Sunday, January 19, 2020
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Revisiting Arizona’s Solar vs. Virginia’s Coal

A few of years back, I did a post about two states making divergent energy choices - Arizona picking renewable power, Virginia picking coal. So how's solar power working for Arizona?
About 850 construction workers have descended on Gila Bend to work on the plants this summer, and about double that number are expected next year as the largest alternative-energy project in the state, the Solana Generating Station [design at right], ramps up construction. [...]

Abel Ortiz, 49, of Buckeye, had been out of work for months before landing a job as a laborer at the power plant. He said the pay assembling the solar-panel arrays was good. Normally, a labor job would pay about $8 an hour, but he's making more than $10 an hour, he said. [...]

The two small plants have a combined 34 megawatts of capacity, and Solana has 280, putting the economic benefit to Gila Bend north of $300 million from the current projects. "These projects have been taking a lot of folks that have been unemployed and putting them to work," Geisler said.

Meanwhile, electricity prices in Virginia are up about 35 percent since 2005. Electric rates in Arizona have increased somewhat, but there's one major difference: While Arizona has incentivized efficiency, the Virginia General Assembly still tells Dominion Virginia Power to make more profit by selling you more juice. So while Arizona Public Service Co. will be trying to cut its customers' electricity use 22 percent by 2020, Dominion Virginia Power expects demand to increase 30 percent by 2026. That means lower electricity bills in Arizona and higher electricity bills in Virginia.

Obama: Hike Taxes on a Few Rich People to Put Lots...

P081111CK-0137Our infrastructure is crumbling and millions of Americans are out of work. The wealthy earn a growing share of income but pay lower rates thanks to the Bush tax cuts. Makes sense to ask the wealthy to pay a bit more & use the money to put people to work, right? That's President Obama's plan:
President Obama would fund his $447 billion plan to create jobs largely by raising taxes on wealthier families, White House aides said Monday after the president again called on Congress to support the package.

During a Rose Garden appearance, Obama pledged to send Congress the American Jobs Act on Monday evening when the legislative body resumes its session. Aides revealed for the first time that the plan will include limits on itemized deductions for individuals who earn more than $200,000 a year and families that earn more than $250,000.

Eliminating those deductions will bring in an additional $400 billion in revenue, said Jack Lew, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The administration also is recommending closing oil and gas loopholes and changing the depreciation rules for corporate airplanes. All of the new rules, which would take effect in 2013, would bring in an estimated total of $467 billion, more than enough to pay for the president's jobs bill, Lew said during the White House's daily press briefing Monday.

House Speaker John Boehner's office is already indicating Republicans will block the plan, meaning the entire GOP strategy between now & November 2012 will be to block anything Democrats try to do to improve the economy and hope voters don't realize what's going on.  

Obama Speech Puts Ball in GOP’s Court

The November 2012 elections will be defined by how Congressional Republicans react to the gauntlet thrown down by President Obama on Capitol Hill last night. Here are their choices and the political implications:

  1. Pass the American Jobs Act. Puts all the risk/reward for the economy through November 2012 on Obama. If the unemployment rate goes down, Obama gets the credit; if not, we could be looking at President Romney.
  2. Reject the American Jobs Act. Puts all the risk/reward for the economy through November 2012 on Republicans. If the economy improves despite continued inaction, Republicans can bask in the glow; if not, President Obama can blame the do-nothing Congress for the continuing slump.
  3. Pass some elements of the American Jobs Act, reject others. The political ramifications of this option aresn't that far off from #2 - President Obama could still say "Well, I told them what I'd do, and they didn't do it, so if you want to know why the economy still stinks, ask Eric Cantor."

Given how GOP-pushed austerity is devastating employment, this seems like exactly the right strategy for President Obama. If he hadn't introduced a sizeable bill and demanded it be passed right away & as written, Obama faced the possibility of voters blaming him for the terrible results of defacto GOP economic policies. Now Congressional Republicans get to choose their own destiny - and it's hard to imagine they'll choose wisely.

