Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Kulongoski, Jobs, and Gordon Smith

An Associated Press story ran this weekend that revealed my decision to not vote for Gordon Smith. Yesterday, Jeff Mapes ran a followup on his blog.

My problem with Gordon Smith is not really that he is triangulating in an election year. I expect that, and would tolerate a lot of it. I'm not really that much of a purist when it comes to electoral politics. I'm just fine with voting for people who I agree with 60% of the time.

But Gordon Smith has gone south on the most important issue of the day: regulating and taxing carbon emissions. That is when he lost me and my vote.

I'm not on a crusade here. I'm not out to try to convince others to not vote for him. I didn't make any announcement about my vote. In fact, I am pretty sure Gordon Smith is going to win, and his victory will partly be due to the fact that he has so aggressively assumed the color of his environment.

Ted Kulongoski is in the news today touting the job creating potential of "green energy." This is economic development Soviet style. Does it create jobs to give huge subsidies to alternative energy projects that don't make economic sense on their own? Sure. Just not as many jobs as the subsidies themselves destroy.

But the jobs that get killed are opportunity costs. They are diffuse. The jobs that get created are wonderful ribbon-cutting-press-release material, which makes them perfect for politicians who misunderstand economics and want to pretend they are doing something.

It's the same basic argument about tarriffs. Do import tarriffs save jobs in the U.S? Sure. Just not as many jobs as they destroy. Slapping a 100% taffiff on steel imports absolutely does protect jobs in the domestic steel industry. Those can be identified.

The higher relative cost of the steel that ends up in products produced here is spread throughout the economy, and ends up in the form of incrementally higher prices for finished products we all pay for.

It is a cardinal principle of politics that any political process will become dominated and co-opted by the concentrated interests at the expense of the diffuse interests. The case of "green energy" subsidies and import tarriffs are prime examples.

Craven politicians like Ted Kulongoski ally themselves with special interests, and help them enrich themselves at public expense. The interest groups have substantial monetary incentives to play the game - campaign contributions, public relations efforts, etc. The costs are diffused throughout the economy. Those who bear these costs, individually, do not have enough incentive to mobilize any political effort to oppose the policies that cost them, because the incremental cost each person bears is small.

And so we get what economists call "rent-seekers," who use the political process to pass mandates that enrich themselves. Kulongoski's green energy policies and Gordon Smith's "Cap & Trade" programs are nothing more than interest group subsidies.

They kill jobs. But who cares when they give politicians such wonderful opportunities for press conferences!


OregonGuy said...


Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Rob - glad you had the moxy to say what so many feel. Look forward to golf sometime soon at OGC.


MAX Redline said...

Actually, Gordo started losing me back at border security and illegal aliens. This cap and trade thing wouldn't be a deal-breaker for me IF he actually stood for conservative principles on other fronts, and the reason I say this is because it's a foregone conclusion that c&t isn't going anywhere right now. It might be different if it was a serious issue, but it's just politicking.

That means Gordo can vote for it and claim to be "reaching across party lines" during a tough election cycle - there's really no downside to it for him.

So while I generally agree with your positions, Rob, in this case I think you're over-reacting. There are many legitimate reasons not to support Gordo, but the c&t is just a smokescreen as far as I'm concerned.

If it was a potential happening thing, I'd be with you just on the basis of that issue. But we both know it's not. Which makes me wonder if it isn't the actual underlying issues that have had you - like me - boiling a bit.

Rob Kremer said...

Ahh, but Max - I think you are wrong to assume "Cap & Tax" is not going to happen.

Who is going to win the presidential race? It doesn't matter! Both McCain and Obama say they want CO2 limits. So no matter who wins, unless there is some opposition in congress, we will get it.

So Smith didn't just cast a convenient election year vote for cloture. He dug himself into a position that will make it impossible to oppose the bill that is guaranteed to come up next congress.

MAX Redline said...


You may be right and I may be wrong, but I don't think C&T is going anywhere.

Nothing is impossible in politics, as you well know. Last month, Obama opposed FISA.

Rob Kremer said...

Well, Max, I may be right and you may be wrong, but I hope like Hell that you are right!

I am Coyote said...

The problems isn't Gordon's VOTE on cap and trade. It is that he freaking went on the line to DEFEND it!

What does that do to every other Republican politician out there who is trying to tear the c&t myth apart? Well it means he/she/we need to not only argue against the idiots on the left but now we are fighting Republicans like Smith.

He did the same thing with the Wyden health care plan. He decided he needed to author some inane treatise on why it is a good thing to TELL EMPLOYERS what they need to be paying for health insurance.

If he wants to reach across party lines and vote in an election year, then fine. OK, folks understand that. Just shut da hell up about it afterwards.

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