Obama's Auto Plan Neither New Nor Bold

Cross-posted at Democratic Courage blog.

Barack Obama got huge coverageyesterday for "standing up" to the auto industry by calling on them to accept tighter fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks - and doing it in their own backyard in Detroit. Although it's encouraging anytime a candidate calls for increasing fuel economy, we have to ask:  is Obama's proposal really anything to coo about?

The core of Obama's plan is raising fuel efficiency standards to 40 miles per gallon by 2022 - and paying off American auto companies for doing this by funneling $3 billion in taxpayer subsidies to the big auto companies in exchange, primarily to alleviate their high health care costs.

Two problems: first, Obama's plan doesn't move anywhere near fast enough to address the twin challenges of global climate deterioration and reliance on oil. His plan is about the same as that proposed by the Bush administration (although the administration's plan includes huge loopholes that Obama's doesn't). The 2022 deadline is at least ten years behind what is technically feasible and at least that many years behind what is climatologically essential. The latest international climate report concludes that urgent action is needed to avoid mass extinction, melting ice caps, famine and disease. "We don't have the luxury of time," said Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  What's more, research by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that currently available technology could raise fuel efficiency standards to 40 miles per gallon by 2012, while still producing net savings for consumers.

Indeed, that savings points to the second gap in Obama's plan: he focuses on the costs to the auto companies without focusing on the costs of their inaction to the consumer: according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, raising fuel efficiency standards to 40 miles per gallon would save each driver between $3500 and $6500 over the life of the vehicle - way more than the $500-$2000 a car might cost with improved technology. If gas prices continue at their current high levels, savings would be even greater, especially for farmers, Westerners, and people who use their vehicles for business - or anyone else who drives long distances. (In fairness, Obama did propose to help consumers with some tax incentives for efficient vehicles).  

A third gap is Obama's continuing obsession with promoting ethanol as a substitute for gasoline. Not only are ethanol's cost savings non-existent, it's dubious that ethanol -cellulosic or otherwise - has any real environmental benefit. A recent  study in the Environmental Science and Technology journal found that ethanol produces more deadly pollutants than regular old dirty gasoline.  And it's benefits for the climate are tiny,  and maybe non-existent. Finally, it could have devastating impact on Nature by causing farmers to expand agriculture into formerly pristine wilderness, both here in America and in the world's diminishing tropical forests (which also serve as the planet's lungs).

Worst of all, parts of Obama's approach are proven failures. Bill Clinton and Al Gore tried it in the 1990's with their Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. The program gave the auto companies more than $1 billion to spend on research into fuel efficient cars - but after eight years, fuel efficiency had actually declined slightly, causing a bipartisan effort in the House of Representatives to slash funding for the program to succeed (though funding was later restored in negotiations with the White House and the Senate). The Bush administration then recycled the subsidies-for-efficiency plan with its Freedom Car proposal to funnel another $1 billion in taxpayer subsidies to the auto companies to create a more efficient car, but this program had similar results: more money in auto execs pockets, no improvements in efficiency.

Should U.S. taxpayers should really have to pick up the bill for the auto industry's inefficient health care schemes?" As Malcolm Gladwell discussed in a brilliant August 28, 2006 New Yorker piece, the auto companies are mainly to blame for their high health care costs: they chose a single company-by-company health insurance package instead of economy-wide health care because they were afraid that collective health care - though it might be more efficient - would put too much power into the hands of workers.  

Nevertheless, Obama may be justified in trying to bribe the auto companies - after all, their opposition (along with the United Auto Workers' union) has been the main factor preventing Congress from passing significantly higher fuel efficiency standards, despite overwhelming public support. But it's doubtful that it will work. All Obama got from the automakers for his trouble was criticism. "We think it should be based on objective criteria and not politically attractive numbers," Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers Vice President Gloria Berquist told The Chicago Tribune. "It's not attainable."

All in all, Obama's "new" proposals is a great example of what's likely to happen with all his other attempts to forge some kind of new center. He'll do lots of reaching out, propose some grand bargains, and find that Republicans and corporations throw them back in his face - all he will have achieved is to move the starting point for negotiations closer to their direction, which opens a broader question: do we want such a terrible negotiator as president?

