Electric cars, government incentives, and pollution (and an Open Thread, if you want one)

Nissan LeafAside from domestic responsibilities and computer problems, the main reason for my slowed blogging has to do with cars.  Electric cars, to be specific.

Years ago, when I was living my life as a round of carpools, we bought a lovely Honda minivan. I really do mean lovely. It’s the most comfortable car I’ve ever owned. I’m petite, but it provides me with a perfectly elevated seat; it handles like a dream; I like the doo-dads and thingamabobs it offers; and I’m just generally happy with it. The only downside is that it gets around 18 or 19 miles per gallon, which is not a plus with Obama gas prices.

Actually, there’s now another downside, too. With my kids in high school, I’m no longer driving that endless round of carpools. Instead, it’s mostly just me in a car that can seat passengers, not including the driver. Sometimes I add a passenger or two, and I often have groceries, but it really is a shame to burn up so much expensive gasoline to transport a few people and some shopping bags.

We started looking into alternatives and decided that the all-electric Nissan Leaf would be good. It’s a surprisingly spacious car, it handles well, it’s range easily encompasses my daily Marin roamings, and  then there’s the real kicker:  Between federal and state incentives for electric vehicles, we get almost $12,000 towards a three-year lease.

That last factor makes the car eminently affordable. We’ll be paying only slightly more per month on the lease than I was already paying for gas. We’ll keep the old car for short trips or heavy loads (or for times when all three drivers in the family are heading in completely opposite directions), but we’ll use only the Leaf for the local trips.  Our electric bill will increase negligibly, our gasoline bill will decrease dramatically, and our monthly cash flow will be affected minimally.

Nice as they are, I’m actually somewhat embarrassed by those incentives. Yes, it’s true that I pay substantially more in taxes than someone who doesn’t live a nice upper middle class life in Marin. But precisely because I am able to live this nice upper middle class Marin lifestyle, I don’t really need the incentive.

The incentives certainly encourage me to buy or lease an electric vehicle, so they fulfill the government goal of getting more people into EVs, but I think it’s wrong that lower-income taxpayers are compelled to support me in any way. They, after all, are still paying taxes but, even with the taxpayer-funded incentive, they still can’t afford a lease.

A Democrat in the California legislature finally figured out just how unfair this is and has a bill pending to add means-testing to the rebate:

Since 2009, California gave a $2,500 tax rebate on zero-emissions vehicles like the Tesla Model S and Prius plug-in hybrid. And here’s something that should surprise no one: The majority of those rebates went to households earning $100,000 or more. Now that could change.

A bill sponsored by California Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) attempts to address the fact that nearly 80 percent of those rebates went to households bringing in more than $100k and that almost half of Tesla Model S owners receiving a rebate are making at least $300,000.

“A $2,500 rebate to purchase an electric vehicle is not likely to matter to someone earning over $300,000 a year, but it does make a big difference to someone earning $60k a year,” said de León. “Every community deserves clean air, regardless of wealth.”

(Read more here.)

Although I think that bill is the right thing to do, I’m not going to stand on principle here and turn my back on any money the government wants to give me — or, more accurately, give back to me.  After all, thanks to the highest income tax in the nation, a lot of our family’s hard-earned money routinely goes to fund all sorts of ridiculousness, such as California’s infamous “train to nowhere.”  Getting some of my money back towards an affordable, practical car is a good thing.

I’m also ambivalent about the vehicle because I find the whole “zero emissions” thing stupid.  Yes, it’s true that there are no emissions coming out the back of my vehicle, but you can’t escape the fact that it nevertheless generates a lot of pollution elsewhere.  It has a honking big battery, which currently pollutes China even more than China is already polluted.

Additionally, the car relies upon electricity that’s produced by generating a fair amount of dirt.  As I understand it, most American electricity comes from burning coal or gas, or from a nuclear plan (clean, but always unpopular in Progressive circles).   Water’s great, but it’s a distant third, with all the clean energies coming in far behind.  And of course, those clean energies aren’t so great either, given that their unreliable, and that they either slice and dice birds or fricassees them.

It still seems to me that the best way to power our world is to continue to rely on fossil fuel — that most reliable energy source — but to continue to work on ways to decrease the pollutants flowing from its use.  All these other things are pie-in-the-sky stuff.  Indeed, the fact that government needs to coerce and bribe people to use electric vehicles perfectly demonstrates just how ridiculous they are.  If they really were an affordable form of clean energy transportation, private business would be cleaning up on them without any help from the government.

