What defines the "post-material economy" is a growing willingness to sacrifice money income for psychic income -- "feeling good." Some people may gladly pay higher energy prices if they think they're "saving the planet" from global warming. Some may accept higher taxes if they think they're improving the health or education of the poor. Unfortunately, these psychic benefits may be based on fantasies. What if U.S. cuts in greenhouse gases are offset by Chinese increases? What if more health insurance produces only modest gains in people's health?
Obama and his allies have glossed over these questions. They've left the impression that somehow magical technological breakthroughs will produce clean energy that is also cheap. Perhaps that will happen; it hasn't yet. They've talked so often about the need to control wasteful health spending that they've implied they've actually found a way of doing so. Perhaps they will, but they haven't yet.
We cannot build a productive economy on the foundations of health care and "green" energy. These programs would create burdens for many, benefits for some. Indeed, their weaknesses may feed on each other, as higher health spending requires more taxes that are satisfied by stiffer terms for "cap-and-trade." We clearly need changes in these areas: ways to check wasteful health spending and promote efficient energy use. I have long advocated a gasoline tax on national security grounds. But Obama's vision for economic renewal is mostly a self-serving mirage.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Obama's Economic Mirage
I am a bit behind on this, but this deserves posting, as it makes a point that I have tried to make several times. I don't know what this is, but it sure as hell isn't economics. From columnist Robert Samuelson.