While there are many reasons to not support Dr. Ron Paul for POTUS, today let’s take a look at his stance as, and I quote from his 2012 campaign website, “A PRO-ENERGY PRESIDENT”.
All quotes below come from his Issues section, Energy page. I am going to ignore the statements on this page that are contradictory to his supposed free market stance, for now, as that is a whole other discussion. I will, for the sake of this discussion, concede that Paul is, in fact, pro-energy, in as much as his platform as he expounds it on his site is all about the creation of energy using current means, and so long as we agree to limit the definition to strictly that. However, what I am struck by in looking through this particular piece of his platform is the devastating effects it would have in other ways.
Okay, so let’s take two quotes together first:
In fact, much of the “pain at the pump” Americans are now feeling is due to federal policies designed by environmental alarmists to punish traditional energy production – like oil, coal, and natural gas – in hopes of making energy sources they favor more “economical.
* Repeal the federal tax on gasoline. Eliminating the federal gas tax would result in an 18 cents savings per gallon for American consumers.
According to GasBuddy.com, the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is just under $3.26 as I write this on 1/1/2012. So, assuming that his math is correct, and we’d get an $0.18 per gallon savings, then using the national average that gives us approximately 5.5% savings. That is “much of the ‘pain at the pump'”? No, sir. That is ridiculous sleight of hand. Very simply, gas is so expensive for a host of reasons that have almost nothing to do with the federal gas tax. It has to do with the subsidies we give them in the form of tax breaks, record profits, and the same general out of control greed that has become endemic in America and which is destroying “good old-fashioned American values”.
Here is the one that really gets me. I wonder if Dr. Paul honestly doesn’t see the implications of this or if he simply doesn’t care. I suspect it’s some of both.
* Eliminate the ineffective EPA. Polluters should answer directly to property owners in court for the damages they create – not to Washington.
Let me start with this statement though. There is one small kernel of validity in this. That is, for far too long polluters have not compensated those that they have injured, be they property owners, non-property owning individuals whose health has been affected, or persons or groups who have been adversely impacted in other ways. To that degree, Dr. Paul is, unintentionally, correct. I say unintentionally because the reader will note that his only concern is for property owners. It is striking that as a physician, his concern is about property rights and not about health. Regardless, let’s move on to the real substance here, since that is part of his failed philosophy and general lack of moral character. As such, it is not what I want to focus on.
What hit me though as I read this were several very practical matters all centered around the court system. Our already dramatically over-strained court system. Starting first with the impact on the system itself. Think about this. If we take one case filed by the EPA against one offender, and we split it up so that each property owner now files, we have significantly increased the number of cases in the system. Let’s be very conservative and say that each polluter only impacts 10 properties. That is a 10 fold increase in this kind of cases. Read that again. A 10 fold increase. And, that is an extraordinarily conservative number. Realistically, any polluter that the EPA would go after would have impacted thousands, if not tens of, or hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions. On a system that is already short on judges. A system that takes too long to get cases through the system. A system that is weighted towards corporations. A system that is very, very expensive to get a case through. Does this make any fiscal sense? Is it even practical? I’m not talking here about wisdom or philosophical approach. I am talking, simple practicality.
And, what about the impact on the individual? This is where I think the real intention is. However, that is my opinion. What is a fact is that it would have a chilling impact on the individual. Filing and fighting a court case is expensive. It can be done in small claims court at a reasonable rate if you represent yourself, but for this kind of case, not only are you not going to be filing in a small claims court, but you’re going to be facing an army of lawyers. While I am a believer in pro se representation, let’s be realistic here. The laws and the procedures of the courts have become so twisted and complicated, that if you fail to pick the correct chicken bone from the judge’s merkin under the full moon following the second Tuesday of the fourth week, then that could be enough to have your case thrown out with prejudice, i.e., without any ability to re-file or correct your “mistake”. Courts are not a place where logic and reason alone apply. If they were, then we could have a very different discussion. (If they were, then we could perhaps return to a time when lawyers were, in fact, banned in parts of colonial America.) For something as complex, wide-ranging, and important as environmental pollution, it is simply not a risk we can take.
