Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Tuesday Mashup (9/6/11)

  • I don’t know if Willard Mitt Romney is eventually going to overtake “Goodhair” Perry for the Repug presidential nomination or not. And at this point, I don’t much care.

    However, this tells us the following, which I thought was interesting, if not surprising…
    (Reuters) - Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney named an economic policy team on Tuesday led by former top economic aides in Republican President George W. Bush's administration.

    The former Massachusetts governor, due to unveil a job creation plan later on Tuesday, named Glenn Hubbard, chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers from 2001 to 2003, and Gregory Mankiw, who led the council from 2003 to 2005.

    Both also advised Romney's 2008 presidential campaign.
    As noted here, Hubbard famously freaked out when questioned about the financial firms he consulted for while dean of Columbia Business School in the film "Inside Job," telling director/interviewer Charles Ferguson "In fact, you've got three minutes (to ask your question). SO GIVE IT YOUR BEST SHOT."

    And as for Mankiw, he infamously said here that offshoring was “just a way to do international trade” and “a plus for the economy in the long run” (later pleading innocence over a “failure to communicate”). He also said here that he would be less inclined to work hard if he had to pay higher taxes (or something), and here, he criticized the spending and savings of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor when she was being confirmed (no word of his opinion, if any, on the money management of Scalia, Thomas, Alito or Hangin’ Judge JR).

    At least Hubbard and Mankiw are “birds of a feather” with Romney on the economy, particularly when you consider this.

  • Sticking with money matters, Cal Thomas opines as follows here…
    In advance of a "major speech" on the economy and jobs, President Obama has selected Princeton University professor Alan Krueger to be chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Krueger is no relation to the horror film character Freddy Krueger, though if his ideas are implemented, they might further "slash" the economy.
    This is one of those times when I’ll admit a bit of a conflict; I thought at first I should ignore this tripe from Thomas because acknowledging it only gives it more oxygen. However, I decided to say something because his garbage is only polluting our already ridiculous political discourse even more.

    The supposed sin of incoming Council of Economic Advisors Chairman Krueger is that he is at least willing to discuss a value-added tax, or VAT (I will give Thomas a slight amount of credit because he makes that distinction, as opposed to his fellow wingnuts who claim, incorrectly, that Krueger is advocating for one outright).

    Media Matters has more on this here (and as noted here, that “liberal” Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, has advocated the same thing – speaking only for myself, I’ll reserve judgment on the matter for now).

  • Finally, this story tells us the following…
    America is in grave danger of losing its edge. For over one hundred years, American leadership in science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing has been unrivaled. It has created for us not only one of the highest standards of living any civilization has ever achieved, but also brought American preeminence in the world and a strong national defense.

    Now, unfortunately, this is all at risk due to the lack of long-term planning, little political will, and slowing investment in science and engineering research.

    As every business leader knows, prosperity tomorrow requires investment today. This is true whether the economy is in a period of boom or bust. The United States will not simply “grow” its way out of economic malaise. We need a rebirth of innovation: new products, new ways of doing things, new scientific achievements.
    And this tells us the following…
    With a total federal R&D budget of an estimated $144.4 billion in FY 2011, hundreds of thousands of programs and projects are sponsored in federal laboratories, universities, and industries. Funding for R&D has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support, particularly in connection with defense (mostly applied research and weapons development) and health (biomedical research). However, making the case for increased funding of long-term, basic science and engineering research has become increasingly difficult, in part due to the intrinsic uncertainties about the ultimate impacts of the research such as religious and ideological concerns about certain kinds of research, (e.g., embryonic stem cells) and inadequate communication between scientists and the public and policymakers at all levels. In present times, when reducing annual deficit spending is high on the list of national priorities, the situation is particularly dire. In the innovation-driven economy of the 21st century, funding R&D is more important than ever. Indeed, basic research can simply get lost in the contentious budget debates and partisan squabbles. With new conservative leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, following the FY 2010 election, the coming budget negotiations are proving to be especially difficult.

