Peter’s Political Seasonings

Putney’s own Peter Shumlin, never one to lack a tendency to find straws wherever he can grasp them (especially if the straw is a neighbor’s distressed property that he might pick up on the cheap), has outdone himself (again) in promoting Vermont’s low unemployment rate.

Gov. Peter Shumlin says the latest unemployment statistics show Vermont now has the

Santa: Doing the job Vermonters won't do

Santa: Doing the job Vermonters won’t do

second lowest unemployment rate in the country.

The Vermont Department of Labor announced Friday the state’s unemployment rate dropped three-tenths of a percent last month to 3.4 percent.

Once again, Shumlin sidesteps the reality on the ground.  The truth is, in case anyone’s bothering to look at the actual data, is that the seasonally unadjusted employment went down from February to March:

Total Nonfarm February 2014:  309,400

Total Nonfarm March 2014:  307,400

That’s 2,000 fewer jobs.  The VT Dept of Labor also lists the non-seasonally adjusted labor

Seasonal, Schmeasonal.

Seasonal, Schmeasonal.

force participation rate, where the number of unemployed went up from February to March, by 100 people – to give Vermont a 4.1% unemployment rate.  All these changes are done with the flick of a setting on the DoL website.

To put it simply, without seasonal adjustments being done to Vermont’s labor force – a significant impact given the bulk of Vermont’s economy is driven by tourism, and a long winter helps maintain seasonal employment – Vermont is still losing jobs.  The largest adjustments between seasonal and non-seasonal are in leisure and trade, retail, etc – and these aren’t the kinds of jobs that support a household by themselves.

To cap off this lunacy, Shumlin has the chutzpah to stand in front of Vermonters and tout the state’s low unemployment number, when 2,000 fewer Vermonters are working in just one month.

Vermont’s labor force has been shrinking.  That’s often the reason why the rate of unemployment goes down, and because the unemployment metric removes those people who give up looking for work, this reduces the unemployment rate, even if everything else remains exactly the same.  Oh, and unemployment claims are going up again.

Unless you enjoy massively unrealistic distortions of the truth.  Then listen away!

Unless you enjoy massively unrealistic distortions of the truth. Then listen away!

This same Shumlin administration promised single-payer in Vermont without a stitch of a plan

in sight,  in violation of state law, as to how to fund it, and its estimated costs are roughly double the state’s entire annual tax revenues.

All of which begs the question:  Why does anyone bother listening to Peter?

The Bad News About Vermont’s Low Unemployment

Vermont’s Dept. of Labor recently announced the February 2014 unemployment

And a river in Egypt runs through it.

And a river in Egypt runs through it.

numbers.  If you’ve been watching these numbers and listening to Annie Noonan, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Labor, you’d think that jobs are plentiful in Vermont, because the unemployment rate is dropping.  Here’s what she has to say about February’s numbers:

“It is good news that the statewide unemployment rate has reached pre-2007-recession levels, and Vermont’s job totals are nearly back to where they were before the recession.  Yet, we recognize that shifts in the economy and corporate changes have led to displacement of some Vermont workers.  The Department encourages Vermonters to visit one of our regional offices to tap into services and programs for job counseling and placement assistance.”

Actually, it’s not good news at all.  It’s awful news.  Yet the state does not seem to let a little thing like data get in the way of what passes for good economic news in our

Well, maybe be less calm.

Well, maybe be less calm.

beleaguered state.

Here’s what the actual data says about jobs gained and lost, month over month.  From January to February 2014, the state gained 1,700 (total nonfarm) jobs.  But where are those jobs?  Let’s look at the high-level sector breakdown:

Total Private Sector Jobs:

January 2014:  251,300

February 2014:  251,300

Total Net Gain/Loss:  0

Total Government Sector Jobs:

January 2014:  56,100

February 2014:  57,800

Total Net Gain/Loss:  1,700

So the total gain in new jobs is all in the public sector.  We did not gain a net of one new job in the private sector, month-over-month.  Note that the Government sector has a higher total job count now in February 2014 (57,800) than it did in February 2013 (57,300).  500 more jobs.  Jobs that are entirely paid for by the taxes paid out of the private sector, the sector that gained net zero jobs.

Noonan’s office is claiming, in the statement, that jobs are now at the pre-recession levels.  In other words, their work is done here, and the Dept. of Labor can probably close up shop since the economy is just cranking now.

These public statements border on the duplicitous.  The Dept. of Labor statement will never, ever say “The state of Vermont did not gain one net private sector job last month”.  Instead, it will show the net gains, not say where they’re coming from, and toss in a platitude about “shifts in the economy” ot “corporate changes”, and then the department’s work is done for the month.

