Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Question Remains

The Tribune reports that the jury in the Dan De Vaul case (Sunny Acres and state fire codes and various county violations) returned a mixed verdict: guilty on three misdemeanor counts, acquittal on two others and deadlocked on five others. The DA is considering whether or not he’d refile on the undecided five charges and start this whole thing over again.

So, here’s the same question that needs to be asked of both the County and Dan De Vaul: Do you want to do something to help homeless people turn their lives around or do you want to be right?

Yes, Tax Them Froot Loops!

Here’s a two-fer one proposal: slap a tax on sugar and high fructose corn syrup, remove all federal subsidies and import protections for “foreign” sugar and for homegrown regular sugar (and, while you’re at it, slap mitigation fines on the huge agri-business, conglomerate Florida cane growers for the environmental damage done to the Everglades by their agricultural practices), then slap an extra tax on sugary soft drinks.

I understand there’s a new public interest ad out, similar to the ones being run against tobacco, that visually illustrates the problem by equating drinking sodas with drinking Big Gulps full of liquid, oozing yellowish liquid fat (Eeeuuuuuuu) in hopes that teens (and others) will think twice about the amount of nutritionally zero soft drinks they daily pour down their gullets. That’s a delicious idea and a good start.

Part of the tax collected could go to financing more such public info ads and other informational, educational formats, much like the tobacco tax goes for education efforts to prevent smoking. And the rest of the tax money collected could help offset the cost of medical care brought about by all the fat too many of us are carrying around as a direct result of swilling down too many soft drinks (not to mention inadvertently consuming all the hidden sugar and high fruit corn syrup that’s been put into nearly everything on the supermarket shelf.)

Oh, I know, Grover Norquist And His Cult Of No Tax Republicans, all of whom have signed a blood oath to him, will have cow. But they simply need to view the “tax” as just another cost of doing business. Some products cost more than others because some ingredients cost more than others. No big deal. If sugar is more costly, then that’s simply a part of doing business and the customer has a clear choice; to buy or not to buy. And isn’t CHOICE, (except for a woman’s control over her reproductive rights) something conservatives love to preach about? Well, nobody, not even a “nanny government” is forcing you to drink a soda. You have a choice and you're free to make that choice based on health issues or simply price issues. Just like you do all other products. Let’s see, do I have a Coca-Cola for $2.50 or do I have a bottle of water for $1.65. Hmmmm. . . let me think.

Go Ahead, Carbon It! I Dare You!

It’s finally time to get serious about a carbon tax. Cap and trade just moves the problem around. A nice, flat, across the board carbon tax would be a good start. Then remove all subsidies from all carbon based fuels, you know, nice tax breaks and depreciation allowances and such like for oil producers. Might even start billing a pro-rata share of the military budget needed to protect that oil while it gets from places like Iraq and keep it safe on the high seas via our wonderful Navy. The military can send the oil producers a bill for their services. Don’t frown, it’s simply the cost of doing business.

Then take that nice carbon tax money and use it to fund R&D and subsidize non-carbon based energy systems. (Hey, don’t squawk about Nanny Government. We’ve subsidized carbon fuels for years, not to mention farm products – all that nice government cheese—as well as any number of “protected” businesses and products. That’s nothing new. And if the government can subsidize cheese, which, to my knowledge does not threaten the future of the world, surely it can subsidize efforts to save the world for future generations, who can then be around to eat all that saved cheese.)

Then let’s get busy setting up a nationwide Rent-A-Roof program. Utilities, whether public or private, could contract with willing homeowners to install solar panels on their roofs. The utility would maintain the unit, supply the house with X amount of power, and capture the keep the rest and send it back to the grid. Win-win. Homeowner gets a lower (or even zero) energy bill, utility gets more power to sell, can delay building more expensive power plants, and already “disturbed,” non-environmentally sensitive urban habitat would become huge solar arrays one roof at a time, thereby delaying the need for screwing up wilderness areas with huge single arrays.

Yoo-Hoo, PG&E. Gotta roof right here. Be happy if y’all’d come put a few solar panels on it. We’ll do a fair deal on the energy produced so we both benefit. Whatya say? Call me. We gotta talk.

Public Option?

Why in hell is Congress pulling their hair out over re-inventing the wheel in the form of a “public option” for health care reform. It’s already been invented and is sitting there ready to be turn-keyed. It’s called Medicare. Simply make Medicare available to anyone under 65 who wants to opt in on a pro rated basis. And make sure the law as it’s being written allows anyone to buy in if they want to, even people who have health care at their place of employment. There, done.

If Medicare can offer what they offer at the price they offer it, surely private insurance companies can do the same, can’t they? And if they can’t, then they can’t compete and they go out of business. Isn’t that what capitalism and competition and choice is all about?

But to make a public option work, people need to be free to buy into the public option any time they want. The way the quasi-completed proposed bill has it, employees will simply be captives to whatever health care policy their employer foists off on them at whatever price the insurance company wishes to charge. That’s not choice. That’s not competition. That’s government mandated captivity.

Weirdly, all Republicans and some Democrats have been violently opposed to any kind of “public option.” Which means they are in favor of no choice and no competition and want to make all Americans captive to private insurance companies?

