The Mackinac Center for Public Policy just released a study showing that by the time all federal and state loans, grants, subsidies, and tax credits are figured in, each Chevy Volt costs taxpayers upwards of $250,000. James Hohman, the center’s assistant director of fiscal policy, counted a total of 18 government “deals” but didn’t include the fact that one-quarter of Volt’s manufacturer, General Motors, is owned by the federal government. He counted not only incentives offered directly to GM or to the ultimate buyer, but also those offered to suppliers of parts and technology for the Volt. The Department of Energy, for example, awarded a $106 million grant to GM’s Brownstone plant that assembles the Volt’s batteries. The State of Michigan awarded $106 million to GM to retain jobs in its Hamtramck assembly plant. And Compact Power, the company that makes the Volt’s batteries, received $100 million in “refundable battery credits.” Some of the subsidies and credits are extended over varying periods of time and some are dependent upon certain production “milestones” being achieved. He counted them all along with subsidies to companies vying to provide batteries for the Volt such as the support provided to A123 Systems. A123 lost the battery contract to Compact Power, but Hohman included their subsidies in his study as well.
As the debate over the Iranian regime’s pursuit of nuclear technology heats up, commentators are pointing out that just a few years ago, then-President George W. Bush was supplying know-how through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Middle Eastern governments that have a cozy relationship with Iran. In 2008 and 2009, for example, the Bush administration negotiated and signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” to help the sheikdoms of the United Arab Emirates develop nuclear energy capabilities. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice finalized the atomic cooperation deal in January of 2009. The controversial agreement allowed the sale of U.S. nuclear technology and hardware, which can be useful in atomic weapons programs, to the UAE. And the governments of the Emirates as well as the national government have a history of allowing sensitive technologies and materials to flow into the hands of the Iranian regime and other unsavory rulers, according to analysts, who cite lax export-control laws. Several Emirates-based entities have also been implicated in supplying military equipment to Iran. The Bush administration insisted the security risk of nuclear cooperation with the Emirates was low. Despite concerns in Congress, however, President Obama has largely maintained the same stance.
With the Iowa caucuses just two weeks away, Ron Paul has taken the lead in two caucus forecasts — a development that has the GOP establishment on edge. A December 18 Public Policy Polling survey found that the Texas Congressman was the choice of 23 percent of likely Republican caucus voters. Mitt Romney came in second at 20 percent, with Newt Gingrich in third at 14 percent and Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum tied at 10 percent. “Someone else/Not sure” was next at 7 percent, followed by Jon Huntsman at 4 percent and Gary Johnson at 2 percent. Gingrich was the biggest loser in the poll, having plunged from 27 percent support three weeks ago to 14 percent now. In addition, he possesses the highest “unfavorable” rating of any candidate in the race (47 percent). Paul, meanwhile, led the pack on the positive side with 54 percent of voters viewing him favorably. On matters of principle, Paul, not surprisingly, is the champion in voters’ minds. Seventy-three percent said he has strong principles, while only 50 percent thought the same of Romney and 36 percent of Gingrich. (The question was not asked about the other candidates.)
Is it certain that the nations of the European Union are heading for a hard fall? It certainly looks that way. When the overspending of governments such as Greece, Portugal, and Ireland were involved, the threat to the euro was real, but it could be psychologically contained (an important factor in maintaining the stability of financial institutions). Those three nations, after all, are small. Spain, the fourth member of the “PIGS,” was more than half the size of the Italian economy, but much of the industrialized West has viewed Mediterranean nations as inherently volatile. Two months ago, however, Italy — one of the largest economies in the world — had its sovereign debt downgraded by Standard & Poor’s and then by Moody’s, which reduced the bond rating for Italian government bonds by three notches. The GDP of those five nations — Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain — equal about $3.7 trillion, or more than 20 percent of the economy of the European Union. The latest news is that France could have its AAA credit rating downgraded before Christmas. Standard & Poor’s is expected to make that decision imminently.