I expect that most Vermonters, especially the fewer and fewer that are working in

The sign should read "Keep Going To Texas".

The sign should read “Keep Going To Texas”.

Vermont, spend a lot of time reviewing the data and public statements made by the Dept. of Labor.  I suspect, however, that any Vermonter who is walking around looking for a job in this state would read the Dept. of Labor statement and ask the obvious question:

What state are these people actually living in?

 

 

Unions United

Well, unions aren't people, either, but their money is OK to give to Democrats?

Well, unions aren’t people, either, but their money is OK to give if it’s to Democrats only?

The Vermont Senate, fresh from not doing much to address Vermont’s longtime flailing economy, recently voted 25-2 to call for a US Constitutional Convention. Why? What nation-shattering event has caused Democrats to rally to Montpelier?

Well, the Citizens United decision, of course – the Supreme Court decision that upheld the ability of corporations,  and unions – to spend monies on political campaigns. One wonders if the Senators realize that the prime beneficiary of Citizens United is not corporations, but unions. The same unions that routinely donate, in overwhelming percentages, to Democrat candidates and causes.

But let’s let a Democrat speak for herself on this critical issue:

“We’re sending a strong message to our Congress and to other states that we would like to see changes to overturn the Citizens United decision. It’s upsetting the balance of our electoral process,” said Sen. Virginia Lyons, D-Chittenden, lead sponsor of the resolution. “It’s our generation’s greatest responsibility to restore free elections.”

I thought our generation’s greatest responsibility was to establish universal health care, but it’s so hard to keep Democrat’s claims to our nation’s greatest responsibilities straight these days. Given Lyons’ voting record, it seems she’s only interested in raising taxes, and forcing non-union workers to pay fees to unions.

Which leads a Vermonter to conclude that Lyons only real concerns about Citizens United are how best to use the phrase “Citizens United” as a political performance vehicle, rather than any real concern over the influence of money in politics. If that were her concern, why is her second largest donation sector listed as “Public Sector Unions”?

Given the scope of Citizens United, one might think Lyons is on the wrong side of the argument, but since that decision has been painted as some kind of corporate fascism by the Left, it’s easy to demagogue – if you ignore the inconvenient facts staring you in the face.

Facts which seem to be easy to ignore for the overwhelming number of Democrats in the Vermont Senate.

If A Senator Speaks, Does The Planet Listen?

Recently, Democrats in the US Senate spoke in all-night floor discussion in the US Senate regarding the subject of climate change, which itself was recently changed from global warming, because, well, the settled science turned out to be completely unsettled and if

Damn you, Keystone!  Damn you all to hell!

Damn you, Keystone! Damn you all to hell!

you call it “change”, well, everything changes, so you’re covered.

Vermont’s own pair of climate scientists, both with PhD’s in climatology, and with the requisite background in rigorous academic research, both took the Senate floor to argue that something must be done, now, to combat the changing of the climate.  Oh, wait a minute, that’s right – they’re not scientists, they’re politicians!

Which makes them both uniquely unqualified to preach to the citizenry about what constitutes “science”, and also fulfills their role of condescending patriarchs quite nicely, so it’s like a two-for-one for both of them.  So what did our intrepid scienticians have to say, exactly?

Sanders:

The scientific community has been extremely clear — no debate —climate change is real, climate change is man-made, and climate change is already causing severe damage in terms of drought, floods, forest fires, rising sea levels, and extreme weather disturbances.

Sanders, a Senator with no private-sector experience and no scientific background whatsoever, declares that there is “no debate” on climate change. None. Simply by dint of him saying so, probably the least-qualified person schlumping down Senate hallways to make a pronouncement on science in any way, shape or form, says debate is over.

The core of science is debate. The core of science is to challenge accepted norms to find the flaws in the argument.  It’s like asking explorers to stop exploring because everything that could be explored has been explored – so stop exploring West in the Pacific, he would have argued, and North America wouldn’t have been discovered by European countries.

What is flatly amazing is that in the name of science, both Sanders and Leahy are arguing to shut down scientific argument about what impacts climate. But he goes on to argue further, by making the inevitable “Shut up, he argued” statement:

It is not my view. It is not Senator Boxer’s view, not Senator Schatz’s view. That is the view of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which includes some of the major agencies of the U.S. Government. By the way, clearly it is not just the U.S. Government or agencies that believe that. There are agencies representing virtually every country on Earth that have come to the same conclusion.

