America’s Fiscal Gap: 14% of GDP

How bad is the gap between promised entitlement benefits and the taxes that Congress has appropriated to pay for them? The International Monetary Fund has taken a look, and the results are scarier than anything you’ll read in “Boomergeddon.” It appears that I am not alarmist enough.

Says the IMF in its 2010 “selected issues” paper for the United States: “Closing the fiscal gap requires a permanent annual fiscal adjustment equal to about 14 percent of U.S. GDP.”

In Boomergeddon, I suggest that the U.S. should strive to cut spending/raise taxes by $1 trillion a year, or about 7-8 percent of the GDP to get back onto a fiscally sustainable path over the next decade or two. But the IMF projects further out than I did, to 2083. Thus, even if the U.S. made the “fiscal adjustments” that I call for — adjustments so cataclysmic that the odds that our dysfunctional political system will make them are just about nil — the job will be only half done.

Put another way, the fiscal gap amounts to $202 trillion, says Boston University economist Laurence J. Kotlikoff in a Bloomberg op-ed. That’s trillion, not billion. The GDP in 2010 will be less than $15 trillion.

Looks like the 21st century will be one long bummer.


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43 responses to “America’s Fiscal Gap: 14% of GDP”

  1. 2083?

    Whew.

    For a minute there I thought you meant 2080.

  2. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Mr. Bacon:

    Excellent post.

    This is in line with my last comment to Groveton on his two Pauls post.

    Also we just heard about Florida's new item in The New Republic. Take a look.

    http://www.tnr.com/article/economy/76961/richard-florida-reset-recovery-economy-future?page=0%2C4

    By the way the Dow is headed back past 10,000 for the seventh time is a year.

    What do folks not understand about Prof. Risse's term "gambling venue"?

    In gambling venues the house always wins and in this case 'the house' is Wall Street masters of the universe who as you and Groveton agree control the political processes.

    CJC

  3. Larry G Avatar

    I think one of the the most important and most relevant aspects of this looming deficit that is either not recognized by some writers or conflated and that is .. what percentage…what part of this looming boomergeddon is entitlements and what part/percentage is not?

    Without delineating the issue… it comes across as yet another right wing propaganda machine …sound-bite.

    Then – because it is not made explicit as to what the issues really are – the right wing folks then take the overall implication and use it as a weapon against any/all forms of government that they oppose.

    ….as opposed to recognizing where the problems are – and then addressing solutions.

    A "smaller", "leaner" government .. or getting rid of the EPA or Dept of Education or tax cuts for anyone including the wealthy is not going to solve the structural deficit but don't let simple facts get in the way of partisan ideology.

  4. Gambling is whan you take a chance on a random event, or one where the outcome cannot ordinarily be predicted.

    Investing is when you incur a risk that some normally expected event won't take place. When you buy Proctor and Gamble stock you incur the risk that people will stop brushing their teeth, but that is not the normally expected event.

    There are other risks of course, like P&G will suddenly become Enron, but there is an essntial difference between investing and gabling that Dr Risse doesn;t seem to understand.

    Once you meet your basic needs, any additional money will be invested in something, and whatever that is has risks. most of the things that most people "invest" in have a lot higher risk than the stock market.

  5. In a gambling venue the house always wins. That is a lot different from the house always taking a share. Every time I make a trade, someone on wall street gets a piece of the action. so does Verizon, for that matter, and the tax collector.

    But in the long run, I have long since taken out more than I put in, even after the "house" took its share. It is a lot different from a Casino, no matter what Dr. Risse thinks.

    And if you don't like gambling or Casino's, just consider that they always win. Then go buy stock in gaming businesses.

    How can you lose?

  6. The market has been above 10,000 since early July, it is not headed back there.

    And the market has been above 10,400 nine times this year, but who cares?

  7. Larry G Avatar

    re: the market

    many, many people are unemployed and many others are underemployed and doing work they don't like just to survive.

    The "market" is at best a mirage that very likely could crater again and we may well be headed for a depression anyhow no matter what we try to do to avoid it.

    At that point, anyone who was rejoicing earlier about the market may well be licking their financial wounds….

    More than a few economists think we may be on the hairy edge of disaster… so I'd not being counting eggs in the basket just yet.

    lcg

  8. The eggs may get smaller, but there wll be just as many eggs.

    Those that have the eggs will have the means to hatch something new, and those that do not, won't.