Due to new federal air pollution regulations, more than 32 power plants across the country will be forced to close their doors, according to a recent Associated Press survey. Those plants, which are mostly coal-fired, discharge enough electricity to supply more than 22 million households, the survey notes, and their closure will lead to job layoffs, depleted tax revenues, and a considerable hike in electric bills. The areas that will be hit hardest are the Midwest and in the coal belt (Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky), where dozens of plants will likely be retired. Two regulations are in question: One aims to curb air pollution in states downwind from pollutant-heavy power plants; and the second, which was finalized last week, would enact the first standards for mercury, acid gas, and other pollutants from plant smokestacks. In total, the new regulations could eliminate more than eight percent of coal-fired generation nationwide. AP’s survey, the first of its kind, looked at the analyses by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of plant retirements and interviewed 55 power plant operators about the effects on power supply and about their plans to deal with the new regulations.
Despite the best efforts of the establishment media, Ron Paul’s campaign for President is gaining momentum nationwide as his “unorthodox” views are becoming more widely disseminated and understood by an American public slavering for salvation from the economic and moral abyss toward which the country is slouching. There are some on the Right, however, who refuse to join the revolution. Because of his strictly constitutional interpretation of all major issues, Ron Paul has been called “pro-choice state by state" by an influential pro-life organization. This is disingenuous at best and deceitful at worst. Ron Paul is unqualifiedly in favor of affording the full panoply of legal rights to the unborn. In fact, he is so ardently opposed to abortion that earlier this year he declared the right to life “the most important issue of our age.”
Vaclav Havel, a Czech playwright and political figure who became Czechoslovakia’s President following a non-violent uprising in 1989 that ended decades of Soviet rule in that country, died December 18 at the age of 75. Almost immediately upon news of his passing, eulogies lionizing Havel as one of the great “liberators” of the 20th century began flooding the print, broadcast, and Internet media. Radio Prague hailed Havel as an anti-communist dissident who spent five years in Soviet prisons before being seated as his country’s President in the wake of the 1989 “Velvet Revolution” that dismantled the oppressive communist regime. It also described how Havel helped lead a re-vitalized Czechoslovakia into two separate entities — the Czech Republic and Slovakia — continuing as the Czech Republic President until 2003.
On Monday, Gordon Chang, the author of The Coming Collapse of China and regular contributor at Forbes.com, was interviewed on Yahoo’s Daily Ticker, where he observed, “If you look at all of [China’s] indicators, they all point down.” Among those indicators were electricity consumption (flat), car sales (flat), property prices (collapsing), and industrial orders (down). And there is more to come, much more. The Chinese communist government is slowing the rate of growth of the money supply in order to “fight inflation,” the natural result of nearly 30 years of expanding that money supply in order to catapult the Chinese agrarian economy into the 21st century. And such slowing is having the same expected effect: As the economy slows down, bankruptcies increase, tax revenues decrease, and the economy slows down further. Chang added, “We’ll see more obvious signs of deterioration in the Chinese economy over the next six months.” He noted that one of those signs is the increasing civil unrest including riots, bombings, and insurrections taking place across the country.
As GOP presidential contender Ron Paul is increasingly becoming a threat to the establishment and to big government advocates on both ends of the political spectrum, some members of his opposition are preparing dirty tactics to thwart him. The secretive hacker group Anonymous, for instance, has already vowed to disrupt the January 3 vote in the Iowa caucuses, which Paul seems poised to win. Though Paul was initially almost wholly ignored by most politicians and the mainstream media, and treated as though he was a fringe, unviable candidate, he has surged in popularity in poll after poll. Now ignoring him is no longer an option. According to the most recent Public Policy Poll (PPP), Ron Paul is firmly in first place in Iowa, with 23 percent of the vote, followed by Mitt Romney, with 20 percent, and Gingrich, with just 14 percent of supporters.
According to United Wisconsin, the group behind effort to recall Governor Scott Walker, as of December 19 volunteers had collected 507,533 of the 540,208 signatures needed to force the special gubernatorial election. The group has hopes of collecting over 720,000 signatures, which “would represent 33 percent of the 2010 general election turnout and nearly 21 percent of all Wisconsin registered voters,” reported Reuters News. The signatures will have to be submitted to the state’s Government Accountability Board (GAB) to verify before the recall effort can proceed. GAB officials estimate the process itself could take more than a month.