conventions to keep the "poverty" rate preposterously high (and thus sell the public on more anti-poverty spending) by refusing to count as "income" nearly all government benefits, even many of those handed out as cash or near-cash like the EITC and food stamps.  Last month, as reported on this site in multiple posts including here, the Census Bureau revealed itself (as if we didn't already know) as being a part of Hillary's campaign when it released a new report announcing that the "poverty" rate had suddenly fallen by some 1.3% and 3.5 million people between 2014 and 2015.  The numbers were based on methodological changes and can only be viewed as fake in light of the anemic growth of GDP in the same period.  But essentially all of the media fell for it (even the Wall Street Journal!), and Hillary promptly followed with a personally-signed op-ed in the New York Times claiming that the new fake numbers proved that Obama's progressive policies were suddenly working.  Another percent or two?
  • The oppressive regulatory state.  The myth of government regulation is that the regulators are just fair, neutral experts with nothing in mind but the public interest, who will carefully watch over the economy to keep the evil, greedy capitalists in check.  Ridiculous!  In fact regulators are normally flawed human beings with personal agendas, who really care about only one thing, which is growing their own staff, budget and prerogatives.  Because the regulators can torture and ruin any entity under their jurisdiction, no such entity will cross its regulator on any matter of significance.  And the matter of greatest significance is the ongoing growth of the government.  So, in the hyper-regulatory world of Dodd-Frank, is there any such thing as a financial institution that will say a negative word in public about the government?  I sure haven't seen it.  Try it, and they have a hundred ways to make your life miserable -- declining permission for your next merger, or for your entry into a new line of business, or launching one, or two, or twenty new criminal investigations against you.  Same thing for a pharmaceutical company, which inevitably has ten or twenty items before the FDA for approval at any given time.  Cross them and your next drug approval could be held up for a decade.  When did one of those guys last utter a serious criticism of the government regime?  Another hundred examples could easily be cited.  Another percent or two?
  • Government employees effectively working as operatives of Hillary's campaign.  One of the unsigned editorials in today's Wall Street Journal, titled "Hillary's State Assist," is a real eye-opener.  The editorial quotes from documents released Monday by the FBI from its recently-concluded investigation of Hillary.  It seems that a group of "senior State department employees," referred to by the regular staff as the "Shadow Government," put "enormous pressure" on staff reviewing Hillary's emails for production to "not label anything as classified."  This, at a time when Hillary was claiming that she had never dealt with classified information on her private server.  Our taxpayer dollars at work! 

I have several more examples here that I could use, but I think the point has been made.  Meanwhile, can anybody provide a single example of the use of taxpayer funds in a way to support Republican candidates or the shrinkage of the government or the elimination of government programs?  OK, maybe somewhere in the vast enterprise, some free-market-oriented economist has gotten a grant of maybe a few hundred thousand dollars.  That, up against around $4 trillion of annual spending, all devoted in some way to the further growth of government and the support of candidates who favor that growth.  

Is the election "rigged"?  I wouldn't have used the term.  But the weight that the government puts on the scale is enormous, and in this election it's all behind Hillary.  Is it possible that the combined effect of all of these things is less than the margin currently separating the two candidates in the polls?  I can't imagine how it could be.

It Sounded So Good When They Promised To Solve All Of Our Problems

The people who sold the American voters on having the government assume collective responsibility for major societal problems all seemed at the time to be fundamentally decent (if flawed) men.  Men like Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Jimmy Carter.  If only we gave control over the big problems to the federal government -- headed at the time by them -- then shortly everyone would have a secure retirement, low income people and old people would have free medical care, poverty would be reduced and then eliminated, and so much more.  All significant down side risk of life, gone!  And it would all be run by caring, decent people like themselves.  Then finally along came the ultimate saint, Barack Obama, selling Hope! Change! affordable healthcare for all, and the healing of the planet.  Of course we would give this great man the reins (and massive new legislation) so he could save the country and the world.