    Your choices are:

    Market
    Bond
    CD
    Bank
    Mattress
    Property

    No matter which one you pick, there are risks.

    More and better property rights will better define what you own and therefore reduce the risks.

  9. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Milti-Headed Snake said:

    “Your choices are:

    “Market
    “Bond
    “CD
    “Bank
    “Mattress
    “Property”

    Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.

    This cynical and misleading list leaves out the most important investments citizens can make and the ones that are most needed at this time:

    Enterprise activities that individuals and households initiate or in which they can participate in the management.

    Starting an Enterprise, helping a relative, neighbor or friend start an Enterprise. Join with others to INVEST in and Enterprise that they can understand and participate that supports the prosperity of their neighborhood, community or region.

    AZA

  10. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    JAB,
    Let me understand something. I read Kotlikoff and he suggests DOUBLING our taxes to fill the gap.
    Is this what you are advocating? I am not taking a position on one side or the other, but what is your view, Boomer-Jim?
    If the answer is yes, then we are seeing a profound turn-around.
    Just want to get you on the record.

    PG

  11. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Yeah, let's pay higher taxes to keep the filthy federal government afloat. After all, who else could help this poor developing bringing affordable housing to New York's most affluent. "Manhattan Luxury Condos Try FHA Backing in Sales `Game Changer'" http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-13/manhattan-luxury-condos-embrace-federal-help-in-game-changer-for-sales.html

    Government needs serious downsizing.

    TMT

  12. James A. Bacon Avatar
    James A. Bacon

    Peter, If I were arguing on principle, I'd say that we should close the $1 trillion federal budget gap exclusively through spending cuts. If I were arguing on the basis of what might be politically salable, I would argue 2/3 spending cuts and 1/3 tax increases. But *how* we increase taxes is critically important. I would argue for the Fair Tax, which would replace all existing federal taxes with a 24% national sales tax (with mechanisms to offset spending below the poverty-line level).

  13. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Jim, a national sales tax would provide some significant value, but it would also reinforce the crap that occurs on Wall Street. Short-term trading and arbitrage; selling futures contracts in total amounts that exceed the quantities of the underlying commodities themselves; creation of more and risky, artificial securities and derivatives thereof; etc. Making all of this tax-free would give steroids to the perverse. We need to tax this harmful behavior; force the financial services sector back to its roots; and get the economy back to producing goods and services. Wall Street is an evil institution. A consumption tax alone would enable it to become even more evil.

    TMT

  14. Groveton Avatar

    CJC:

    I will buy the new Richard Florida book today. He makes some great points in the article you posted. I'd like to read the full details in his book.

    However, when I read the article I felt like I was watching a man on the practice range driving golf balls. The guys hits one beautiful shot after another. Pop. Pop. Pop. You know you're watching a very talented golfer. Then, suddenly, he duck hooks a shot about half as far as his previous shots. You think, "Wow. What happened?". Then he goes back to hitting great shot after great shot. You're left thinking, "I guess everybody hits a bad shot from time to time.".

    Florida makes one great point after another. The increasing innovation during the Long Recession and Great Depression. The change from agrarian to urban, the chane from urban to suburban, the industrial style educational system, the need to free up capital from real estate for entrepreneurial investment. One beautiful golf shot after another.

    Then he gets to high speed rail.

    A duck hook.

    Not a horrible shot but a lot less impressive than the prior drives. A very average kind of golf shot from an otherwise apparently excellent golfer.

    High speed rail is a fine idea. I take the Acela to New York and even Boston on a regular basis. I have used the various high speed rail lines in Europe. I'd rather take high speed rail than fly on an airplane.

    But it's not a game changer. Or, at least, I don't see it that way. Removing the mortgage deduction? Game changer. Revamping the educational system? Game changer. High speed rail? Nice to have.

    What am I missing?

  15. "Enterprise activities that individuals and households initiate or in which they can participate in the management."

    ================================

    I think that would be included under property. You invest in a productive business (like growing hay) you participate in the management, and you own it.

    If you are talking about a community enterprise, like a coop, partnership, or a community bank, it is still property. From a practical standpoint those things are usually managed by owning shares, just as you would in the market, except it is a lot less fluid.

    The problem with trying to own a productive enterprise is that the big guys are a lot better and more efficient at it, and they will likely eat you alive. You wind up working for a wage that is so low that you would have been better off to take the money you invested in your business and invest it in theirs.

