I'm very pleased that Earl Blumenauer will be speaking at the City Club Friday, and there are all sorts of questions I'd like to ask him. Since I'm only allowed one question at the event, I hereby offer these up as possible questions for other Blue Oregon-reading City Club members to ask:
1. Last week David Cay Johnston wrote in the New York Times that in 2004, three years after George Bush's tax cuts that were supposed to make the economy explode and pay for themselves, the total reported* income of all Americans was below 2000 levels and income tax revenues were below 2000 levels. (In fact, income tax revenues only recovered to 2000 levels - in RAW DOLLARS, not adjusted for anything - in 2006. It is unheard of for income tax revenues not to grow for that long a period, other than in the Great Depression.) Will the new Congress hold hearings on the obvious failure of supply-side economics? Will Gordon Smith apologize for voting for those tax cuts?
[* Note: I should have said "total reported income." This post originally said total income, but commentor Bill Holmer pointed out that was wrong, the proper stat is total reported income.]
2. A recent IRS study showed that in 2004 publicly traded companies reported $554 billion in profits on their financial statements but told the IRS that for tax purposes they earned only about $394 billion. Will Congress look into this odd discrepancy?
3. Recently PacifiCorp took some heat (pun intended) for proposing to build new greenhouse-gas-producing coal plants. Coal plants are bad, horrible, but they produce 50% of the electricity in America and wind isn't going to replace that overnight. There is a possibility, though, that with new "integrated coal gasification combined cycle facilities" (I think I have that right) we could strip out the carbon and bury it somewhere. People aren't sure that will work, but it's a hope. PacifiCorp actually said that they'd try to make one of its new coal plants an ICGCCF, if they could make the financials work - the plants are more expensive than traditional coal plants. Why couldn't Congress just mandate: No new coal plants other than these gasified thingamabobs?
4. Speaking of global warming, corn-based ethanol doesn't help, because it takes about as much energy to produce it as it generates. But ethanol from sugar is much more energy-efficient; it's actually worthwhile. But tariffs on sugar, backed by our domestic sugar industry and corn ethanolites, prevent the U.S. from developing a sugar-ethanol-fuel industry. I am not against all tariffs per se, but this one is insane. And, according to a recent New Yorker article, Barack Obama of Illinois has stood with other Midwesterners in supporting the sugar industry. Doesn't this prove that Obama is just another captive-of-special-interests fraud who doesn't really care about global warming and doesn't deserve to be hailed as some great Kenya-Kansas hope?
5. Sunday's New York Times magazine had a fascinating article suggesting that immigrants commit FEWER crimes than non-immigrants. The article cited one researcher who attributed America's violent culture to the Scotch-Irish heritage of many of us (myself included - I'm more Scotch-Irish than anything else except the Jewish half). I'm conflicted on the whole immigration issue: On the one hand, I think illegal immigration depresses wages; on the other, aren't we supposed to let in anyone who's tired, poor, or is now or ever has been part of a huddled mass? But that aside, this evidence on crime is very interesting, and raises this question for Earl: To reduce crime, should we deport the Scotch-Irish? If that's what has to be done, I guess I'm willing to take one for the team.