Sanders cites a federal agency that’s funded on the assumptions made by the global warming community, and politicians like himself, and it’s entire reason for existence is to secure funding to promote the idea of global warming and climate change. This is like a criminal arguing in court that he didn’t do it, and to prove it, he says he didn’t do it – and then the state is prevented from presenting countervailing evidence.  This does not constitute a convincing argument.  Also, note that the agency’s website has changed, from what it was, to what it is now – with a name befitting its imprimatur.  13 agencies, all getting funding related to climate change.  For some reason, I don’t see its budget line getting reduced annually.  For some reason.

Not one to be left out when a lot of pointless speaking needs to be done, Senator Leahy had this to add to the debate that Sanders previously advised us was over:

Leahy:

Once again, we are confronted with irrefutable evidence that humans have altered

And here's the drone that told me the climate was changing!  Ha ha ha ha!

And here’s the drone that told me the climate was changing! Ha ha ha ha!

not just the weather of a region, but the climate of the entire planet. This time, we do not need to climb mountains to see the damage.

We see it in New England’s flood ravaged river valleys, California’s scorched farmland, Alaska’s retreating glaciers, Wyoming’s burnt forests, and super-storm ravaged coastlines.

Leahy’s arguing that flooding is caused by climate change.  I guess in 1927 the flooding that wiped out the bridge in Winooski was also caused by climate change, it’s just that those rubes back in the day didn’t know it was happening to them.  It could be that floods happen every year, some larger, some smaller.  It could be that year over year weather patterns change that have nothing to do with emissions, and in all likelihood are due to sunspot activity or other phenomena (as if the climate itself is static and never changes) but if you’re going to shut off debate, you don’t need to explain yourself.  You only need to tell everyone else to shut up.  Leahy continues:

The State Department recently released its long-awaited environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL pipeline. I am deeply troubled that the State Department’s analysis did not take into account the overwhelming evidence that this project will further accelerate the release of greenhouse gas pollution and intensify climate change.

Even though it’s the 5th environmental impact study done, and also came to the same conclusions, and the only reason State is involved is because it crosses the border – well, since Leahy didn’t seem to complain about State’s explanation of Benghazi, why does he have a problem with their current analysis of Keystone?  At this point, Senator, what difference does it make?  Will a special prosecutor be appointed to change the outcome of the impact study?   If so, why, since I thought Sanders made clear the debate was “over”?

What’s really hilarious is that decades ago, when the boogey-man du jour was global cooling, the same “science” used to justify the scare tactics for massive government intervention are the same ones being used now, but used to combat global warming.

So which is it, Senators?  Are we warming, cooling, changing, or are we merely tepidly walking away from voting for you in the next election cycle?  With real calamities walking among us, including a trainwreck of an economy, I expect the average Vermonter is more interested in the economics of right now versus the grandstanding that occurred in the US Senate.  Grandstanding that is, again, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The Idealogues

Vermont’s Socialist Son, Bernie Sanders, has rarely been heard not to utter a line or two

Even though the top 50% pay 98% of income taxes, but I guess THAT'S not unfair.

Even though the top 50% pay 98% of income taxes, but I guess THAT’S not unfair.

about the “tyranny” of capitalism, fair wages, and the immorality of wealth disparity:

“The obscene and increasing level of wealth and income inequality in this country is immoral, un-American and unsustainable,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said on Friday.

What Bernie doesn’t mention is that it’s also un-American, unsustainable, and immoral for someone to work a second job and get taxed at higher rates on that income, reducing their net income when they’re willing to do more to put food on their plates, while Bernie happily votes for economy-destroying record deficits and destined-to-fail stimulus spending at historic levels.  (We might as well call it “stimulus stealing”, since all we did was increase the amount of debt slapped onto future generations).  If there’s immorality in the room, there’s plenty of space for Sanders to stand up in the middle of it, since he’s voting to put debt on people who didn’t even have a chance to vote for or against the person who made it happen.

But maybe Bernie has taken his cues – even some of the very words he uses – from a person a few generations removed, but someone who also seemed to employ the same rhetoric that Sanders himself uses today:

We are socialists. We are enemies, deadly enemies, of today’s capitalist economic system with its exploitation of the economically weak, its unfair wage system, its immoral way of judging the worth of human beings in terms of their wealth and their money, instead of their responsibility and their performance, and we are determined to destroy this system whatever happens!

Sound familiar?  Sadly, there’s a disastrous precedent for this kind of thinking.

This is the result of nationalizing a socialist regime.  I’m confident which side history has come down on, in terms of morality.  One wishes that the Senator would either check his unending rhetoric, read a history book that’s not authored by someone named “Engels”, and set up shop here in the real world, where people work for a living and want to keep what they earn.

