Recession as Policy

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The carbon emissions reduction goals of the Biden administration cannot be achieved solely by replacing coal and gas power plants with solar and wind farms. Green energy cannot be counted on to provide 24-7-365 power. The more that reliable energy sources such as coal and gas are replaced by unreliable sources such as solar and wind, the more unreliable the electrical grid becomes. But the instability of the US electrical grid is only a small part of the sacrifice that Americans, especially ordinary Americans, must make to appease the green elites who run the country.

Although its energy contribution has rapidly increased in recent years, solar and wind represent merely 12% of the 4.12 trillion kilowatt-hours (kW-hrs) of power produced annually by the US electrical grid. For comparison, natural gas presently contributes 40%, coal 20%, and nuclear 20%. Yet this small “green energy” intrusion has already built instability into the grid — to the point where energy experts warn that “two-thirds of the U.S. could experience blackouts this summer.” Imagine the warning if solar and wind energy replaced all of our coal energy, and had to then provide 32% of our electricity — during storms, during winters, and during so-called sun droughts and wind droughts. As I pointed out in “Net Zero Intelligence,” solar panels and windmills are emasculated by the intermittency of weather. And it should also be noted that the ongoing decommissioning of nuclear power plants greatly exacerbates the weakness. It increases the energy load that beleaguered solar and wind farms must subsequently provide, but with no emissions reduction benefit.

The much larger problem is prosperity. Americans consume too much to make the dreams of the elite come true. And prosperity lets them consume more. With high GDP growth, average Americans will buy bigger homes, drive bigger cars, send their children to better schools, obtain better health care, travel more, etc.; some may acquire upper class habits. But to green elites, such reckless consumption will only enlarge America’s carbon footprint. GDP growth is the enemy of climate change.

The instability of the US electrical grid is only a small part of the sacrifice that Americans, especially ordinary Americans, must make to appease the green elites.

 

From 1947 to 2000, the average annual US GDP growth rate was 3.6%. Wage increases kept pace with GDP, including the wage increases of American workers who did not possess a college degree. The living standard of ordinary Americans continuously improved.

But GDP growth from 2000 to the present dramatically slowed to a meager average annual rate of 1.8%. Further, only the college educated received meaningful wage increases. For example, during this new slow-growth era, the cumulative inflation-adjusted wage increase for the top 10% of income earners was more than 16%; the increase for the lowest 25% of income earners was less than 5%. Since 2000, with the exception of the first three years of the Trump administration (the period before the recession caused by the covid-19 lockdowns), working class Americans have endured wage stagnation.

Trump administration policies allowed high GDP growth, dramatic wage increases, and low rates of interest and inflation. During Trump’s pre-covid tenure, the inflation-adjusted growth in the median weekly wage was $6.90 per quarter — the best wage growth in 40 years. For comparison, the average rate since 2000 has been $4.05 per quarter; it was a paltry $3.20 per quarter during President Obama’s tenure. In just three years of Mr. Trump’s policies, median household income increased by $4,144. During the seven and a half years from the end of the recession in June 2009 through the end of Mr. Obama’s second term, median household income rose by a shamefully feeble $1,043. Inflation averaged 2% while Mr. Trump was in office. It was only 1.4% when Mr. Biden was inaugurated; the cost of a gallon of gasoline was $2.40, a barrel of oil, $50.

While Trump believed that 3.6% GDP growth was too low, Biden evidently believes that 1.8% is too high. With his policies of profligate spending, borrowing, and printing of money, more than $10 trillion has flooded the economy, driving the inflation rate to 8.6% (a 40-year high) and crushing the consumption of ordinary Americans, who must spend almost all their disposable income on items such as food and fuel (e.g., gasoline, today at $4.99 a gallon, with oil at $120 a barrel), which have seen price increases significantly higher than 8.6%. In contrast, upper-income Americans receive tax credits for the solar panels on their houses and the electric vehicles (EVs) in their garages, and loan debt forgiveness for their college-educated children. These individuals no doubt agree with Biden’s declaration earlier this year: “The Biden economic plan is working, folks.”

