Author Archives: jtellerelsberg

NPR = Not-news Public Radio?

[cross posted]
What gives with this morning’s NPR “Morning Edition” story about banks that are choosing to steer clear of TARP bailout money? Reporter Jim Zarroli mostly profiles the Johnson Financial Group, a bank that at first applied for $100 million, then decided not to take it after all once it learned the details of the the strings that come attached, saying that this bank is just one example of many that represent a “mini rebellion” against the TARP program. As the president of Johnson Financial Group says directly, and as Zarroli reiterates later in the story, Johnson didn’t need the money! Why in the hell would it be news–or be considered “rebellious”–that a healthy bank would not participate in a welfare program for the financial industry? Why is is conceivably news that TARP is designed to include incentives that encourage banks to pay back money they receive through the program quickly? Though undoubtedly flawed six ways to Sunday, the basic idea behind the TARP bailout is that it provides money to large banks that will otherwise go bankrupt or experience major disruptions–and spread those disruptions to other financial institutions, and through them the rest of the economy–and is designed so that the banks will eventually pay back the government (and so, you and me as taxpayers). Zarroli briefly quoted Rep. Barney Frank in defense of TARP and the strings that it attaches to its payouts, but 98% of the story is just bankers whining about either being forced to bank responsibly or whining about not having access to free taxpayer money, free even of the relatively mild strings that are part of TARP. I guess it needs repeating, though I wouldn’t have thought it necessary:

  1. TARP money should only be available to banks that actually need it to avoid major business disruptions. That a bank like Johnson, which is in good financial condition, is even allowed to apply for TARP funds is a flaw in TARP. The flaw is not that TARP’s strings cause Johnson to say “no thanks.”
  2. Banks that take TARP money not only are required, but by all rights should be required to pay back that money in full, and including interest payments to cover the risk that taxpayers are taking that not all TARP recipients will pay back in full after all is said and done. This is banking after all, right?
  3. Banks that take TARP money should pay back the money sooner rather than later. What’s the advantage to taxpayers for having the banks sit on the money longer than they need it?

No-strings-attached banking is what primed the financial bomb that has now exploded in our faces. Responsible banking practices are needed more then ever, and NPR’s promotion of irresponsible banking propaganda does not help.

How much would you pay to seem like just a regular guy?

How’s about $18 million? That’s what John J. Noffo Kahn, of Palm Beach, Florida, paid for a farm in Barnard, Vermont, to be used as a vacation home, and in the process shattering the previous record price for the sale of a residential property in the state (a mere $8 million).

Reports the Valley News (full article not online*):

The buyer […] said in an email that privacy and security were two reasons he purchased the property through [a limited liability company].

“One of the attractions, for me, to the area was that I thought (naively!) that I would be coming to a place where MONEY is not of the foremost importance to the members of the community. I was looking forward to a low-profile existence in which my wealth would not be what defined me to my neighbors,” wrote […] Noffo Kahn, who said he was not interested in having a story written about his new vacation home.

“Thanks for bursting my bubble on Vermont!” he added.

I hate to break it to you, John, but the traditional route to a low-profile existence is to spend less than $18 million for your vacation home.

There are a few things worth noting. First, in support of the friendly rivalry we Vermonters have going with our Granite State neighbors, Noffo Kahn’s complaint about his bubble being burst regarding his conception of Vermont, the Valley News is located in Lebanon, New Hampshire, so there’s some chance that his bubble might still be intact. Noffo Kahn’s new neighbors in Barnard probably will treat him with neighborly respect, though they have good reason to distrust multi-millionaire vacationers. That’s because the sellers of the farm, whose main domicile is in Texas, sued 14 fellow Barnard residents who were opposing the fact that they (the Texan owners) had closed off a trail through the property that had long been open to the community. Now, that wasn’t Noffo Kahn, and maybe he’s the kind of swell guy who doesn’t let his wealth define him, and instead defines himself as a good neighbor who respects something more in his fellow men and women than their own lack of wealth.

As for Noffo Kahn’s preference that the Valley News not write a story on the property sale:

After a reporter e-mailed back, making clear that the record-setting sale was a news-worthy event and asking for a chance to discuss the matter, Noffo Kahn, who had already expressed his “already dismal appraisal of today’s media,” wrote back.