Meanwhile, both Hillary Clinton and especially John Edwards have supported more aggressive means to  reduce global warming and our dangerous reliance on oil. Edwards was on record in favor of 40 mpg standards during his 2003 campaign and has proposed achieving 40 mpg by 2016 (although  his plan is more ambitious than Obama's, it includes many of the same weaknesses like support for ethanol and taxpayer subsidies for the auto industry) ; Clinton has generally supported higher fuel efficiency standards as well (usually without the subsidies Obama is asking to go along with them). If past is prologue, the auto industry will fight any and all of these proposals no matter how many sops they're offered until the very last minute. It's what they did with seatbelts, airbags, and catalytic converters.

If we're to truly tackle these problems, we're going to need someone who can organize and beat the auto companies not repeat the failures of coddling them.

Tags: auto industry, Barack Obama, Bush, CAFE, Climate, Environment, Ethanol, forests, fuel efficiency, Global Warming, Hillary Clinton, john edwardss, lobbying, obama, ucs (all tags)

Comments

34 Comments

You're assuming that it is either

stick or carrot. Why not both? And what makes you think Obama would stop with the carrot?

It might just as well be "accept this deal or I will legislate it anyhow".

But you are right that we need to be bold on reduction of carbon emission. I see this as a start, not a final step.

by Populism2008 2007-05-08 02:09PM | 0 recs
Re: You're assuming that it is either

I think a lot of people are afraid the economy will fall apart.  Auto industry's make up 10% of America's jobs?  Some statistic like that.  It is slow for two reasons.  

1.  To keep Americans confident.  If they are scared, they won't buy things.  If they don't buy things, the economy slows down.  If they think the car companies are imploding, they won't buy stuff.  

2.  Since car manufactoring is a big industry in America, the situation needs a casual transition.  If it's bumpy, that's a lot of financial stress on people who would be losing jobs.  That would also cut down private sector spending and hurt the economy.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-08 02:42PM | 0 recs
Re: You're assuming that it is either

Sorry for the double post.  Obama is playing it safe.  It'd be bad to have the first black president and then have the economy breakdown right afterwards.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-08 02:45PM | 0 recs
Re: You're assuming that it is either

JTM,

Why are you accepting this whole jobs versus the environment thing as an underlying justification?   The car companies that are doing well saw what was coming and got in to new technology early.   Detroit didn't and now they are having trouble selling cars.  

Yes, they have some higher costs, but most analysts say the core problem is they have a tough line to sell.

The companies that were better on the environment are doing better in business.  

If the caution / fear for the industry rationale you suggest is the rationale for Obama that is a very bad sign.

by Orlando 2007-05-08 05:09PM | 0 recs
Re: You're assuming that it is either

I'm saying how far do you push car companies before they start laying people off for progress?  How many requirements?  What kind of standards?  

It'd be bad to have the first black president go into office and have people getting fired and the economy turn to __ right away.  That's what I'm getting at.  How much you can shove a car company at once?  When would America vote for the next black president?  50 years later?  100 years later?  It's a consequence to think about.  One president is seen as bad and it will rub off on them all.  

I think everyone deserves an equal chance.  In elections that will never happen because we have people voting.  Having it as close as equal as we can is the best we can do.  So I would avoid such consequences that put a handicap on black people (further than there is already) running for president, or any office for that matter.  It would damn some of the progress that has been made.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-08 05:34PM | 0 recs
Re: You're assuming that it is either

What you're basically saying is that we need to accept a less bold candidate and president (if it came to that) because he's black. That's basically what upper left has to say in his diary too. That Obama is black and if he took the same bold positions that Edwards has then he'd scare the hell out of people so we have to accept less boldness and more talk of unity and willingness to compromise and be bi-partisan.

The arguement seems racist to me and I'm not willing to accept less for any reason.

by Quinton 2007-05-09 06:19AM | 0 recs
Re: You're assuming that it is either

What I am saying is that your whole premise of a trade off on this is wrong.   You can help bail out GM if you want.  Do it without strings if you think that helps.  