Well, guess what?  With the voters' blessing these guys have created a gigantic apparatus of government that swallows some $4 trillion every year and is supposed to solve every human problem, and as of January 20, 2017 it's all going to be run by one or the other of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.  Forget your image of the warm and fuzzy caring mother government and take your pick:  give control of your annual $4 trillion to a crazed, self-absorbed ego-maniac, or alternatively to a crazed, self-absorbed crooked ego-maniac.  Isn't government great?

And, after 80 or so years of promises and tens of trillions spent, have any of the major problems been solved?  Of course, it's the opposite.  Indeed, it's fair to say that all of the big government redistribution programs are in crisis.  A trillion dollars of annual spending on "poverty" and there are close to twice as many people today said to be in poverty than the day the War on Poverty started.  Medicaid, supposed to be a temporary thing for a few years until poverty was eliminated, instead explodes bigger and bigger every year (now at over $550 billion per year and still rapidly growing).  Social Security and Medicare are ponzi schemes careening toward a Madoff-like crash one or two or three decades out.  Obamacare, only a few years old, is widely reported to be well into an insurance death spiral.  And now we're going to get one or the other of crazy Donald or crooked Hillary to take it all over.

Lord knows I have my differences with Trump on policy (see for example here and here) and I have no comprehension at all of his "me, me, me" campaign strategy.  But there is at least some reason to believe that -- maybe? -- he has a little idea how private business works. 

Hillary?  Her deep thoughts about economic policy are more or less the same as those of your typical African potentate, say a Robert Mugabe or a Mobuto Sese Seko.  Get all the taxpayer funds you can get your hands on, and direct them to "economic development" projects run by your friends and relatives.  Those people will then kick back substantial portions to yourself.  The government-directed economic development projects all fail.  Your relatives and friends get rich.  You retire a billionaire.  The people starve.

Don't believe me?  Then you haven't been paying attention to what's gone on in Haiti.  Trading Economics reports the entire GDP of Haiti at under $9 billion per year -- an almost impossibly small amount for a country of over 10 million people.  That makes annual per capita GDP under $1000.  (Granted, the economic statistics that come out of Haiti are iffy; but they are the best we've got.)  In 2010 they had a big earthquake in Haiti.  Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State.  Bill Clinton became head of something called the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. Bill's Commission got billions of dollars in funding for Haiti via both the State Department and the Clinton Foundation. 

Breitbart News here has a figure for the funding that the Clintons directed to Haiti from 2010 to date as about $6 billion.  Recognize that that is [the majority of an entire year's worth] of Haitian GDP.  In the classic pattern of the tin-pot dictator, the Clintons saw to it that much to most of the money went to contracts to enrich their friends and relatives.  Although some of this had come out before the recent email revelations, the new emails have been yet another eye-opener.  For example, just five days ago ABC News analyzed a new dump of emails from the time of the 2010 quake involving businesspeople soliciting government-funded contracts to help with the relief effort.  State department staffers segregated the emails into those that came from "FOBs" (Friends of Bill) and not; the former got first priority:

In a series of candid email exchanges with top Clinton Foundation officials during the hours after the massive 2010 Haiti earthquake, a senior aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly gave special attention to those identified by the abbreviations “FOB” (friends of Bill Clinton) or “WJC VIPs” (William Jefferson Clinton VIPs).  “Need you to flag when people are friends of WJC,” wrote Caitlin Klevorick, then a senior State Department official who was juggling incoming offers of assistance being funneled to the State Department by the Clinton Foundation. “Most I can probably ID but not all.”

And who ultimately got the big lucrative contracts?  From Breitbart:

Hillary Clinton’s brother, Tony Rodham, landed a lucrative and historically rare Haitian “gold exploitation permit,” while Clinton Foundation donors, including Digicel mobile phone company founder Denis O’Brien, were winning multi-million dollar contracts that would siphon massive profits from the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.               

