from the Congress Action newsletter

It Must Be Our Fault

by: Kim Weissman
March 5, 2000

Leftists in this country have never understood nor trusted free markets. Like all good socialists, they have never believed that the free choices of millions of individuals in the free markets are superior to their own "enlightened" direction of markets. After all, how could millions of people who never had the benefit of an Ivy League education possibly be as smart as the self-anointed visionaries?

The nation is now paying the price for that leftist arrogance. And despite the obvious and growing failures of their top-down, command-and-control approach, they believe that the cure to the disease they themselves have created is even more of the same. Self-anointed visionaries certainly cannot admit that they might have been wrong — that leftists might be wrong about anything is simply against the laws of nature — so the obvious answer is that it's our fault. We simply aren't applying enough liberal ideology.

Government environmental policy has for quite some time been to restrict the exploration and recovery of domestic oil reserves. For example, for years drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) has been blocked. ANWR covers about 30,000 square miles, 92% of which is off limits to all development forever. Some of the rest, a barren coastal plain of about 2000 square miles, is believed to contain abundant quantities of oil, and drilling for that oil would affect only about 3 square miles of that area. Yet even this small encroachment will not be tolerated by elitist environmental activists. So while domestic oil reserves sit idle within the United States, we import massive amounts of the oil we use from overseas.

Offshore oil drilling is also under assault, because the purists don't want their view spoiled by oil rigs as they sun themselves on the beach. Clinton has used Executive Orders to extend for 10 years a ban on most offshore oil drilling.

America also has abundant resources of coal to supply power plants, including low sulfur, clean burning coal. Utah contains the largest known reserves of low sulfur, clean burning coal in the U.S. Much of that land containing that coal belonged to the state of Utah and to private parties, and 200,000 acres had been designated as trust land to pay for public education in Utah through the sale of that coal. Until Bill Clinton grabbed 1.8 million acres of it and created the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996.

It could have been worse: environmentalists wanted at least 5.7 million acres of Utah, and presidential candidate Bill Bradley wanted the federal government to claim 22 million acres. Clinton probably thinks Utah should thank him for taking "only" 1.8 million acres. Thus at the stroke of a pen, Clinton locked up an estimated 7 billion tons of clean burning coal, worth an estimated one trillion dollars, money which we now pay to foreign potentates for their oil.

It just so happened that the Utah coal also competed on the world market with another huge deposit of low sulfur, clean burning coal, that just happened to be located in Indonesia, the home base of big Clinton campaign contributor Mochtar Riady and his Lippo Group. But the elimination of competition to the Indonesians was all purely coincidence, of course.

It has been the policy of this administration to reduce the supply of oil and coal in this country by all means possible (not to mention the traditional hostility of environmentalists and other leftists to the cleanest and most efficient source of energy we have — nuclear power). But then in January much of the nation was hit by several weeks of unusually cold weather (where's global warming when we need it?). And the demand for home heating oil increased. Reduced supply accompanied by increased demand, and anyone who understands markets could have predicted precisely what happened: the cost of oil skyrocketed.

Liberals are outraged. How dare heating oil distributors respond to their own increased costs by raising the price of oil to their customers! It must be "price gouging", whined liberals. It could not possibly be their own idiotic policies that reduced the supply and thereby caused the prices to rise — remember, liberals are never wrong, liberals never make mistakes, liberals never implement dumb policies. So who will pay for their policies?

Why, you, the taxpayer, of course. Federal subsidies for home heating oil all around. Investigations into price-fixing and "greedy" oil companies. Even handouts from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve will be countenanced, if necessary to prevent the economy from going into the tank from increased energy costs. Especially while Eco-Gore, who himself bears a large share of the blame, is running for president. Leftists are determined to get to the bottom of this oil price rise — provided, of course, that the finger of guilt doesn't point to them.

And if the Kyoto Treaty on global warming that this administration constantly touts ever becomes fully implemented, the recent rise in the price of oil will be a mere blip, as home heating oil goes from about a dollar a gallon to three, four, or five dollars a gallon, and gasoline prices likewise go through the roof. If that happens, no doubt Gore and his leftist cohorts will once again be mystified as to why. But don't expect them to shoulder any of the blame, and they certainly won't bear any of the consequences, either.

While the rest of us walk or turn our cities into replicas of bicycle-choked Hanoi or Beijing, don't expect Gore, if he's elected, to give up his presidential limousine as he speeds through the benighted masses — you — on his way to important meetings. He will be, after all, an important member of the politburo, and can't be bothered by trifling things like energy conservation or the exorbitant price of gasoline that he has imposed on the rest of us.

But whining about the operation of the free market in energy isn't the only thing that has the left occupied just now. There is another consequence of the free market that has liberals upset: the rising cost of housing.

Once again, it was entirely predictably. Millions of acres of land that could have been used to develop housing has been locked away from productive use, so that hikers can prowl the wilderness in peace. Almost every month, it seems, this administration announces a new initiative to put more millions of acres off limits by declaring national monuments and parks. Most of the states in the nation have had large swaths of their land seized by federal bureaucrats in recent years, or are facing future seizures. It has been estimated that fully one-third of all the land area of the United States is currently owned or controlled by the federal government.

Meanwhile, our population is increasing, meaning that the demand for housing is increasing. Who would be surprised that as the supply of land available for building homes is reduced, and as the demand for that diminishing supply increases, the cost of the remaining available land is rising? Well, liberals are surprised, because the fundamentals of supply and demand are apparently beyond their comprehension. And to add to the cost of housing, we must also throw into the mix the reduced supply of a primary building material — wood.

Millions of acres of forest have been put off limits in recent years, in deference to spotted owls and assorted other wildlife. So what is the also predictable left-wing "solution"? Not to release some of the hundreds of millions of acres of land locked up by the federal leviathan, or to ease some of the environmental restrictions that reduce the supplies of timber. Not to decide that humans just might have, if not a right superior to wildlife to the use of the land, at least an equal right. No. The predictable left-wing "solution" is that we must control and limit our human population, because there are simply to many people around. And the federal government must throw money at the problem.

It could not possibly be that idiotic environmental policies have caused housing prices to rise — remember, liberals are never wrong, never make mistakes, never implement dumb policies. So who will pay for their policies? Why, once again, you, the taxpayer, of course.

Federal subsidies for housing all around, including Senator Kerry's idea for an "Affordable Housing Trust Fund". Investigations into price-fixing and "greedy" contractors will be launched. Leftists are determined to get to the bottom of this housing price rise — provided, of course, that the finger of guilt doesn't point to them.

The above article is the property of Kim Weissman, and is reprinted with his permission.
Contact him prior to reproducing.


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5 mar 2000