How the government runs welfare programs

Fans of a powerful federal government have been applauding the Democrats takeover of two of our auto companies, and meet every criticism that we’re watching the socialization of private industry by responding, “well, the companies didn’t do such a hot job themselves”.

True enough, which is why many of us thought we should let them go belly up and see better companies replace them. Instead, we have Congress deciding where cars will be built, what cars will be built, how much they will cost (we taxpayers will be forced to subsidise the difference between cost of production and a low sales price), who should run the companies, how much they can spend on advertising, etc. And our government is just warming up – wait til plant closings are proposed for a powerful politician’s district.

None of that sways big government types, who can hardly wait for the same politicians to bring their cost-cutting skills to medical care. Well while they wait, the New York Times reports today on how the Stimulus funds are being spent, and you might want to read it before signing off on Obama’s health plan, if he ever reveals one.

As a result of a political compromise with Sun Belt lawmakers last decade, the enormous expansion of the weatherization program will invoke a rarely used formula that will devote 31 percent of the money, nearly double the old share of 16 percent, to help states in hot climates, like Florida, save on air-conditioning.

Many environmentalists say cutting electricity use for cooling is just as worthwhile as reducing the use of oil or gas for heating. But there are substantial questions about whether it is the most efficient way to save energy.

The nation spends twice as much on heating as on cooling, according to the federal Energy Information.

Repeated questions have been raised about the effectiveness of weatherization in hot-climate states. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, which evaluates the program for the Energy Department, released a study last year questioning the program’s results in Texas, which will get $327 million in weatherization money from the stimulus law. The laboratory found that insulating homes did not save a significant amount of money on cooling, a finding it said was consistent with previous studies.

Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a nonprofit group that favors weatherization, said the spending formula reflected the tension in balancing national goals with regional interests. “If you were doing it on a national basis,” Mr. Nadel said, “you’d do the most cost-effective jobs first, which would mean doing a lot in places like the Dakotas and Minnesota.”

It is this same political body that we are counting on to pay for reducing medical costs by wringing waste and inefficiency from the system. Can you say “rationing”? “Confiscatory taxes?” I thought you could.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “How the government runs welfare programs

  1. The part about politicians getting involved with the car companies shutting things down is already happening. That noted business expert Barney Frank has already convinced GM that it doesn’t make sense to shut down a parts warehouse in Massachusetts, and congress is having hearing on the dealership closings. And the UAW isn’t giving up squat in the bankruptcy. I think we’re going to see GM go from being a basket case to the walking dead within a year.

  2. Paco

    In the Orwellian world we now inhabit change is always “progressive” but that doesn’t have to mean there’s any progress.

  3. Wally

    Orwellian, yes, and frightening. It seems that the administration’s attitude toward the fiscal mess that is worsening, not improving, key areas of the economy is if this or that failed policy isn’t working, let’s double-down and and do twice as much of it. But policies that were sold to the public to help the housing market, for example, are resulting in rising interest rates and therefore risk killing the small amount of progress we have seen there.

    I think the main problem is that the administration is trying to do too much social engineering on the pretense of “fixing” the economy, and the all-too-predictable results are coming in much faster than anyone in the White House anticipated. And those results are not good for the country and will not be good at all for the administration.

    (ps – I am no Obama hater, but I cannot help but think he is leading the country off a cliff, so I have to call it the way I see it.)