In the rabid, foaming at the mouth brand of conservatism made popular by the Koch Brothers and their extensive network of right wing pressure groups, every penny federal and state governments spend that does not put money in their pocket is anathema and must be eliminated. Conversely, every penny spent to further engorge their already overflowing wallets is a good thing and must be encouraged.
The mantra they and their co-conspirators have devised to sell this pernicious idea to the public is the oft repeated slogan, “Government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers in the marketplace.” It suggests there should be a so-called “level playing field” for all businesses. Those that thrive will reap the rewards promised by capitalist theory. Those that don’t will perish. It’s nothing personal. It’s just business and business.
There is only one problem. The level playing field concept is a lie. The oligarchs have bought and paid for the government with their campaign contributions. In return, the government has given them outrageously favorable treatment and created a playing field that is tilted sharply in their favor. For specifics on just how much money the fossil fuel gang shovels to its toadies in Congress, see Zachary’s recent story on this subject.
On December 3, Donald Trump’s top economics adviser let slip in sort of an offhanded way that this administration intends to eliminate all federal subsidies for electric cars and renewable energy partly as a way to retaliate against General Motors for closing 5 US manufacturing facilities. Asked about that subject at a press conference on December 3, Larry Kudlow said “As a matter of our policy, we want to end all of those subsidies. And by the way, other subsidies that were imposed during the Obama administration, we are ending, whether it’s for renewables and so forth.”
Kudlow obviously has no idea what he is talking about. Standard operating procedure for the reactionaries currently in control of the executive branch is to blame everything that is wrong with the country on Barack Obama. Why? Racism is a big part of it. How dare a black man presume to be the legitimate president of the glorious United States? Such a thing is preposterous. Why, he wasn’t even born here! Obviously everything done by an illegitimate president is ipso facto illegal. It’s intuitively obvious to the most casual observer.
In fact, federal investment tax credits for renewable energy were first created by the Energy Policy Act of 1992. In the intervening years, the credits have been allowed to lapse several times, only to be reinstated by both Democratic and Republican controlled Congresses. What Kudlow is really suggesting is the current credits, which are all scheduled to expire in 2020 or 2021, will not be renewed. The mistake he makes is thinking he and his boss will still be running the show in Washington at that time.
Here’s where the “level playing field” lie breaks down. In testimony before the House committee on energy and commerce on March 29, 2017, Steve Clemmer of the Union of Concerned Scientists told the representatives, [An American Wind Energy Association] analysis shows that wind energy only received 3% of all federal energy incentives between 1947 and 2015, compared to 65% for fossil fuels and 21% for nuclear power.” 3% versus 65%. Where’s your level playing field now, Kudlow?
A report by Oil Change International in 2017 showed that fossil fuel companies are the beneficiary of more than $20 billion a year in federal subsidies. That figure includes not one penny for the benefit those companies enjoy because they are allowed to pump the waste products into the environment, endangering the health and safety of every living creature on the face of the Earth. If such an assessment were made, Vox estimates the total benefit received by the fossil fuel industry from American taxpayers would be closer to $200 billion a year.
So, here’s the deal, Kudlow. We renewable energy and electric vehicle advocates will give up our incentives and subsidies if you and your fossil fuel buddies give up yours. How about that? Fair’s fair, right? Let us know how you like that idea, Kudlow. The smart money says there’s no way you and your un-indicted co-conspirators will go for it because you know you can’t win in a fair fight. The thing you fear the most is a level playing field. So, Larry, old buddy, in the immortal words of George W. Bush, “Bring it on!”