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Dear generator-owning homeowners, do not invite Nick Kristof over next time there is a hurricane

Dear generator-owning homeowners, do not invite Nick Kristof over next time there is a hurricane

I’m still waiting for Nick Kristof of the NY Times to write a column explaining away the rising dictatorship by his beloved Arab Spring.

Until then, we have to suffer through a mind-numbing series of non-sequiturs in which the decline in marginal tax rates over the last 50 years is responsible for … well everything that has gone wrong in the real or perceived world, including the supposed failure of the electric grid during Hurricane Sandy, A Failed Experiment:

In upper-middle-class suburbs on the East Coast, the newest must-have isn’t a $7,500 Sub-Zero refrigerator. It’s a standby generator that automatically flips on backup power to an entire house when the electrical grid goes out.

In part, that’s a legacy of Hurricane Sandy. Such a system can cost well over $10,000, but many families are fed up with losing power again and again….

So Generac, a Wisconsin company that dominates the generator market, says it is running three shifts to meet surging demand. About 3 percent of stand-alone homes worth more than $100,000 in the country now have standby generators installed.

“Demand for generators has been overwhelming, and we are increasing our production levels,” Art Aiello, a spokesman for Generac, told me.

That’s how things often work in America. Half-a-century of tax cuts focused on the wealthiest Americans leave us with third-rate public services, leading the wealthy to develop inefficient private workarounds.

It’s manifestly silly (and highly polluting) for every fine home to have a generator. It would make more sense to invest those resources in the electrical grid so that it wouldn’t fail in the first place.

Wait, what? Sandy was not a grid failure, it was a hurricane. 

I just visited relatives on Long Island for Thanksgiving, and the stumps of downed trees were everywhere.  There was a failure — most likely of prophylactic tree trimming, lack of emergency planning by LIPA, and failure to coordinate outside help — but none of that has anything to do with federal spending on the national grid. 

Moreover, a back-up generator is like insurance, there when you need it, not a substitute for the grid.  Why would someone like Kristof consider it a bad thing for individuals to self-insure against the next Sandy?

But most of all, where is the link between marginal tax rates and (a) the percentage of total taxes actually paid by top income earners, which has risen in the last 50 years, and (b) the electric grid.  Assuming the false arguendo that higher marginal rates would have resulted in more tax revenue, where is the evidence it would have been spent on the national electric grid, rather than pork projects and giveaways for political constituencies?

The column goes on with a long list of similar non-sequiturs involving police services and gated communities, schools systems and private schools, and so on.

Completely ignored is that government spending is going through the roof, including on police and schools, yet we have little to show for it.  The answer for Kristof, more of the same.

Kristof cannot see that government failure cannot be cured by more government.

Kudos to the generator-buying public.  Protect yourself against the failed vision of the Nick Kristof’s of the world.

And the next time a hurricane hits and the power lines are felled by trees, don’t invite Kristof over for a hot shower.


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Kristof is losing his touch! I fully expected him to suggest that we have a progressive electric rating scheme in this country like we do our taxes. The couple with the $50k shack get their electric for free, while those with the Manhattan condos and $5m Hamptons mansions pay the highest electric rates in the nation. Slipping I tell you!

Fact in the scheme of things I am shocked that the Limo Liberals are not up in arms that for the most part everyone pays nearly the same rates by their electric provider of choice. (State based subsidy payments for the poor not withstanding.)

    Owego in reply to drdog09. | November 25, 2012 at 1:55 am

    Rationing and selective distribution are coming. Politicians first, the connected next, follwed by government workers, polticians, union members, teachers, and select others whose value to society is deemed worthwhile, e.g. a sure vote. This because there simply will not be enough to go around, cfl bulbs and replenishable sources not withstanding. It will be about “connected” and fifty thousand isn’t going to do it.

[…] William Jacobson fisks Nicholas Kristof of the NYT (granted, not a high bar). I just visited relatives on Long Island for Thanksgiving, and the stumps of downed trees were everywhere.  There was a failure — most likely of prophylactic tree trimming, lack of emergency planning by LIPA, and failure to coordinate outside help – but none of that has anything to do with federal spending on the national grid. […]

Bitterlyclinging | November 24, 2012 at 10:54 am

Ten grand is a lot for a back up generator, unless you want to go whole hog with an entire house replacement generating system, Doc.
A 5,000 Watt Honda will set you back a couple of grand, the same Honda model that the framing crews use to stand that same house up when it was just a bare foundation, the piles of framing lumber sitting on the ground around it on an empty lot with no power from the grid available yet. The gen tran we use was picked up, brand new, at a Home Depot clearance sale for 75 bucks and the electrician installed and wired it in at no charge when he was finishing up the house. With it we run the furnace, the well pump, the air handler, hot water, the refigerator, and one 20 amp wall oulet. No A/C of course. If your land phone comes in via a cable supplier, you’re not going to have that available anyway until the grid comes back up along with your TV, so you’re S.O.L. in that regard, but at least you have heat, hot water for baths, clean toilets, and a little illumination. If you get your television off of a dish, you’re ahead of the game.
God and Mother Nature hate cities anyway. If you crowd laboratory rats they begin dying spontaneously for no discernable reason.
What do they make flaslights and ‘D’ Cell batteries for, anyway? Life was never meant to be a never ending bowl full of cherries!

THE single thing most basic to our standard of living is reliable, inexpensive electrical power.

Just try living without it for a while, and you’ll appreciate your blessings a LOT more!

Having your own generator is more than a hedge against losing power in a storm. It may be the only way you can assure you have power in the not-too-distant future.

Remember, there are people close to Pres. Bumps who really do not like modernity…or people.

I expect Kristof’s real beef is that people are asserting their self-interest in a way that rejects his herd.

    If you ever ran a generator for a while, you will know even the most efficient diesel is not a enconomic way to produce power for any long term use. But if you have a stream and some elevation change near your home, a mini hydro is awesome!

    Chicklet in reply to Ragspierre. | November 24, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Oh the pain, reading that Times! Reliable, cheap electric power is one of the great reasons to take a factory abroad and it is why China is building power plants left and right with government subsidy, to attract the work that can’t afford to stay here on Long Island.

    Taxes and electric rates are already in the stratoshpere, we are confident Cuomo’s buddies running our government-run power company (right around the corner, Kristof!!) would load us up with more bonds and debt to build windmills and insulate our homes while the investor owned utilities trim trees and bury power lines.

    If this fellow thinks the solution is to raise taxes and let government run the power company, just look here at LIPA.

Conservative Beaner | November 24, 2012 at 10:59 am

More class warfare from a liberal jerk. Now he wants to demonize not just the wealthy but the upper middle class as well. Kristoff should be thankful that these folks are creating jobs by purchasing these generators.

This utility is probably run by a bunch of over paid incompetent liberal hacks and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is serviced by union workers. Didn’t Governor Christi turn away non-union electrical workers?

I have not seen the digs where Kristoff lives, But I have seen Tom Friedman’s. You think he might have a back up generator?

I agree Kristof’s hypothesis that power outages were caused by insufficient power grid infrastructure is total bunk. But even his idea that more taxes and gov’t spending would correct the (nonexistent) problem was proven to be a complete fallacy by a trillion dollars of stimulus money already spent.

It sounds like he is pushing the Paul Krugman infatuation with the 50’s mantra and has simply woven infrastructure into the whole cloth. His assertions are in a word: Absurd.

We here are rational people. I invite you to look at this simple chart. Explain it to me, like Im a 4 year old, how the 50’s were the good old days for he and Krugman.
As a % of GDP Income tax revenues have barely changed.

Long Island is home to a government run power authority, LIPA. Created by father Gov. Cuomo to ‘improve service’ and ‘lower costs’ it has failed miserably with both. It’s well known the leadership is all political patronage and young Gov. Cuomo hasn’t bothered to fill all the vacancies on the board.