“So typical!” he wrote. “You haven’t even the sensitivity to realize that writing a story about an $18 million property–when so many are suffering this Christmas–is a salt on their wounds!”

Let’s debate the question of news-worthiness for a moment. Con: Noffo Kahn is a person who buys things, just like everyone buys things, so why should he be made into a celebrity of sorts against his will when none of the rest of us have newspaper articles written about our purchases? I mean, would I want the whole world to know that I recently purchased not one but three copies of the amazingly cool book The Human-Powered Home, so that I can give the extras away as gifts to as-yet-unidentified friends? Oh the embarrassment! When will that darned media stop noticing that extreme economic inequality is damaging to the individual well-being of the vast majority of people, community and social cohesion, democratic governance, and the future habitability of the biosphere? (Ditto.) (Or more like, when will the media actually start noticing it and taking it seriously on a more than one-off basis?)

Pro: The habit of really, really rich people to pay extraordinary sums for the things they buy has a real effect on the lives of others, and just like it is news worthy to report on a leaking manure lagoon that threatens the health of downstream neighbors, it is news worthy to report on events that impact the economic lives of of “downstream” neighbors as well. Given the timing of the sale, this particular transaction probably won’t have the same effect on property values of neighbors as it would have if it had taken place a couple of years ago, but the principle remains the same. When you throw money around, it matters; there are unintended consequences, and while the Valley News story doesn’t attempt to perform a systems analysis on what all those consequences might be, at least they have alerted readers to the fact that something with reasonable potential to have broader consequences has happened.

And as for that “salt on their wounds” that Noffo Kahn is so worried about, perhaps at this Christmas time a better use of Noffo Kahn’s time would be turn that sensitivity question around and first remove the plank from his own eye.

[* Come on, Valley News, get with the program!]

Kuttner: rising wages, rising employment vs. falling wages, falling employment

Robert Kuttner notes an interesting tidbit from, wouldn’t you know it, the Wall Street Journal: since 2001, wages in Europe have been keeping up with inflation and the employment rate has also been rising. Yet in the US, wages have been falling behind the inflation rate and the employment rate has also been sagging. This flies in the face of the conventional economic “wisdom,” which assumes that businesses will hire more workers when the (real, i.e., adjusted-for-inflation) wage is lower. Oh that wacky reality!

[Conflict of interest alert: Kuttner’s post is on his blog promoting his new book, Obama’s Challenge. I work for the publisher of the book.]

The free-market myth that wouldn’t die

[First posted to Chelseagreen.com. Go to that version for links.]

Proponents of the “free market” have a tendency to ignore one inconvenient fact: there is no such thing as a free market in reality. Never has been one. Never will be one. The “free market” is a myth, a fairy tale told over and over by newspaper columnists and TV pundits and quite a few professional economists. I’ve come across a few declarations of this myth lately that irked me (for example this infuriatingly ignorant and ignorizing dreck), and so I’d like to rant for a moment.

This is not to say that markets, as a system for organizing economic activity, are no good. There are some good things about markets, flawed as they always are. There are also bad things about them. Sometimes, the flaws are their saving grace! That’s because some “flaws” in what might otherwise be a fully “free” market (theoretically, that is, but only in theory since it simply cannot exist in reality) make the results of the market activity more socially beneficial. The opposite is also true: some flaws lead to worse social results, relative to what might happen if the markets were to be fully “free.” But again, that’s all pie-in-the-sky philosophizing, because markets are never, ever fully free.

Here’s photographic proof!

One result of a free market, proven beyond any doubt in multitudes of Econ 101 courses for the past century, is the so-called “law of one price.” As Wikipedia states,

The law of one price is an economic law stated as: “In an efficient market all identical goods must have only one price.”

(Where “efficient” is econo-speak for what laymen call “free.”)

Now even in the Econ 101 courses, the professors will mention some nuances to this blanket statement, for example to account for the difference in shipping costs to deliver an otherwise identical product from different locations. Similarly, as Wikipedia notes

The law also need not apply if buyers have less than perfect information about where to find the lowest price.

Yet here we are in the brave new 21st century, equipped with the world’s greatest information tools in history, and even still, prices for identical products differ by enormous magnitudes. An example: this Samsung 32-inch flat-panel TV, as shown through Google shopping.

prices-tv.jpg

Check it out”¦ the lowest price shown is $382 and the highest price shown is 149% higher at $950. The screenshot doesn’t capture all the offers that the Google search unearthed, but obviously prices vary widely within those two outliers.