Perhaps most significant, Hillary backed the very dubious election in 2011 of corruptocrat President Michel "Sweet Mickey" Martelly, and allowed basically all aid to Haiti to go through official government channels.  The result:  after six years, there is still essentially no meaningful private business in Haiti.  No sane person would invest any significant sum there.  The $6 billion has completely disappeared.  The country is just as poor as it was before.  But many friends and relatives of the Clintons have done very well, and the Clintons themselves have used the donations to the Clinton Foundation to support their lifestyles and their permanent staff.  It truly is the Mugabe model.  (Martelly left office a few months ago.  Nobody knows how wealthy Martelly became, but it's highly likely that he is the richest man in Haiti.  Hey, that's how it's done!)

But the United States does not run on this crony model of economic development, do we?  Can anyone say "green energy"?  It's exactly the same thing: investment schemes that cannot compete in a competitive market, and that everyone knows will fail.  But they are subsidized by the government and awarded to cronies of those in power.  The cronies take a cut of the government subsidies and get rich.  The politicians who award the subsidized contracts also get rich, whether by "speaking fees" or donations to a "foundation," or whatever.  The development projects inevitably fail, but that's a few years from now, and who will remember?

UPDATE:  A commenter pointed out an obvious math error with regard to the comparison of Clinton-directed aid to Haiti to Haitian GDP.  Now corrected.   

Saints? . . . Or Monsters?

Of all the sweltering places on planet Earth, one of the most sweltering has to be India.  Here in the U.S., we think that Washington, D.C. has brutal summers, where average daily highs get up to over 85 degrees F in July and August, and often 30 or more days a year go over 90.   Or there's Houston, where an average of almost 100 days per year hit 90 or above.  But we are small time compared to India, where many of the major cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore have high temperatures consistently above 90 for close to half the year.  And, given that India has been a poor country, up until now few have had air conditioning to give them any relief from the heat.  The poor Indians have just suffered the heat in silence for all of human history.

That is, until now.  Suddenly, starting about 20 years ago and accelerating more recently, India has been experiencing real economic growth and transformation.  Indian people by the tens of millions have been moving into the middle class.  And, you will not be surprised to learn, one of the first things that many of them want to acquire with their new-found wealth is air conditioning.  Thus air conditioning is sweeping through India.  The New York Times reports on the story in its October 12 edition:

DELHI — A thrill goes down Lane 12, C Block, Kamalpur every time another working-class family brings home its first air-conditioner. Switched on for a few hours, usually to cool a room where the whole family sleeps, it transforms life in this suffocating concrete labyrinth where the heat reached 117 degrees in May.  “You wake up totally fresh,” exulted Kaushilya Devi, a housewife, whose husband bought a unit in May. “I wouldn’t say we are middle class,” she said. “But we are closer.”

Well, we mustn't have that!  The worldwide progressive project to keep the poor poor has now caught on to the uppity Indians, and has swung into action to throw them back down into poverty and suffering.  At the forefront, as you would expect, are the UN, together with the U.S., led by our President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.  Don't believe me?  Keep reading in that same New York Times article:

[I]n Kigali, Rwanda, negotiators from more than 170 countries gathered this week to complete an accord that would phase out the use of heat-trapping hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, worldwide, and with them the cheapest air-conditioners that are just coming within reach of people like Ms. Devi. Millions of Indians might mark the transition from poverty with the purchase of their first air-conditioner, but as those purchases ease suffering in one of the planet’s hottest countries, they are contributing profoundly to the heating of the planet. . . .  President Obama has sent Secretary of State John Kerry and Gina McCarthy, the Environmental Protection Agency chief, to Kigali to push for a rapid global phaseout. Mr. Obama hopes to lean on the friendship he has carefully cultivated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and to create one final major piece of his climate change legacy.

Somehow, Obama, Kerry, McCarthy, et al., have convinced themselves that they are saints on a sacred mission to "save the planet."  Hey, HFCs are "heat-trapping gases"! 

HFCs function as a sort of supergreenhouse gas, with 1,000 times the heat-trapping potency of carbon dioxide. While they account for just a small percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, scientists say a surge in the use of HFC-fueled air-conditioners would alone contribute to nearly a full degree Fahrenheit of atmospheric warming over the coming century. . . . 

