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February 14, 2005

White House Personnel

I was in favor of Ben Bernanke's taking the job of Chair of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers. Ben is very smart, very calm, very articulate, and very persuasive. Someone has to take the job: why not Ben? He would do some harm to the economic policy debate by flacking for his political masters, but he would do some good by helping to make better economic policies.

It has seemed to me that it would be good for the country (although probably not for Ben's reputation) if he were to take the job.

But now that Karl Rove is Deputy White House Chief of Staff with oversight over the National Economic Council, it's clear to me that Ben shouldn't. He should stay at the Fed. There's no upside to moving to the White House--none whatsoever.

Posted by DeLong at February 14, 2005 05:03 PM


Even before Rove had oversight, what made you think they would have paid attention to him anyway? Every time one of their people told the WH that this policy or that idea needs to be re-thought, that person was shown the door.

Posted by: linnen at February 14, 2005 05:17 PM

Bernanke...uh, where have I heard that name...

shit...THAT Bernanke? The one talking about helocoptering money?

Cheez, guess it might have been a bad impression from all the gold bugs, but I've seen a few descriptions of that notorious speech. Can't say I agree with it.

Posted by: shah8 at February 14, 2005 05:35 PM


Posted by: at February 14, 2005 05:46 PM

I agree with the post except for the part that B^2 might be able to able to impart some good to Bush policies. Isn't the respectable Harvey Rosen trying to provide some advice on social security reform, without much evidence that the policy outcome is any better?

Posted by: P O'Neill at February 14, 2005 06:44 PM

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Hanford Nuclear Reservation, one of America's Department
of Energy nuclear reprocessing tax sinkholes, just announced
construction of a $35M high-level waste reprocessor using a
process akin to making glass from sand, that is, electrically
fusing the nuclear waste into glass-like "logs", that can then
be "permanently" interred in secure underground bunkers
for as long as the grass grows and the wind blows.

How would you like to win an IDIQ contract like that one!?
Take a look at the loot EG&G, BNFL, Flour, DE&S (Duke)
and especially Westinghouse have raked in.

Wonderful news, that at last, after leaking literally billions of
gallons of high-level supremely-toxic nuclear waste into the
groundwater, Hanford (Eastern Washington State bordering
the Columbia River separating Washington and Oregon),
the N-Rez is finally going to do something about it.

And for the billions of gallons of leaked waste, enough raw
radioactivity to kill every person on the planet? President
Bush intends to call that "irretrievably and irremediably lost".
Inevitably seeped into the Columbia and then on to Portland.
In other words, fahged abahd it. Well, life goes on, I guess.
A little radioactive feed-lot beef won't hurt anybody.

Even more disturbing, Bush proposes to declassify certain
mixed transuranic waste as merely debris, allowing it to be
disposed of in landfills, or mixed into metals reprocessing,
or recycled as glow-in-the-dark lab coats, I would imagine.


There's more to the story, of course. Hanford is not just a
secure repository for US nuclear waste, but for waste from
all our allies who either lack the facilities for, or simply find
the costs of n-reprocessing cheaper to dump onto the US
taxpayer. That's right. The US is nuclear waste processor
to the world, or soon will be, and its on your tax dollars.
The Port of Tacoma is the designated n-waste transport.

It gets better. If you do the total life-cycle energy cost, from
cradle to grave, and many respected scientists have, you
find an amazing, unbelievable, irremediable conclusion.

1) Nuclear power uses more fossil fuel in its total energy
cycle, from mining to processing to transportation to
disposal reprocessing and storage, than is generated by
nuclear power itself. Think about that. For every kilowatt
of nuclear power generated, a *greater* amount of fuel oil
energy is burned in processing it though its total life cycle.
Put another way, for every nuclear power plant built, a new
petroleum reserve must be found, drilled, developed and
refined, exclusively to support that nuclear power plant.

2) Nuclear reprocessing, that is, glassification, uses more
energy to melt the mountain of waste into glass logs, than
the energy produced by that nuclear fuel in the first place.
Think about it. For every kilowatt of nuclear power created,
a greater amount of wind or hydropower must be diverted
to reduce that nuclear waste into a "safe" end-product.
Or, put another way, for every nuclear power plant built,
there must be an *additional* renewable power plant built,
dedicated just to power the n-waste process, ad infinitum.

