Sticker Shock—The Taxing of America
April 14, 2010 by John Myers
We are being taxed into oblivion. No, income taxes have not risen for most of us, at least not yet. Yet slowly and surely the tax vice is closing in. It is all part and parcel of President Obama’s run and gun break towards socialism.
Of course you won’t find newsmakers in agreement with your humble reporter, at least not within the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal or on the front page of The New York Times. Not because they are corrupt or leftists. Rather because Obama has done too good a job in obscuring the truth about the American economy and his own ambitions.
Take the energy situation. No sooner had the White House won modest acclaim for offshore drilling than they did an about-face and announced their intention to tighten their grip on one of the few remaining bastions of freedom—the open road.
This month the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set new regulations covering vehicle efficiency. The new rule requires that United States cars and light trucks meet an average fuel-economy standard of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.
Dying To Be Green
Administration officials say manufacturers can meet the targets mostly with existing technology and without drastically altering consumers’ choices of vehicles.
There is just one catch; to meet the EPA’s new standard average, new-vehicle prices will rise by an additional $1,100 between now and 2016. It is just further evidence that going green is neither cheap nor easy. In fact it turns out to be a killer.
A report produced last summer by the Obama administration’s own National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) underscored that while clap-trap cars get better gas mileage, occupants are more likely to die in accidents. The fatality rate in small cars is twice that of larger cars. By NHTSA’s cold calculations an additional 493 Americans will die each year. It seems that the big wigs in Washington can live with this since everything from the presidential limousine to cabinet staff cars are going to remain big and, oh yes, gasoline powered. It’s a policy of: “Save a tree, kill a driver.”
The EPA’s mandate is fraught with other problems. Detroit is hanging on by the skin of its teeth in large part thanks to the billions of dollars in federal bailouts ($50 billion to General Motors alone). Despite all that help, membership in the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) has hit a post-World War II low. Last week it was reported that UAW had 355,191 members at the end of 2009. That was down 18 percent from the year before and leaves the union with less than a quarter of the membership it had in 1979.
You would think with the recession still ongoing America could ill afford to make cars more expensive. Then again, the Federal government probably has contingency plans for another stimulus package, one that will give Washington even a greater say over the economy.
Stall Baby Stall
Another industry not yet out of the woods is petroleum. Obama’s offshore oil drilling proposal has not spurred North American oilmen to roll out the oil rigs. Executives in the industry I have talked to are sceptical of a plan that is rife with challenges and chockfull of regulatory hoops.
Consider the Atlantic Coast. A previously planned lease sale off the Virginia coast will go forward, but not until 2012 and only then if it passes review under the National Environmental Policy Act. Furthermore, public meetings will be held on all affected coastal areas this summer to set up Environmental Impact Studies. They will take at least a year. If that goes well then there will be a three month public comment period. Then more analyses and finally—yes finally—an impact statement sent to the Secretary of the Interior. And if the Greens don’t like what the secretary has to say they can go to court. As you can see, the red tape is certain to stretch further than the wells themselves.
Meanwhile, drilling along the ripe west coast and the plum parts of Alaska—regions that Congress approved in 2008—are now off limits.
If you think that petroleum’s importance will soon be diminished by Obama’s Green Revolution, a story out of Texas should give you pause.
According to the April 5 issue of Texas Watchdog, “If the people of Bedford, Texas, are still borrowing whatever they are calling books in 72 years, they may find themselves in the public library on the very day the energy saved by the library’s planned solar power system finally equals the cost to build it.”
I don’t know about you, but I will only be 124 when solar power like that at the Bedford Library starts paying dividends. Things are even better for Austin Community College. The college, with the help of Federal stimulus dollars, can equip two of its campuses with solar energy. The savings commence in 2062!
So far 32 projects in Texas have been given stimulus dollars by the State Energy Conservation Office. They are 80 percent paid for by taxpayers. Texas alone has locked in $290 million Federal tax dollars for green energy programs via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
So far the Federal government has set aside $17 billion for the Department of Energy to waste money on things like solar power in Texas. Instead of lending money for things that might pay off during the next ice age the government should be selling offshore oil leases.
Rising Interest Rates Will Tax Everyone
Unfortunately we have bigger immediate problems than Washington’s lamebrain economic policies. The yield on 10-year Treasuries has just climbed above 4 percent. That is the highest rate in nearly a year. Rising Treasury yields portend to rising interest rates across the board. Rates will continue to climb as Treasury auctions are met with dwindling bids by investors near and far.
Little wonder the U.S. dollar continues to weaken (the Canadian Loonie is now trading above par) and the flood of new Treasury debt continues to swell. Last week alone the Treasury sold $82 billion (yes billion) in notes and bonds. At that pace the Treasury will add another $4 trillion to America’s already staggering $12.8 trillion debt by next spring.
The Democrats mismanagement of the economy on everything from industry to energy is certain to push interest rates higher—much, much higher.
Action To Take: Sell all debt instruments such as bonds and anything longer than a three-month Treasury bill. Use the funds to buy physical gold in the form of non-numismatic 1-ounce coins. Also, if you have to carry debt, say for a mortgage, lock in your interest rate. It is essential you rid you and your family of any variable interest rate loans.
Yours for real wealth and good health,
Myers’ Energy and Gold Report