All of the above would have the, again I believe intentional effect, of reducing the number of actions filed against polluters. This would not result in less pollution or more accountability. In fact, it would have precisely the opposite results. Companies would be free to pollute with practical impunity. No one would be holding them accountable. In the rare situations where someone does actually take them to court, they can drag it out forever with their armies of lawyers, and then in the end, if they do actually somehow manage to lose, they pay off such a small fraction as opposed to the damage they’ve done, that the cost-benefit analysis still comes out in favor of continuing their practice.
Again, as a practical matter, we need to strengthen and streamline both the EPA and the court system, not eliminate the EPA and further strain the courts.
It is also very telling that Paul includes the removal of the EPA and forcing individuals to fight these battles themselves under the heading of being “pro-energy”. These things are tangentially related to energy, in that the energy industries can be polluters and that our energy requirements will have to be met in some fashion from the environment. However, energy does not, in and of itself, subsume the environment. It is part of Paul’s whole business first, and damn the rest approach to things.
In fairness, there is one plank in this platform that I can agree with.
* Make tax credits available for the purchase and production of alternative fuel technologies.
Of course, this is one of those aforementioned statements that contradicts Paul’s proclaimed love of the free market, so I am going to say no more about it for now.
Let’s take a couple of quotes as a group last:
In fact, much of the “pain at the pump” Americans are now feeling is due to federal policies designed by environmental alarmists to punish traditional energy production – like oil, coal, and natural gas – in hopes of making energy sources they favor more “economical.”
* Remove restrictions on drilling, so companies can tap into the vast amount of oil we have here at home.
* Lift government roadblocks to the use of coal and nuclear power.
I do not want to get into the long and on going argument here. It’s a ridiculous argument at this point. However, what we see by the above collection of quotes, this 75 of 303 words on the subject of Energy on his platform, is one of two things. Either a denial of the scientific evidence of human contribution to global warming or a complete lack of ability to understand what that means. Given his previous career as a doctor, I would hope it’s not the latter, and the former is just frightening.
Look, here’s the reality. We KNOW beyond any reasonable doubt that we are contributing to global warming. We also know that there are cycles that the planet goes through. There are things which it is reasonable and necessary to still be debating on this topic. However, whether or not we are contributing and whether we should continue more of the same are not two of those things.
Let us be absolutely clear. At no point EVER has the free market worked to encourage social or environmental responsibility. These are concepts that have had to be forced onto corporations and their owners by persons of conscience. Most often in human history by those coming from a religious perspective, though it is not required that it come from such. No environmental protection. No child protections. No protections for workers. No health care. In some cases, these things were quickly adopted by companies whose owners saw the utility in doing so. (After all, a happy and healthy wage-slave is a much more productive one, right? the same argument which was made to slave owners to treat their slaves better before slavery was outlawed.)
The free market simply doesn’t do that. The free market encourages taking while one can and then getting the hell out of Dodge, period. Most people are too wrapped up in their own lives, or too inundated with information to be aware of what is going on in the bigger picture. We cannot all be aware of everything. In fact, that is part of what has allowed us to progress as a society. Specialization. Without specialization, we would all still be hunter-gatherers. Specialization can be, and in my opinion has been, taken too far. However, it is also a necessary fact of our existence. It is ridiculous and childish to think, for example, that if people in Florida do not want a company to pollute in the Pacific Northwest, then they simply will not buy the product. In many cases, they won’t even know.
Again, for something as complex and far-reaching as the environment, a larger vision must be maintained. It requires that persons at all levels and in all locales contribute to being vigilant, but enforcement and protection must not be left to them alone. We must not put them at an even larger disadvantage before the battle even begins.
Paul’s “pro-energy” stance is like much of the rest of his platform. It is poorly thought out and inconsistent. It is really quite juvenile.
That will be quite enough, Dr. Paul. Go to bed without dinner. We’ve had enough of your temper tantrum.