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The Cost of Compassion Might Be Too High

Janet Kuypers

After reading my editorials from the past five years and knowing I’m from Chicago, you’d think I would be the most liberal Obama fan you could find. But read my most recent Socialism editorial (“What’s that Spell? Socialism!” online at http://www.janetkuypers.com/kuypers/prose/2009/whats-that-spell--socialism.htm) and you may realize that I’m an equal-opportunity political ass-kicker... Because when it comes to the government screwing up people’s lives, it doesn’t matter which political side you support.
But when it comes to the Democrat plea to want to help everyone, in that lefty liberal sense, it sounds appealing.

When you ask people if it is a good idea for everyone have access to healthcare, it sounds like a good idea, for example. But in order to accomplish that goal, takes would need to be raised and standards would have to be lowered to be able to accommodate everyone so all could have access to some healthcare. So if a person thinks it’s a food idea for everyone to have access to healthcare, the follow-up question would have to be, “are you willing you have to pay more in taxes, and would you be willing to wait longer for doctor services (since there are more people that need to be taken care of), and would you be willing to actually receive a lower level of healthcare (because with less money in the healthcare system, everyone would receive less service)?” The answers to questions like that would invariably be “no,” because although the notion of helping everyone seems appealing, people don’t want to have to pay for “helping” everyone.

The “Cash for Clunkers” program was another great idea from our Democrat Presidential cabinet; you could get rid of your old inefficient car for a new one with a $4,500 discount (thanks for rearranging our money this way, U.S. Government). It’s a monetary bargain for car buyers with old cars, and it spurs car production and elps businesses (and helps people in the failing car industries keep jobs). Sounds like a good plan. The plan even had to e cancelled before its original November deadline because too many people wanted to take the Government up on this offer (they even had to get more money allotted to this program before stopping it months early). But there were two major problems with this plan. One was that although the government said you needed to purchase a fuel-efficient car, the government didn’t say the cars purchased needed to be an American car (you know, to help the three failing car companies the government already gave an inordinate amount of money to already). Because the top cars that were purchased through this program were Toyotas (fuel efficient, yes, but it just gets more money away from America because of this Obama plan). The other problem with the plan is that the used cars that were traded in for fuel-efficient new cars were destroyed; a liquid was poured into them to destroy the engine, and the cars were compacted. I think this was dome to ensure that these fuel inefficiencies would no longer be around wasting more gas than a car should (seems like a noble, compassionate idea) but destroying these older car parts and engine bits means that people who cannot afford a new car will now not be able to get parts to repair their only car from used car parts shops (or even junk yards). By destroying this large number of potentially usable car parts, it has squelched the used car market, and has made people with less money than those who can buy a new car (you know, the people who don’t have a lot of money that the Obama administration is supposed to be helping out) will have fewer financial options for their automotive needs.
And another things about this “Cars for clunkers” thing: although people have never given us an explanation with where the money is coming from, remember that it came from the government, which means from the people, which means that we as a country are now even more in debt for this temporary relief program.

And when someone asks you if it’s a good idea to get rid of our dependencies on foreign oil, you’d say it’s smart. Besides, if we can find more economical ways to produce energy, it would save everyone more money and be a smarter, right? So with the liberal/Democrat line of thinking, it seems like a smart idea. I mean, when I was in Europe I saw more of an effort to even minimize car usage than in America (people took trains more, or bicycles, and people were more fit), and the Smart Car (a smaller car with better fuel mileage) existed in Europe for years before it was seen in the States. Coming up with more was to be fuel efficient, or better ways to save on our national energy costs is a noble idea. But the idea push from the Obama administration is to have more solar panels (you know, because there’s a lot of sun in a lot of our country that can be used to generate electricity), and wind can be harnessed from wind turbines for even more energy.
So using the sun and wind can be used to get our energy seems like a cost-saving, environmental idea. Bargain. Right?
Probably not. The amount of energy both of these forms may produce is so small compared to existing forms – including even nuclear energy (when nuclear is actually an insanely safe method of producing a large amount of energy, and other European countries are also even using nuclear power plants on a mass scale to get a lot of energy). After reading an article form the Wall Street Journal (I love thumbing through the newspaper pages, but you can also find the Lamar Alexander 09/18/09 article on line at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203440104574404762971139026.html), I read about the breakdown of the amount of space different forms of energy use to produce different amounts of energy.
“By far nuclear energy is the least land-intensive; it requires only one square mile to produce one million megawatt-hours per year, enough electricity for about 90,000 homes.” I won’t mention other known forms to generate the electricity, but “Solar thermal—heating a fluid with large arrays of mirrors and using it to power a turbine—takes six. Natural gas needs eight and petroleum needs 18. Wind farms require over 30 square miles.”
This first of all would take a ton of space – probably more space than we’d be comfortable using for mirrored panels or wind turbines. “Let’’s put this into perspective: We could line 300 miles of mountaintops from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Bristol, Va., with wind turbines and still produce only one-quarter the electricity we get from one reactor on one square mile at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Nuclear Plant.” (Okay, I should also tell you that Lamar Alexander, who wrote this article for the Wall Street Journal, is also a Republican Tennessee Senator, so he probably had a more vested interest in the nuclear plants of his state.)
Oh, here’s another “natural” problem that would have to be tackled to help get more environmental energy. From the same article form the Wall Street Journal: “Solar collectors must be washed down once a month or they collect too much dirt to be effective. They also need to be cooled by water. Where amid the desert and scrub land will we find all that water? No wonder the Wildlife Conservancy and other environmentalists are already opposing solar projects on Western lands.”

I bring up these points because we would like to be compassionate and noble to try to be able to help people. It is compassionate to say you want to give everyone free healthcare (guess what, it’s never free). It is smart to have more fuel-efficient cars out on the road, saving people gas money (it’s a shame I made fuel-efficient car buying decisions all my life; I couldn’t hone in on this quote-unquote “bargain” of buying a new car when we have less money than we ever did – but at least the government in the process destroyed old car parts so people who couldn’t even afford new cars now can’t repair the only thing they could afford). And it makes sense to use the environment to lower our costs for our own energy for the future (but trust me, it actually costs a lot more than you think to “go green” to get the energy we want in our modern life). As I said, it’s nice to claim to be noble and compassionate, but the cost might actually literally be too high to be so noble.

Copyright 2009 Chicago poet Janet Kuypers
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