Instead, we get the endless parade of dusty cliches about how the economic system that created a world where a guy like Sanders can get paid $174,000 per year is immoral, and that we, and the corporations that employ us, should give up more of our earning to make the world more moral is the pinnacle of hypocrisy.

Worse, though, is that the moral underpinnings of creating a dependency class are never

The Truth Is Out There

The Truth Is Out There

described, defended, or justified – because in Bernie’s World ™, you never, ever have to pay for anything yourself.  Bernie only needs their vote, and whatever suffering he can exploit, to further the expansion of the State.  And no, we don’t need lectures on economics from someone who has never worked in the private sector, and owes his entire livelihood to the monies earned by people who work for a living.

Peter’s Gains and Vermont’s Losses

One very simple way of telling how well the state’s economy is doing is by looking at gross job gains and gross job losses, with the net result being how well the state’s doing in generating more jobs than it’s losing.

Our handy data-gatherers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics has this available, and here’s what Vermont looks like, from 2003 to 2014.  The blue line is private sector gains, the red line is private sector losses:

vt_chart1.gif (720×480)

Basically, you never want the red line above the blue line, else you’re shedding jobs, like during a recession.  Job losses in 2012 seemed to stabilize, but in 2013 they’ve shot up, now outpacing job gains – again – at least as far as 2013 data takes us.

Contrast this reality with the “good news” Peter Shumlin routinely posts on his taxpayer-supported website, which seems to enjoy a) ignoring 2013 data entirely, because it’s a snapshot of Q4 2012, and b) blames job losses on “large forces beyond our control”.  In other words, it’s not Peter’s fault.  Even though he takes credit for the low unemployment rate number, which has been shown to be a result of declining labor force participation, not job growth.  (I guess that is his fault when he thinks it’s something good?)  If you click on the “Jobs by Industry” tab on the governor’s site, it tells you all you need to know about Shumlin’s idea of what constitutes a healthy economy, because the largest employment sector in the state is government.  The part that produces nothing, and only takes from the productive sector.  The next highest employment sector is retail, and that should also tell you something about Vermont’s economy.

Jobs by Industry graph

Well, let’s look at what BLS data tells us:

Private sector employment is up from Q32012 – Q32013.  Brace yourself.  It’s up .1%.

State government, from Q32012 – Q32013?  Up 1.6%

So yes, from Peter’s perspective, everything’s fine, and unemployment is low, so that

Oh, so THAT'S where Vermont's jobs went!

Oh, so THAT’S where Vermont’s jobs went!

can’t be a problem, either.  When state government grows at rates that are multiples of the private sector, everything is upside down, and the only reason the state is afloat is because 1/3 of the state’s budget comes from federal dollars.  That is the only reason the state is not bankrupt – that and the state does not consider its unfunded pension liabilities to be just that: liabilities.

What Peter sees as being fine and dandy, the rest of the state that does not work for him sees layoffs and reduced expansion plans, decades of permitting hassles that scare away new businesses, an onerous tax climate that puts Vermont 45th worst of the 50 states, and an economic outlook that virtually guarantees Vermont’s younger demographic will leave Vermont in order to start their careers, buy homes, and live their lives.

In other words, Peter seems quite happy with the status quo – a slowly sinking ship

Another happy taxpayer.

Another happy taxpayer.

that he must hope won’t sink beneath his feet before he can move on to bigger and better things, like a seat in the US Senate.

The Hook And Who Remains

Recently the City of Burlington finally settled with Citibank over the Burlington Telecom fiasco.  This completely and utterly avoidable fiasco, foisted upon taxpayers at the whim and discretion of politicians, has been percolating for years, but at least now, there’s been some partial relief.   The city council approved of the deal reached earlier by Mayor Weinberger’s office, which puts Burlington on the hook for $10.5 million of the $33 million the city was essentially liable for, based on the original lease/purchase agreement with Citibank that

Not pictured:  A Frowning Burlingtonian

Not pictured: A Frowning Burlingtonian

provided the startup capital and equipment for Burlington Telecom.  From WPTZ:

  • “My top priority since the day I entered office was to get Burlington’s financial house within order,” Weinberger told WPTZ’s David Charns. “My top priority within that was solve the BT issue and do it in a way that protected taxpayers.”

There was little to hope for here, in terms of protecting taxpayers, because it was always likely that the lawsuit would end in a settlement, it was just a question of how much and when.  Weinberger’s office inherited the mess from Bob Kiss, and Jonathan Leopold, who both supported the creation of Burlington Telecom and later funneled $17 million of taxpayer dollars out of the city’s cash pool to prop BT up when it was likely to be closing its doors.

So how will the city pay the settlement?

  • “We anticipate that the settlement payment will largely be paid for by BT revenues and non-city sources,” said Weinberger.