And while I’m on the subject of government’s role in all this, I’d like to put in my application to immigrate to the Republic of Bill:

Gay marriage, taxes, and the law of unintended consequences

Gay-flowerLast year was a triumphant year for gay marriage in California.  That means that this year, for many newly wed gay couples, April 15 was the first time they filed their taxes as married couples.  I have it on very good authority that many of these newly nuptialed couples are extremely unhappy now that they’re dealing with the infamous marriage penalty.

Considering how politically powerful gay men have become, could gay marriage lead to lower taxes?

And while we’re talking about taxes, Bill Whittle offers a sensible tax policy, one that would give all citizens a stake in America, while ending the current policy of taxing the producers right out of existence:

Flat taxes, once I understood how they worked, were one of the stepping stones on my way to conservativism. Twenty years ago, a brilliant conservative managed to explain to me how an across the board 10% sales tax would work. When he first told me about it, I got ruffled, pointing out that this was regressive tax that would hurt poor people. He shook his head sadly at my ignorance and explained that the most that poor people would get taxed, if they spent every penny they had, would be 10%, which is a reasonable amount to pay to have a stake in this country. (This was 20 years ago, before 51% of Americans paid nothing at all.) Moreover, he said, the bulk of taxes would come from those who aren’t poor, because middle class and rich people buy more. Everyone buys staples, but it’s the classes above the poverty line who have always — as a practical matter — bought into the American dream.

A 10% tax wouldn’t be high enough to deter high income spending, especially if there were no other taxes, so middle and upper class Americans would have an incentive to invest in the economy through purchasing goods. In the meantime, a 10% sales tax might be high enough to encourage a poor person to save more, rather than to buy inessential products, helping the poor person to stay solvent.

Certainly, a flat sales tax (or any flat tax) would be cheaper to administer than our current tax system. If it unleashed a rising tide of prosperity, it would bring in more revenue. On the other hand, if it brought in less revenue, it would stop rampant government spending (this was also before debt ceiling wars).

Bottom line:  Anything more simple and more fair than what we have now is a better tax system.

What is our obligation to those who make bad decisions?

wic3One of the things I’ve tried to drill into my children is the truism that the single biggest indicator of poverty is single motherhood.  That data, incidentally, does not reflect the old-fashioned kind of single motherhood, which was the result of widowhood or abandonment.  Instead, we’re talking about modern single motherhood, the kind that sees women who are deluged with birth control choices nevertheless get pregnant with boyfriends or hook-ups who feel no emotional connection or sense of economic obligation to either mother or baby.

One of my children has a part-time job at a cafe and is, for the first time, meeting adults who have full-time jobs but who aren’t middle-class professionals living in single family homes in solidly upper middle class neighborhoods.  One of these adults is pregnant and is unhappy about the fact that the cafe, where she’s been working for only five months, will not give her maternity leave.

Inquiry revealed that the pregnant woman is not married; that she’s living with a boyfriend who may or may not be the father of her child (my kid doesn’t know), and that the boyfriend doesn’t work.  Except for getting regular nooky at night (assuming that the pregnant woman still wants that kind of attention), the mother-to-be will be, for all practical purposes, a single mother.

My child found it concerning that the boss won’t pay this single mother not to work for him.  My child was therefore stymied when I asked this question:  “Why should he pay for her foolish choices?”

I noted that, while it’s entirely possible that this woman was using enough birth control to protect six woman, and nevertheless still managed to get pregnant, the greater likelihood was that she was careless. Indeed, if she really wanted to protect against single motherhood, she could have abstained from sex until she had a ring on her finger and some economic prospects.

I threw in the fact that it’s incredibly costly to do business in California, especially in the food service industry, which have extremely low profit margins.  Employers generally are drowning in regulations, which makes businesses very expensive to run.  Add in taxes and all the other costs of business (rent, insurance, salaries, benefits, supplies, etc.), and it’s guaranteed that the employer is clearing just enough money for his personal expenses (mortgage, insurance, food, etc.).  This owner is almost certainly not living extravagantly but is, instead, living a very temperate life.

Much of the money that the federal and state government are taking away from this man, both from his business and from him personally, is going to welfare programs for single mothers, something this employer must know.  Since he’s already paying for the welfare this young woman will inevitably end up using, why should he pay twice by carrying her on the books even though she’s contributing nothing to his business?  Even if he was feeling charitable, the government has left him nothing with which to be charitable,  not to mention the fact that the government, by snatching money from his pockets, has already decided on his behalf which charities he should support — including economically foolish single motherhood.

Such a simple question:  “Why should he pay for her foolish choices, when the government is already taxing him heavily in advance to pay for all the foolish choices of intentionally single mothers across America”?

