American Elephants

Once Again The Private Sector Delivers More Help for the Poor by The Elephant's Child

I was a little startled when the power company noted that I didn’t owe anything at all last month, and this month’s bill was noticeably smaller. Even the Obama administration has noticed that the boom in natural gas drilling has led to more high-wage jobs, and more secure energy supplies (our “addiction” to “foreign oil” is lessening?) and perhaps they have even noticed lower manufacturing costs. A modern economy runs on energy. When that energy is expensive — everything costs more. What may not be recognized is that the benefits from fracking and new drilling technologies are the much-needed windfall to American consumers — especially the poor.

A study from Mercator Energy, a Colorado-based energy broker, quantifies the multibillion dollar annual savings to American households through lower utility bills from the fall in the price of natural gas.

From 2003-08, before the fracking revolution took hold, the price of natural gas averaged about $7.20 per million BTUs. By 2012, after the new drilling operations had erupted from North Dakota to West Texas to Pennsylvania, the increase in natural gas production had cut the price to $2.80 per million BTUs. This is a 61% price decline, which means lower home-heating and lower electricity bills. The windfall to all U.S. natural gas consumers — industrial and residential — was closer to $110 billion.

The income group helped most by all this wealth are the poor. Data from the annual report of the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (Liheap) show that poor households spend more of their income on home energy (10.4%) than non-poor households (2.6%). Roughly 40 million households, or 36% of U.S. households are eligible for help. Lower natural gas price have reduced the utility bills of poor families by about $10 billion a year. Or, put another way, fracking has been a more effective anti-poverty program than is the federal government’s Liheap. Lower gas prices help nearly all poor households; Liheap helps fewer than one in four.

A new report from IHS Global Insight estimates that fracking has added the equivalent of $1.200 to real household disposable income on average in 2012. Wages have increased from a surge in industrial activity. And the windfall from increased oil and gas will continue to grow. The manufacturing renaissance from cheaper energy supplies is a classic American story of innovation, human ingenuity, risk-taking and capital investment. Not government subsidies, and not a single one of the 47 federal job-training programs.

You would think that liberal egalitarians would celebrate this bonanza for the poor. Not likely. Fidelity to their green religion trumps real-world facts every time. The Sierra Club continues to oppose fracking (and the Keystone XL)  and are using lawsuits, protests and  political lobbying to stop it. There is no special qualification to be “an environmentalist,” you must just profess a fondness for nature, or trees, or wolves and polar bears— you don’t need to know anything.

The Consequences of Drawing Red Lines by The Elephant's Child

I have been an opponent of President Obama’s policies from the beginning. I didn’t believe he had the necessary experience for the highest office in the land, and he has lived up to that expectation. He does not understand economics, even the most basic economics, and his attachment to Keynesian theory and pump-priming have waged disaster on our economy. He has been sure that just spending more money is the answer to most any problem. It’s not.

His early statement that we were “five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America” sent chills down my back. His view of what is wrong with this country and needs to be transformed is completely at odds with my views. His insistence that the United States is not an exceptional country — or at least no more exceptional than any other — shows an unusual unfamiliarity with our history.

I will excuse quite a bit in most people because we are only imperfect humans, vain, ignorant, self-important, conceited, occasionally clever, jealous, greedy, the list goes on and on. There are no perfect people — even those we love most dearly have flaws which we choose to ignore. We speak and all too often say things we shouldn’t have said. But a president does not have that option.

The United States remains a powerful nation, and the words a president uses have consequences. That’s why presidents have many speechwriters, and senior advisers, and teleprompters too. To keep them from making clumsy international mistakes.

The President is now saying that he was elected to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t recall that. He was elected to be the first black president, and hope and change. We just didn’t know what he meant by change. He even mentioned his laughable Nobel Peace Prize today as some sort of resume enhancement. I do remember his claim that Iraq was a “dumb war” and his apparent belief that the only reason we were in Afghanistan was to “get Osama bin Laden.” Which he (The Seals) did, so now we’re done over there and we should just quit? Well, you don’t just “quit” wars. You win them or you lose them.

Yes, the President clearly opposes war. I don’t know of anyone that wants wars, but nations have interests and through misguided policies and ill-defined statements, and red lines, and bumbling, and dithering — wars have started that nobody wanted.

The Secretary of State also has speechwriters, but he wandered off track to say that we weren’t going to War in Syria, we were just going to do something “unbelievably small,” which prompted John McCain to note that was “unbelievably unhelpful.” Kerry added that Assad could turn over his chemical weapons to an international authority within the next few days ,and then we’d see. So Vladimir Putin immediately jumped on that and demanded that Assad turn over his weapons, then Hillary, forgetting that she no longer is the Secretary, chimed in to urge Assad to turn over the weapons, and blathered something about “holding Assad and the Russians to account.” The usual Hillary talk. President Obama may see an “out” in Putin’s demand. Another flip.

I believe that in international affairs you have to support your country, and keep  your policy disagreements with the president at home. President Obama is not making that easy. He’s all over the map, and as usual, it is all about him, not the nation. He has destroyed his credibility with his own party, he never really had any with Republicans, and he is losing what credibility he had internationally.  He is sending a message that he is not serious.

The president needs to learn that his words have consequences internationally. His statements are reported internationally. When he dithers, that is reported internationally too.  This time it isn’t about you, Mr. President. It is about America. There are consequences. When you find yourself in a hole, the best advice — is to stop digging.

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