    Trust me, every time I invest more money in the farm (or one of my other businesses) I have to ask myself if I would't be better off just adding to my 401K. Since the answer to that question is indeterminate, I hedge my bets through diversification, same as any big hedge fund would do.

    This is now a global market, and what AZA failes to comprehend is that it is NEVER or ALMOST NEVER in the community's interest to make something that they can buy cheaper from Mongolia.

    I have neighbors who have horses, and all summer those horses are out in the fields eating grass. For all intents and purposes, it is the same grass as mine. And yet, when winter comes, I cannot sell them hay, not at any price, and certainly not at a price I'm willing or able to sell for.

    They import their hay.

    They import it, and they pay nearly twice what I would charge for local hay to get it. Even the guy who sells it to them tells me he doesn't understand why they don't buy mine. If they are eally stuck, and desperate, they will condescend to buy a few bales from me, so it isn't like the horses won't eat it.

    So, while I think all that local business, help-thy-neighbor stuff is all well and good, it has to be tempered by the global realities. At present, there is no practical way I can compete with those giant suppliers who can offer a uniform quality, homogenized hay, delivered in space saving compressed format. Not even at half the price. I just do not have what those customers want.

    If AZA knows a few people who want to put up $2 to $5 million or so for a compressed hay factory, I've got a nice place to put it. It would go a long way to creating the farm infrastructure in Fauquier that would really save our farms, and if we are successful, we can always have an IPO on wall street.

    But first, I'd need a zoning change, and that might cost a million or so.

  16. TMT:

    It is not just in Manhattan. I know someone with a $700,000 mortgage wo is trying to refinance through FHA.

  17. Re local enterprise:

    Shoot, I've got the skills to make aspirin in my kitchen or moonshine in the barn, and it could be done legally, now that the regulations have been decreased.

    But it is doubtful I could compete with Bayer or Bowman, or even Aquavit.

    And I'd still need a zoning change, or another site with zoning in place. The probablility of either of those is so low that it makes the option of discovering whether you could compete or not a moot issue.

  18. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    I love trains and would rather ride one than fly or drive. But rail is not a game-changer. Rail is expensive to build and operate. It's mainly being pushed by by construction companies, unions, real estate speculators, and academics.

    Florida thinks everyone wants to live or should be re-educated to want to live in urban areas. We need choices, not more mandates, especially be the unelected and unaccountable.

    TMT

  19. Government needs serious downsizing.

    All except for the local zoning and planning board that you depend on to protect you from rapacious developers, right TMT?

  20. replace all existing federal taxes with a 24% national sales tax

    =================================

    I suspect that half the trading economy would immediately go underground. Cash business and barter would burgeon, and growth would disappear.

    Would your federal sales tax incluse capital equipment and property, or would it effectively eliminate capital gains?

    If they called the fair tax someting else, I might be a lot less suspicious, but I'm always wary of legislation that has to enamour itself with emotionally laden monikers.

  21. it would also reinforce the crap that occurs on Wall Street. Short-term trading and arbitrage; selling futures contracts in total amounts that exceed the quantities of the underlying commodities

    ===============================

    Why do you think that? If the sales tax applied universally it would apply to the sale short term trading of securities as well.

    It seems to me that would put a stop to short term trading.

    ************
    Obviously futures contracts exceed the the current quantities available. I don't see a problem with that.

    But the futures contracts for delivery on a given date cannot exceed what is available on that date. And if the sales tax applies to futures contracts, it will reduce tha number of those as well.

    Plus, you would get current tax revenue in advance of the ultimate economic production.

    Where is the problem?

  22. Groveton Avatar

    RH's hay example, perhaps I'll start calling him "the Say Hay Kid", is a fabulous point. It also completely re-inforces AZA's thesis.

    Let's say The Say Hay Kid is right about the compressed hay factory. Say Hay claims that you could build the factory for $3M – $6M. He also thinks the company could be taken public (perhaps a joke on his part). Let's just say that HayCo would be sufficiently profitable to justify the investment. A lot of good companies repay the investors through the distribution of income rather than a "liquidity event" as the clever boys say.

    What inhibits the formation of HayCo (assuming there is really a credible business case).

    1. Lack of entrepreneurial talent. This is completely different than technical skills such as the manufacture of aspirin or moonshine (although the moonshine has possibilities too). Anybody who has met "serial entrepreneurs" knows the profile. They are great salesmen, well organized, technically proficient (not expert but not clueless either) and they understand how to raise money.

    Richard Florida correctly points out that we have too few of these type people and our schools do not teach the skills required to create more.

