It’s sensible for Americans to maintain low expectations for presidential leadership given that
served as a senator during the Carter and Reagan administrations and then somehow concluded that the better economic policies were
Americans were so emphatic in reaching the opposite conclusion that they made
the winner in 44 states when he defeated Mr. Carter in 1980 and in 49 states when he defeated Mr. Carter’s former Vice President
in 1984. As the sting of those defeats has lessened with time, Mr. Carter must now be proud to see Mr. Biden pursuing one of the signature policies of the Carter era: responding to meager supplies of gasoline by launching political attacks on energy companies. Let’s hope that Mr. Biden doesn’t do anything as foolish as the so-called “windfall profits” tax Mr. Carter signed into law in 1980 to try to plunder oil revenues.
These days, along with castigating business for earning profits on a commodity made scarce by federal policies, the current White House has also considered various gimmicks to manage the politics of high prices. The “brainstorming” at the White House continues, according to Jeff Stein and Tyler Pager. They report for the Washington Post:
Senior White House aides have in recent days explored new ideas for responding to high gas prices and looked again at some that they had previously discarded, desperate to show that the administration is trying to address voter frustration about rising costs at the pump.
Biden officials are taking a second look at whether the federal government could send rebate cards out to millions of American drivers to help them pay at gas stations — an idea they examined months ago before ruling it out. Aides had found that shortages in the U.S. chip industry would make it hard to produce enough rebate cards, two people familiar with the matter said. White House officials also fear there would be no way to prevent consumers from using them for purchases other than gasoline, according to another person familiar with the discussions. Even if the administration embraces the proposal, it would probably require congressional approval and face long odds among lawmakers wary of spending more money.
Probably? Does this mean that the White House is unclear on whether Congress has a role in federal appropriations? The Posties report that Team Biden is pondering still more interventions into energy markets:
Biden aides have also looked in recent days at invoking the Defense Production Act to move diesel and other refined products should localized shortages materialize, two people familiar with the matter said. Diesel prices have risen markedly, posing a major threat to the nation’s trucking and shipping industries, although experts say shortages appear to remain unlikely for now.
Experts should be saying that the obvious answer is to stop discouraging energy production. For example, the president could tell the man he appointed to run the Securities and Exchange Commission to knock it off with the climate politics. This week Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee requested information on a pending regulation from SEC Chairman
and in so doing they nicely explained why he should drop the whole misguided project:
We are writing to request information regarding the Securities and Exchange Commission’s… proposed rule on “The Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors”… which would require publicly-traded companies to gather and report global warming data, almost none of which is material to a business’s finances. This sweeping, close to 500-page proposed rule is unnecessary and inappropriate, exceeds the SEC’s mission and expertise, will harm consumers, workers, and the entire U.S. economy at a time when energy prices are skyrocketing, and hijacks the democratic process in determining U.S. climate policy.
It is neither necessary nor appropriate for the SEC to promulgate securities regulations to address global warming. Federal securities laws already require publicly-traded companies to make extensive disclosures regarding their businesses, properties, legal proceedings, and risk factors. These disclosures must include any material climate change information and may not be misleading under the circumstances. In other words, to the extent climate change will have a material impact in any of these areas, companies are already legally required to disclose this information.
While some investors and advocates for more global warming disclosure claim this information would be valuable for investment purposes, non-material disclosures are highly unlikely to have any effect on investment decisions. Rather, climate activists without a fiduciary duty to a company and its shareholders want this information to aid in their efforts to impose their policy preferences on publicly-traded companies (and the nation at large) after having failed to enact these changes through the legislative process. Activists will then use this information to run political pressure campaigns against companies to the detriment of shareholders. This activism is coincidentally aided by some Wall Street asset managers, who claim to be acting on behalf of retail investors. However, it is important to note that some of these firms’ business models rely on developing and selling new climate-oriented investment products with higher fees under the guise of “doing good for the climate” even though such products will do little, if anything, to reduce aggregate global greenhouse gas emissions.
Steven Lofchie at Fried Frank observes:
Even if the SEC declines to respond to the Republican Senators in this request for information, the letter should be viewed only as a first step. If Republicans gain control of the House or Senate in the next election, they will make enforceable demands for information. Separately, should the SEC go forward, it is likely that litigation will follow.
Either way, the process may reveal how the SEC performs its cost-benefit analyses. That would be good.
Speaking of Low Expectations
The Journal’s Alex Harring and Chip Cutter report:
More than 60% of CEOs expect a recession in their geographic region in the next 12 to 18 months, according to a survey of 750 CEOs and other C-suite executives released Friday by the Conference Board, a business research firm…
Higher energy prices are a particular concern, some executives say, with rising transportation costs making it more expensive to produce goods.
Speaking of Biden, Carter and Reagan
It’s especially odd that Mr. Biden came to favor Carternomics over Reaganomics, and not just because he was able to observe the empirical results up close. Mr. Biden was more than an observer. Not only did he vote for the Reagan tax reforms in both 1981 and 1986, he even seemed to grasp the problems of the Carter economic agenda long before many of his fellow Democrats.
In April of 1977, Spencer Rich reported in the Washington Post:
Senate Democrats rallied behind President Carter yesterday and crushed a Republican plan for a permanent income tax cut, 59 to 40.
The amendment to the tax bill, sponsored by Sens. John C. Danforth (R-Mo.) and Jacob K. Javits (R-N.Y.), was viewed by Republicans as their major alternative to Carter’s tax proposals…
The five Democrats who voted for the amendment and against the President were Joe Biden Jr. (Del.), John A. Durkin (N.H.), Thomas J. McIntyre (N.H.), William Proxmire (Wis.) and Donald W. Reigle Jr. (Mich).
The Astounding Abuse of Taxpayers in the Covid Lockdown Era
Joe Mahr and Dan Petrella report for the Chicago Tribune:
Fraudsters stole more than half the money paid out by the state from a special pandemic unemployment fund, pilfering nearly $2 billion in federal money that was supposed to help out-of-work Illinoisans, according to a state audit released Thursday.
The audit offers the first estimate for Illinois’ share of the mammoth fraud that swept the country during the pandemic as states were hit with a deluge of unemployment claims. The audit covers much of the period the program was in use, from July 2020 through June 2021…
The audit may not cover the full scope of pandemic-related fraud.
The state paid out an additional $3.8 billion under another federally funded program that boosted claim checks by $600, initially, then $300. The audit did not offer a figure of fraud tied to that program.
On top of that, the Tribune has reported on how thieves had been hijacking legitimate claims to steer payments to the thieves’ accounts.
The audit also does not address the frustration of Illinoisans whose names or accounts were improperly used by fraudsters. Victims of the fraud have reported maddening experiences with the unemployment agency, particularly at the height of the pandemic: struggles to get someone at the department to pick up the phone or return messages, and — after reporting fraud — getting the state to actually stop payments to the thieves, in what became, in essence, slow-motion thefts.
James Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”
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