21 September 2009

Blind Squirrel Finds a Nut: Friedman

In an op-ed piece Sunday, Thomas Friedman makes a great point regarding nuclear power. He points out that France gets “nearly 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power” and that the US is too chicken of nuclear waste and the ghost of Three-Mile Island to build new nuclear plants. He also points out that Yucca Mountain would be a “totally safe” place for nuclear waste storage. While Mr. Friedman misses the point of reprocessing waste into usable fuel – something the French do but is shunned in the US – his overall point about nuclear power is well made. The US ought to begin to allow private companies to build nuclear power plants without endless “environmental” roadblocks.

What Mr. Friedman doesn’t seem to recognize is that environmentalists are by in large responsible for killing nuclear power in the US. And they are powerful. While I’m no expert – far from it – but I’m guessing that by just challenging environmental impact studies, those who claim to care for the environment make the process of approval for a new nuclear plant so expensive and time consuming as to price it out of the market. But that, perhaps, is a matter for another time.

Mr. Friedman misses when he gets to the main point of his article – raising the federal gas tax by $1 a gallon. Mr. Friedman would allow 45% of revenue gained to pay down the deficit and another 45% to pay for – get this – health care. How a gas tax is linked to health care is beyond me, but the more egregious point would be allowing the federal government to take and spend more money on big programs which aren’t proven. So I offer an alternative to Mr. Friedman: take that second 45% and let the individual states keep it for the sole purpose of paying for unfunded federal mandates shoved down their collective throats.

If you noticed 10% missing from the above equation, Mr. Friedman has a plan for that as well. Can’t forget the proletariat. Mr. Friedman would give “10 cents to cushion the burden of such a tax on the poor and on those who need to drive long distances.” Stand by for the bureau of poor and long distance drivers (PLDD) to administer this 10% as a service to the great people of the United States of America. You can bet that the definitions of “poor” and “long distance” will be quite malleable and porous. Then again, perhaps 10% is a standard fee for federal imposition and bureaucracy creation (FBIC).

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