But car companies don't need help to compete and prosper with higher mileage standards.   GMs problems relate more to having a bad marketing strategy and producing idiot-mobiles like the hummer.   Seems like a good idea because the per car profit margin is higher than a small car, but any long term view tells you it is a foolish venture.

Plus, if you really wanted to help detroit, do something about health care.  Do it for all of America.  Let every business benefit from reduced costs of HC that comes with a universal approach.  They are already covering everyone, just at too high prices.

This policy is just weak and based on DC politics.

Trying to salvage credibility for it by applying some "Half loaf" rationale just has nothing to do with it.  

The question is not about whether to accept or propose any portion of a loaf, it is whether the policy actually makes sense even as a framework for anything; solving global warming, saving car companies or fixing health care.

What the diarist is arguing is that it is the wrong policy approach, and the comments in defense of the policy are based on some half loaf strategy question.  

We can do better in our analysis here and with our candidates.

by Orlando 2007-05-09 08:34AM | 0 recs
Re: You're assuming that it is either

Do you really think it would be bad to implement Obama's plan?  Really?

Fuel efficiency has been stuck in the 20s for far, far too long, and the light trucks exemption is one of the single most indefensible policies we've got.  Obama wants to fix it.  It's not the most transformative idea.  It's not a complete solution to the problem.  But it's certainly better than nothing, and after a long, long time of nothing happening at all, wouldn't it be nice to see even some change?

Ultimately, there's a difference between saying "this policy idea needs to be fleshed out, made better" and "this policy [doesn't] actually makes sense even as a framework for anything."  The first is true; I have a hard time believing the second is.

by Baldrick 2007-05-09 08:49AM | 0 recs
Re: You're assuming that it is either

His position before this plan was to increase cafe to 40 MPG.  

So, adding these components to the plan is actually bad because the $7b in revenue from carbon auctions would be better spent not on coal to liquid, not on hyrbid technology, and not on health care.

So yes.  I do think this is watering down and undermining what is widely held to be a very doable and position on CAFE  - shared by most of the candidates and the vast majority of the American people.

by Orlando 2007-05-09 09:06AM | 0 recs
Re: You're assuming that it is either

PLus, Baldrick, I don't think the standard for an inspirational democratic leader should be that there is any net gain from where we are now.

Any R and any D who wins the Presidency in 2008 will be far beyond where the Bush administration has been.  Climate politics has taken a big leap forward just in the last 6 months.  It will take another one  in January 2009.

I think the Obama plan was crafted by DC folks who are living under the paradigm of the last 8 years and not what needs to be accomplished in the next 10.

by Orlando 2007-05-09 09:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Auto Plan Neither New Nor Bold

representative 'democracy' got you into this mess, for reasons that make it unlikely to get you out before disastrous environmental change.

choosing the 'best' politician may be useful, or it may just be a coat of paint on a sinking ship. in the long run, mike gravel's 'direct democracy initiative' seems more likely to keep america, and the world, out of trouble.

it may also be the best short term way to ensure an 'in the long run'..

by al loomis 2007-05-08 03:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Auto Plan Neither New Nor Bold

I found it had shades of FDR in it.

by vwcat 2007-05-08 05:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Auto Plan Neither New Nor Bold

Somehow that doesn't surprise me.

by clarkent 2007-05-09 03:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Auto Plan Neither New Nor Bold

It certainly got him some good press.  And I suspected he was recycling previous plans.  I think this is where Edwards has a leg up due to his experience with the Kerry campaign.  John Kerry has been on top of environmental issues for a long time, longer than Obama has even been in politics I am sure.  Yet another area where he has a bit of catching up to do.

by NYFM 2007-05-09 06:29AM | 0 recs
A better way

Obama's plan is way off mark.

1) The mpg increase he's seeking is too low and the time period he's seeking to do it is too long. We can get to 40 mpg today with existing technology, let's not wait until 2020 to mandate it.