Note that non-city sources will not include a generous donation from former Mayor Bob Kiss.  There is also a bridge loan of $6 million that needs to be assumed by whatever lucky entity decides they want a white elephant in their backyard.

  • The plan over the next few years is to find a permanent partner for BT that will have majority ownership of the utility. The city will continue to make revenue, but according to its agreement with Citibank, will have to share some of its proceeds with Citibank.Loreda Sola of Keep BT Local said his Burlington-based group will “actively pursue becoming the BT partner.” Keep BT Local wants to fund BT as a co-op. Sola said that would “keep control over this resource local and ensure focus will be on reinvesting profits in Burlington.”   Weinberger said he welcomes a proposal by Keep BT Local but added that any eventual BT partner would need to pay back a bridge loan, which is estimated to be more than $6 million. 

Which has been the plan all along, in terms of repayment, with or without a partner – it’s just that now the payoff has been reduced.  That said, the enterprise still does not have the subscriber base that was touted as part of its original business plan that would keep BT afloat.

  • Meanwhile, Weinberger added that BT sales have strengthened in the last few years.  “It is now throwing off a significant amount of revenues in excess of operating expenses,” Weinberger said, in response to a question if BT would be able to make its payments to Citibank. 

Unmentioned here is whether or not BT’s excess revenues – revenues so casually talked and tossed about, you’d think it was $17 million in taxpayer funds he was talking about – includes the reduced payments to Citibank, and, more importantly, the $17 million still owed back to the cash pool.  Well, wait a minute – Weinberger does mention the $17 million, he just doesn’t mention how or when that’s going to be repaid.  In fact, he says he hopes to pay back the funds:

  • The mayor also hopes to pay back $16.9 million in taxpayer money used for additional BT debt incurred in 2008 and 2009.  “I am satisfied that this agreement does right by the taxpayers of Burlington,” Weinberger said, though he shied away from putting a specific number out there.

What must be supremely unsatisfying is that no one, not in the current or prior administrations, has been held accountable for their actions in the taking of taxpayer dollars, with no authorization except a post-facto notification to the city council.  The dollars were already gone before anyone had a chance to even ask the question if it was the right thing to do – and as the PSB found, BT was in violation of its Certificate of Public Good, because the dollars were not repaid in the period outlined in the CPG.  It looks like Burlingtonians will simply eat the $17 million.  

Don't worry, taxpayers will come along to clean that up.

Don’t worry, taxpayers will come along to clean that up.

Despite this better news about the Citibank settlement, there is no settlement yet reached with the taxpayers, and until BT becomes truly self-sustaining – like a real business has to be, every day, or its doors shut with no bailout assistance from a Kiss or Leopold – then the albatross still hangs over the city and its taxpayers.  The load has been lightened, somewhat, but the telecom is still 20% short of its 5,000 subscriber minimum requirement, even if that original 5K number now is still too low to offset the increased liabilities due to the $17 million and the remaining Citibank payments.  After all these years, despite the public avowals of how fantastic BT is for Burlington, it still can’t meet its minimum subscriber target.

In the end, though, the taxpayers are paying for everything – and the people in charge didn’t deign to ask their opinion as to what they think should be done.  Instead, a reckless misappropriation of funds occurred.  Burlingtonians have zero recourse in avoiding the liability in increased taxes to pay for this monster, but maybe this lesson will stick around for a few years, whenever Burlington politicians start making promises about undertaking projects that have no rightful place in the public sector.

Climate Organologists: When Barry and the Vermont Triumvirate Collude, Er, Collide

President Barack Obama, renowned scientician and climate, er, “community” organizer, is proposing $1 billion in spending to “help communities prepare for the

I hope Democrat boats weren't anchored here.

I hope Democrat boats weren’t anchored here.

effects of climate change and to fund research and technology to protect against its impact.”  From the article:

“The president announced the “climate resilience fund” during a meeting with farmers and ranchers in Fresno, Calif., who have been severely affected by a drought in the state’s San Joaquin Valley.”

What the president failed to mention is that the drought in California is almost entirely man-made. Due to restrictions put in place to protect a sardine-sized delta smelt (which sounds like an off-the-menu budget at In-N-Out), California is experiencing an enormous drought, ones previously only seen before the novel and unique idea of irrigation was largely adopted.  From the article:

  • California’s water storage and transportation system designed by federal and state governments includes 1,200 miles of canals and nearly 50 reservoirs that provide water to about 22 million people and irrigate about four million acres of land throughout the state.
  • In May 2007, a Federal District Court Judge ruled that increased amounts of water had to be re-allocated towards protecting the Delta smelt – a three-inch fish on the Endangered Species List.
  • Because of this ruling, in 2009 and 2010 more than 300 billion gallons (or 1 million acre-feet) of water were diverted away from farmers in the Central Valley and into the San Francisco Bay – eventually going out into the Pacific Ocean.
  • This man-made drought cost thousands of farm workers their jobs, inflicted up to 40 percent unemployment in certain communities, and fallowed hundreds of thousands of acres of fertile farmland.
  • Unemployment remains at a regional average of 17%. With current precipitation at near-record lows, the same regulations will be imposed pushing unemployment even higher.