    In President Obama’s FY 2010 and 2011 budget requests, he emphasized the importance of basic research. Unfortunately, Congress’s failure to send the president any appropriations bills for FY 2011 produced a string of continuing resolutions, the last of which appropriated funding for the remaining months of FY 2011 and resulted in an average of 1 percent cuts relative to the previous year in funding for the major research agencies, including NIH (down $300 million from $30.7 billion in the FY 2010 enacted budget), NSF (down $65 million from $6.8 billion), and DOE’s Office of Science (down $30 million from $4.88 billion).

    President Obama’s FY 2012 budget request is an effort to rescue science budgets by raising overall R&D roughly to the FY 2010 levels and providing significant increases for research funding. The proposed budget would increase total R&D funding to $149.1 billion, up by $4.7 billion from the FY 2011 enacted budget. The proposed budget includes a 10 percent increase (or $6.0 billion) for total research, specifically, a 15.9 percent increase for the NSF budget (to $5.7 billion), a 22.3 percent increase to DOE (to $9 billion) and a 3.4 percent increase for NIH (to $31 billion). Additionally, President Obama’s FY 2011 budget request emphasizes energy efficiency and renewable energy as well as climate change initiatives; it includes a 21 percent increase (to $2.6 billion) for multi-agency climate change research, and a 5 percent increase (to $2.4 billion) for DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy R&D programs.[vi]

    Unfortunately, the political divide between the Republicans in Congress, especially in the House of Representatives, and the White House as well as the upcoming 2012 presidential election make it unlikely that President Obama’s budget will pass without major cuts to R&D. This is unwise because R&D leads innovations that help drive the economy. Without steady support for science and technology, the economy is likely to stagnate.
    Want some evidence to support these arguments, as if that should be necessary? Well, as noted here, Deadeye Dick Cheney’s artificial heart (insert your own snark) was made possible by taxpayer-financed R&D (and even George Will called for more science funding here, with a caveat for the climate crisis, of course).

    In addition, this tells us how global warming denialists (including “Goodhair” Perry) are killing R&D funding, and this tells us more on the anti-science positions of the Repugs.

    And in that spirit, I give you the following from David Brooks here today…
    The U.S. Department of Energy poured $535 million in loans into Solyndra, a solar panel maker backed by George Kaiser, a major Democratic donor.

    The Government Accountability Office discovered that Solyndra had been permitted to bypass required steps in the government loan guarantee process. The Energy Department’s inspector general criticized the department for not maintaining e-mails that discussed how the loan guarantee winners were chosen.

    Late last month, Solyndra announced that it was ceasing operations, laying off its 1,100 employees. The Department of Energy placed the wrong bet, potentially losing the taxpayers half-a-billion dollars.

    All of this is not to say that the government shouldn’t be doing what it can to promote clean energy. It is to say that the government isn’t very good when it tries to directly create private-sector jobs.
    In response, I give you the following (here)…
    Yes, it sucks. But Solyndra was given money because it was first in line, and the public was putting on a lot of pressure to deploy the new stimulus funds. Unfortunately the government made an investment mistake; Solyndra was not a good business.

    But guess what? This happens every single day to Silicon Valley venture capital firms. It's just unfortunate that Solyndra happened to be one of the first deployments of government capital.

    To prevent this from happening again, we need to approach it like investors in the private sector who know their way around evaluating cleantech investments rather than doling out money to the first in line.

    Remember what the US did with the Internet? It highlights what this country does better than any other country: innovate and sell those innovations to the rest of the world. Cleantech is the next Internet.
    And as noted here…
    When Solyndra, a California based solar panel manufacturer, announced this week that it will file for bankruptcy, conservative media outlets immediately cheered the loss as evidence that solar power doesn't work. That couldn't be further from the truth.

    In fact, solar energy was the fastest growing industry in the United States last year. And as Climate Progress reported, "America is a net exporter of solar products ... to the tune of $1.8 billion."
    Elect Democrats, and you have a good shot at obtaining funding in research and development to create tomorrow’s jobs. Elect Republicans, and you face technological extinction.

    And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out (though, as noted here, one on our side already has).
  • No comments: