Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Jean Schmidt votes to support Gasoline for Americas Security Act

Project Logic reports that Jean Schmidt was one of two deciding votes for the Gasoline for Americas Security Act (H.R.3893) which targets incentives for gasoline refineries. Incentives that would not be needed if we just let the free market run its course with prudent enviromental regulations.

Even with this bill, Congresswoman Schmidt and her colleagues couldn't keep themselves from squeezing in some targeted pork:

SEC. 306. MINORITY EMPLOYMENT.

Section 385 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 is amended by adding at the end the following:`(d) Program- The Secretary of Energy is authorized and directed to establish a program to encourage minority students to study the earth sciences and enter the field of geology in order to qualify for employment in the oil, gas, and mineral industries. There are authorized to be appropriated for the program established under the preceding sentence $10,000,000.'.
What business is it of the federal government what anyone wants to study? One energy company recruiter at a college job fair can do more than any well intentioned act of Congress. If these companies are in real need of workers, they could sponsor scholarships.

Besides, what if the students in the government program go down this tract of study and in a few years energy companies are no longer hiring? Are they then within their rights to tell Congress that they were steared down a blind alley and ask for unemployment benefits? We tinker with the free market at our peril.

Which is why Section 402 of the bill is a misinformed and economically stupid attempt to address 'Price Gouging' (SEC. 402. GASOLINE PRICE GOUGING PROHIBITED). As economic professor Walter Williams eloquently explains, this does not deal with the law of unintended consequences:

...Suppose a family evacuating Houston chose to make a 146-mile drive to stay with relatives in Austin. Their car has a half a tank of gasoline -- plenty to get to Austin -- but just to be safe, they decide to fill up. What do you think they might do if they expected to pay $2.75 a gallon but when they got to the gas station they found the gas selling for $3.75? I bet they'd say, "The heck with that; we'll fill up in Austin." That's wonderful; they've voluntarily made gas available for someone running out of gas. In my book, for a motorist who's running on empty, gas available at $3.75 a gallon is preferable to gas being unavailable at $2.75 a gallon.

...Don't get me wrong. There's nothing pleasant about rising prices in the wake of a disaster. My argument is that not allowing the market mechanism to allocate suddenly scarce resources produces the inferior outcome.
We can no more change the laws of economics than we can change the law of gravity. Just because we might want gravity to be temporarily 'turned off' during a shuttle launch, and we pass a law to that effect, doesn't mean that gravity is going to listen to any of our pronouncements; likewise human behavior as manifested in market interactions and explained by basic economics.

Update: A comment by Joe on Project Logic accurately points out:

Porkopolis,I looked at the voting record and saw your two hero's, Flake and Pence, voting for this bill also. It looks to me that Schmidt was voting right along side your no-pork roll models.

First, thanks to Joe for pointing this out. Yet another example of the blogsphere at work.

Secondly, intellectual honesty requires that Flake and Pence, both Republican Study Committee members, and all 212 Republicans that voted aye should be called out on this vote as well; and Porkopolis is happy to do so.

The libertarian in Porkopolis would have voted against this bill with the provisions noted above.

Schmidt, Flake, Pence and any freedom loving Republican betrays the principle of limited government when they support provisions with targeted incentives for specific 'classes' of citizens and attempt to do away with basic principles of supply and demand.

If Joe wants to make the argument (by pointing out the correlation between Flake's, Pence's and Schimidt's vote) that Schmidt's vote was proper, that's something Porkopolis would consider if it also applies to all future votes as well. Schmidt could do worse than having a voting record similar to that of Flake and Pence (and 11 other Republicans) who both voted against the H.R 3673, the $51.8 billion, little-if-any strings attached, Katrina disaster relief bill.

In any event, only good could come from citizen 'journalist' (aka bloggers like Eric, Joe, Porkpolis, etc.) when they carefully scrutinize the votes of representatives, detaling the facts and making reasoned arguments to support or criticize their votes.

Update 2: This site claims that Reps. Wayne Gilcrest (R-MD), C.W. Bill Young (R-FL) and Jim Gerlach (R-PA) were the actual key Republican votes that allowed the bill to pass.

Update 3: This Washington Post article has more background on the politics behind the votes and the bill.

Update 4: This Palmbeach Post article has the charge by Congressman James McGovern, D-Mass, that the bill/votes were an attempt by Republicans to inoculate themselves from constituent claims of inaction against high gasoline prices.

3 Comments:

Anonymous E Kephas said...

"Porkopolis,
I looked at the voting record and saw your two hero's, Flake and Pence, voting for this bill also. It looks to me that Schmidt was voting right along side your no-pork roll models."

Someone left that commented on my blog's entry on this topic, and I wasn't sure if you saw it.

October 12, 2005 at 3:54 PM  
Anonymous Andy said...

something else to consider: Americans for Tax Reform supported the bill.

October 13, 2005 at 4:56 PM  
Blogger Porkopolis said...

Andy:

I sent an email to ATR requesting comments on the two provisions I posted about. Here is their full unedited response:

Mario,

Chris Butler forwarded your message along to me and I am glad to respond.
Both of these sections in HR 3893 are not items that ATR endorses and we
would hope that they are taken out in the Senate version or conference
report. The politics of the Congress can be quite mysterious. And based on
the bill's passage by the slimmest of margins (212-210), these provisions
could have been added to push the bill across the finish line.

Hope this answers your question.

Regards,

Scott A. LaGanga
Federal Affairs Manager
Americans for Tax Reform

October 14, 2005 at 9:21 PM  

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