2) Increasingly I've been reading things that are turning me against ethanol usage at all. Amount of fossil energy used to create ethanol is about the same as the amount contained in the ethanol for no net gain; it's still polluting; using corn in the US to create ethanol is resulting in higher prices for a basic foodstock for people (it's in just about everything, which is a whole other issue) and cattle and it's causing a much bigger problem with food price hikes in mexico; brazil is clearing masses of rainforest in order to grow more sugar cane to create their ethanol; a large amount of water is used in the growth process and water is going to become less available if we experience even the minor predicted effects from climate change.

3)The worst part is that Obama wants to give up a major point of leverage with the auto manufacturers without getting anything much in return. Their health care costs are large the figure commonly quoted for GM is something along the lines of $2,200 of each car's ticket price is for health care. The US companies do business in other countries such as Canada and they know that their costs are a lot lower there as there is universal health care paid for by the government. They also know that they are competing against companies from countries where there is also universal health care and so those companies are at a structural advantage and the US companies are at a structural disadvantage. They know that universal health care in the US would be a huge boon to their business. We have to get them to join with us in demanding we enact universal health care preferably something that allows movement towards a single-payer plan (like Edwards' plan). Auto makers become more competitive, we pick up a large industry to fight on our side of the issue. Having google on our side for net neutrality sure hasn't hurt.

We're going to be mandating a higher mpg (and probably setting a carbon cap and/or enacting a carbon tax) anyway so if they want the lucrative R&D grants to meet those standards then they are going to have to also back us on universal health care, which ought be a no brainer for them as it would be a big win for them too.

Interesting that auto makers need to be dragged kicking and screaming into meeting better mileage standards as doing so will enable them to re-enter many large markets that they currently cannot sell many of their models in due to not meeting current standards in Europe and in the relatively near future even China.

Obama just wants to fiddle around the edges and not upset anyone. We need fundamental, transformational change. We need much higher fuel standards, serious questioning of whether ethanol is a net positive no matter what it's made from. If it's not then we need a leader willing to take on the oil companies and back plugin fully electric cars - not one that wants to use liquid coal, which is not at all clean. Which the oil companies will fight against tooth and nail as they won't back and fuel source that doesn't have to be refined and pumped (think how many hundreds of thousands of service stations they have) and by the auto makers as the money they make on repairs and parts is drastically reduced once we leave behind the woefully inefficient combustion engine and move to a battery powered car with drastically fewer moving parts.

by Quinton 2007-05-09 06:49AM | 0 recs
Re: A better way

"1) The mpg increase he's seeking is too low and the time period he's seeking to do it is too long. We can get to 40 mpg today with existing technology, let's not wait until 2020 to mandate it."

People keep saying this.  I'd like to see some evidence.  Especially some evidence that accounts for the fact that automakers have cycles of development that stretch a number of years into the future.  The 2008 model doesn't just emerge from thin air - it's planned and built and designed over a 3-5 year period.  

Proving that a particular car could be made more efficient right now is very different than proving that a huge industry could drastically alter its production techniques and design that quickly.

Also, while I agree that ethanol is not the answer and focusing energy on it is a waste, I think you should re-check, or at least provide some cites for the "things" you've been reading for your claims, as I'm skeptical about a number of them.  For example, while ethanol does not have a substantial net-energy gain, it is certainly higher than the zero you claim.  Pimentel is pretty much the only person who makes that claim and he has been thoroughly debunked.

Plus, the idea that using corn for ethanol is the cause of any of our global food problems is almost certainly wrong.  The excessive use of things like corn syrup is a problem, not a good thing.  Moreover, high food prices for the developing world are on balance far more likely to be a positive than a negative.  Yes, it makes food more expensive, but it also means that the huge percentage of folks that are subsistence farmers there have the opportunity to sell their extra crops in order to provide the hard currency which can send kids to school, get them clean water, get access to small amounts of health care, etc.  More importantly, the dumping of US agricultural goods on these countries does a lot to drown out the domestic market.  This has two effects: first, it steals the limited profits from those who would attempt to sell their products; second, it subjects people in extremely local economies to the vagaries of the international food markets.  Import substitution is a very serious problem and US food dumping is one of the biggest causes.

Finally, Brazil certainly is tearing down parts of their rain forests, but ethanol isn't the cause of that.  Or, at least, it is only one cause among many.  Soybean production, for example, requires a huge percentage of Brazil's land.  Cattle as well.  The real problem is that Brazil sees their place as the new purveyor of mass-produced industrial agriculture and are willing to destroy the Amazon to do it.  If we want to fix the problem, we have to deal with that, not fight the particular crops. If we ended all sugar-ethanol production in Brazil, all the land would quickly be used for something else.

I will heartily agree that fuel efficiency is pretty weak sauce.  As a supplemental measure for a broader plan it can be helpful, but the idea that this is a solution in itself is pretty silly.  It is several steps removed from actual reduction in fossil fuel use.  Regulations on automakers to produce cars that are more efficient doesn't necessarily do anything to reduce actual consumption.  If we really want to reduce gasoline use, we probably have to consider a significant gas tax hike or even something as radical as Marty Feldstein's oil conservation vouchers.  Giving people more efficient cars without creating a price signal to make them actually consume less gas will only be partially effective at best.

Final thought, if you haven't checked out feebates, I'd encourage it.  Basic idea: provide rebates for people who purchase efficient cars.  Pay for the rebates by exacting fees from those who purchase less efficient ones.  It has a number of advantages over hard efficiency caps.  It doesn't impose any requirement on a manufacturer so it gives them a little more freedom to transition according to their needs.  However, it rewards innovation more, since those companies who can produce efficient cars will have people flocking to them.  It's revenue-neutral.  And finally, it creates a far more effective market signal because it influences consumer choice rather than industrial production.  A number of states already have limited versions of feebates, but I would absolutely love to see a major candidate bring this up.  In doing a lot of research about fossil fuel consumption over the years, it may be the best simple-yet-efficient solution I've come across.

by Baldrick 2007-05-09 08:44AM | 0 recs
Re: A better way


"1) The mpg increase he's seeking is too low and the time period he's seeking to do it is too long. We can get to 40 mpg today with existing technology, let's not wait until 2020 to mandate it."

People keep saying this.  I'd like to see some evidence.  Especially some evidence that accounts for the fact that automakers have cycles of development that stretch a number of years into the future.  The 2008 model doesn't just emerge from thin air - it's planned and built and designed over a 3-5 year period.

Proving that a particular car could be made more efficient right now is very different than proving that a huge industry could drastically alter its production techniques and design that quickly.

Hybrids already get better than 40 mpg so I don't think the availability or viability of current technology is in question. If the hybrids where upgraded to plugins then they're be even larger gains in effiecency. Fair point as to the development cycle. Even so though:

2007 + 3 years = 2010
and
2007 + 5 years = 2012

Which puts us at somewhere between 8 and 10 years earlier than the 2020 deadline Obama is currently pushing to reach 40 mpg by. Not exactly pushing the envelope is he.  


Also, while I agree that ethanol is not the answer and focusing energy on it is a waste, I think you should re-check, or at least provide some cites for the "things" you've been reading for your claims, as I'm skeptical about a number of them.  For example, while ethanol does not have a substantial net-energy gain, it is certainly higher than the zero you claim.  Pimentel is pretty much the only person who makes that claim and he has been thoroughly debunked.

I don't have any cites handy, this is from memory of recent readings. As I understand it using corn to produce ethanol results in not much more energy coming out than going in. I recall reading an excellently cited diary that discussed the alturnative ways to produce ethanol using various existing technologies/methods that would yield a much better ratio, but they aren't widely used at this point. IIRC using the technologies and methods discussed resulted in a ratio of up to 7:1 and if you used a better base fuel to convert from such as sugar cane the benefits were even greater. Despite this the other issues still exist (need to distribute the fuel for pumping, water shortages, causing spikes in food for people and lifestock) and I think moving to fully electric plug-in cars and working to reduce pollution emmissons at the much fewer power plants (compared to the many millions of car tailpipes) and increase energy efficiency in all things drawing off the grid (lighting, cooling, heating, electrical appliances that are extremely wasteful even in standby mode) and moving from fossil fuels to clean renewable system components involving wind, solar, tidal, etc. is a better long-term plan.

I'd even be willing to look at using nuclear as the new plants being built elsewhere in the world seem to be much safer and IIRC there's advancements in technology to continue using the fuel down to the point where there isn't much left in the way of waste to dispose of or material to secure lest it end up in a bomb.


Plus, the idea that using corn for ethanol is the cause of any of our global food problems is almost certainly wrong.  The excessive use of things like corn syrup is a problem, not a good thing.  Moreover, high food prices for the developing world are on balance far more likely to be a positive than a negative.  Yes, it makes food more expensive, but it also means that the huge percentage of folks that are subsistence farmers there have the opportunity to sell their extra crops in order to provide the hard currency which can send kids to school, get them clean water, get access to small amounts of health care, etc.  More importantly, the dumping of US agricultural goods on these countries does a lot to drown out the domestic market.  This has two effects: first, it steals the limited profits from those who would attempt to sell their products; second, it subjects people in extremely local economies to the vagaries of the international food markets.  Import substitution is a very serious problem and US food dumping is one of the biggest causes.

I don't think it's the cause, but it's a growing factor. Prices per bushel of corn in the US have increased signifigantly and already lifestock owners are complaining about the increased costs and there can't help but be other ramifications as corn is in a vast amount of our foodstuffs - a health issue all of it's own. Agree that it's not as simple as I stated it. Benefits to foreign subsistence (and even those farming for profit) could result just as you say. Also agree that dumping of US (and EU for that matter as their agricultural subsudies are comparable to ours) agricultural goods on developing countries causes a great deal many ills.


Finally, Brazil certainly is tearing down parts of their rain forests, but ethanol isn't the cause of that.  Or, at least, it is only one cause among many.  Soybean production, for example, requires a huge percentage of Brazil's land.  Cattle as well.  The real problem is that Brazil sees their place as the new purveyor of mass-produced industrial agriculture and are willing to destroy the Amazon to do it.  If we want to fix the problem, we have to deal with that, not fight the particular crops. If we ended all sugar-ethanol production in Brazil, all the land would quickly be used for something else.

Not the only cause, but a sizeable and growing cause. Agree with you on the rest too.


Final thought, if you haven't checked out feebates, I'd encourage it.  Basic idea: provide rebates for people who purchase efficient cars.  Pay for the rebates by exacting fees from those who purchase less efficient ones.  It has a number of advantages over hard efficiency caps.  It doesn't impose any requirement on a manufacturer so it gives them a little more freedom to transition according to their needs.  However, it rewards innovation more, since those companies who can produce efficient cars will have people flocking to them.  It's revenue-neutral.  And finally, it creates a far more effective market signal because it influences consumer choice rather than industrial production.  A number of states already have limited versions of feebates, but I would absolutely love to see a major candidate bring this up.  In doing a lot of research about fossil fuel consumption over the years, it may be the best simple-yet-efficient solution I've come across.

I like the feebate concept and think it could be combined with mandating higher cafe standards/alturnative fuel vechicles. I think the feebates would further encourage auto makers to produce more fuel efficient/alturnative fuel vechicles by helping to build demand for them amongst consumers thus creating a larger market.

by Quinton 2007-05-10 03:36AM | 0 recs
Re: A better way

Just wanted to say that this is the best part about MyDD.  Veering a little off topic, broadening the scope, finding some places to disagree and some commonalities.

On that note, let me abandon what we've been talking about and take it a little further out there.  For people who are concerned about fossil fuel being used on corn, you really ought to check out some literature on vegetarianism.  The amount of energy required for livestock dwarfs that needed for vegetables.  Meat is profoundly inefficient.

I don't support any kind of regulation on food consumption, because as much as vegetarianism is a moral thing for me, I see it as something that must be a personal decision.  But it does strike me that, for the people interested in imposing serious and severe cuts in energy use even if it imposes some major costs in terms of people's day-to-day lives (not to mention those who are against distorting trade practices), it might be something worth considering.

Basically, it's curious what we as a society decide can and can't be sacrificed in the name of healing our destructive practices.  