 

It’s tax time and people are feeling the Obamacare pain

Tax formsWe went to our accountant last night.  She looked exhausted.  When we asked why, she explained that this has been an exceptionally painful tax season.  Obamacare taxes are hitting this year, and she had to informed people (well-to-do people, admittedly), that their taxes have increased by thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.  They were not pleased.

Interestingly, none of them saw this coming — which, when you think about it, tells you an awful lot about the mindset of people here in Marin, most of whom are overwhelming Leftist, including the rich.  The rich here know how to make money, but they really don’t know much else.  They’re uninformed about the world and how it works.  Moreover, because they think that voting Democrat makes them nice people, and voting for a black Democrat makes them good people, they are as blindly uninformed and as easily led as the 20-year-old college student or the 50-year-old cafeteria worker who reads only People and watches only Dr. Phil.

And why shouldn’t the poor have free cars? The rich are already getting green car subsidies

Working class and lower middle class people can't afford to own this car, but they can help offset the costs for the rich guy who wants one.

Working class and lower middle class people can’t afford to own this car, but they can help offset the costs for the rich guy who wants one.

One of the things that drives me bonkers-nutso about the green movement is the way that it subsidizes rich people when they make “green” purchases.  I dislike subsidies generally, because they’re a form of wealth redistribution.  But I really dislike it when government takes taxpayer money and hands it over to the very wealthy so that they can buy themselves an electric sports car, such as the Tesla.*  I know that the rich pay the largest percent of taxes in America, but the non-rich middle and working classes are paying some taxes too, and they shouldn’t be subsidizing luxury automobiles simply because they’re “green.”  (And I’ve mentioned before that their “green” claims are dubious, since they rely on electricity generated through dirty means at far-away plants.  It seems to me that all they do is move pollution, not decrease it.  And let’s not even talk about the toxic batteries….)

In a perverse way, therefore, it makes sense for the broken and broke California government to play around with the idea of giving free green cars to poor people.  After all, since the shrinking middle class is already paying for rich people’s “green” playthings, why shouldn’t they pay for poor people’s cars too?  Each increasingly poverty-stricken middle class taxpayer can take pride in the greening of California and can only hope that he goes broke (and therefore qualifies for a free green car) before all the other taxpayers go broke too.

The worst part is that the “green” subsidy, which currently benefits rich folks, is all part of a giant con to prevent an apocalyptic event that’s not going to happen.  If anything, we should be hoping that the increasingly ephemeral, even illusory, greenhouse effect really does kick in, because we’re hosed if there’s another ice age.  Water and sunlight — both of which are plentiful during warming periods — are good for all living things.  Barren, frozen wildernesses are not.

_______________________________

*These green subsidies also fund the solar panels you see on rich people’s houses.  Indeed, they fund everything green that the rich can afford without subsidies and that the poor can’t afford even with subsidies.

Lois Lerner’s demand for immunity before she’ll testify before Congress

The IRS’s Lois Lerner, who bungled taking the Fifth the last time she appeared before Congress, is now set to return to Congress.  Her lawyer has announced, however, that she’ll testify only in return for immunity, otherwise her lips are sealed.

It seems to me that whether Congress takes her up on that offer depends on how much information she has.  If she’s a criminal pipsqueak, giving her immunity means she gets away with a crime, while offering nothing in return.  However, since she is a highly placed IRS functionary, if the agrees to sing like a birdie, it may well be worth it simply to get information on everyone else.  Having said that, I suspect that there are people in government who will not be thrilled if she talks.  Am I being overwrought if I think that she might actually find herself at risk if her testimony has the potential to send high government officials to jail?

I deeply disrespect the Obama administration, from the top down, but it’s a big step from disliking them to considering them capable of turning to violence or even murder.  It seems to me that Lerner, who knows the administration better than I do, assumes that they will not hurt her, or else she wouldn’t have made the offer.  Even if the whole administration doesn’t go rogue, though, there may still be some lone fruit-loop out there who will stop at nothing to avoid jail or just the end of a career.  If I were Lerner, I’d look very carefully before crossing any streets.

What’s your take on this?  Would you offer her immunity in exchange for information?

Marriage’s open frontiers in America

A few days ago, I commented about a profound problem with the Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA:  before DOMA, we had a societal consensus that marriage was between one man and one woman.  During DOMA, we had a law that said marriage was between one man and one woman, even as the societal consensus broke down.  Post-DOMA, we have nothing.  There are no boundaries, and there is nothing to stop a “loving” marriage based upon bestiality, incest, pedophilia, polyamory, etc.  The boundaries are gone.