Well, that makes sense since Congress is a fully owned subsidiary of Big Pharma and Big Insurance. I guess they’re simply following the old dictum: Ya gotta dance with them what brung ya. And clearly, the American people didn’t brung the Congresspeople they thought they were voting into office to dance with them.

Ah, Well, Dear Sweet Voter. . .wrong on that one . . . sucker!


Shark Inlet said...

Economists in general and all reasonable Republicans would back your tax proposal.

Subsidies for products which aren't necessary and don't help us are something Republicans should oppose.

Taxes on items like soda are a good thing if they bring the cost of the item in line with the social cost of the item. If soda has long-term health costs nationwide, it should be taxed at a rate equal to the cost of the extra illness associated. Sound principal.

On the tax issue, Tom Campbell, one of the wisest Republicans out there (probably due to his Economics training) made it clear that in California, it would have been far wiser in this last budget go-round to raise gas taxes a small amount than it would be to fire teachers. The long-term good of the state would be better served by higher taxes in the short run than in lowering the quality of education and artificially disrupting the market for educators.

Republicans who are on the whole "free market" bandwagon should realize that the no-taxes-never-ever-ever-else-I'm-gonna-take-my-ball-n-go-home movement is not based on any sound thought but instead on a fear that if you give an inch on one tax that the Democrats will take a mile on all taxes. It is FUD plain and simple.

I think that this time around I'm gonna register as a Republican (I pick my party based on who I feel strongest about during the primary stage) to vote for Campbell over the other, far less thoughtful Republicans. Newsome versus Brown doesn't strike me as important as getting a reasonable Republican candidate.

In terms of Republican positions ... it is, indeed, funny when competition is viewed as a bad thing.

Finally, also on insurance, you all should watch ... one of the funniest things in years.

Churadogs said...

Inlet sez:"Republicans who are on the whole "free market" bandwagon should realize that the no-taxes-never-ever-ever-else-I'm-gonna-take-my-ball-n-go-home movement is not based on any sound thought but instead on a fear that if you give an inch on one tax that the Democrats will take a mile on all taxes. It is FUD plain and simple."

You're forgetting Grover Norquist. Republicans have taken a blood oath to a guy whose stated principle is to make government small and weak enough to strangle and drown in a bathtub. Hardly sound policy in anybody's book.

Watershed Mark said...

I like how Senator Baucus doesn't want Health Care Insurance providers to "talk/write" to their clients about his proposed changes to their service could affect their health care and that there will be no posting of the bill on the internet so folks who will pay for it can read his bill for 3 days before they vote on it.

Didn't our POTUS state during his campaign that "we the people" would have the ability to read bills?
"Barack Hussein Obama He said we must be clear today Mmm ,mmm, mm!"

I wonder if Congress can find a little time to address sealing the Southern border in an effort to ease the burden on our health care system.
Oh wait that actually is mandated by the Constitution as in:
provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States, so that wouldn't be a change, or would it?

Meanwhile the United States is flat broke, just like California and SLOCO.

Alon Perlman said...

Agreeing Mostly with Shark but with the part from Wmark about closed borders too. (Open to legal Immigration) Norquist was practically a Bush cabinet member (Cabinet-maker?)

“The rules that preserve a closed system, may not apply when the system is open.” Is there a sentence like that in most economy books?
I vote for Ann’s junk food tax.
Carbon taxes are more complex. We can assign a value to an aluminum can, tax the point of sale as if we are fining the person for the cost of recovery when they toss the can into the bushes. We can dial it (the tax, fee, tariff) in to recover a portion of the world supply of aluminum. Decrease demand on (bauxite?) mines. Energy of refinement. As long as we don’t load slow boats with crushed cans and ship them to china and back we may even recover some energy.

Carbon tax is intended to retard global warming. In a global economy it can only work if the tax is proportional to the cradle to grave carbon impact of the life cycle of the item taxed. (let’s not try to make assumptions as to the efficiency of the use of the tax monies- we can keep bilingual and other teachers employed- we focus on the supply and demand effects of taxation) A society of excess that wants its organic tomatoes year round, and has been paying for vegetables to be put on jet planes, may have some difficulty in structuring such a tax to truly affect less greenhouse gas production. The economic forces (lets consume more green goods, Versus-lets consume less goods in general) may cause unintended consequences of the opposite kind.

LOWWP One of the first projects to use AB32 reasoning. But did it use it correctly? Mark Hutchinson noted that project effects in production of methane by grass decomposition would not be counted.

Word verification; mudab
Reminiscent of "Muaddib" the name the Dune messiah took, "Muaddib" meaning Kangaroo rat, the animal that had the best water conservation adaptations to live on the desert planet (ref science fiction. Frank Herbert)

Sewertoons said...

We think homelessness is bad here - well it is - but look at this:

Churadogs said...

Alon sez:"Carbon taxes are more complex. We can assign a value to an aluminum can, tax the point of sale as if we are fining the person for the cost of recovery when they toss the can into the bushes."

Amory Lovins came at all products, back end to front, i.e. include total costs up front, add it to the price of the product, and ka-zam, manufacturers suddenly figure out better ways to redesign the product. Once you add in end of life and end use, the "true" cost can be staggering. Better to not ring the bell in the first place than pay to try to un-ring it. But then, Amory is a very smart man.