Friday, February 19, 2016

McDonald's is Lobbying Government to Crackdown on Sales of Fruits and Vegetables

So get this -- McDonald's Corporation has started a lobbying campaign to get the US government to reduce quotas on how many fruits and vegetables can be sold in the country.

Well, not really.

But, in fact, General Motors has been heavily lobbying governments -- local, state and federal -- in the last year, asking them to tear out bike lanes and bike paths in most major American cities. 

GM thinks it will help it sell more cars.

OK. Not really.

But did you hear that the Koch Brothers are gearing up to lobby government on its tax breaks for electric cars? And looking to reduce how much solar power is generated in the US?

Yes, both these are in fact true.

What's the difference between the latter and and my made-up stories about McDonald's and GM? Nothing at all. Yet the Koch Brothers are actually trying to obstruct the adoption of electric vehicles, simply because they don't run on oil.

"The Kochs Are Plotting A Multimillion-Dollar Assault On Electric Vehicles,"

They're out to get solar power, too:

"The Koch Brothers' Dirty War on Solar Power,"
Rolling Stone, 2/11/16

And yet Charles Koch has the gall to write this in the Washington Post:
The senator [Bernie Sanders] is upset with a political and economic system that is often rigged to help the privileged few at the expense of everyone else, particularly the least advantaged. He believes that we have a two-tiered society that increasingly dooms millions of our fellow citizens to lives of poverty and hopelessness. He thinks many corporations seek and benefit from corporate welfare while ordinary citizens are denied opportunities and a level playing field.

I agree with him.
These men can't simply seek to do better in their own market; they have to destroy all other markets that might compete with it, regardless of how that affects even a single person on Earth now or far into the future.

They are the opposite of capitalists.

These men are worth about $100 billion dollars. Their greed is clearly infinite in size. That -- and their actions that result from it -- are evil.

Yes, a strong word, but, I think, the right one.


William M. Connolley said...

I don't really understand your complaint here. The Koch's are consistently arguing against subsidies. See-also Timmy: The HuffPo's "Multimillion-Dollar Assault On Electric Vehicles" isn't even attempting to be fair, honest or unbiased; and in the end it's the Koch's arguing against subsidies. The RS piece is so outraged, they don't bother to explain exactly what it is they are so outraged about. I kept reading and reading and eventually gave up - they just don't appear to explain what the actual problem is, because they waste so many words telling us that A Really bad Thing is happening. That's rubbish journalism.

David in Cal said...

Partisan media sometimes present distorted or incomplete versions of news -- tilted to prove their chosen narrative. Their reports should be checked. Rolling Stone merits a lot of checking after their scandalously false report on the supposed rape at a fraternity house at the University of Virginia.


David Appell said...

William: My complaint is that the Kochs are all in favor of their own subsidies -- both direct and indirect, such as (For the latter) the huge negative externalities of their products being paid for by the public, not them.

Subsidies for electric vehicles and solar power are worth it to the extent they avoid pollution and thus the damage costs of that pollution. (Though I will concede they have a point that users of rooftop solar need to pay something for the grid they sell excess energy to and rely on for supplemental power.)

And I think there's something extremely rotten about opposing a cleaner world and new technologies just because they personally might not make them another hundred billion dollars.

William M. Connolley said...

I'm not very comfortable calling "negative externalities" subsidies. Especially if you're inconsistent about it; are you counting the cost of all that coal burnt to produce Chinese solar panels against those solar panels?

> Subsidies for electric vehicles and solar power are worth it

OK, that's a fair point, and you're entitled to it, and I'd be sympathetic. But "there should be no subsidies at all" is also a fair point; you prefer yours, obviously, but you can't just dismiss someone else's because it disagrees with you.

> rotten about opposing a cleaner world and new technologies just because

But you don't know that its for personal gain. It might be; or they might indeed have a consistent and principled objection to government subsidy. So far you haven't provided any evidence against the latter; probably because to you it isn't necessary; the former is far too "obvious" to be questioned.

David in Cal said...

In one respect, direct subsidies are worse than indirect subsidies. When the government has the power to give something of great value to one organization but not to another, corruption comes about.


David Appell said...

William, I do consider negative externalities to be a subsidy -- someone has to pay for them, and it's not the ones who created them. Their producer keeps the profits and socializes the cost.

So, to me, direct subsidies that avoid negative externalities have a definite value attached to them.

So I see the Koch brothers talking out of both sides of their mouth.

Granted, adding up the negative externalities is difficult. How do they compare to a product's value, like the Chinese solar panels you mentioned? There was a study that tried to quantify this, at least for the US, for power production by coal, oil and natural gas:

"Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy," Nicholas Z. Muller, Robert Mendelsohn, and William Nordhaus, American Economic Review, 101(5): 1649–75 (2011).

Summarizing that paper's findings: for every $1 in value that comes from coal-generated electricity, it creates $2.20 in damages.

Total damages: $70 billion per year (in 2012 dollars).

Petroleum-generated electricity is even worse: $5.13 in damages for $1 in value.

So coal actually does more harm than good. It sends the economy backwards.

David Appell said...

For example, I pay $22/month to have my garbage and recycling hauled away.

If instead I dumped it in an empty lot down the street, I'm $22/month richer.

Eventually someone will have to clean that up, costing them time and money. They're poorer.

It's a form of socialism.