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Takeaways from poll results on EPA regs

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The Partnership for a Better Energy Future yesterday released the results of a public opinion survey on the EPA's proposal to regulate power plant emissions.  PBEF included state-specific results for Montana; here are a few takeaways from the data:

  • A plurality of Montana voters (49%) are opposed to the EPA's proposal.  That number is stronger than it might initially appear, considering that almost a third of those surveyed were not at all familiar with the EPA's proposal.  So for those who have formed an opinion on the EPA rule, the reaction is overwhelmingly negative.

  • Montana politicians would take a big risk in supporting the EPA regulations—43% of voters surveyed would vote against a candidate supporting the regs, and only 27% said they'd be more likely to vote for a candidate supporting them.

  • Of the top two reasons given for opposition to the rule, the first is obvious: loss of Montana jobs.  Montana's economy stands to get hit hard if the EPA regs go into effect, with energy production being such an important sector of the economy and significantly higher electricity prices affecting all sectors.

    The second top reason driving the opposition to the rule was a little more nuanced.  Montanans are legitimately concerned about the reliability of our power grid.  Potentially taking reliable energy sources out of our energy mix, in particular coal, could lead to brownouts and blackouts.  That would be a secondary hit to Montana's economy—without reliable energy, industry has a tough time expanding and creating jobs.

  • Finally, most voters surveyed (74%) agreed with the statement that "government should weigh all costs/benefits when creating new environmental regulations, while just 15% say the government should improve the environment at any cost." 

    This is one of the key points to this entire debate: we need to weight the potential costs of the EPA's regulation—potentially devastating job losses, 20% higher electricity bills for Montanans, an economic slowdown, a reduction in tax revenue from energy and a property tax shift to homeowners—against the expected benefit of the rule—a 1.5% reduction in global carbon emissions.

    Right now it looks like the extreme position—the 15% who say we should implement this rule no matter the cost—are in charge and driving the process forward.
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The six questions MT energy voters need answers to

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Energy issues have consistently been listed as top concerns for Montana voters in 2014.  Despite the voter interest in issues ranging from coal exports to EPA regulations, the positions of some candidate on energy issues is still largely undefined.  With two debates scheduled for each of the federal races over a four-day span next week, there’s an excellent opportunity for Montana voters to learn where these candidates stand on energy.

The Montana Business Leadership Council has outlined a series of five questions that are still at least partially unanswered by at least one of the federal candidates on the ballot:

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MT Legislature Made Right Decision on Medicaid

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By Sen. Fred Thomas

With the growing federal deficit and the need to raise the debt ceiling once again looming large, it has become clear to many of us that the Legislature was right to reject the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.

While the debate was going on, we heard the same set of claims – put forward as if they were facts – over and over again. Obamacare Medicaid would give 70,000 Montanans health care. Obamacare Medicaid would create 12,000 new jobs.

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Understanding the growth in disability

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In recent years the proportion of Americans that who have left the workforce and receive federal disability payments (SSDI) has skyrocketed.  It's a trend that has added to the strain of the public debt that has resulted from our increasing entitlement programs.  While the lifestyle afforded by living on SSDi is by no means an easy one, the evidence suggests that policy changes that made enrolling in SSDI easier have resulted in some Americans leaving the workforce when they otherwise might not have.  Harvard economist Edward Glaeser explores the issue in depth.  Here's an excerpt:

"The disabled are part of the far larger number of Americans who have left the labor force altogether since the recession, and who don’t seem to be coming back. About 88.9 million people in the U.S. are now out of the labor force, 2.4 million more than a year ago and 11.4 million more than in 2006. Thirty years ago, there was a 40-to-1 ratio between the total labor force and those workers receiving Social Security disability payments. Today that ratio is less than 18-to-1

...

The steady rise in disability claims presents something of a puzzle. Medicine has improved substantially. Far fewer of us labor in dangerous industrial jobs like the ones that originally motivated disability insurance. The rate of deaths due to injuries has plummeted. Behavior that can cause disability, such as alcohol use and smoking, has declined substantially. American age-adjusted mortality rates are far lower than in the past.

...

Seventy percent of workers receiving disability assistance fall into three large diagnostic groups: mental disorders (about 32 percent), musculoskeletal system and connective tissue (29 percent), and nervous system and sense organs (about 9 percent). The growth in these conditions explains more than 80 percent of the rise in disability payments since 1996. These medical gray areas can involve a judgment call"

For more on this subject, the Econ Talk podcast has an excellent interview with MIT's David Autor.

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Some links

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Mark Perry explains the demographics that drive income inequality.  An excerpt:

"The good news is that the key demographic factors that explain differences in household income are not fixed over our lifetimes, which means that individuals and households are not destined to remain in a single income quintile forever.  Fortunately, evidence shows that individuals and households move up and down the income quintiles over their lifetimes as the key demographic variables highlighted above change."

David Blackmon exposes the truth about 'subsidies' for Big Oil.  The fact is oil and gas producers don't receive subsidies, despite the persistent rhetoric by some politicians. 

Scott Grannis with some excellent insight on public debt.

John Adams has a great synopsis of the issue that is sure to haunt Senator Baucus through his reelection bid next year.