How can this be? How can there be so much difference in prices for an identical product? Well, economists and business analysts can probably offer quite a few explanations, but they all boil down to this: the market is not free. It is not efficient.

So keep that in mind next time someone says that all we need to do to solve some problem is to “set the market free,” “get rid of government interference,” or “blah blah blah.” As I implied above, sometimes it will make sense to reduce the government’s influence on a particular aspect of some particular market, but too many people have adopted a blindered ideology that the “free/efficient/unfettered” market represents an ideal that we should be always and everywhere be pursuing. Not only is that doubtful that the ideal is actually ideal, but it simply cannot be achieved, nunca. And as the “theory of the second best” teaches us, that means there is no good reason whatsoever to think that the best alternative is to move as close as possible to this unachievable so-called ideal.

Class dismissed!

More unions saving the world

The unions in South Africa seem to have successfully turned back Chinese weapons headed for the Zimbabwe powder keg, and now U.S. longshoremen are taking what may well be the strongest protest action against the Iraq war since it was started five long years ago. Thanks to the always well-informed Juan Cole for the tip. I dare say this is cause for celebration–to be followed by nose-to-the-grindstone protests until the war is over… and then to be followed by more nose-to-the-grindstone efforts to achieve universal, single-payer healthcare coverage, simultaneous with nose-to-the-grindstone action to ratchet down global warming pollution for real. Don’t worry, there’ll be plenty to agitate about once those are dealt with.

How it could have been done if the preachers of the free market had stuck to their principles instead of launching a moronic war

[Originally posted here.]

In my post a moment ago I mentioned how I’d once heard that, for the money the US spent on the war in Vietnam, we could have paid for the installation of an in-ground swimming pool for each and every Vietnamese family instead. What a great way to win the hearts and minds of our enemies, eh? So I decided to try out the math for this stupid, awful, and infuriating Iraq war. What if we had tried to bribe the Iraqi people to overthrow Saddam Hussein and install a working democracy instead of imposing these things (rather: trying futilely to do so) by force?

Cost of war to US taxpayers as of March 28, 2008: a bit over $506,359,000,000. Source.

Population of Iraq in July 2008, according to the CIA World Factbook: 27,499,638.

I threw in 2,000,000 extra people to account for the dead and refugees, so the numbers below are based on an estimated population 29.5 million people.

Cost per Iraqi (each man, woman, and child) paid so far by US taxpayers on the war: $17,767.21.

First of all, what if we’d just offered Saddam Hussein and his top leadership only, say, half the total that we’ve spent”“roughly $253 billion”“to leave Iraq and go live in the Bahamas? Well, if he’d refused but the so-called free market loving leadership in the US had pursued this market line of thinking, we could have had Hussein overthrown”“without the loss of a single American life”“by offering each man, woman, and child in Iraq any of the following.

There you have it. The Iraqi people could have had a Saddam Hussein-free Iraq and eaten their apple pie, too. But that’s not the way we did it, because, as usual, the American government tried to do it on the cheap. Haven’t any of these people heard “penny wise, pound foolish” before? And now Bush/Cheney and McCain have got their sights set on going double-or-nothing broke in Iran as well. Will you buy that?

Via DailyKos: Unions Saving the World

Too bad all unions aren’t this bad-ass. But when a union is bad-ass it can make a real difference, and, as DHinMI at DailyKos says, this is “An Example of Why Authoritarians Fear Labor Unions.”

Because they stand up to power:

A Chinese ship carrying arms destined for Zimbabwe was last night forced to turn back after South African unions refused to unload it, claiming that to do so would be “grossly irresponsible”, South African media reported…

The best democracy money can buy

I was trolling through Flickr looking for photos of John McCain (for a t-shirt design I’ve got in mind) and came across this graphic by pseudoplacebo. It shows how much Clinton, Obama, McCain, and Ron Paul had spent per delegate they’d won, as of February 25, 2008. It’s something that’s been on my mind lately. Even though I’ve come to be an Obama supporter, it is seriously grossing me out how much money this election is costing–more than that, it’s unnerving to me that Obama’s lead (and probably victory) in the Democratic primary has depended so heavily on such obscene amounts of money. Yes, yes, I know, more than almost any politician in recent years, Obama’s money is coming largely from small donors. Even still, it gives pause for thought.

