In Kansas, and especially Hutchinson, raising fiscal objections to taxpayers subsidizing the wind industry makes you about as popular as Michele Bachman at a Barack Obama rally. Without equivocation let me say that I firmly believe having the Siemens wind energy plant in Hutchinson is one of the best things that has happened for our community during the past decade. It is a fantastic addition to our business environment, providing excellent jobs and a badly needed morale boost for the community. All who worked on the project can justifiably be proud.
I continue, however, to have major problems with the federal government using our tax money to choose winners and losers in business. This is especially true when our country’s growing debt tops $15 trillion; we borrow 42 cents out of every dollar spent and amass an unsustainable burden for our children and grand-children. Wind energy is not able to currently compete with gas, coal and other forms without being heavily subsidized. The same applies for solar energy and electric vehicles, also receiving massive government subsidies.
A full court press continues by states and communities, who are invested in wind energy to have Congress renew these give-aways, know by proponents as “investments.” Can we afford these luxuries along with a host of other federal spending that has put the United States on a path toward European bankruptcy and the bring of financial disaster? I say no. It is easy to say extending the current wind energy tax subsidy only amounts to an income tax credit of 2.2 cents a kilowatt-hour for producing electricity from utility scale turbines. But when viewed by the total dollars involved it amounts to $13.6 billion over the next 4 years.
Proponents quickly note a study, paid for by the wind industry, saying that investment would yield $25.6 billion in economic benefits including up to $2 billion in Kansas. Maybe, maybe not but there’s little doubt that plants such as Siemens in Hutchinson would greatly benefit and probably further boost the anticipated 400 local jobs. Should we support, however, a federal subsidy we can’t afford and look the other way at the additional borrowing and debt since it benefits our own backyard? This is the kind of spending philosophy that has greatly contributed to the mess we have in Washington and the financial condition our country finds itself in.
I subscribe to what State Rep. Mike Pompeo of Wichita recently wrote: “It does not surprise me that a study paid for by the wind industry concludes that Fortune 100 wind companies continue to need handouts from Kansas taxpayers. This industry has been subsidized for decades. I don’t blame these businesses for taking these tax credits. I fault the elected leaders in Washington who provide them. The wind industry is full of bright, innovative and creative people that I know can succeed. What they need are lower corporate taxes and less regulations, not credits that make them dependent on federal government largesse.”
Here in Kansas we have little problem criticizing federal subsidizes for peanut farmers or other businesses that don’t effect us but we are all for protecting wind energy since our lot has been heavily cast with this growing but still far more expensive than oil and gas industry. And from the consumer standpoint, the forced use of wind power continues to drive up our monthly utility bills in the name of “green-ness” and saving the environment. When wind can compete with other forms of energy I’m all for it but this should be developed through the private sector not by federal subsidies at a time when we don’t have the right programs to adequately protect the poor and disabled among us and continue the basic inability to control our spending and debt.
And on another topic, this never would have happened under Richard Shank. When the personable and efficient external affairs director for AT and T retired two years ago we knew there would be trouble but weren’t sure when it would strike. Now it is confirmed by the insulting tiny print in those new AT and T Yellow Pages phone books recently unleashed upon an unsuspecting public. Just how is anyone with normal eyesight and especially those over 50 expected to read the sharply reduced type size, especially in residential white listings? Already there have been reports of people loosing their sight trying to look up a phone number and address. That doesn’t begin to count the squinting, cussing and other humiliations that have come from a publication that could only have been developed by Helen Keller or Saint Mary’s Sisters of the Blind.
Had Shank been on the job this never would have been tolerated. Of course, the Mid-Kansas Yellow book isn’t any different but we expected more from AT and T. If one of these publications wants to distinguish itself and be in a better position to sell advertising, which is the principal purpose for each book’s existence, they should consider type at least large enough for the average person to read numbers without having to use a magnifying glass.
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