In Biden’s crusade to reduce carbon emissions, such economic decline is necessary; it is as important as windmills and solar panels.

 

Meanwhile, wage rates and economic growth are in decline. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report for April, private sector wages have increased at an annual rate of 5.5%, amounting to a 3.1% pay cut. Wages and jobs for middle- and low-income Americans can be expected to decrease. The latest Bureau of Economic Analysis report shows a disappointing GDP of negative 1.5%, the latest Congressional Budget Office report projects paltry average annual GDP growth of 1.7% through 2032, and inflation continues to erode the buying power and living standards of all but America’s college educated elite.

In Biden’s crusade to reduce carbon emissions, such economic decline is necessary; it is as important as windmills and solar panels. But the sheer stupidity of his schemes will ensure that policy-driven decline will not be enough to save the planet. For instance, as soon as America begins to shrink its annual electricity consumption down to, say, 3 trillion kW-hrs, the additional electricity required to charge tens of millions of EVs will send it hurtling back up to 4 trillion kW-hrs, if not higher. Therefore, the desired depth of economic decline will have to be federally mandated.

Over a year ago, in his article “Biden Is Using the Pandemic as an Excuse for Permanent Expansions of Government Power,” Peter Suderman wrote of the president’s authoritarian desire to expand federal power. He is using covid-era emergency measures, wrote Suderman, as “a catchall justification for a wide array of big-government programs that he and the Democratic Party already wanted to pursue.” In “Freedom Becomes a Long-Haul COVID Victim,” J.D. Tuccille noted that the federal government has already “assumed vast power over everyday activity, and politicians have seized the opportunity to spend trillions of dollars to ‘stimulate’ the economy — but mostly to buy public favor and enact wish-lists of policies in the guise of addressing the crisis.” There’s no telling how far Biden will be able to ratchet federal power with “Long-Haul Climate” as the pretense.

To average Americans, the covid lockdowns were disastrous. They failed, abysmally, to control the pandemic, and they threw the economy into recession — with more than 22 million jobs lost, the vast majority of which were lost by middle- and low-income Americans who did not possess the college degree and laptop that would allow them to work from home. The Biden administration was unconcerned with, if not oblivious to, these outcomes. Instead, it focused on the discovery that more than half the country was happy to comply with all the silly, feckless rules that public health authorities could concoct. It saw a successful dry run for the climate lockdowns that will be needed to coerce America into consuming less of everything.

There will be no shortage of boneheaded ideas for destroying the US economy. And those ideas will increase in number and boneheadedness.

 

Not even a vast sprawl of hideous windmills and solar panels, blighting the American landscape, will be enough to meet carbon emissions reduction goals. Only drastic cuts in consumption can make up the difference. They must be drastic enough to induce chronic economic decline. And they won’t be voluntary. In “Is a ‘Climate Lockdown’ on the horizon?,” Kit Knightly suspects that only the threat of a lockdown will be used initially, as a nudge to “overhaul our economic structures and do capitalism differently.” But unless there is a major transition to socialism, climate lockdowns will be necessary. In this case, says Knightly, “governments would limit private-vehicle use, ban consumption of red meat, and impose extreme energy-saving measures, while fossil-fuel companies would have to stop drilling.” In “The Urgent Case for Energy Austerity,” Emily Holland and Marco Giuli treat the predicament as an opportunity for governments “to implement decisive and orderly conservation policies.” As examples, they recommend “mandatory speed limits, car-free weekends, mandatory work-from-home, incentivized public transport, reduced non-essential lights at night, rolling outages, private transport rationing, and mandatory indoor temperature limits.”

The detailed nature of the “decisive and orderly conservation policies” is anybody’s guess. There will be no shortage of boneheaded ideas for destroying the US economy. And those ideas will increase in number and boneheadedness at the drop of every future, news media-heralded climate event. But there should be little guesswork as to their stifling economic effects. Consider that the recession caused by the covid lockdowns reduced carbon emissions by 5.4%. While America’s elite felt greenhouse joy, its working class felt only economic pain. To meet Biden’s emission reduction goals, they must be reduced much further and longer — to 7.6% annually through 2030. That’s when we will know his is plan is working, folks.

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