Anyhow, thanks to pseudoplacebo for giving this graphic a Creative Commons license!
cost_per_delegate_feb25_by_pseudoplacebo.jpg

Night of the living “brain-dead liberal”

I know I’m behind the times, but last night I was reading some (seriously) backlogged email and in it was a link forwarded by my mom to David Mamet’s recent essay in the Village Voice, “Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal’.” It’s a strange essay that’s simultaneously difficult to follow and clearly intended as an embodiment of Churchill’s (perhaps apocryphal) dictum that “If you’re not Liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not Conservative when you’re 35, you have no brain.” It took Mamet more than 25 years to harden his heart, but by golly he’s done it! As for the question of whether he successfully traded it in for a new and improved brain… well, that’s not quite so certain.

It seems his first mistake is in assuming that his playwriting is an accurate reflection of reality, and then using an interpretation of his own play as a way to see back through to reality. His example of the clash between “conservative” and “liberal” is from his recent play, November.

But my play, it turned out, was actually about politics, which is to say, about the polemic between persons of two opposing views. The argument in my play is between a president who is self-interested, corrupt, suborned, and realistic, and his leftish, lesbian, utopian-socialist speechwriter.

Notice that his “conservative” is actually just a jerk: “self-interested, corrupt, suborned” — I won’t grant him “realistic” since this is Mamet’s subjective interpretation of his own character after the fact of Mamet’s conversion to a more conservative philosophy about life. Nothing about being self-interested or corrupt or suborned has anything to do with political outlook. People across every inch of the political spectrum are sometimes self-interested (and sometimes not) and sometimes corrupt (and sometimes not). True, the stereotype of a conservative in our culture is of a self-interested “old white man,” and leading conservatives in recent years, from Dick Cheney to Tom DeLay and so on, have done a bang-up job of encouraging the belief that conservatives are also likely to be corrupt; but those things don’t really have anything to do with conservatism per se, only with the nonpartisan tendency of power to corrupt and absolute power to corrupt absolutely.

On the other side is Mamet’s stand-in for a “liberal.” The key term for her is that she’s “utopian” (though her being a lesbian is surely frosting on the cake for Mamet). And again, though utopianism fits the stereotype of the left, it’s an intellectual flaw that knows no boundaries. Hitler, among other things, was certainly a utopian (and certainly not a liberal).

So Mamet has allowed himself to be confused by the surface ephemera of cultural stereotypes, has embodied them in his play’s characters, and has then analyzed them in his effort to deduce essential truths. It’s no surprise that he’s missed the mark.

Mamet’s conversion is based on his revelation that people, alas, are not generally good at heart. Instead, he says, “people are swine and will take any opportunity to subvert any agreement in order to pursue what they consider to be their proper interests.” He goes on to say that recognition of this truth of human nature is at the heart of the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution, written by men with some experience of actual government, assumes that the chief executive will work to be king, the Parliament will scheme to sell off the silverware, and the judiciary will consider itself Olympian and do everything it can to much improve (destroy) the work of the other two branches. So the Constitution pits them against each other, in the attempt not to achieve stasis, but rather to allow for the constant corrections necessary to prevent one branch from getting too much power for too long.

Rather brilliant.

I’m in no position to disagree, but this points us towards Mamet’s next essential error. While Mamet is a fan of the separation and more-or-less balancing of powers between the branches of government, his conversion to conservatism (which, though hard to tell for sure from his essay, sounds pretty much like libertarianism) leads him to imply that the “free-market” should be left to itself and the power of government eliminated, or at least mostly so.

What about the role of government? Well, in the abstract, coming from my time and background, I thought it was a rather good thing, but tallying up the ledger in those things which affect me and in those things I observe, I am hard-pressed to see an instance where the intervention of the government led to much beyond sorrow.

But if the government is not to intervene, how will we, mere human beings, work it all out?

I wondered and read, and it occurred to me that I knew the answer, and here it is: We just seem to. How do I know? From experience. I referred to my own””take away the director from the staged play and what do you get? Usually a diminution of strife, a shorter rehearsal period, and a better production.

Let’s ignore the fact that, once again, Mamet is mixing up the metaphors of his reality. When you take away a director, you aren’t just taking away generic “government,” you’re taking away authoritarian government. It might be true that taking away any and all forms of government leads to beautiful theatrical productions, but that’s not a conclusion Mamet can legitimately claim from his example.