    2. Access to capital. This is what really makes Silicon Valley different. There were a lot of reasons why the valley got started as a high tech hotspot. However, it expanded and endures as a high tech hotspot because the entrepreneurs are attracted to a place where money can be raised. If you want to see the real secret to the enduring success of Silicon Valley – go to Sand Hill Road, not some research park.

    Virginia lacks both a sufficient quantity of entrepreneurs and a well organized venture capital community. Neither are entirely absent but neither are present in suffient quantity.

    If Bob McDonnell really wants to address the matter of jobs in Virginia he will focus on these two issues.

  23. Groveton Avatar

    RH's hay example, perhaps I'll start calling him "the Say Hay Kid", is a fabulous point. It also completely re-inforces AZA's thesis.

    Let's say The Say Hay Kid is right about the compressed hay factory. Say Hay claims that you could build the factory for $3M – $6M. He also thinks the company could be taken public (perhaps a joke on his part). Let's just say that HayCo would be sufficiently profitable to justify the investment. A lot of good companies repay the investors through the distribution of income rather than a "liquidity event" as the clever boys say.

    What inhibits the formation of HayCo (assuming there is really a credible business case).

    1. Lack of entrepreneurial talent. This is completely different than technical skills such as the manufacture of aspirin or moonshine (although the moonshine has possibilities too). Anybody who has met "serial entrepreneurs" knows the profile. They are great salesmen, well organized, technically proficient (not expert but not clueless either) and they understand how to raise money.

    Richard Florida correctly points out that we have too few of these type people and our schools do not teach the skills required to create more.

    2. Access to capital. This is what really makes Silicon Valley different. There were a lot of reasons why the valley got started as a high tech hotspot. However, it expanded and endures as a high tech hotspot because the entrepreneurs are attracted to a place where money can be raised. If you want to see the real secret to the enduring success of Silicon Valley – go to Sand Hill Road, not some research park.

    Virginia lacks both a sufficient quantity of entrepreneurs and a well organized venture capital community. Neither are entirely absent but neither are present in suffient quantity.

    If Bob McDonnell really wants to address the matter of jobs in Virginia he will focus on these two issues.

  24. Groveton Avatar

    RH's hay example, perhaps I'll start calling him "the Say Hay Kid", is a fabulous point. It also completely re-inforces AZA's thesis.

    Let's say The Say Hay Kid is right about the compressed hay factory. Say Hay claims that you could build the factory for $3M – $6M. He also thinks the company could be taken public (perhaps a joke on his part). Let's just say that HayCo would be sufficiently profitable to justify the investment. A lot of good companies repay the investors through the distribution of income rather than a "liquidity event" as the clever boys say.

    What inhibits the formation of HayCo (assuming there is really a credible business case).

    1. Lack of entrepreneurial talent. This is completely different than technical skills such as the manufacture of aspirin or moonshine (although the moonshine has possibilities too). Anybody who has met "serial entrepreneurs" knows the profile. They are great salesmen, well organized, technically proficient (not expert but not clueless either) and they understand how to raise money.

    Richard Florida correctly points out that we have too few of these type people and our schools do not teach the skills required to create more.

    2. Access to capital. This is what really makes Silicon Valley different. There were a lot of reasons why the valley got started as a high tech hotspot. However, it expanded and endures as a high tech hotspot because the entrepreneurs are attracted to a place where money can be raised. If you want to see the real secret to the enduring success of Silicon Valley – go to Sand Hill Road, not some research park.

    Virginia lacks both a sufficient quantity of entrepreneurs and a well organized venture capital community. Neither are entirely absent but neither are present in suffient quantity.

    If Bob McDonnell really wants to address the matter of jobs in Virginia he will focus on these two issues.

  25. I'm with Groveton.

    I've taken the train to Philly, NY, Providence, even Boston and Vermont, and also to Charleston.

    But national high speed rail ro even pieces here and there is going to be a 50-year $5 trillion investment.

    It had better be worth it. Otherwise, we may be shooting ourselves right where the HIV innoculation should have gone.

  26. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Groveton:

    I do not play golf but you are right, Florida’s love affair with High Speed Rail (HSR) is a Duck Hook.

    However, HSR meets the needs of his employers and clients in Toronto :>)

    There is a role for HPR, al be it more limited that Florida suggests. HSR may be the best ‘big’ stimulus infrastructure investment – as long as it is coupled with de-stimulating / un-subsidizing roads and air travel under 1,000 miles. But as Florida says that is the wrong argument to be having.