This branch of state Government runs one of the worst operations in the nation, like many public authorities they have deferred maintenance, failed to invest in new infrastructure and run up a deficit year after year. The citizens on Long Island are helpless against this entity yet we pay far more than our neighbors who have better quality grids and cheaper electric and gas rates.

Cuomo has, of course, appointed a commission to investigate, will they simply walk down the hall in Albany and investigate their friends, relatives and campaign donors? How long will that take? How much more public debt will they want to create, while investor-owned utilities improve their own grids with their own money, so as to reward shareholders later on. Please, Kristof, do some homework!

We pay our taxes, lots of ’em. We pay them so the Government can run our power company. Do we get any value for this, NO! Because citizens with the extra cash know they can’t expect their government to fix this mess any time soon so they buy generators. Bah!

    jimzinsocal in reply to Chicklet. | November 24, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Perfect rebutt to the author’s ideological narratibe magic. That somehow Government is in a better position to run particular industries. Ane when it fails? Why its the fault of the rich fat cats that sell generators.

    Ragspierre in reply to Chicklet. | November 24, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    As McQ over at Q&O has stated…

    LIPA is a bureaucracy that happens to produce electricity.

    Meaning, it is a bureaucracy FIRST. If I’m not mistaken, it is also a MONOPOLY provider, with all the wonderful consumer features THOSE bring.

    Generators are a perfect example of the economic Law Of Substitution. Any pollution they cause is an expression of The Law Of Unintended Consequences.

Didn’t Kristof (twice) favor the candidate who proposed an energy plan in which “electricity prices will necessarily skyrocket” and who thinks that’s a good thing? Therefore, Kristof believes that only the wealthy should have an adequate power supply. Q.E.D.

The way things are progressing, in 20 years “only the rich can afford electricity” will be a common utterance, and an established fact.

    TrooperJohnSmith in reply to Browndog. | November 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    This will be especially true when natural gas prices once again spike upwards, and all that “cheap power from coal” is long gone, due to the EPA and Prez-O-Bama’s “war on coal”. Perhaps the po’ will be allowed by the new regulations to burn a few lumps of the dirty stuff as they try to keep warm in their State-Provided hovels, lighted by 60-watt Chinese-made CF bulbs and warmed by the the equivalent appliance of a Susie Homemaker Easy-Bake Oven.

      Unless it comes from some kind of tax, don’t expect a natural gas spike any time soon. The market has eliminated that.

      If I have a generator in the future, it will be one running on natural gas, with LNG as a back-up, AND I will have it making hot water, too. THAT changes a lot of the efficiencies very positively.

    bimflake in reply to Browndog. | November 28, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    After 12 days without power, I called the local Generac dealer and arranged for the installation of a 22,000 KW generator. It should be in by the end of the year. I could care less how much it costs, I am not going through almost 2 weeks without power ever again.

    There were so many trees down and transformers blown up around us locally that nothing would have prevented a loss of power here in NJ.

Tax cuts are just dog whistle code words for You Know Who.

Therefore, I blame He Who Must Be Blamed.

You guys don’t get it. The right thing to do is force all generator makers to make a fleet of generators that include solar-powered generators at prices the poor can afford. This will drive all generator-makers out of business except the biggest, who will make DNC contributions and use their good standing to get waivers. So the rich will get richer, and the poor will be blessed with hypothetical generators at a low cost they couldn’t afford even if there were any to buy.

We live on the border of Queens and LIPA controlled Nassau county. Our power was restored after a difficult week by ConEd, a PRIVATE for profit company who fearing the bad PR and wrath of their paying customers contracted extra help from other other of state private utility companies to work round the clock to fix things.

Contrast that with Nassau, a highest taxed, deficit ridden County in NY who went along with Mario Cuomo’s socialist scheme decades ago to ‘nationalize’ its grids under LIPA, the only Atlas-shrugged type, state owned utility authority in the country. Two weeks after the hurricane and they have still neither power or GAS for their generators. People were reduced to burning garbage in bins for light and heat.