In other words, Mr. Gorbachev is, oh, wait – Barry is tearing down these aqueducts, by spending a billion to study why there’s a drought in a location very proximate

Look!  I spotted a smelt!

Look! I spotted a smelt!

to what we call “deserts”, and mentions nothing about the forced withholding of water from thousands of farms that are suffering under the onslaught of progressive California thought. That climate change, warming, cooling, or meandering, has been and continues to be studied worldwide, is of no consequence – we’re talking legacy here, the legacy of a man who seems to enjoy nothing more than taking an airline flight to unique and out of the way places to play golf, where that noisesome miracle of irrigation ensures that Barry only hits off freshly clipped Kentucky bluegrass, every single time.

So as not to be outdone in the colossally useless expenditures of tax dollars and borrowed money, Vermont’s Congressional delegation/climatologists are echoing the president’s call to spend more money to study that frightening and newly developing threat, often referred to by older, actual native-born Vermonters as “the weather”.  But let’s let the scientitiously-enhanced baldies speak for themselves, in no particular order (from the Freeps):

Bernie:  “I hope that he would be as forceful as he can to make it clear that we are facing a global crisis, that bold action is needed, and that the United States can and should lead the way on this issue,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee. “When you are addressing what the scientific community believes is the greatest crisis facing our planet you have got to make it a major, major priority. You just can’t walk away from it.”

Even though the scientific community is throwing serious science sand in the gears of the climate warming hoax.  Oh, and if the economic community thinks that spending trillions we don’t have will crash the US economy, will Bernie make cutting spending a “major, major priority”, and fail to “walk away from it”?  Oh, I forgot – he’s never held a real job.  So he couldn’t possibly understand economics.

Leahy:  Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he hopes and expects Obama to continue his advocacy in his State of the Union address.

Leahy’s hopes and expectations were miraculously fulfilled.  It’s almost as if he knew Barry was going to say something!  And people ask why we keep him around as Senator?

But for the cake that as yet lacks sustainable, solar-powered goodness in the form of gluten-free icing, I present to you, the Captain of Team Capitulation, Peter Welch (last seen standing and applauding Barry for making this same statement in the SOTU):

Welch:  The other member of Vermont’s congressional delegation, Democratic Rep. Peter Welch, said Obama should tell members of Congress that he’ll work with them in areas where there is bipartisan agreement, such as energy efficiency. But he should continue to use his executive authority where “climate change deniers” block congressional action.

“Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time,” Welch said in a statement. “I hope the president clearly defines in his speech the imperative to act.”

Peter, perhaps unknowingly, and if it is unknowingly then he should be removed from office immediately, is telling both the President and the Vermonters that put him into office that his job is no longer necessary.  If Barry’s going to do the right thing, and Congress is only getting in his way, then hey – just use “executive authority” and go around that annoying, pesky, legislative work frequently being seen not to come out of the greatest deliberative body in history, aka: the US Senate.

It's not like abdication if we cede power to the executive, right?  Right?

It’s not like abdication if we cede power to the executive, right? Right?

To sum it all up:  Our Congressional delegation is quite happy to continue to receive checks for their fine work, as long as Barry does whatever it is he feels like, without the actual authorization required by the Constitution, in terms of, y’know, Congress passing a law and the President signing, and then enforcing it.  So why are Patrick, Peter, and Bernie down in DC, at all?  Can’t we just send down 3 rubber stamps instead, since they seem to be so completely and publicly uninterested in upholding their oath?  I’m quite sure it would be cheaper, and no doubt Barry would approve – with the stroke of an autopen.

Fight the Power, Bernie! The Cheap, Reliable Kind That We All Need

A Senator struggles with math.

A Senator struggles with math.

As everyone knows, the US is awash in nuclear power plants, springing up all across the fruited plains at a rate of one per week. Oh, wait, never mind – those are coal plants, in China. But because Brooklyn’s own Bernie Sanders, US Senator from Vermont (more or less), feels that nuclear power is getting a free liability insurance ride in some way, shape, or form, he recently discussed overturning federal law (but it’s settled law, Bernie!) that puts a limit on liability insurance coverage for nuclear power facilities.