I'm curious what folks (vegetarians and meat-eaters alike) think about that.

by Baldrick 2007-05-10 08:20AM | 0 recs
Re: A better way

It's funny you mention the inefficienes of meat. I was talking to a friend of mine about that a few days ago. It seems that many more pounds of vegetation are needed to produce a pound of beef or chicken (though chicken takes less per pound so is less wasteful) for people to eat compared how much vegetation a person would have to eat to get their protein from that rather than meat.

The inefficiency of the vegetation -> lifestock -> people cycle is woefully large. If we all ate more vegetables and less meat we'd have to grow a lot less and there'd be a lot less farming and livestock related pollution.

Very glad you brought this up. I'm a big meat eater by the way. Not so often red meat, but I do eat chicken probably at least four or five times a week as part of dinner.

by Quinton 2007-05-11 01:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Auto Plan Neither New Nor Bold

Another person on the left fringe of the Dem party criticizes Obama because he is not going to propose immediate world peace, ecological transformation, and socialist utopia.  What a surprise.

Come on people, it has been over twenty years since anyone has been able to unlock the political gordian knot around mileage standards.  Criticizing Obama because he is proposing three-quarters of a loaf rather than a whole loaf, is more of the same simplistic, all-or-nothing thinking that has been marginalizing the left for a generation.

by upper left 2007-05-09 06:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Auto Plan Neither New Nor Bold

And you seem stuck in the period when we were losing.  We are winning now.

by jallen 2007-05-09 06:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Auto Plan Neither New Nor Bold

Jallen,

You don't seem to acknowledge that progressives are not a majority.  No more than twenty percent are even willing to self-identify as liberal.  We need to be careful to not over-reach.  The Repubs have discreditied themselves, but that does not mean that  a mojority has suddenly had a conversion experience and come to the left side.  

by upper left 2007-05-09 07:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Auto Plan Neither New Nor Bold

No, but they're moving in that direction.  We don't need the kid-gloves.  We need to push them.  The people want action on this, and we need to provide it.

by jallen 2007-05-09 07:08AM | 0 recs
UL is pointing out...

...that circular firing squads (a la this diary and many comments) are one reason that we have been losing.

When Obama proposes a timetable for Iraq for next year, then legislates it through the Senate - he is pro-war

When Obama becomes a leader in demanding (to their face) that Detroit becomes serious about increasing mileage standards - he is a boring old fart.

When Obama smacksdown the MSM - its because the MSM is against Edwards and Obama is a corporate whore.

When he keeps rising in the polls - people won't vote for him because he's black.

That logic will kill us. And it makes it no fun for those of us working to create the positive changes in regards to the war, the environment, or the media which Senator Obama is championing.

by faithfull 2007-05-09 07:34AM | 0 recs
Re: UL is pointing out...

I haven't said any of that bullshit, and you're misportraying the situation.

by jallen 2007-05-09 07:42AM | 0 recs
This diary...

...is specifically about this...

"When Obama becomes a leader in demanding (to their face) that Detroit becomes serious about increasing mileage standards - he is a boring old fart."

And we have seen mis-representations of Obama of this same type from supporters of other candidates throughout the primary season ALREADY! Over such non-issues. And the same host of folks recommend any and all bullshit Obama hit diaries. Its sad for MyDD, and I think its sad for the progressive movement.

by faithfull 2007-05-09 09:34AM | 0 recs
If the shoe fits...
The Era of Procrastination, of Half-Measures, of Soothing and Baffling Expedients, of Delays, is Coming to its Close.
In its place, we are entering a Period of Consequences.

40mpg in 15 years is a half-measure.  We need to set the pie higher, to quote Mr. President, if we want to avoid disastrous consequences.
by jallen 2007-05-09 10:01AM | 0 recs
Troll-rated for caring

Great.

by faithfull 2007-05-09 09:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Auto Plan Neither New Nor Bold

People don't self-identify in larger numbers because few people talk about what being a liberal is nowdays and the term has been so throughly demonized so people call themselves moderates instead.

The same polls show people support the liberal positions by large numbers. It doesn't matter that they call themselves moderates.

by Quinton 2007-05-09 07:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Auto Plan Neither New Nor Bold

"Left fringe?" Hardly. I said nothing that sounded remotely like the strawman "immediate world peace, ecological transformation, and socialist utopia" you offer up. What I did was critique Obama for not seeing how the peices fit together and rather than exerting the leverage available to us because the auto makers want something to get something that we want, he offers up a plan to give away that leverage for nothing much at all in return. Brilliant!