Anyhow, Mamet’s bigger confusion is one of scale and it leads him to fall for a bait and switch. Sure, a group of people the size of a bunch of actors and production crew can probably figure out how to behave with one another reasonably well most of the time. “Live and let live” works, mostly, maybe, at the level of neighborhood or community. (Don’t forget, however, that it has often been transformed into “live and let lynch.”) So conservatism/libertarianism might be perfectly reasonable at small scale; to paraphrase Churchill again, this might be the worst political philosophy there is for the small scale of society, except for all the others.

But our world is not as claustrophobic as Mamet’s theatrical in-crowd. We don’t live in one giant small town. And if the separation and balancing of powers makes sense for government, where is Mamet’s desire, post-conversion to “conservatism,” for a balancing of the power of corporations, of the market economy? This is Mamet’s most interesting mistake, in my opinion, because in pointing out the inconsistency of his thinking I’ve realized that the traditional “liberal” response doesn’t hold up well enough for me. Mamet’s bashing of government as leading to not “much beyond sorrow” is the knee-jerk conservative response to failures that are real; and while I think that government is necessary to serve as a balancing power against the whims of the market economy, the frustrations that both conservatives and liberals continuously feel at the state of our society leads me to a further conclusion: this balancing act isn’t working because it’s a two-legged stool. The Constitution balances the powers by splitting them up between three branches. If one branch gets out of hand, the other two–even if only for entirely selfish reasons–will be inclined to join forces to bring the first branch back within proper limits. But it takes three branches to enable such a dynamic.

In our contemporary society, there doesn’t seem to be a third branch of structural power available, not one that I can think of at least. Perhaps once the labor movement served that role. The civil rights movement and other mass social movements might be understood to have functioned as third branches of social power in their times. Nowadays, I don’t see anything filling the role of a third branch. The result, from my “liberal” perspective, is a government largely overrun by the power of the economic sphere. (Of course, it’s not just the “economy” generically speaking that can organize and direct power; it’s the people in elite positions of the economy who can do so.) And when the government has been “suborned” (my thanks to Mamet for that–I was annoyed at first that I had to look up his fancy word, but it’s a good one) by the economy, is it any wonder that so many of the government’s actions appear to lead to sorrow?

So what’s out there to rise up as a new third leg of power, capable of enabling a balancing with government and economy? A revived labor movement might do it, but I’m not holding my breath. Some new social movement, maybe, like that of immigrants or environmentalists. But I think I might be better off buying Bear Stearns stock than putting my hopes in one of those possibilities. Even if such a social movement does arise, what chance does it have to institutionalize itself to remain relevant for more than a few years, a decade or two at the most? What makes it even more unlikely is the fact that institutionalization of social movements seems mostly associated with the demise of their social power, their appropriation into the realms of government and economy, not the maintenance of an independent power structure. How about “the church”? That’s the most likely candidate, but frankly, I’d rather stick with the second-rate status quo than risk going the route of The Handmaid’s Tale.

The only suggestion I’ve heard that might do the trick–and I don’t know that it would–is that of Peter Barnes from his book a year or so ago, Capitalism 3.0 (available in full as a free PDF). In the book, Barnes argues in favor of the establishment of a legally empowered and widespread system of “commons”; that is, resources and organizations held as common property by some relevant group of people, from the level of neighborhood to nation to world. This commons sector wouldn’t replace the market economy and its associated private property (though some resources currently utilized as private property would be converted to common property) and it wouldn’t replace government and its associated public property (though some resources currently utilized as public property would be converted to common property). What makes a commons sector viable, perhaps, as a third leg in balancing the social powers is that it would (as envisioned by Barnes) be institutionalized in a manner that maintains its separate power base from the private property economy and the government. Unlike Mamet, Barnes has no interest in dazzling readers into a state of confusion and irritation, so his writing is clear and pleasant to read. Could the commons be enough to do the trick? Would it truly be robust and resilient over time? I don’t know, but the book is short and sweet, so check it out and see what you think.