But what would a dumbass like Kristof, who lives in the wealthy suburb of Westchester and is serviced by a private utility company, know?

We have a Generac generator. Why? Power lines go down and stay down when disasters occur.

All this Nick Krist NY Times article is, is Democrat Party demonization of the so-called ‘haves’ vs the so-called ‘havenots’ to centralize all power under Democrat control.

These political operatives doggedly latch onto every meme possible and twist it into an ‘us vs them’ demonization to further their Central Committee goals.

Subotai Bahadur | November 24, 2012 at 12:48 pm

I read British papers and magazines. Yeah, there is a lot of Lefty propaganda [their conservatives are to the Left of Democrats]; but they cover American politics and print what our Journo-List 2.0 media won’t. In any case, power generation and transmission is an ongoing problem. Power generation is a function of the Almighty State. It is sufficiently unreliable that in central London, major businesses have back up power in their offices [they favor UPS backups over generators]. Every major winter storm, they lose power over a wide swathe to the country because a) the power lines and generation are maintained Long Island-style, and b) more and more of their power generation is from wind power, which fails, well, when the wind blows. It is a staple of the Brit press to report on elderly people who freeze to death in major storms because of power being out and the only heat source they can afford in their homes is a single electric heater.

Ofgem [Office of Gas and Electricity Markets] is the government department in charge of power generation. Last month they reported that with the taking of coal fired plants offline for environmental reasons, and the increased reliance on wind generation; that by 2014-15 Great Britain will only have a margin of 4% of generating capacity over demand. The technical people are not happy with this, but the political types have their own agenda that is impervious to reality. And the politicians can depend on the Brits not complaining about long-term blackouts. After all, they are Brits.

I suspect by Year 6 Anno Obama we will be in a similar condition. And those with home generators will be denounced as “wreckers” and “capitalist-roaders”.

Subotai Bahadur

I rent a room in my apartment to travelers, so I have people who visit from all over the world. My guests who arrived a few days after Sandy to an apartment with no power wondered aloud what was wrong with our infrastructure. In Germany, they said, the longest outage they could recall was 20 minutes. Part of this is due to the fact that they bury their electric lines. This is what they do, in fact, in most of the world. Any discussions of doing that here always ends with the same answer, it’s too expensive (but we’ll rebuild above ground lines indefinitely because its so cheap?) this country is far behind in infrastructure, and our roads and bridges are falling apart. Should government be responsible for improving something we all benefit from? Does having NO money in the bank keep us from making improvements? I think that was the point of Kristof’s article.

    TrooperJohnSmith in reply to jmnyc. | November 24, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    High-voltage transmission lines are above ground, everywhere, and most European nations don’t have buried secondary and residential electric lines.

    Remember that Germany was almost completely rebuilt between 1946 and 1960, much of that with US dollars, especially Bavaria.

    legalizehazing in reply to jmnyc. | November 24, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    How many hurricanes do they get in Germany? I wonder what happens to buried power lines when a foot and a half of water get dumped on them over a couple hours.

    Plus in the U.S. we like our lines of power to be visible;)

Hurricanes. Is there anything they can’t do?

They threaten GOP conventions.

They provide great photo ops for incompetent presidents.

They provide a great excuse to push disastrous policies regarding supposed anthropogenic global warming.

They provide another great tenuous excuse to engage in class warfare over marginal tax rates.

They provide opportunities to play the race card.

Hurricanes. Is there anything they can’t do?

TrooperJohnSmith | November 24, 2012 at 1:35 pm

While Nick’s at it, how about the correlation between the rising rate of illegitimacy, especially among women in the minority communities, and the growing poverty rate? Could it possibly have something to do with a welfare “safety net” that both excludes the father from the family and fails to hold him accountable?