I thought I had your number and now I'm sure I do. You're a defeatist, self-hating liberal. Always ready to sell-out and pre-compromise. Big on trianglation and capitulation.

Why don't you just come out and call us dirty, fucking hippies already. C'mon, you know you want to. It'll make you feel so much better.

by Quinton 2007-05-09 08:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Auto Plan Neither New Nor Bold

The guy who wrote the Diary is a former national PIRG staffer.  While PIRG (for whom I worked back in the early 80's) is certainly not the Earth Liberation Front, it is certainly on the left edge of mainstream Democratic politics.  

I was being sarcastic.  I have read all sorts of lefty critiques of Obama on all sorts of issues.  Many are filled with distortions and smears and are completely lacking in substance. These pieces frequently quote each other to buttress their misrepresentations.  

Some, like this, are more policy specific and make good points about specific proposals.  My problem with these posts is that what they lack any political context.  Obama gets criticized for proposing imperfect solutions to long standing problems.  I would rather have three-quarters of a loaf than none at all.  Call me an incrementalist, a pragmatist, or a sellout, I have been around for a long time and lost a lot of battles. I am tired of the circular firing squads of the left.  We need to live in the real world with the grown-ups, and change what we can, when we can.

Personally, I have real doubts whether Edwards can win the nomination. I think the structural barriers to a truly populist campaign are very formidable.  I suspect that Obama is about as far left as anyone can be in the current climate and still get elected. Seeing the constant onslaught from those further to the left gets old.  I think in the final analysis it helps Hillary.  

by upper left 2007-05-10 07:50AM | 0 recs
Obama Rewards Inefficiency

I was surprised that this proposal received such fanfare considering that it really doesn't challenge the auto industry to do anything that it couldn't have done years ago with ease. It is also basically the exact same proposal that the Senate is currently considering.

The health care cost of retirees in the auto industry is not something the American public should pay for. If the auto industry would have made more efficient vehicles that looked better and ran better it could have been competing with the Japanese and others that took that route. If they would have followed this path they would have made money and could afford the health care costs that they now claim is keeping them from transitioning to more fuel efficient vehicles.

Obama is way off the mark here. He wants to reward intentional inefficiency from an industry that has fought better fuel standards at every turn. Perhaps if they wouldn't have invested so much money lobbying members of Congress they would have enough to pay for their health care.

The most ambitious energy plan on the table now was submitted by Chris Dodd. I encourage anyone that cares about the price of energy, the unstable and immoral sources for our energy, and the pollution created by that energy to check his plan out. It is some serious stuff and well worth making a big deal about in the press.

by JustaDem 2007-05-09 10:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Rewards Inefficiency

So basically you are saying, "don't propose anything that might actually pass?"

If this was so easy, why haven't the standards been changed in over twenty years?

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

by upper left 2007-05-10 08:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Auto Plan Neither New Nor Bold

Interesting analysis.  I can't remember the last time a Presidential candidate actually went to Detroit and told the auto industry to look in the mirror and while the details may not be as good as some want that's a good thing.  It is interesting that both Edwards and Clinton both have more aggressive proposals on CAFE standards b/c neither ever, ever talk about it.  God forbid we tell Americans they need to get out of their gas guzzling SUVs!

Edwards constantly criticizes the South Korea trade deal over auto/engine sales despite the fact the US doesn't build the type of fuel efficient vehicles the rest of the world and now America wants.  Does he really think South Koreans are interested in buying Hummers that get 12 miles to the gallon when they pay 2-3 times for gas what Americans do?  Talk about a strawman.  

I have seen the US auto industry and the UAW team up for 30 years to stop increased CAFE standards and better environment rules in the name of jobs.  Yet, year after year the auto industry loses jobs and I wonder if they had been forced to build fuel efficient cars would that be the case?  

by John Mills 2007-05-09 10:49AM | 0 recs

Diaries

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