Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Did A Light Bulb Come On Or Go Dark?

So how do we interpret some of the moves by the incoming Republicans? In particular, we have a curious decision by John Boehner in his selection of Fred Upton (R-Mich) as chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. Upton is the moderate Republican responsible for the light bulb law. . . yeah, that one. So should this bother us?

When it came time to select a chairman of the HEC Committee, John Boehner had a choice between Upton and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla). The former chairman, Joe Barton of Texas, was term-limited from receiving the chairmanship. Many conservatives wanted Stearns, but Boehner chose Upton. Should we be concerned?

As always, these things are hard to say until we see how Upton acts. For example, Upton is a member of several moderate Republican groups and he was the author of the evil ban on incandescent light bulbs -- a ban about which Dennis Miller quipped: “I don't care what my electric bill is. I haven't worked my entire life so that my living room can look like a Soviet Bloc stairwell during a James Bond fight scene.”

But Upton now says he was wrong to support that ban and he opposes the law he helped create. He also has pledged to block the EPA’s attempt to back-door a cap-and-trade bill by regulation. Those are both positives.

Moreover, Upton may not be the moderate he seems. For example, he is generally considered a fiscal conservatives. Additionally, he says he wants to repeal ObamaCare because the bill ignored the will of the people and because he believes that such a significant bill should not have been passed over strong bipartisan opposition. He also argues that the current level of debt means ObamaCare is unaffordable. Those are all solidly conservative positions.

He has social conservative credentials as well in that he opposes abortion in most circumstances, including partial-birth abortion. He opposes gay marriage, and has earned only a 15% rating from the Human Rights Campaign. He supports gun right generally, though he did support some gun control laws, including the Brady Bill in 1993.

So how do we reconcile his light-bulb hating moderate credentials with his conservative promises? It could mean he’s simply saying what he thinks the public wants to hear? Moderates in particular are good at that. Or it could mean he’s realized he needs to shift his politics to the right to fit in with the incoming “Tea Party” Republicans? Or maybe, he simply had an epiphany? If so, it’s the same one the voters had. And let me remind you that many of the most conservative of conservatives were once Democrats or moderates or worse. Only time will tell us which of these is the answer.

So what should we make of Boehner choosing him? On the surface, this is troubling. But keep in mind that politics is a strange game that rarely is as simple as black and white. For example, Stearns may have been the more conservative choice, but he may not have been the superior choice. It’s hard to tell as we don’t sit in on the committee and, thus, we don’t see how effective each is. It’s possible Stearns simply lacked the gravitas or personality to lead the committee. Also, over the past few years, the power of the Speakership has grown to the point that the Speaker can control an errant committee chair. Thus, it’s unlikely Upton could do anything Boehner did not approve. Again, we just don't know.

In the end, I’m left with little to offer as a conclusion. We have a man who appears to be a moderate, but is now saying the right things. He has been appointed to a position that appears very important, but ultimately may have little power if he crosses John Boehner. Will this work for us or against us? I don't know. But I do know that this one sits on John Boehner’s head. So let us leave it at that for the moment. Boehner has taken a risk and we will watch to see how his choice plays out. If everything goes well, then Boehner deserves great credit for recognizing Upton's conversion. But if Upton goes back to his light bulb hating ways, then John Boehner will have to answer to the voters for his selection.


32 comments:

Tam said...

I would venture to say that most politicians blow with the wind, and currently (hopefully for 2 more years at least) the wind is blowing in our favor. For now, if the RINOs and other moderates follow that trend in their actions as well as their words, I'll take it.

Tennessee Jed said...

Good article, Andrew. Nothing much to say here other than . . . . stay tuned. It might be intersting if some enterprising journalist would actually query Boehner on the issue, though.

AndrewPrice said...

Tam, I agree with that. I guess I don't care about motive, so long as they are doing the right things. And as long as the RINOs feel compelled to act like conservatives, then I'm happy about it -- though I would be happier if they ultimately retired and let conservatives replace them.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, You ask too much of this hypothetical journalist. It's easier to stay in the office and guess. :-(

Yeah, I think "stay tuned" is the key here. I think this is an interesting choice by Boehner, and it's the kind of choice for which he needs to be judged. If it works, he deserves credit. If it fails, then we need to ask why he chose this guy.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - me thinks you may possibly have misunderstood my point about journalists. You, an attorney and blogger continually raise excellent questions. We have plenty of people purportedly making a living as political journalists. Why is it always so hard for them to actually earn their pay, approach Boehner and ask: "Considering Representative Upton was responsible for the lightbulb law, he seems like a curious choice for HE&C Committee. Care to enlighten us (pun intended) on the reasons behind your choice?" ;-)

In the meantime, we will wait and see how it plays out

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I understood you, my response was just unclear -- sorry about that.

I agree with you completely and that's an issue that's bothered me for years now about the media. The media's primary job is to figure out what questions need to be asked and then go ask them. But somehow, the media never seems capable of asking the right questions, and too many journalists don't even bother asking any questions.... instead, they just sit in their offices and opine.

To me, nothing shows the failure of our media more than this dynamic. Instead of find and reporting the news, they are just reacting to things that become news. And that makes what they do pretty worthless. In fact, it just makes them bloggers who are hiding behind their job titles to pretend they are something more. It's also why their profession is getting killed by the internet.

Pittsburgh Enigma said...

On the subject of the media's inability to ask the right questions, a great illustration of this point is a conversation that took place between Charlie Rose and Tom Brokaw about Obama. Rush has a great montage of this conversation. You hear them asking each other questions such as, "What is Barack Obama's world view?" or "What do we know about the heroes of Barack Obama?" Idiots!!! YOU are the journalists!! Why don't you go and ask him these questions yourself?!?!?! This montage is available on YouTube, by the way: here.

As for Upton, I don't trust him. Writing a bill that bans light bulbs illustrates colossal ignorance. This should forever ban him from holding any kind of leadership position in the Republican Party. I don't care what kind of epiphanies he's had since then.

It should be quite obvious from my avatar that I'm extremely sensitive about the light bulb issue. :-D Anyone who knows anything about energy usage knows that producing light has the least impact. The biggest energy hogs in any house are things that produce heat: space heaters, toasters, hair dryers, air conditioners (which works by producing heat), microwave ovens, etc. My 32" LCD flat screen TV uses as much energy as a 100-watt light bulb. Are we going to ban those too? If these light bulbs were so bad, the free market would have made them obsolete a long time ago. Upton should be banned, not light bulbs.

AndrewPrice said...

Pitts, "Upton should be banned, not light bulbs" -- LOL!!

Yeah, looking at your avatar, I can see that you would be very sensitive to this issue. I find the whole ban ridiculous, obnoxious and unAmerican.

And like you, I am deeply suspicious of anyone who would agree with this. Unfortunately, it wasn't up to us to decide what to do with him, so I think all we can do at this point is hold Boehner responsible for Upton. If Upton has changed, then great, Boehner made a good decision.

But if Upton goes back to his light bulb hating ways, then this should be the last strike against Boehner. Right now, there is no reason to pick a moderate. The party has moved to the Tea Party right and we have a large majority. In this environment, there is no reason to put the party into the hands of moderates. So if this is a mistake, then it is a mistake that highlights a philosophical problem in Boehner's thinking or a serious lack of judgment. So if this is a mistake, then it's the kind of mistake that should cost Boehner his job.

Regarding Brokaw and Rose, great example! Thanks for the link. It really is bizarre that they don't see this. Clearly, they can come up with the questions they should be asking, but somehow they can't seem to ask them to the person who should be asked? What the heck is wrong with that profession?

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: We will have to wait and see, but I'm always reminded of the old saying that "a moderate is just a liberal in training." BTW: The Walgreen's shelf that used to be about six feet long with a wide selection of old-fashioned incandescent bulbs is now about a foot long and dwindling. I stocked up yesterday--bigtime.

Pittsburgh Enigma said...

Andrew: Unlike light bulbs, I think the free market is ready to make Charlie Rose, Tom Brokaw, et al. obsolete. :-D That's unless, of course, the government decides to bail out liberal journalism.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I think that until that law is killed, a lot of people will be stocking up on light bulbs. The new ones are awful on many levels. In fact, I think when they break we should dispose of them on the lawn of our nearest Congresscritter.

AndrewPrice said...

Pitts, I agree! I think the free market has spoken and it has decided that what journalists have to offer is not worth having anymore. Seriously, what do they offer if they won't go get facts? Anyone can give their opinion.

In terms of the bailout, could you image an old school journalist -- the type who cared about independence and journalistic integrity -- ever asking the government to bail them out? It's kind of sad that the new crop is so ready to become wards of the state. Edward R. Murrow must be rolling in his grave!

CrispyRice said...

I agree whole-heartedly with this - "Writing a bill that bans light bulbs illustrates colossal ignorance. This should forever ban him from holding any kind of leadership position in the Republican Party."

You can forgive things people did when they were "young and stupid" or that they did once, off-the-cuff. What he did was neither and it shows a lack of judgment. Or rather, judgment against what conservatives believe.

CrispyRice said...

Also -- let me add that I read a book recently which made a very good point about power usage.

No matter how efficient we keep getting with our older things, we keep coming up with new ways to "spend" power. 15 years ago, we all used incandescents. Now, we aren't supposed to use those anymore, but we all run laptops and Smartphones and other new toys all day long.

There's nothing wrong with making things more efficient (knowing the market will eventually adopt things that they like that will save them money), but there will always be something new to suck up that energy.

Lightbulbs aren't the problem. Our entire energy policy and refusal to use our own resources is the problem.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, It's hard to argue with that. This wasn't a youthful indiscretion, this was something he did last year and the year before that and the year before that. And he did it as an adult, after consultation. So it's hard to say this is something we can excuse. Our best bet is that he may have changed. Has he? I have no idea.

From what I've seen, I don't think I would have trusted. Apparently, John Boehner does trust him. Why? I'm not sure. But I do know that this is on Boehner's head because he has essentially told us "trust me, this is not a mistake." So if it is a mistake, then we need to consider having Boehner as a party leader.

CrispyRice said...

Good analysis, Andrew!

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, Very true about our energy usage. I agree wholeheartedly with making things more efficient -- provided the economics make sense. But it is absolutely true that we do keep finding new ways to use the power we save.

I look back at my own life and I'm amazed how little we do for ourselves now. My parents just bought a car that actually opens and closes the back hatch itself. What the heck? Is it that hard to use your arm? We used to do that as kids all the time. But now the car does it itself. Ditto on the garage door, the lawnmower that pushes itself, the computers all over the house that are on all day, the furnace that kicks on at a particular time even if you aren't home, the electric can opener, etc. Seriously, we're getting to the point that everything you do uses electricity. In that kind of circumstance, changing a light bulb will not make any difference and forcing people to buy light bulbs that contain noxious materials and which will anger people to no end just to save a few pennies a day is silly.

Dane said...

Once a RINO always a RINO.

Pittsburgh Enigma said...

CrispyRice: You make a very good point about energy usage. I am very conscious of the energy I use in my home because I care about the money I spend. With CFL's, I can afford to leave the light on my porch ON all night whereas I didn't used to do that with incandescents. Also, in my garage and cellar, I've installed "Y"-socket adapters in all my light sockets to increase the amount of lighting because the energy I use with CFL bulbs is cheaper. So CFL bulbs don't decrease the amount of energy I use, they just make me use more because I can afford to, if that makes sense.