In addition, the demands on government will change substantially with this “new frontier” approach to marriage.  A friend of mine who knows all things military sent me this email:

The other thing I’ve been thinking about is how recent Supreme Court decisions have rendered marriage and family meaningless. For instance, if I were a young private or PFC in the military I would find another guy to get married to (contract marriages between service members are nothing new. It’s a great way for two otherwise unattached people to get free money for being married). Getting married is often the best way for service members to get themselves out of crappy barracks life so I could marry a male service member from another unit and move into my new house. We would not even have to be gay to do it. Then we could run around with as many women as we wanted and essentially be room mates and get paid a basic housing allowance (x2) for being married. If I were caught in some kind of adultery situation (hard to prove usually) I would simply state that I and my life partner are straight and though we are married we do not sleep together. Further, who is to judge how we choose to run our family/household? Anything goes according to the Supreme Court and if two gay men can get married why can’t two straight ones?

So that’s two of us figuring out that Anthony Kennedy’s decision creates tremendous societal problems.  Can we add three of us or four of us?  Yes, we can!

I don’t want to tread upon copyrights, so let me just direct you to Michael Ramirez’s post-DOMA cartoon and Terminal Lance’s post-DOMA cartoon (warning:  ever so slightly risque).  They both make the point perfectly, one with regard to society at large and the other with special focus on the military.

Andrew Klavan is right that we need to view this as a Democrat “squirrel” moment, one in which the Democrat powers that be distract their sometimes mindless constituents from more important issues such as the economy, or the fact that Syria is imploding, Egypt is on the verge of imploding, and Turkey is working towards imploding.  However, we cannot ignore the legal ramifications flowing from the Supreme Court’s rulings, because these ramifications can become very expensive very quickly.

If nothing else, the end of DOMA is one more reason that the tax code and IRS should be done away with and a flat tax instituted.  After all, the current tax code gives married couples distinct benefits, with an eye to advancing a stable, two-parent family.  Since that’s now out the window, we better revisit where all those tax benefits are flowing.

Using the tax code and tax authorities as Leftist sledge hammers

I’ve written before that the IRS’s aggression towards conservative groups and individuals is the worst presidential scandal in American history because it represents the first time a government agency, which falls under the executive’s control, has used its vast power to target people and groups that oppose the administration’s agenda.  Before the IRS started doing this, taxes had to come through a legislative process which was, in theory, vox populi.  Legislators were at least somewhat sensitive to voter concerns — they can, after all, get kicked out of office.  Administrative agencies with a partisan agenda feel that they’re untouchable and nothing can stop them.

Earl has now alerted me to the fact that the California legislature, which is so overwhelmingly Democrat as to make California a one-party state, has decided to copy the IRS’s behavior and use taxes to destroy political opponents:

What the IRS was doing behind closed doors may soon be official policy in California. Last week, the State Senate voted to revoke the nonprofit status of any group within the state that does not allow full participation of homosexuals, a move aimed directly at the Boy Scouts of America. According to the Associated Press, the bill “would require those organizations to pay corporate taxes on donations, membership dues, camp fees and other sources of income, and to obtain sellers permits and pay sales taxes on food, beverages and homemade items sold at fundraisers.” Groups that sponsor troops would also have their tax returns and membership policies scrutinized by the Franchise Tax Board, California’s version of the IRS.

If further proof was needed that the BSA’s partial surrender on the homosexual issue only emboldened their opponents, here it is. Compromise is not in the left’s vocabulary. Not until Dan Savage is taking your son camping will they be happy, and probably not even then.

Read the rest here.

It used to be that, if the Boy Scouts (or any other private organization) wouldn’t have you, you’d start your own organization and it would be so successful people would be knocking down your door and the Boy Scouts (or whatever) would be copying your model.  Or perhaps you’d start your own organization and it would fail, because the Boy Scouts (or whatever) actually had a good idea and were doing things right.

Nowadays, you don’t take your marbles and go play with other, more friendly people.  Instead, you stand there and kick the other side’s marbles all over the place and, if a few remain, you stomp them into dust.  My way or the highway — and I don’t care if my way destroys your essential essence, so long as you bow down before me.

The Progressive version of Martin Niemoeller’s famous “First they came” poem

Can I do some serious boasting about the quality people who come to this site?  Yes, yes I can .  (Or as Obama’s fans say, Si, se puede!)  With every post I write, I get the ball rolling and you all take off, combining your erudition, humor, and insights into a fabulous melange of intellectual wonderfulness.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  I’m always honored that you chose Bookworm Room as an intellectual hang-out.

