Pittsburgh reportedly is overhauling its tax abatement programs for developers. As the Post-Gazette puts it, the idea is “to coax developers to take risks in neighborhoods that have been bypassed in the rush to build Downtown and in other hot markets.”
Economically, there’s a major problem with this theory.
First, if developers have bypassed certain areas, it’s a pretty good sign that they don’t see a profit potential. The marketplace is speaking.
Second, given that scenario, what right do government officials have to turn taxpayers into venture capitalists?
That said, make no mistake: it is laudable for city government to attempt to streamline programs that, for many, long have been regulatory nightmares.
But even in this context, there’s no economic efficiency in bribing developers with public money to build anything in areas that the marketplace has deemed to be not sustainable.
Worse, in Pittsburgh’s effort to “fix” these programs, the P-G reports a “social equity” component will be added.
As Kevin Acklin, chief of staff to Mayor Bill Peduto, put it:
“We would like to define and incentivize projects that address some of the certain set of social equity goods that we’re hoping to advance as a condition to that public money,” he said.
Ah, not only attempting to yet again pick winners and losers but engaging in government social re-engineering to boot.
“Social equity” has become a darling phrase for “progressives.” When “progressives” were “liberals,” they called it “social justice.” And it should continue to be a red-flag phrase for thinking people.
Indeed, as a commentator once put it, there is no social equity when an inherent right of all men applies only to a few.
But as he also noted, the “social equality” pushed by contemporary “’change agents’ … yields inequality.”
That is, “It creates ‘class-based’ rights and not ‘universal rights.’ It imparts an arbitrary ‘duty’ on a group of people. It balances a society on bias and not merit.”
And certainly not on any sound economic principle. Which is a poor foundation for formulating any public policy.
Government leaders in Pittsburgh are on the bandwagon to divest the city’s pension funds from any fossil fuel-related companies.
But as the Tribune-Review reported on June 19, the city’s already beleaguered pension funds could lose nearly $500,000 a year.
The potential pension-loss information comes from a new study by a Chicago economics consulting firm. It concludes that the nation’s top 11 public pension funds could lose trillions of dollars in such a divestiture.
There’s a curious public policy, eh? And to what end? The Trib adroitly reports such a move would have little effect on fossil-fuel companies. And it would have no effect on the climate.
Yet one Pittsburgh officials says there’s “good reason” and a “philosophical basis” to do so. Which, of course, given the facts on the ground, does not compute.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto continues to vow to transition the city to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2035. But he would be wise to review a new paper in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” debunking the notion that the U.S. can be powered exclusively with renewables.
Twenty-one top U.S. scientists have picked apart, piece by piece, 2015 research by a Stanford engineering professor and a University of California, Berkeley research engineer.
That 2015 study regularly has been cited by envirocrats; some of Peduto’s remarks resemble some of that study’s claims on a broad scale.
The bottom line of the debunkers is that the original study’s math doesn’t add up in a variety of critical areas. To wit, as just one example, two California-sized pieces of land covered with hundreds of thousands of wind turbines would be required to produce the amount of electricity claimed.
Thus, as Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute notes in a National Review commentary, the economic and technical viability of a 100 percent renewable-energy system were “wildly exaggerated.”
Bryce also recounts the astute point made by another scientist that Peduto should consider in his zeal to cast off fossil fuels, given the region’s shale gas revolution: Wind energy requires about 700 times more land to produce the same amount of energy as a shale fracking site.
Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (email@example.com).