First of all, Ari Berman notes that Occupy Wherever has hit K Street in DC, home of the lobbyist:
- Occupy Wall Street hits K Street (The Nation)
The financial sector has spent more money on campaign contributions and lobbying than any other sector of the economy—$4.6 billion on lobbying since 1998, according to Open Secrets. This year, commercial banks and securities and investment firms have spent over $82 million on lobbying, employing over 1,000 lobbyists.
$4,600,000,000 since 1998? But that’s unpossible! Citizens United wasn’t decided until 2010, and I am assured that it was only this misguided ruling that opened the floodgates of corporate funding into the realm of politics. I am usually assured of this by the same people who persist in assuring me that the steady trickle of bank deregulation from the late ’70s to the middle of the last decade was ideological laissez-faire, free-market capitalism pure as the driven snow, and totally not an example of regulatory capture by the big investment banks that spend billions of dollars on lobbyists. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the leftists from the GOP propagandists.
In any case, I’m pleased to see some anger directed toward the interface of Big Business and Big Government.
Next, we have a few comments on city-owned parking (oh yes, that again). First, Matt Yglesias wonders why the City of Baltimore insists upon maintaining public car-parks:
- The folly of city-owned parking garages (The Atlantic)
Clearly, the ability to park one’s car is valuable. But that’s precisely why there are privately owned garages around to create competition. This is a service that can be provided at market prices for a profit. Alternatively, office developers or retail businesses may construct garages for their own use to encourage customers to show up. The availability of garages does create positive externalities for area businesses, but these can (and often are) re-internalized through deals to provide free or discount parking to people with validation from a nearby retailer. Parking is great—great enough to pay for.
But municipal provision of subsidized parking is another thing entirely. For one thing, it’s regressive. In almost every city, regular drivers are richer than transit users.
Regressive transfers. Hmm… like city-funded sports arenas taking property taxes and municipal debt and giving it to fantastically rich team owners and pro athletes? Oh hello Ilya Somin, what a great post on Yankee Stadium’s luxury parking garage!
- A Too Big To Fail parking lot at Yankee Stadium (The Volokh Conspiracy)
Manhattan Institute scholar Nicole Gelinas has an interesting column about a massive financially dubious parking lot at Yankee Stadium, which Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. claims requires a government bailout to prevent a local financial crisis
If the bailout does happen, it will add to the already record-breaking figure of over $1 billion in government subsidies for the construction of the new Yankee Stadium and related facilities.
It’s a pretty neat story, if you like reading stories about idiotic real-estate investments, strongly-implied but never-quite-stated government backing, and taxpayer-funded bailouts of optimistic investors.
Finally, here’s Warren (again) writing about crony corporatism in the environmental — oops, that needs scare-quotes: the “environmental” — movement:
- Green Cronyism (Coyote Blog)
The best example [of green cronyism] is probably corn ethanol. A combination of subsidies and mandates have pushed an enormous proportion of our food supply into gas tanks, for little or even negative environmental effect. Environmentalists and the Left turned against it, but for a few large corporations like ADM, the subsidies have become life and death, and they do anything they have to to get Congress to maintain them.
The best evidence that corn ethanol shifted from a green program to pure cronyism was the imposition of large import tariffs. The only possible purpose of these tariffs was to enrich farmers and a few manufacturers. After all, if one really cared any more about getting more ethanol in the fuel supply, one would welcome low cost imports.
Solyndra’s failure has been blamed on low cost panel manufacturing in China. Again, if we care just about energy, we should be thrilled about low-cost Chinese solar panels. If the Chinese government wants to somehow subsidize our consumption of solar panels, great!
So, let me get this square in my head. If we don’t invest in renewable fuel sources like ethanol, Peak Oil will slip into our homes and murder us in our sleep, and if we don’t invest in clean energy sources like solar, Climate Change will boil the oceans and blister the earth. Clearly those are bad things. But because blah blah startup costs blah blah blah risky investments blah, we need to commit enormous amounts of government funding to develop energy sources like ethanol and solar, and sometimes things go bad (as with Solyndra) but dammit that’s just a price we have to pay to not get murdered in our sleep or scalded to death by a vengeful planet.
But if some other government wants to pay that price on our behalf — HOLY SHIT MAN WE CAN’T TAKE THAT LYING DOWN, WE GOTTA DO SOMETHING ABOUT THOSE ASSHOLES.
If the PRC wants to keep building coal powerplants, that’s bad, because shitting kilotons of radioactive soot into the atmosphere is rather less than neighbourly. But if the PRC wants to massively subsidize solar panels, to the point that they become affordable to North American consumers… that’s also bad? What, because they’re not made in a union shop? I’m confused.