America has become a nation of takers. The great French political economist Frederic Bastiat wrote in 1848: “Government is the great fiction through which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”
Taking is a true zero-sum game and it is destructive. It destroys the incentive producers have to produce while simultaneously creating a politically dependent class – the most vile of which is currently on display in Manhattan in the form of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators.
We have our own form of taking in Manitowoc, and, as with most taking it is insidious. Our company is purchasing a new air compressor for our plant. New compressors are more efficient and this one will save us about $1,000 per month in electrical costs. The compressor costs $33,791 and we are getting $3,800 for our old compressor so the net cost is about $30,000. This represents a 30-month payback on our investment – so far so good.
Much to our surprise we are also eligible for a $4,125 grant from an entity called Focus on Energy. The obvious question is where does Focus on Energy get its money. If you have a sinking feeling that somehow it is coming from your pocket, you are correct. The electric ratepayers in Manitowoc are unwillingly subsidizing our new compressor.
Last year, the customers of Manitowoc Public Utilities contributed $156,000 to Focus on Energy. (“Contributed” is a euphemism commonly used to describe a forced taking of your private property so you feel better about being extorted.) Residential customers contribute 1.3 percent of their electric bill and commercial customers pay on average $70 per month.
Is this a great country or what? We decide to buy a new compressor and the people in Manitowoc are forced to help us pay for it. Actually, it is pitiful. This is an investment that we were going to make anyway, and the thought of using money extorted from the electric ratepayers of Manitowoc is repulsive to us, as it should be to anyone who believes in free market capitalism. This is nothing more than corporate welfare.
The only right thing to do is return the money from whence it came – the ratepayers in Manitowoc. It is our intention to meet with MPU representatives and ask them to provide an appropriate credit to electric bills totaling $4,125. We would also encourage other businesses in Manitowoc to follow our lead.
The 2010 annual report for MPU lists a number of rebates received by MPU customers, the largest being $250,000 for a solar array and $92,884 for a wind turbine, both for Orion Energy.
If Orion decides to make investments like these they should do so with their shareholders’ money, not money taken from the electric utility customers in Manitowoc. These investments need to stand on their own merit.
Now back to the national problem of using government to take from one and give to another. We will not survive as a nation if we continue down this path. It is as Bastiat described a “great fiction.” Most government spending is actually wealth transfer payments.
We must turn this around and a good place to start is Focus on Energy. End it. Enough corporate welfare. Enough subsidizing corporate products. Enough of government picking winners and losers in our economy. Let’s get back to free-market decisions. No one is better at deciding how you should spend the fruits of your labor than you.
Michael J. Fredrich is president of MCM Composites LLC, Manitowoc.
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