November 26, 2012

THE OTHER DAY, I WAS PRETTY HARD ON NICK KRISTOF for his dumb column trying to use backup generators as a sign that we need higher taxes. But not as hard as John Steele Gordon:

Has Mr. Kristof never heard of an electric bill? Public utilities such as electricity are not paid for through taxes. The problem is not lower taxes on the rich, but the fact that burying the wires would be prohibitively expensive in many suburban areas. In my town (admittedly borderline exurbia) there are 66 miles of roads and about 2,500 houses. According to Popular Mechanics it would cost on average $724,000 per mile to bury the lines. That comes to $47,784,000 in my small town, or $19,113.60 per household. Increase everyone’s electric bill by $100 a month (more than doubling the average bill) and it would take 15 years to pay for the buried wires (ignoring interest costs, which would be very considerable). That’s just not going to happen.

So the rich, increasingly, are installing big, propane-fueled generators to power their whole spread, while the less rich buy generators at Sears that run on gasoline. You can get one for the less-than-princely sum of $500 that will power the necessities, such as lights, water pump, and refrigerator. That’s $500, Mr. Kristof, not $19,000 dollars.

Kristof goes on to give us the usual garbage about the rich not paying their fair share and climate change, etc. Any clever 10-year-old could design software that would produce liberal boilerplate of equal quality. And he would be happy to be paid a lot less than Mr. Kristof gets per column.

If anyone out there wants to put together such a program, perhaps I’ll start running a regular Robot Nick Kristof column and people can compare it to the real thing. . . .

Oh, and so long as we’re savaging dumb efforts from New York Times columnists, don’t miss Mickey Kaus on Paul Krugman.