A left-leaning Facebook friend posted a Forbes article with
the startling headline:
States Spend [sic] Ten Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Education.
The author is James Ellsmoor, a "Forbes 30 Under 30 entrepreneur".
And he's a cheerleader for "sustainable development and renewable
energy". But that headline! Could that possibly be true?
Well, not really. Since I put some effort into analyzing it at
Facebook, I might
as well share here as well.
The bare facts: a recent
from the International Monetary Fund which claims that the US
subsidized fossil fuels to the tune of $649 billion in 2015. And
compares this to (I assume) the annual budget of the Federal
Department of Education, which is
So, ohmigod, right? Not really. First, the vast majority of
education spending in the US takes place at the state/local level.
Politifact notes we spend more than 'almost any other major
country' on education: more than $620 billion dollars on K-12
education each year.
So Ellsmoor is dramatically understating how much is spent on
education to get his "Ten Times" claim.
But what about that "fossil fuel subsidy". Isn't that (still) way
too much money for the US to be spending?
Well, here's the thing. It's not as if Uncle Stupid is writing
huge checks to Exxon/Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell. There's no
budget line item for "Fossil Fuel Subsidies". The IMF report
Ellsmoor cites defines its "subsidy" figure as "fuel consumption
times the gap between existing and efficient prices (i.e., prices
warranted by supply costs, environmental costs, and revenue
In other words, the IMF study thinks fossil fuels are too cheap, and calls the difference between the actual price and their imaginary "efficient" price a "subsidy". Merits of that calculation aside, it's spurious to compare it with actual government expenditure.
So the headline is (doubly) misleading, and (if we assume that
Ellsmoor knows better) wildly dishonest.
Forbes used to be
better than this.
Bryan Caplan writes wisely at the Library of Economics and Liberty:
Hollow: The Cries of Populism. Specifically, he has zero
patience with the present-day demagogues bitching about
During [the last fifteen years], I’ve seen the tech industry dramatically improve human life all over the world.
Amazon is simply the best store that ever existed, by far, with incredible selection and unearthly convenience. The price: cheap.
Facebook, Twitter, and other social media let us socialize with our friends, comfortably meet new people, and explore even the most obscure interests. The price: free.
Uber and Lyft provide high-quality, convenient transportation. The price: really cheap.
Skype is a sci-fi quality video phone. The price: free.
Youtube gives us endless entertainment. The price: free.
Google gives us the totality of human knowledge! The price:
That’s what I’ve seen. What I’ve heard, however, is totally different. The populists of our Golden Age are loud and furious. They’re crying about “monopolies” that deliver firehoses worth of free stuff. They’re bemoaning the “death of competition” in industries (like taxicabs) that governments forcibly monopolized for as long as any living person can remember. They’re insisting that “only the 1% benefit” in an age when half of the high-profile new businesses literally give their services away for free. And they’re lashing out at businesses for “taking our data” – even though five years ago hardly anyone realized that they had data.
Let me make explicit what is usually implicit: Read The Whole Thing.
Speaking of explicit: Elizabeth Warren has made it an
part of her campaign to destroy all that. The other
Democratic candidates aren't as definite, but make strong noises
And if you're looking to Donald Trump as someone who might
appreciate Bryan Caplan's simple truths,
Another article from the "bad news" half of the current
Reason issue: Robby Soave noting that
Socialism Is Back, and the Kids Are Loving It.
For decades, democratic socialism was an old man's ideology. Its adherents were aging hippies, old-time union organizers, and folks who fondly remembered the pre-'60s left. As recently as 2013, the average member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) was 68 years old. Even today, the ideology's best-known spokesperson, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), is 77.
But Sanders is suddenly an outlier. Today, most DSAers are young: The average member is 33. The ideology's second-best-known spokesperson, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.), is just 29. And the DSA's ranks have grown larger as well as younger. Socialist gatherings buzz with youthful energy, and they are taking place all over the country.
I have lost hope.
Well, not really. I remember that my age cohort, the baby
boomers, were supposed to usher in
of America". And now everyone's bashing us for … not
doing that, I guess.
The Daily Wire interviews Donald Bolduc, who's in the running
to replace Jeanne Shaheen in the US Senate. Parts
(My pedantic old-man gripe: the headline refers to "Jeanne Shaheen’s NH Senate Seat".
It's not her seat, Daily Wire. It's the state's
seat; she's just sitting in it.)
Anyway: this is not the worst possible thing for a Republican
candidate to be saying about health care:
This area in particular in Congress is broken and it's hurting the people of New Hampshire. It’s more expensive and failing our veterans; it's failing our elderly and our young, and everybody in between. Everyone in America must have affordable health care, and we must understand that one size does not fit all. So, the Democratic plan doesn't work from the beginning. It’s the leading cause of individual bankruptcy in New Hampshire. This just should not happen.
What we need to really think about for affordable health care is lower costs for prescriptions – and I'm not talking about generic medications as a substitute either – transparency in billing, and recognizing pre-existing conditions is hugely important. We must innovate to ensure quality health care so we need competition and a free market.
The other thing that I've been hearing a lot about is expanding and supporting a transferable health savings account (HSA) where people can invest in their own health care and take that health care from one job to the next, and it actually becomes their money. That, at some point in time, makes a heck of a lot more sense than what we're doing now.
Select health care like you do auto insurance. Provide choices in health care like we do in auto insurance, and recognize that everyone's situation is different. Reward good behavior for people who stay healthy – and that's something that we don't do. Let’s incentivize this a little bit.
The ACA and the Medicare-for-all that the Democrats are so in love with is socialized medicine at its best, and it is going to crush New Hampshire and America.
Yeah, that thing about medical-caused bankruptcy is
bogus. Still: not Jeanne Shaheen.