David Plouffe Previews The President’s Jobs Speech

Senior Advisor to President Obama, David Plouffe, previews the President's address to a joint session of Congress about how he will continue to grow the economy and his plan to create jobs faster than they are already being created. You can watch the President's address live, tonight at 7PM EDT at

So, there's a preview from one of President Obama's top advisors. What I want is for President Obama to really frame the choices facing our nation right now. I'm looking for him to provide strong leadership and a clear vision of where we need to go. That does NOT mean austerity in the midst of a recession, aka "the exact opposite of what every economics course  teaches us." And no, despite what the ignoramus from Texas said last night in the Republican freak show debate, Keynesian economics is not only not dead, it's more relevant than ever.

In stark contrast, with interest rates at historic lows, with tremendous slack in the economy, and with an enormous pent-up/backlogged need to invest in America's infrastructure, there is NO BETTER TIME THAN RIGHT NOW for the government to be putting money into long-term infrastructure -- particularly energy efficient and otherwise "green" infrastructure, including "green" schools, buildings, transportation, energy production and transmission, etc. -- that will strengthen American for decades to come. What on earth would we be waiting for, higher interest rates and more expensive labor and materials as the economy recovers? What rational reason would lead us to do that? And why would we even think of listening to angry, ignorant voices - the Teapublicans, mostly - telling us to do the exact opposite of what we should be doing, what everything we know about economics teaches us, right now?

Tonight, I urge President Obama to ignore the know-nothings, John Birchers, and Eric Can'tors of the world, and instead to go big, go bold, and lay out a vision for American greatness in the 21st century. That's not to much to ask from the guy who told us "Yes WE CAN!" in 2008, is it? :)

GOP Scheme To Starve Economy With Austerity Going As Planned

Shut outOn Labor Day, Paul Krugman reminds us that after 9 months of government layoffs & zero jobs bills from the GOP-controlled House, the Great Recession's unemployment picture remains as bleak as ever:
Although you'd never know it listening to the ranters, the past year has actually been a pretty good test of the theory that slashing government spending actually creates jobs. The deficit obsession has blocked a much-needed second round of federal stimulus, and with stimulus spending, such as it was, fading out, we're experiencing de facto fiscal austerity. State and local governments, in particular, faced with the loss of federal aid, have been sharply cutting many programs and have been laying off a lot of workers, mostly schoolteachers.

And somehow the private sector hasn't responded to these layoffs by rejoicing at the sight of a shrinking government and embarking on a hiring spree.

Krugman says on job creation, Republicans "will oppose anything Mr. Obama proposes, even if it would clearly help the economy - or maybe I should say, especially if it would help the economy, since high unemployment helps them politically." But hey, as long as Republicans can admit publicly their goal is to destroy government rather than create jobs & the media won't call them on it, what's their motivation to act anything but cynically? And it gives GOP politicians like Gov. Bob McDonnell lots of chances to try for photo ops at food banks!

The answer is yes, Mr. Kristof

Nicholas Kristof's column for tomorrow asks Did We Drop the Ball on Unemployment?

He acknowledges being part of the problem, which became very clear to him when he vacationed at his childhood home on a farm in Yamhill Oregon, and as he visits old friends he writes

I can't help feeling that national politicians and national journalists alike have dropped the ball on jobs. Some 25 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed - that's more than 16 percent of the work force - but jobs haven't been nearly high enough on the national agenda.

After acknowledging his own culpability, choosing to ask the President a "gotcha" question when he could have asked about this national problem, Kristof writes

A study by National Journal in May found something similar: newspaper articles about "unemployment" apparently fell over the last two years, while references to the "deficit" soared.

Yet despite that, poll after poll makes it clear that Americans by around a 2-1 margin are more concerned about jobs and unemployment than they are the deficit.

Kristof offers more.

Saving Money, Sustaining Jobs: What New Fuel Efficiency Rules Mean for...