You ask, can anyone show us the actual empirical proof that these "HFC" coolant gases actually "warm the planet" as much as these "scientists" hypothesize, before we compel another generation of a billion or so Indians to a lifetime of sweltering?  Of course there is no such empirical proof.  Why do we need empirical proof when we are on a holy mission to save the planet? 

According to the Times article, there is another generation of coolants now on the market.  But unfortunately they are much more expensive than the HFCs, as well as more volatile and more difficult to handle.  The effect on India of requiring air conditioners to use only the new coolants will be to price many hopeful members of the middle class out of the air conditioning market for some years or decades.  But hey, what does their suffering count for in this equation?  They are just poor, stupid Indians.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, we may have air conditioners that use mostly the new coolants, but they also draw plenty of electricity produced by those evil fossil fuels, that produce their own "heat-trapping gases."  Do you notice a single government functionary in Washington, from the lowest bureaucrat up to and including the President, going without air conditioning, ever, even for a day?  I didn't think so.  My proposal is, if they think it's OK to take air conditioning away from the Indians, then they should do without it themselves.

Somehow, they think they are saints.  But they are not.  They are monsters.

The Fuzzy Math Of Renewable Energy -- Part II

In the progressive project to remake humanity and civilization, nothing counts but good intentions, and the details will all be worked out by the experts, using the infinite credit card.  And thus we get $1 trillion or so of annual "anti-poverty" spending that never makes a dent in poverty. As hard as that one is to top, nothing can top the delusional thinking on the subject of renewable energy, particularly the idea that it will be easy and costless to transition over a few years to a world where fossil fuels have been banished and yet we still have all the electricity we want and need.

The current renewable energy fad among progressive politicians goes by the name "80 by 50."  This is the idea that, by 2050, we shall have reduced our emissions of CO2, and thus our use of fossil fuels, by 80%.  President Obama set that goal for the United States in a speech to the National Academy of Sciences in 2009, and in 2015 he urged the country to double the rate of "decarbonization" of the economy, and to “keep the United States on the pathway to achieve deep economy-wide reductions of 80% or more by 2050.”  Most everybody who's anybody on the progressive side is on board with "80 by 50."  Mayor Bill de Blasio has adopted it for New York City, joining officials in other cities that include Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., among others.  I haven't found Hillary explicitly uttering the words "80 by 50," but her rhetoric is full of the "millions of good, high-paying green energy jobs" that she is going to "create."  (Do you remember Obama also promising those?  Where are they?)

In several recent posts, I have pointed out that as intermittent renewables become a bigger and bigger part of the supply of electricity, the electrical system becomes far more expensive and also a far more difficult engineering problem to run constantly and efficiently.  In this post from August, I reported on a demonstration project from South Korea where they set out to have enough wind and solar power to provide all or nearly all of the electricity for some 97 families.  But they needed lots of extra wind and solar capacity (to account for low wind and dim sunlight conditions), plus massive amounts of storage, plus full fossil fuel back (just in case), and by the time they were done they had spent some $128,000 per family for the system -- and still only managed to get about 40% of the electricity from wind and solar.

But if you're a good progressive on a mission to "save the planet," you don't need zillions of engineers and real-world demonstration projects.  Instead, you turn to those really, really smart guys with the best credentials from the best institutions.  Like for Obamacare, you turn to Zeke Emanuel and Jonathan Gruber; and for government "stimulus" policy, you turn to Paul Krugman and Olivier Blanchard.  So who's the guy for renewable energy?  And the answer is, the go-to guy is Mark Jacobson of Stanford University.