Now I want to get back to something I touched on above. One of the ironies of Mamet’s essay is that, partly (though surely not entirely) due to his obnoxious tone of condescension towards all those “brain-dead liberals” he’s left behind in his conversion, the comments in response to the article are filled with back and forth vitriol between offended liberals and conservatives offended at the offended liberals. I tried reading the comments but quickly sickened of the dismissive attitudes that predominated. So here’s the irony: Mamet thinks that people work things out when left to their own devices, just like his utopian theater group that puts on such great plays when liberated from under the thumb of the governing director; and yet his article elicits evidence of exactly the opposite. As I suggested, the theory that people just work things out A-OK might be a good theory to apply to small groups (but then, why so many runaway teenagers? why so many battered wives? why so many suicides?) but, repeating myself, the world is much bigger than that. Our modern world is filled to overflowing with connections, some seen, some hidden, between people near and far, people who not only don’t know one another but don’t even know that the others exist. Farmers in Kansas converting their fields from wheat to corn, in order to cash in on the ethanol boom, are part of a system that results in skyrocketing bread prices in Egypt (and yes, I realize that this example is one in which government plays a leading role in screwing things up, though — does it really need saying? — the US government’s ethanol policy wouldn’t be nearly the disaster that it is if the government weren’t so susceptible to the lobbying efforts of Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, and the other agribusiness corporations).

More banal, but experienced by almost anyone reading this missive of mine, is the fact that the anonymity and distance of modern modes of communication, perfectly presented in comments on blogs and other online pages, triggers so very many people to adopt an “act like an asshole first and apologize later, if I feel like it” attitude. It’s neither liberal nor conservative to be bothered by the decay in cultural decency; but Mamet’s self-described conservative preference for just letting it all fix itself leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, sometimes government action exacerbates a problem; sometimes there’s no good solution and leaving things alone is the best available from a set of bad options. But in a world of “people [who] are swine and will take any opportunity to subvert any agreement in order to pursue what they consider to be their proper interests,” does it really make good sense to always and everywhere ask the swine to work their own problems out, regardless of the fact that some but not all of the swine are armed to the teeth, that some but most definitely not all are richer than God, that some revel in their swineness while others care at least to try for a little courtesy and decency and honesty? The answer to a swinish human nature in the realm of government was the balancing of powers. It also seems to me the best answer I’ve encountered for the overall realm of society at large. Balance those powers. Put a leash on the government, absolutely for sure, but also for sure put a leash on the economic powers cuz those pigs will steal the shirt off your back and then smile as they offer to sell it back to you at a special discount, “just for you ;).” For now, at least, that’s the liberalism this zombie is sticking with.

Hidden taxes and even more hidden subsidies

BusinessWeek has a recent article about the new law requiring improvement in automobile and small truck fuel efficiency (“The Road to a Stronger CAFE Standard“). Among other things, the article describes how the law changes the way that the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) measurement is calculated. Under the old CAFE calculation, fuel economy is measured separately for each auto manufacturer. Under the new calculation, all manufacturers will be measured together, and a trading scheme is established so that companies beneath the industry-wide average must buy credits from companies that are above the average. Since American auto manufacturers produce a disproportionate share of minivans, pickup trucks, and SUVs (all lumped together as “light trucks”), the American companies are more likely to be on the buyer side of the credit buying while companies like Toyota and Honda will be more likely to be on the seller side of the scheme. Says one guy from the American company perspective,

it’s SUV and pickup buyers who will be stuck with the tab, suggests Chrysler Vice-Chairman Tom LaSorda. “It’s likely to be another big hidden tax on the consumer, as well as small businesses and building trades.”

What BusinessWeek’s writer fails to mention is the other side of the equation: this system also results in a hidden subsidy for buyers of efficient cars. If Honda is selling lots of relatively efficient cars, and therefore is able to sell credits to Ford (which is selling more in the way of trucks), then Honda can hold down the price of the cars while still making the same overall profit. The pressure on Ford that pushes up the price of trucks will be an “equal and opposite” pressure on Honda to hold down the price of their small cars. All in all, it could be a completely neutral system in terms of the overall effect on consumers. Of course, lots of details and corporate decisions might end up making it either more or less than perfectly neutral in the end, but BW’s article is misleading when it only highlights the one side of the equation. On this general concept, see more about “feebate” proposals.

Oh, and by the way, all of Detroit’s (and Toyota’s, the Prius notwithstanding) hemming and hawing about how hard it is to make more fuel efficient is pretty obviously a load of bunk, even if the people doing the hemming and hawing believe their own bunk.

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