3) The storage requirements for this nuclear waste are
on the order of 20,000 years. That's longer than Homo
Sapiens has walked upon the earth. The cost of that
storage, in terms of monitoring and security operations,
is more than the totality of all human activity since the
beginning of written history. And that cost will be born
by the US taxpayer, for our n-waste, and for the world's.

But it gets more incredible, and unearthly.

Buried in Dick Cheney's written-in-secret National Energy
Policy is a stipulation to build six (6) *new* mega-billion $
nuclear power plants *on the taxpayer dollar*!

That is, under BushCo's energy policy they're demanding
Congress approve, is a ~$100B line item for US to build
a half-dozen Federal nuclear power plants, the same kind
of n-production BushCo is threatening to bomb Iran over.

If there was ever a more egregious fraud ... Let's go long:
Here's the math. For every US tax dollar spent on nuclear,
about 1/3rd's goes into corporate coffers at under 10% tax,
and about 2/3rd goes into the labor and materials. Of the
materials, again about 20% comes back in taxes, gas
taxes and equipment sales tax. Of the labor, about 30%
comes back in income, state and sales tax. Roughly.

Ergo, of every US tax dollar of yours spent on nuclear power
production and energy deficits, the Federal government gets
back about the same return as what goes into the ground.
The rest is burned off on labor wages, and corporate profits.
It's hall-of-mirrors economics. In terms of value, as useable
value that you can eat, drive or live in, the US defense industry
and the nuclear power industry creates *nothing*. In terms of
their costs, the US defense industry and the nuclear power
industry are being purchased as the price of the destruction
of hundred's of thousands of homes, millions of lives, tens
of millions of skipped meals, hundreds of millions of empty
collection plates, and billions and trillions, as Carl Sagan
used to grandly exclaim, of future US$ tax dollar deficits.

I don't know, maybe that's Neo-Math, sorcerer's Pentangle,
converting precious metals into base, and wine into blood.
Maybe these really are End Times, the US is Great Santini,
and we're drunk sorcerer's apprentices, lapping Kool Aid.

Posted by: tante aime at February 14, 2005 09:36 PM

I thought Mankiw was a decent fellow, too, until he took the White House job.

Posted by: Jon Koppenhoefer at February 14, 2005 11:39 PM


Isn't he the guy who said we don't have to worry about deflation because the US has the finest electronic printing presses in the world?

Posted by: Kosh at February 15, 2005 07:22 AM

Brad: I take the point of the rhetorical question you raised in your post on liberal privatizers. But I was surprised by the DB pension reform proposals put up on the DoL web site. They seem to identify a real problem and to propose solutions that are correlated with -- if not resolving of -- the identified problem. It was kind of surprising to me. There were no references to the need to make the tax cuts permanent or to spread freedom in the Middle East.

[The bureaucracy continues to work--and to work relatively well--as long as it moves beneath the notice of the White House.]

Posted by: Gerard MacDonell at February 15, 2005 09:15 AM

I assume you were thinking about Colin Powell the whole time you wrote that?

Posted by: Josh Yelon at February 15, 2005 01:54 PM

tante aime
They were mixing their figures. Those statements are as honest as a white house budget.
The gas diffusion process cost for nuclear fuel was energy expensive back when energy was cheap, but we do centrifuges now. A centrifuge plant executive said his plant used more energy in the parking lot lights than in running the centrifuges. The nuclear waste that would cost so much to glassify (if we were to gassify it like highlevel waste instead of just pushing dirt over the pile like we do) is the old fifties low percentage uranium ore that we don't mine any more, now that we found the high percentage uranium ores. The old waste that leaked was done in the fifties and isn't reprocessed that way anymore.
My primary concern is that the PWR and BWR and LMBK designs are inherantly dangerous, and getting more so with time. The other stuff is in the past and we can't do anything about it, but the ongoing reactors we can shut down before it's too late.

Posted by: walter willis at February 15, 2005 03:39 PM

[comment spam]

Posted by: at March 1, 2005 10:17 PM