Jacobson is really the perfect illustration of how dumb the seemingly "smart" are.  He has BA, BS and MS degrees from Stanford, another BS and a Ph.D. from UCLA, and makes his living as a Professor of "Civil and Environmental Engineering" at Stanford.  His big thing is writing papers on how an advanced economy -- like the United States -- can convert over to a pure-renewables system, without any noticeable costs.  Indeed, he says the pure renewable system will be cheaper.  Here is his big April 2016 paper giving his "roadmap" for how the U.S. can get all its power from what he calls "WWS" (water, wind and solar) by 2050.  No nuclear either!  There are endless charts, graphs, formulas, calculations.  It sure looks like this guy is smart and has thought of everything!  Is it any wonder that the likes of Sanders and de Blasio (and probably Clinton as well) lap up everything he says?

It's funny how easy it is to apply just a little critical thinking to something so seemingly complex.  For example, at page 33-34, he has a chart showing costs of power from different sources for 2013 and 2050.  There are no details on where he gets these 2050 costs, other than this very general text:

[T]he drop in [the WWS] costs over time is due primarily to technology improvements. WWS costs are expected to decline also due to less expensive manufacturing and streamlined project deployment from increased economies of scale. 

Great!  And thus, according to this chart, wind and solar power will be considerably cheaper in 2050 than things like coal and natural gas are today.  But then, here are a couple of other things from Jacobson.  First, the all-renewable electricity system is expected to require 5800 gigawatts of capacity.  Our current system has only about [1000] gigawatts of capacity.  The difference is to deal with the fact that solar and wind don't operate at full capacity all the time.  Six times the capacity and the cost will be less?  Perhaps you are getting a little skeptical.  And then there's a chart on pages 46-49 that projects additional jobs to be had in construction and operation of power facilities from this conversion to renewables.  He does net out job losses in the fossil fuel industries.  And the result is 2.6 million additional net jobs in the U.S., and 23.7 million additional net jobs worldwide.  Oh, and Jacobson regards this as a good thing.  Anyway, just for the U.S., 2.6 million additional "jobs," which is approximately in the same range as all jobs in the fossil fuel industry today -- and it will cost less???  You are starting to get a picture of a guy who has no clue what he is talking about.

But how about the problem of intermittency?  What happens on calm nights when wind and solar don't work?  We get one short half page at page 32.  Here is the key paragraph:

Wind and solar time-series are derived from 3-D GATOR-GCMOM global model simulations that accounted for extreme events and competition among wind turbines for kinetic energy and the feedback of extracted solar radiation to roof and surface temperatures. Solutions are obtained by prioritizing storage for excess heat (in soil and water) and electricity (in ice, water, phase-change material tied to CSP, pumped hydro, and hydrogen), using hydropower only as a last resort, and using demand response to shave periods of excess demand over supply. Additional simulations show that grid reliability is maintained even without demand response by increasing electricity generation, but at a slightly higher cost.   

Hey, he has a "model"!  He's done "simulations."  It's all no problem.  Trust me!  All I know is, here in New York City during the Christmas season, we use a lot of power from about 5 to 8 PM -- and at those hours at that time of year, the sun has gone down.  Sometimes the wind is calm as well.  What's the plan?  10 million Teslas of batteries?  No answer to that here.

Another issue you might think of is, how much of the U.S. will need to be covered with wind turbines and solar cells to get to that 5800 gigawatts of capacity?  In a chart on page 10, Jacobson has a figure of about .68% of land area to be devoted to onshore wind turbines, and another .42% to be devoted to offshore, and about .18% to solar.  That may sound like not much, but it's actually quite a lot.  But Jacobson provides little detail on how he got these estimates.  Meanwhile, over at the Manhattan Institute, Robert Bryce does his own independent calculations, with plenty of backup on how many wind and solar facilities you can fit in a given amount of land, and comes up with dramatically higher numbers: almost 10% of the land area of the continental U.S., the size of Texas plus West Virginia.

And we haven't even started talking about storage capacity yet!  Believe me, the basic characteristic of the progressive is inability to do simple addition and multiplication.

UPDATE, October 14, 2016:  A commenter pointed out a typo as to the number of gigawatts capacity in the current U.S. electrical system.  It is approximately 1000, not 1.  Now corrected.