    He hit some other shots far into the rough. His theme smacks too much of “prosperity” meaning “growth in consumption” rather than Fundamental Transformation to improve happiness and safety for the vast majority.

    His point about young folks needing to learn how to innovate and create on their own is great but somehow there has to be a way to dial back the aura of entitlement to be entertained and to consume. As Prof. Risse notes, this may be a genetic hardwiring problem and so not as easy to do as write another book.

    CJC

  27. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Hydra:

    By sweeping everything into the ‘property’ category you completely obscure:

    The core meaning of personal property,

    The importance of common property at the household, Cluster, Community and Regional etc, scales, and

    The transformation of the role of both personal and common property in an agrarian society to their rational and sustainable roles in the an Urban society – inside and outside The Clear Edge.

    Invest in Bobb’s of Rockville – a fresh, toothpaste that only includes ingredients that dentists recommend, not fillers and shelf-life extenders. The cost will not include advertising. It will be sold in refillable tubes at farmers markets.

    You cannot ‘invest’ in P&G, you can only gamble. Did you not read what that P&G’s executive did to his secretary’s five year old son? Same with HP, AOL, Enron, WorldCom, Toyota, GM, and even German manufacturing futures… It is a gambling venue. What do you not understand about gambling?

    Because I have no interest in becoming a new Larry G. responding to your filibusters do not bother to respond to these points.

    Your time would be better spent finding investors in your hay Enterprise. Given the views you have posted in the past… Good luck.

    AZA

  28. Larry G Avatar

    on the taxes……

    again… it would be good if we recognize what taxes fund which things.

    FICA funds the major SS and Medicare entitlements – which is my understanding is at least a significant aspect of the longer term structural deficit.

    If you do an analysis of the problem but remove the FICA taxes and SS and Medicare from the analysis, what are you left with in terms of scope and scale of taxes verses government?

    In other words, how much of a structural deficit issue do we have if we exclude the entitlements?

    What is it that we need a general tax increase to pay for?

  29. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Better than HSR.

    Check it out. It may sound far out at first. It is in the middle of the Pacific…

    But it makes a lot more sense that hydrofracking millions of acres of shale to preserve the current trajectory for a few more years.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/aug/08/recycled-island-plastic-waste-pacific

    MGM

  30. Larry G Avatar

    You can float down virtually any river in the US and find in the eddy's large piles of plastic flotsam – even fairly remote rivers.

    The shores of the major Va rivers like the Potomac are particularly disgusting in places with 20 feet or more of the shoreline festooned with everything from fishing line to broken foam coolers to Penzoil and Clorox and "natural spring water" bottles, plastic toys, balls of all kinds… fast food foam detritus.

    You can walk down most tributary streams that flow into the Potomac (most all rivers) to see where some of this stuff comes from.

    Every time you see this stuff on a parking lot.. it will often end up in the storm drain and then find it's way into the stream where it will sit in an eddy until a big storm event occurs – then it gets into the main River where it will sit until a major flood pushes it into the Bay an thence to the oceans.

    It's like an enormous continuous waste stream…

    but no.. you're not going to build a city.. with buildings…and power plants…and water/sewer systems and telephones and internet on an island of plastic waste.

    I love the far left … especially the ones with hippie genes …..

  31. James A. Bacon Avatar
    James A. Bacon

    TMT, a national sales tax (the Fair Tax) would have many beneficial consequences, too numerous to list here. I'd suggest visiting the Fair Tax website to see the claims made.

    As for the trading that occurs in Wall Street, I don't regard it as negatively as you do. The problem isn't the creation of arcane financial instruments, which help people manage different kinds of risk, it is the use of excess leverage, the lack of transparency and the moral hazard created by the expectation that government will bail out those who screw up badly enough. None of those problems will be addressed by a tax on transactions.

  32. Larry G Avatar

    The FAIR tax does away with FICA but it's not clear to me how the FAIR tax deals with entitlements like Medicare an SS.

    I'm not convinced that changing the way we raise revenue – deals with the entitlement issues that we face.

    Virtually no one on the deficit commission thinks we can "grow" our way out of the entitlement problem nor the higher and higher rates of people who will not have health insurance if we continue with the pre-Obama health care model.

  33. Groveton:

    Thank you. You picked up my points perfectly, and made some I omitted, but maybe hinted at inadvertently.

