Around the public policy horn …

Around the public policy horn …

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has been in Poland this week, representing U.S. mayors at the United Nations’ annual climate change conference.

He’s of course a big advocate for supposed remedies to address the issue. Never mind that such “solutions” invariably have a dubious cost-to-benefit relationship. That is, the cost so outpaces the benefits that the touted cure is worse than the claimed disease.

In Pittsburgh, Peduto’s plan revolves around city operations that, by 2030, are to use 100 percent renewable energy; a fossil fuel-free vehicle fleet and ancillary disinvestment in fossil fuel companies; and a 50 percent reduction in overall energy and water usage and transportation emissions.

Again, at what cost? Again, at what benefit? High and marginal, respectively, it would seem.

Peduto’s trip comes on the heels of the release of an updated draft plan to cut carbon emissions statewide. Strategies include requiring more solar and wind power coming onto the grid (likely heavily “incentivized,”aka subsidized by tax dollars), a transition to electric vehicles (again, likely subsidized) and cutting home and business electricity usage.

Backers lament that such efforts could be for naught given that emissions from the growth in transportation, natural gas production and waste are expected to rise over the next 30 years.

What draconian, economic growth-arresting steps next will be advocated to offset that growth are anybody’s guess. But the concept of “cap and trade” looms large.

As the Post-Gazette recently characterized it, cap-and-trade “is a market-based approach that both sets a shrinking limit on how much pollution can be released and offers economic incentives for companies to make further reductions and to earn valuable allowances they can sell to others.”

Never mind that a government-created market is an oxymoron. As the Capital Research Center recently reminded:

“The tax can only be called ‘free market’ in the sense that it sets up a phony market based around a kind of commodity – carbon dioxide emissions – and forces companies to work within it or face heavy fines from the federal government.”

Not only is it a perversion of free markets, critics cringe at how it directly assaults U.S. manufacturing and competitiveness and is nothing more than the latest attempt at wealth redistribution.

That’s hardly sound public policy.

In a rare spate of common sense, Pittsburgh City Council is refusing to fast-track legislation from the Peduto administration to spend up to $100,000 to better “brand” city services.

As the Post-Gazette reports it, one councilor doesn’t think “branding” should be any kind of priority in a city not long – less than a year — out of state financial oversight.

Another flat out called it a waste of money.

Still another council member said expending $100,000 for re-branding – and that would be just for the concept and no implementation – would involve spending “a significant amount of money for what we think is going to be a little return.”

So, why spend the money? A mayoral spokesman says “Pittsburgh is growing” and says it’s “getting an international reputation.”

But the reality is the city continues to shrink, at least in population.

And one can only wonder what that “international reputation is,” what with its perennially underperforming public schools; its out-of-whack public transit (bus) cost structure; its market-perverting subsidies to airlines; the equally perennial failure to reassess property for taxation purposes (a political practice that has only exacerbated inequities in the taxation regimen) and slavish devotion to economic “development” practices that too often retard true economic growth instead of enable it.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).