I love it when a lefty pontificates about our electricity production. See the graph at this link for an idea of how much extra we are going to pay in this country for the dippy windmills they are forcing down our throats:

My parents just bought a generator. I may make a lot more money than Kristof does, but my retired parents sure don’t. They’ve just done everything right in their lives – unlike poor parasitic Democrats – and are happy to spend some of their savings to avoid the inconvenience of losing their power.

legalizehazing | November 24, 2012 at 4:41 pm

That is one hell of a logical leap. It is a great portrayal of the “Liberal” psychosis… albeit the same as the ones they make daily.

What the local government usually handles is water to your house and sewage from your house. Unfortunately your generator can do nothing about that in an emergency. That, law enforcement, and emergency medical systems should be their first and most important tasks (which is paid for by taxpayers). Sandy showed ALOT to be desired.

I could give the government the 10k it costs to have a generator back up in the hopes of a better power grid and they would just fuck off with the money for climate change and a lot crap about my carbon foot print, siphoning the money into one of their cronies pockets, then when a storm hits, I would still still be w/out power.

Locally- in communist run Thurston County Washington, they voted DOWN by a huge majority a measure to authorize the local PUD to take over the electrical grid (currently managed by a private firm). Oh- the irony that the commies don’t even believe their own crap on the government running things

BTW- we just had our own house converted for generator hook up as wind and ice storms usually take power down in our neighborhood for about a week each winter. Total cost was about 3k including gas/propagne 10kw generator

Somebody needs to explain to Dr. Nick the difference between private and public money. People spend their own money on generators or country homes and that money isn’t money taken from the gov’t.

I was in Boston in November 1965 when the entire northeast had a power failure. The utilities had convinced hospitals, like the Mass General in Boston, to disconnect their emergency generators because the power grid was infallible. As a result, at the Mass General we were boiling instruments for emergency cases until the power came back. Don’t trust a government program. Ever.

The National Climatic Data Center has just reported that October was the 332nd month in a row of above-average global temperatures. As the environmental Web site Grist reported, that means that nobody younger than 27 has lived for a single month with colder-than-average global temperatures

Um, average for when? Does this idiot imagine there is a fixed “average temperature”, or does he merely mean his gullible readers to think so? The article he links to explains that it’s the average for each month in the 20th century; not explained is why that is a significant period or why its average is something to measure each year’s temperature against, let alone why we should be hankering for it.

Too bad the bad old Soviets traded Nick for a real actual spy way back. Had he stayed on he just might have “discoverd” the true benefits of central planning.
I guess when the state took over Lilco the locals celebrated this elimination of monopoly. It would seem that removing utility bills from the revenue of a utility is not a good idea. Kinda like lottery ticket sales going to schools. As Derbyshire stated, “when they say its for the children grab your wallet and run.”
Kudos to LukeHandCool. In 2009 we aborted 800,000 and nobody said a word, but now Syria kills, murders 40,000 and we are alarmed.

[…] Or, if it is, the mental gymnastics of Kristof find a way to shrink it down and make the leap. Dr. Jacobson (hat tip to Dyspepsia Generation) has a few words to offer by way of rebuttal… [W]here is the […]

Why didn’t they all just install Solyndra panels?

Place your carbon footprint next to mine, Mr. Kristof, and then we can talk.

Lets also keep in mind that there is no such thing as the “national” electric grid. The federal gov’t – outside of TVA – does not own the electric grid. Its only function is to regulate the grid through FERC.

The federal gov’t does not spend one penny of tax revenue on maintaining the “national electric grid”. So tax rates and tax revenues are irrelevant to the status and quality of the electric grid.

The New York Times must have it’s own PRIVATE power generation system. It probably costs close to a million dollars to build and maintain, not to mention the cost of a professional electrician or two. Does this NYT writer expect his company to forego its own electrical backup solution because some people can afford one or won’t bother to plan for disaster?

I read this on the net a few days ago, but I have not found it just now. allegedly the NY Slimes bldg has a diesel generator system of 15.5 KW, run by two techs, going 24-7.