Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Fruits of the Voodoo breaking out all over

George HW Bush never said truer words than when he called Reagan's plan to cut taxes for the wealthy as a method of fighting deficits "Voodoo Economics."

But, alas, The Gipper, greatly aided by secret negotiations by GOP fixers like Jim Baker with Iran (to persuade them NOT to release the US Embassy hostages before the election) -- negotiations that should have put them all in jail, rather than the White House -- managed to win the election of 1980, which inaugurated a thirty years of bad Republican policies (Clinton) and worse ones (Reagan, Bush the Elder and especially Bush the Lesser), all of which boil down to trying to please the well-off by throwing money at them while they are busy seceding from America, off-shoring jobs and our US manufacturing base in order to obtain even more lavish profits.

Well, the chickens sacrificed for the Voodoo Economics rituals are walking around, headless and bloody, smearing goo and guts all over the rest of America, which is gradually imploding, thanks to a thirty year-long proof that, when you put government in the hands of people who think government is the problem, they make it ever so true.

All over America, libraries are closing up shop. And we're racing to undo a century of progress on countless other fronts as well. Salem and Marion County are certainly not exempt from the woes being felt everywhere. Worse, we are verging on a deflationary spiral where what was once unthinkable is now the new normal.

Sadly, Barry Obama's a much smaller and mousier president than the times require -- his hope and change turns out to have been little but the forlorn hope that the GOP minority would change, as in stop trying to drive America into a ditch from the backseat so they could blame poor Barry, who constantly acted the poor little puppy, begging to be liked, instead of the President, hired to clean up the world's biggest mess after the eight-year frat party that was the Bush/Cheney administration.

Alas, it seems that Barry missed his moment and we will all rue his unforgivable timidity and his failure to understand that you can't cut deals with people whose only real desire is to see you fail.
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

A principle Salem should embrace: reward rather than punish conservation

Photograph by Jisl. Dripper in action, connect...Image via Wikipedia

Here at LOVESalem HQ, we're preparing for the future by doing a lot of things to enable us to garden year round. One of the things we did was spend mucho-dinero on installing underground pipes so that I could install a drip irrigation system.

Drip irrigation is one of the most important technologies out there -- it makes plants happier, more disease free, and uses much, much, much, less water (dozens of gallons per hour instead of hundreds or even thousands from a conventional spray irrigation setup), while eliminating excess moisture being pumped into the air, making it humid and stuffy.

Not only that, anyone who installs drip irrigation is doing everyone else a big favor, because it means that there is that much more water available for everyone else from our supply in the North Santiam river. Recall that last year we had water restrictions because we depend on filters to clean up the water. That's going to happen more and more often as it gets hotter and drier, which is the clear trend (even if this summer has been fairly cool here in Salem). If we could get everyone to use drip and let their lawns go without in summer (it greens up again just as soon as the rains return), Salem would have much greater water security and we wouldn't need to be mulling over millions of dollars to find another supply.

So, the other day, as a reward for spending thousands of dollars on a drip system, I got a letter from Salem telling me I have to get my backflow preventer checked. That's the little gizmo (a double check valve, basically) that keeps water from flowing backwards from my irrigation system and into Salem's water supply header, possibly bringing contaminants with it. So these checks are important -- vital, even.

The problem? I have to pay for the backflow preventer check every year -- even though I only have a backflow preventer because I'm dramatically lowering my call on Salem's water supply, leaving more for everyone else. And keeping contaminants out of the water benefits everyone, not just us. In other words, the City of Salem should be encouraging drip irrigation as much as possible, and that would mean picking up the cost of the backflow checks, rather than making the owner pay it.

It would be different if I had put in a conventional sprayer-type sprinkler system; Salem should discourage or even forbid them, because they waste so much water and allow individuals to force the rest of us to keep enlarging the water system. But where someone installs a water-conserving improvement at their own expense, the annual cost of making sure that the public health is protected should be picked up as a public good, and paid for by the water utility, not the owner.

The root of the problem is that water is so darn cheap that people waste huge volumes of it without a second thought; this underpricing of a precious resource means that people have a strong DISincentive to spend lots of money on a water-saving system like the one we put in. We need to revisit all our costs and fees and make sure that we're not creating these disincentives and that, wherever possible, we reward people who take private actions that create public benefits.
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