In other words, Bernie sees deregulation as a good thing.  Jaws will now need to be picked up off the floor.  But, true to Bernie Form, he wants to essentially deregulate the nuclear power industry out of existence, because by removing the Price-Anderson liability limits that have been in placed for decades, the cost of the liability insurance for the plants would make them unprofitable, and they would be forced to close.  From the article:

Under the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act, which Congress first passed in 1957 and has since renewed several times, the liability of nuclear power plant operators in the event of a disaster is limited. The industry pays into an insurance account — estimated to have a current value of $12 billion — that is intended to underwrite such expenditures as hotel stays, lost wages and replacement of property for people affected by a nuclear power plant incident.

Enter: The Sanders

“During a hearing on Thursday, Sanders debated Republican colleagues on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee who argued that the federal government plays too big a role in regulating the energy industry and is thus stifling its growth.

The hearing focused on NRC implementation of steps to prevent a Fukushima-style catastrophe in the United States, and committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) used it as an opportunity to chastise the agency for what she said was slow follow-through.

Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) suggested during the hearing “that perhaps we are trying to regulate the nuclear energy industry out business, just like we’re trying to regulate the fossil fuels business out of business.”

Sanders countered that the nuclear power industry would not be able to exist in the United States were it not for the liability limits in federal law and the government’s obligation to cover excess costs related to a catastrophe.”

Sanders did not counter with the fact that reliable, cheap, and long-serving electrical providers – which is what nuclear power plants are – is something that benefits every American on the grid. The nuclear power industry doesn’t exist because the limits are in place; it exists because the people need and demand power, and entrust both politicians and regulatory agencies to ensure their safe and consistent operation.  It’s the same reason roads exist.  Airports.  Curbs.  A Postal Service.  Where does Bernie think electricity will come from if he shuts down 20% of its generation with the stroke of  a taxpayer-funded pen?  Since coal and natural gas make up 67% of the energy produced in this country, is Bernie no longer a global warming believer?  Is Bernie investing in coal-mining companies on the sly?

Bernie's vision of our power future.

Bernie’s vision of our power future.

Sanders frames this discussion like existing regulation is a big favor that’s being done for nuclear power companies. The reality is that they require a massive capital investment (with negotiated pricing, which means margins are at risk), are massively regulated, and the power demanded by the public would not be available without the plants’ operation. He’s arguing that because the USG covers the excess of any potential disaster that is not covered by Price-Andersen, that his august group (aka “The Senate”) should consider deregulating, or failing to renew, this long-standing agreement.  The results of which the Senator won’t have to deal with, except politically, but for the rest of the country, it will mean more expense and less available power.  Which seems a lot like what Bernie voted for in Obamacare (higher costs and less available care), so maybe this is the start of a trend, but this effort allows him to wash his hands in the de-regulatory absolution pool.  What comfort the Senator must take from speaking from both sides of his mouth with a straight face.

“He suggested this was ironic, given that Republicans had given “speech after speech” arguing that that it is government that is preventing industry from succeeding.”

The real irony here is that Sanders hints at anything ironic, considering how no new ground has been broken on new nuclear power plant construction between 1974 and 2013, and that the regulatory delays and opportunities for groups to file in ongoing licensing hearings means that both the cost of the power people ultimately need to buy goes up, and its availabililty becomes more scarce – which probably does not fit the layman’s definition of supplying a public good in a cheap and effective way.

Sanders plods forward, unbowed:

“I wonder if any of my conservative friends would co-sponsor with me legislation to repeal Price Anderson so that we can leave the nuclear power industry alone and not get involved with government,” Sanders said. “I look forward to working with Senator [David] Vitter [R-La.] or Senator Inhofe on getting the government out of the nuclear power industry. Any volunteers at this point?”

Hilarity ensues. I’m searching in vain for Sanders’ calls for de-regulating the agency that hands out hundreds of millions in subsidies for solar power that wind up being utterly thrown away, yet there’s very little evidence that Sanders is interested in deregulating the things he approves of, and piles of evidence that he’s quite happy to insert the government into every nook and cranny of our lives at the drop of a hat.  He’s also quite happy to congratulate himself for spending federal dollars for solar power projects, which will never supply cheap, reliable energy, and also have massive environmental impacts that he happily ignores on his way to next media event.  From the article:

Cadmium, tellurium, gallium, arsenide, germanium, and indium are just a few of the chemicals used in the manufacturing of some solar cells. Although the currently popular crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells don’t use these chemicals they do use lead and produce various waste products such as sulfur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride which is 17,000 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  

One can only hope Bernie assumes this pose more often in the future.