    The example was intended to bring that kind of thinking down to a local level, to see the practical problems. For a rough guess, I'd say a five million dollar plant would take about 30,000 acres of hay to make it work, and it would have to be alfalfa or alfalfa mix, notthe common hay that is usally grown here. (In this regard,Alberta has a big advantage due to climate, that we cannot overcome.)

    You might be able to constuct a minimum size cubing plant and get down to 5000 acres or so, but you ould be at a severe competitive disadvantage.

    In either case, you would have to invent or discover a bigger market than is supported locally.

    Yes, the IPO was sort of a joke, but if you had something that was hugely successful, you would pretty quick forget about the former hatred and angst against wall street.

    But whatever the level of activity, someone is going to want to won it, and therefore it falls under the category I listed above as "property"

  34. By sweeping everything into the ‘property’ category you completely obscure:

    The core meaning of personal property,

    ================================

    If it is my investment, it is my personal property.

    What is so obscure about that?

    I'm glad you bring up the importance of "common property" though.

    My argument all along is that we need better differentiation among more kinds of property and more kinds of property rights.

    It is nice to see that you are coming around to the need for more differentiation and less obscurity.

  35. Invest in Bobb’s of Rockville – a fresh, toothpaste that only includes ingredients that dentists recommend

    ================================

    And you don't think there is a risk in investig in Bobb's of Rockville?

    How would I do that? I imagine Bobb thinks he has intellectual and prior R&D proerty rights, and therefore a superior position of ownership. He might sell me a share of the business if I provide enough capital so that he can expand it, but it still boils down to owning shares in a productive enterprise, which might or might not fail.

    Investing in Bobbs's is no different than investing in P&G except for around 200 years of history and experience, and a few billion in capitalization.

  36. "The transformation of the role of both personal and common property in an agrarian society to their rational and sustainable roles in the an Urban society …."

    =================================

    As I understand this statement, transformation is a euphemism for stealing.

    It seems to me that the problem you have with my prior statements is that I say what I mean.

    I could probably raise the $5million dollars, that's not so hard and I have done it before. The hard part would be running the enterprise in such a way that they could get a fair return on their shares.

    The reason that would be the hard part is that it would be next to impossible to compete with other operations located in more favorable areas – even if they have to advertize and ship long distances.

    Hay cube farming is not, and will never be, a sustainable enterprise in this area. Even if there was the slightest chance the BOS would give me a permit for an activity tht is not some rich person's horse estate.

    And since I know that, I would have to be a fraud and a huckster to go raise the $5 million to start it.

  37. Larry G Avatar

    " I would have to be a fraud and a huckster to go raise the $5 million to start it. "

    geeze… for a minute there I thought you were talking about growing hay cubes for ethanol …..

  38. Government needs serious downsizing.

    Except for the part of government that is going to protect us from the wall street charlatans, right?

  39. Larry G Avatar

    " Government needs serious downsizing."

    so we start with NoVa and DOD?

  40. HSR may be the best ‘big’ stimulus infrastructure investment – as long as it is coupled with de-stimulating / un-subsidizing roads and air travel under 1,000 miles.

    ================================

    Some caveat.

    Shoot, HORSES could be the next big stimulus infrastructure with that caveat, let alone HSR's.

    HSR's are going to have to be plural, because of the more limited role you suggest. They will work in some areas and not others, but those aeas still have to be connected by SOMETHING.

    Like interstates and air travel.

  41. Someone said that if you took all the money in the world and distributed it evenly on Friday night, by sunday morning all the same rich people would have it again.

    If you took all the government and dissipated it on Friday night, by Monday morning all the same people would be lobbying for more protection and more control over others.

  42. hay cubes for ethanol …..

    =================================

    My calculations say you would be better off making the hay cubes smaller and burning them in a kind of pellet stove to run your car on steam.

    We still have engines that burn hay cubes: they are called horses.

  43. Good Lord, there is actually anothe lefty environmentalist who sees things my way.

    "That is not to say that we should stop 'trying' or that I advocate a counsel of 'hopelessness'. Rather, it is to use our rational faculties to try to work out what is actually achievable, and focus on that, rather than banging our heads repeatedly against the brick wall of actually existing culture and politics – both of which seem hellbent on plummetting over the Niagra of environmental disaster without even a slight course correction. We should fix our hope on what we can actually do – ameliorating the consequences and building a society for the future within the shell of the old – and focus our 'trying' on projects which are actually going to get us somewhere."

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