Friday, December 23, 2011


Why Government is the Problem

Mike Rosen often trots out the essence of economics, saying, you don't ask: "What do you want?" you ask: "What do you want more?"

The National Environmental Policy Act, which passed virtually unopposed in Congress in the very late 60s, was a needed thing. Our air and water were too dirty then. The EPA is another thing entirely. Cleaning up 80% at a reasonable cost is good. Cleaning up the last 20% at a prohibitive cost is irrefutably bad. Our air and water are cleaner now than they were in the early 1900s, despite a tripling of the population and an ever increasing, intensive use of fossil fuels.

One of the many problem with powerful federal agencies is that they willingly put on blinders and can only see the last 20% as worth any price to clean up. We clearly want relatively clean water and air but we want a viable economy more. Sometimes the blinders the EPA puts on causes actual cognitive dissonance. Like this obvious to anyone with a few seconds of thought example from Investors Business Daily. Money quotes:

The EPA thinks it's worth spending billions of dollars each year to reduce already minuscule amounts of mercury in the outside air. So why is it trying to shove mercury-laced fluorescent bulbs into everyone's homes?
[Justifying the crippling new rules] Administrator Lisa Jackson blogged that:

"Mercury is a neurotoxin that is particularly harmful to children, and emissions of mercury and other air toxics have been linked to damage to developing nervous systems, respiratory illnesses and other diseases."

At $10 billion a year, complying with the new rules won't come cheap, and that assumes the EPA's low-ball estimate comes true.

In a pamphlet extolling the virtues of the looming federal ban on traditional incandescent light bulbs, the EPA says it's a "myth" that the mercury used in compact fluorescent lights is "dangerous in your home."

"There's no evidence," the brochure says, that "brief exposure to the mercury in a broken bulb presents a health risk to you or your family."

Truth is there's no meaningful health risk from either the bulbs or the power plants. As a 2004 paper published by the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution noted, "mercury exposure at current levels is unlikely to be causing harm."
The risk to the nation now is not the harmless traces of mercury, but in the shut down (or at least a steep price rise) the EPA seeks to cause many coal fired power plants particularly in the East.

Remember when the lights went off during the recent NFL game between Pittsburgh and San Francisco? That's our future if the EPA, indeed all the federal government, continues its cancer like growth.


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