The Obama administration has announced new fuel efficiency standards for cars & trucks that will save consumers billions at the gas pump. But what many people don't realize is those standards will also sustain thousands of jobs in states like Virginia:
At least 155,000 auto industry jobs now exist in the United States devoted to fuel-efficient vehicle technologies, with that number likely to grow, according to a joint report released today by the UAW and two environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council National Wildlife Federation.

The new study found that more than 300 companies in 43 states and the District of Columbia are currently involved in manufacturing tied directly to clean and fuel efficient technologies. That number is likely to expand even more in the wake of recently announced fuel economy standards that would require a fleet average of 54.5 m.p.g. by 2025.

By 2030, the new fuel efficiency rules will save America 3.4 million barrels of oil per day. If you believe estimates that Virginia has 130 million barrels of oil offshore, that means the new standards will save more oil every 38 days than we could possibly drill for off our beaches:

With Economy on Precipice, Congress Prepares to Kill More Jobs

With news that Republicans are looking to make the Boehner plan to kill 700,000 jobs even worse, David Kurtz at TPM writes:
First quarter GDP revised downward to a 0.4 percent growth rate. Second quarter GDP grew at a lower-than-expected 1.3 percent.

Let's go ahead and suck some more demand out of the economy by cutting government spending. But first, it'd be a good idea to roil the credit markets by flirting with government default.

Anything we're leaving out of this recipe for disaster?

At The Plum Line, Adam Serwer wonders why Democrats seem to have given up on any effort to preserve or create jobs.

House GOP Deficit Plan Would Cripple Economy, Kill 700,000 Jobs

john boehnerA new analysis by Moody's confirms the Republican plan to slash spending would devastate America's economy:
The report, by Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, offers fresh ammunition to Democrats seeking block the Republican plan, which would terminate dozens of programs and slash federal appropriations by $61 billion over the next seven months.

Zandi, an architect of the 2009 stimulus package who has advised both political parties, predicts that the GOP package would reduce economic growth by 0.5 percentage points this year, and by 0.2 percentage points in 2012, resulting in 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of next year.

His report comes on the heels of a similar analysis last week by the investment bank Goldman Sachs, which predicted that the Republican spending cuts would cause even greater damage to the economy, slowing growth by as much as 2 percentage points in the second and third quarters of this year.

How many jobs would Sen. Harry Reid's plan cost? I haven't seen an analysis - if you have, please post it in comments. But as E.J. Dionne points out, Democrats are caught in the Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop - focused exclusively on cutting spending while Americans continue to be most worried about jobs & the economy.

Paul Ryan’s $350 Wine & The Bankruptcy of Trickle-Down Economics

It says everything you need to know about today's Republican Party leadership that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-IL) (heir to a contracting empire, personal net worth: $2.4 million) thinks nothing of throwing down a couple of $350 bottles of wine like you or I would drink Yellow Tail:
Susan Feinberg, an associate business professor at Rutgers, was at Bistro Bis celebrating her birthday with her husband that night. When she saw the label on the bottle of Jayer-Gilles 2004 Echezeaux Grand Cru Ryan's table had ordered, she quickly looked it up on the wine list and saw that it sold for an eye-popping $350, the most expensive wine in the house along with one other with the same pricetag.

Feinberg, an economist by training, was even more appalled when the table ordered a second bottle. She quickly did the math and figured out that the $700 in wine the trio consumed over the course of 90 minutes amounted to more than the entire weekly income of a couple making minimum wage.

Much as I like making fun of Republicans, I think the story says something a lot more about the transparent insanity GOP economic arguments. If Paul Ryan gets a tax cut, he'll probably stick most of it in the bank, spend some on a $350 bottle of wine, and for the most part the only one who notices the difference is Paul Ryan's stockbroker. But if a family making minimum wage gets a little more money, it not only makes a big difference for that family, but the money gets spent several times over in the local community. The family spends a little extra at the grocery store, which helps the store turn a part-time worker into a full-time staffer, who can now afford to buy a car at the dealership down the street, etc.