So, a little more boasting about my readers?  I’ve been referencing Pastor Martin Niemoeller lately, he of “First they came” fame.  This is because I believe that the IRS attack on political groups that Democrats don’t like is the first link in that chain.  We have to stand up and fight now, even if we weren’t specifically a conservative organization applying for tax-exempt status or a conservative millionaire demonized by Obama’s campaign machine.

One of my wonderful readers wrote a satirical version of Niemoeller’s poem, straight out of the mouth’s of Progressives.  As with all good satires, it works perfectly because it exposes an ugly truth about an ideology that drapes itself in hypocritical piety.

Some random factoids about Lois Lerner, the gal who was the head of the IRS exempt organization’s division

Lois Lerner

A little more than a week ago, no one had heard of Lois Lerner.  Now she is the poster child for government machinery run amok.  She first thrust herself into our awareness with her clumsily staged revelation that, “Oh, by the way, the IRS persecuted conservatives, but really, there’s nothing to worry about….”  Since then, it’s only gotten worse, with Lois being exposed as a serial liar.  Finally, today, she announced in advance that, if called before Congress, she would plead the Fifth, so please don’t embarrass her by calling her.  I say “Call away” and, so far, Committee Head Issa agrees.

Now that Lois has emblazoned herself as a household name, people are starting to look at her very closely.  It turns out that her hostility towards conservatives predates her tenure at the IRS, and goes back to her FEC days.  She may have failed math, but she gets an “A” in harassment.

Conservatives are doing the logical thing, which is to try to link her to Obama.  As Walter Olson at Overlawyered points out, however, the only linkage currently available is truly a link bridge to far — it’s so tenuous as to be silly.

One of my friends, who does not want to be known as a conspiracy theorist (and I can vouch that this friend wouldn’t be seen near a tin-foil hat), wondered if Lois’ anti-conservative propensities put her in an orbit other than the Obama’s.  My friend sent me this email, and assures me, as I assure you, that it’s idle speculation rather than a breaking story:

Listening to Michael Savage the other day, he brought up the intriguing questions about the IRS scandal: “Why now?” and “Who leaked it?”

One caller raised the possible theory that Hillary Clinton was behind it trying to deflect Benghazi criticism that was beginning to zoom in on her, to an Obama-centric scandal.

I was intrigued.  Here is what a quick Google search has taught me so far:

  1. The official who brought up the scandal is Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS Exempt Organizations unit
  2. Lois Lerner husband, is Michael R. Miles, a partner at the law firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.
  3. I saw some articles linking Sutherland Asbill & Brennan to hosting an Obama campaign event, but…
  4. What has not been reported is that in 1993 Bill Clinton appointed Hillary’s good friend, Margaret “Peggy” Richardon, as IRS Commissioner (http://www.nytimes.com/1993/02/24/business/clinton-picks-lawyer-to-be-irs-chief.html). 
  5. This is where it gets a bit interesting.  Peggy Richardson was also a partner at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.  (Oddly enough, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan had one other partner as IRS Commissioner – Randolph Thrower, appointed by Nixon…).
  6. Peggy Richardson, is (allegedly) no stranger to quashing inconvenient investigations against the Clintons (http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2006/01/hillary-silent-clinton-presidencys-latest-cover/)
  7. This is where it turns highly speculative.  I could not find, in the limited time I searched, a link between Peggy Richardson and Lois Lerner or her husband.  But one would think that partners in the same very illustrious law firm would know each other and would know a lot about each other.
  8. This is all capped by the just breaking news that Lois Lerner is going to take the Fifth in her (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/05/21/irs-official-lois-lerner-to-plead-the-fifth/) and choose not to testify before the House Oversight Committee.

Conspiracy theories or not my favorites, but when it comes to the Clintons I am less reluctant to explore them.

No answers, but some awfully good questions.

I also have a little (a very little) of my own information to add.  Since my brain instantly shuts down even at the word “taxes,” I have no idea if I’ve found smoking guns or death rays of irrelevant boredom.  Nevertheless, here are my two contributions to the Lois Lerner saga:

Item The First is a transcript of the prepared remarks Lois Lerner gave in April 12 at Georgetown University Law School.  It makes no sense to me (tax stuff, you know), but some of you may be able to glean some pearls of wisdom.

Item The Second is a lawyer’s analysis of a question-and-answer period with Lerner at the ABA’s Tax Section meeting in September 2012.  The lawyer who asked the questions posted the transcript on his firm’s website, along with his interlineations.  Again, I would be delighted if the tax savvy amongst you could translate it into normal people talk.  (Incidentally, I came across that transcript at the website for The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch website.  The Center for Media and Democracy is, as you may know, a very Left activist organization, fat with George Soros funds.)