Similarly, when people purchase more fuel-efficient cars, they can afford to drive more, and they do. It's human nature. Each of us is willing to spend X amount of money on our electric bill, transportation, etc. The eco-alarmists do not understand this. They think that by providing cars that will go 99-MPG, we will drive just as much as we did before. Not so. They're in for a rude awakening if they succeed in replacing all our SUV's with Smart Cars and think that our oil consumption will drop drastically.

AndrewPrice said...

Dane, Keep in mind that many solid conservatives started as something else. In fact, many of the Republicans we looked back fondly upon as the most conservative Republicans in the 1980s and 1990s were Democrats until Reagan. Reagan himself was once a Democrat.

So don't rule someone out just because they made mistakes in the past. To quote Reagan, "trust by verify."

CrispyRice said...

So, Engima, you're using more because it's become more affordable? How very free-market of you!

And I LOVE the idea of taking roadtrips in a 99 mpg car. Oh, the travelling I could do! Now if the car just didn't have to be recharged (using the evil, horrible, coal-powered electric company) for 12 hours just to drive 40 miles... >>eyeroll<<

CrispyRice said...

Andrew, the book I was reading was pointing out that's it's actually been a process of ever-increasing efficiency. Hiring lamplighters to run around town every evening was more wasteful than running electric wire through town. We do always become more efficient, we just dream up new ways to keep using more.

In turn, that gives us more free time to do other things - more leisure or dreaming up more things to make life better and better. (Like self-latching trunks, LOL.)

AND thanks to the magic of "fossil fuels" we have enough resources to supply more energy to more people than ever before, and we can continue to do so, if we don't get stupid...

Joel Farnham said...

Andrew,

I am for giving Boehner the benefit of the doubt for now. As it is, the left is going bonkers, we as a group shouldn't emulate them.

As for CFL's, I would be for them except that they are dangerous in a home setting. I remember growing up breaking light bulbs.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, Sounds like an interesting book. It certainly makes an excellent point. In fact, now that I think about, that's absolutely right. Human progress has been about getting more for less in all facets of our lives. Well, it's worked well for us so far! :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy & Pitts, I would love a car that goes 99 miles to the gallon -- assuming it's still a nice comfortable, powerful car that does what I want. I don't want a covered motorcycle masquerading as a car.

In terms of would I drive more, probably not personally because I don't really think about gas mileage right now, I just kind of go where I need to go. But I know that many people would start driving more and would definitely substitute driving for flying or something else.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I agree completely. The left appears to be starting a huge purge of anyone who doesn't fit their perfect progressive parameters. There is no reason we should follow that insane path. I wouldn't mind getting rid of RINOs, but I don't extend that to moderates -- and I define the difference as a matter of loyalty, RINOs have shown repeatedly that they are not loyal to the party and will do things like endorse Democrats.

At this point, I think we have no choice but to trust Boehner, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt. But I will watch this closely and I do expect him to do the same and to make sure that conservative policies come out of that committee. If they don't, then he needs to step in and fix the problem.

In terms of CFLs, I don't like the idea of banning the regular light bulbs. I have no problem offering both kinds, but I don't like the government banning one choice. At the same time, my problem with the CFLs is much like yours -- they are dangerous if broken. Plus, I don't like the quality of the light that comes out of them. Beyond that, I do favor energy conservation, just not at any price.

Ed said...

Good article, very thoughtful. I'll trust John Boehner too for now. He is saying all the right things and they seem to be doing the right things too, which buys some trust with me.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ed! I agree. I think they're doing and saying the right things. This one was a little odd, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Ed said...

I hope they're doing things right.

AndrewPrice said...

Me too Ed, me too.

Mjolnir said...

Maybe its simpler than that...he has to get over to the right to avoid being run over at his next Senate campaign...

AndrewPrice said...

Mjolnir, That is very possible and actually, probably very likely. Politicians are all about getting re-elected and right now the public wants people to move right. So maybe he sees the writing on the wall?

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