Many things in this world end up failing miserably. In the business arena, the capitalist system puts a mercifully quick end to thousands of seemingly good ideas that just don't catch on. Do you remember the Edsel? Or, maybe, the DeLorean? Or the restaurant down your block that barely lasted six months? But that's just capitalism. In other arenas, particularly the political, failed ventures can continue long after they have failed and after the failure has become obvious to everyone who looks. With vociferous backers and, generally, the coercive power of the state behind them, they can carry on and on, even though, in every real sense, they are over.
There are lots of things out there that are over, but pretend not to be. Perhaps some examples of this phenomenon may spring to your mind. Many spring to mine -- this will be a good subject for a continuing series here at MC. Let's get started today with a few easy examples.
Could anything be more over than Venezuela? 100,000% annual inflation! Or is it 1,000,000%? GDP shrinking by about 10% per year! Or is it 20%? (Nobody really knows, because they stopped publishing official statistics several years ago.) People fleeing across the borders to Colombia and Brazil by the hundreds of thousands!
And yet there was President/Dictator Nicolas Maduro out in the streets just a couple of months ago, "danc[ing] and s[i]ng[ing] under the Caribbean sun," as he assured his supporters that this next round of policy changes was really going to work:
"Venezuela needs big economic changes and we are going to do it ourselves," Maduro said at a rally in the bedroom community of Charallave, south of Caracas. . . . "I swear ... to you with my life that I will dedicate myself to making all the economic changes that Venezuela needs for rebirth," added Maduro. . . .
I've got bad news for you, Nick: It's over. Of course, you might still hang on for a few more years. Maybe even ten. You've got the army and police working for you, and you have complete control over the "election" machinery. But don't kid yourself: it's still over.
NYCHA is the New York City Housing Authority -- socialist-model (publicly-owned) subsidized housing for some 500,000 or so people in about 170,000 apartments in New York City. These "projects" are everywhere, and for decades you've been able to tell by looking at them that they were deteriorating badly. As recently as about 2005, officials at NYCHA were saying that it would take an infusion of about $6 billion to get the projects back into good condition. Then, upon Bill de Blasio becoming mayor in 2014, new numbers started to come out, one after the other. A report in early 2015 suddenly put the figure for "urgently needed" repairs at $17 billion; then early this year, it suddenly went to $25 billion; and finally, just last month, to $31.8 billion. Now we're at a level, just for the "urgently needed" repairs, that's pushing $200,000 per apartment unit -- when the median price of a single family home in the US is only $218,000. Could it possibly make sense to throw that much money at this disaster?
I've been saying for a long time that it would be impossible for NYCHA to survive for much longer in its current socialist model. But now these numbers are getting sufficiently ridiculous that others are beginning to notice. On Tuesday of this week, Crain's New York Business put out an unsigned editorial headlined "Knock the projects down and bring in the cranes." Excerpt:
To bring New York City Housing Authority properties to a state of good repair would cost $31.8 billion, according to an assessment released last month. That is 23 times greater than the agency's capital budget and more than 100 times the federal capital funding it gets in a year. The city won't allocate that kind of money, which is as much as it costs to operate the entire Police Department for five years. Albany has pledged $550 million, less than 0.2% [sic -- should be 2%] of what's needed.
[T]he housing authority's organization is unworkable. No politicians are accountable for the decrepit system, so they invest sporadically and insufficiently. Rent goes up when a household's income does, so about 200,000 tenants live there secretly (as trash-collection data show) while others work off the books. . . . Worst of all are the authority's social costs. Concentrating poverty in massive, insular, isolated developments has been a humanitarian disaster.
NYCHA, you are over! I particularly like the part about 200,000 people living below the radar in the NYCHA projects to evade income-based rent levels. If you ever wonder why socialism ("to each according to his needs") never seems to work, this is as good an illustration as any.
But don't get the idea that the bureaucrats and advocates are anywhere close to throwing in the towel. For example, here's a report from City Limits back in February on some advocates demanding an immediate $200 million from the City as a downpayment on the larger sums to come to fix NYCHA:
“We are glad to see that Mayor de Blasio has increased his original stated investment of $13 million to $200 million for updated boilers. However, given the gravity of the city’s heating crisis, a more profound investment is needed . . .," wrote Afua Atta-Mensah, executive director of the East Harlem-based organization Community Voices Heard.
Somewhere else $200 million might be real money; but for NYCHA, it is just drops in the ocean. At this point, no amount that can be remotely hoped for for NYCHA can possibly do anything more than marginally slow the collapse. Might NYCHA survive for another 10 years, or even more, in its current form? Possibly. But it doesn't matter. It is over.
Emissions reductions as a solution to climate change
Wait a minute, you say! Emissions reductions as a solution to climate change can't possibly be over, because I'm reading easily five things a day continuing to pound the drums for the elimination of fossil fuels. Yes, but those are just pieces that refuse to recognize the inevitable. Sorry, guys, but you can scream as loud as you want. This thing is over.
How do I know? Well, here are a few recent data points:
- The U.S. is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, and rescinding regulations designed to reduce emissions, including restrictions on coal power plants and mileage standards for automobiles.
- In Australia, just two days ago, the Prime Minister lost his job specifically because of a parliamentary revolt against his proposed National Energy Guarantee (i.e., mandatory emissions reductions), which were set to increase electricity prices and likely to cause blackouts.
- In Canada, proponents of carbon taxes (intended to reduce emissions) are in the process of getting voted out of office in multiple provinces by opponents.
- China, India, and other third world countries continue to build coal-fired power plants with breakneck speed. Some 1600 are in planning or construction stages, which in the aggregate will produce more emissions than the United States had at its peak.
- Even Germany, home of preening green virtue, has failed to reduce emissions for ten years running, and recently has resorted to building new coal-fired power plants to replace nuclear plants.
The New York Times, already purple with rage over the Trump administration's actions on the environmental front, reacted to the latest developments in Australia with still more anger and invective ("A Climate Reckoning for Australia," August 21):
Ideology and idiocy, of course, are not limited to climate policy or to any country. But it is especially dismaying when science-denying hacks and self-serving industries block action that is in the obvious and urgent interest of all humanity. That should not be happening in Australia.
Or consider this primal scream on August 21 from a writer named Jill Filipovic at CNN:
The [Trump administration ACE] proposal reflects a longstanding and fundamentally damaging idea in right-wing politics: That climate change is a matter of opinion, not fact, and that people who have no interest in the facts still deserve to hold political office. The deluded perspective is not confined to America's Republican Party. Conservatives in Australia have also latched on to the theory that climate change is debatable, and that efforts to fight it are a liberal conspiracy against big business.
Actually, Jill, what people want is to avoid paying five times the price for their electricity for no measurable effect on the climate. But anyway, it doesn't matter, because by this time it clear that nobody -- and I mean nobody -- is going along with the program. OK, maybe California and a few other U.S. states. They add up to about 1% of the world's population. Like I said, nobody. It's over. Time to face the facts.