One can only hope Bernie assumes this pose more often in the future.

 

But hey – it’s solar.  “Solar is good.  Nuclear is bad.”  If politicians just keep repeating that to themselves, and to the public, they’ll be re-elected.  And then they won’t have to think too hard about the realities that they’re subjecting the proletariat…er, the people to.

After leaving the hearing early, Sanders told Global Security Newswire he could introduce legislation repealing the law as early as this year.”We may very well — we’ll look at it,” Sanders told GSN. “I think it’s important to deal with some of the hypocrisy.”

Here’s another way to deal with hypocrisy, Senator: Take your Senator’s paycheck that the rest of us provide to you, and go buy a mirror.

The Kampus Krusaders

Vermont’s Trifecta of Fabulous, the aging and somewhat lucid political leadership of the 14th Republic, recently congratulated themselves on securing more funds for VSAC, the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation. In other words, education is an industry that is too big to fail, and these three rough ‘n tumble hombres are just the fellers to make sure overpriced student loans are available for immediate encumbrance upon unsuspecting Vermonters’ lives.  But let’s let them tell the good news, shall we?

“Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which handled the Senate’s negotiations, led the effort in the work on the bill, on behalf of VSAC, with strong support from Sanders and Welch. Leahy said: “No student should be denied the opportunities of a college education

College.  It's a bitch.

College. It’s a bitch.

because of her or his family’s financial resources.””  

No student should be denied the opportunities of a college education because the price of a college education has skyrocketed for decades, dwarfing the CPI rate of inflation – a college degree is roughly 500% higher now than in 1982.  Why?  Because the federal and state governments have ensured that by making student loans available (at rates that are multiples of the average mortgage rate), colleges will continue to endlessly spend money on programs of dubious utility to the average college student, and soon-to-be unemployed college graduate. Those dorms with hi-def screens on the walls in every room, dorms with pools and hot tubs, upscale cafeterias, resort-level gyms and spas, well, it turns out that someone’s going to pay for those. It will be the students, taking out loans, that will fund the majority of those capital projects, new division chairs, new programs with Majors Of Dubious Value, and the campus President’s tasty salary.

Kickoff's at 6:00!

Kickoff’s at 6:00!

Oh, and what goes unmentioned by our tripping-over-themselves-to-congratulate-themselves “leaders”:  Be careful what major you bring to the labor market.

Also, no American should be denied a Senate that passes a budget, but we got that from Leahy and Sanders.  I await their apology.

Continued – unendingly – from above:

“Nonprofit loan servicers like VSAC serve as instrumental partners in guiding Vermont students through the complexities of financing their college educations.”

It’s more complicated because funding mechanisms like VSAC exist. The state could block-grant the VSAC dollars directly to the colleges to reduct their costs, but perhaps our
Federal Triumvirate knows that giving additional dollars to colleges is dangerous. You don’t feed the insatiable more of what they love so dearly – unrestricted funds.  Why is there no call to nationalize education so as to control costs?  Isn’t that how things get fixed now?  Nationalize an industry and the costs will magically go down?

“I continue to hear from students and adult learners across our state that VSAC’s outreach counselors gave them the support system they needed to graduate.”

The only time I ever needed VSAC was when I was dropping off a student loan payment at 8% interest. A better support system would have been an aggregate tax reduction equal to the amount of money VSAC was spending so I could better afford to live in Vermont, and businesses might decide to site or expand here.  Oh, and I continue to hear from the recently-graduated how much their student loan payments makes it impossible to live in Vermont.  So they leave for places that actually have jobs.

“I am delighted we were able to make sure that the new spending bill will enable VSAC to continue to serve students in need.”

Our congressional delegation continues to be delighted in spending our money and money borrowed from investors in Treasury bills. Funny, they’re securing funding for a service

No, but being a politician almost always guarantees a paycheck.

No, but being a politician almost always guarantees a paycheck.

that is only going to decrease in demand as Vermont’s demographics continue their steep decline, in terms of birth rate and the aging demographic. Worse, because so few are participating in Vermont’s labor force, and our unemployment rate is low as a result, there will be fewer and fewer jobs waiting for college grads once they do graduate, and start looking forward to re-paying the “support system” they needed to graduate.

Instead of our delegation’s solution, I offer an alternative to aspiring Vermont collegians.  There’s a cheaper path to a degree:  Get a job at a college.  Any job.  Mop a floor.  Then go to school for free. Get a degree. Get two. Then leave.

It’s that simple. And you don’t need the Three Unwise Men from DC to help you get there, either, which would probably make another, more ancient Vermonter named Cal very happy, too.