Friday, September 22, 2017

Immigration: Budweiser, Eisenhower and Trump with something in common

Have you seen a recent Budweiser commercial in which Eberhard Anheuser meets Augustus Busch and they start a beer company in St. Louis? In fact, Busch was Anheuser’s son-in-law and would eventually take over Anheuser’s brewery.
The commercial implies they spoke English to one another, but they almost certainly spoke German, using their native language like many immigrants. German newcomers faced discrimination because their language and culture differed from American ways.
As their brewery was growing, another family of German origin settled in neighboring Kansas. One of their sons was Dwight Eisenhower, who would lead U.S. forces against Nazi Germany in World War II.
Eisenhower would also become president of his family’s adopted country, as would another descendant of German immigrants, Donald Trump.
Though not subject to direct persecution, these families had all left western Germany to escape political domination by the militaristic Prussians. Beyond the freedom promised by America, they also sought economic opportunity. They succeeded, but only after years of hard work and overcoming discrimination.
These families arrived in the U.S., which imposed few limits on immigration. The country’s population grew rapidly, taking the booming economy with it. Later, limits would be placed on immigration. Chinese were totally blocked until the 1940s.
Quebecois came to work in Maine for similar reasons. Now, Paul LePage, whose first language was French, is governor of the state.
The profile of the four German families is remarkably like the characteristics of people now leaving their old countries behind to come to America. Most seek to escape depressed and dangerous conditions for life in a country in which freedom and economic opportunity are part of its DNA.
Like those families, today’s immigrants face resistance. They may work hard. They may obey the law even more than other residents. But they look different and sound different. That’s enough for them to be kept out or thrown out.
The issue today is the DACA program for people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as young children by their parents. They know no other country and they probably neither look nor sound different from many others in the U.S. Technically, though, they can be deported.
Some, who insist on protecting a majority, white European ethnic base, want them removed simply because they don’t qualify. They believe Trump promised them that all illegal immigrants would be ousted. They would be furious if he did not scrupulously keep his promise – right down to the last child.
Others, possibly including the president himself, have sympathy for the situation of a young person, whose only connection is to the U.S. It is not difficult to imagine how challenging, if not threatening, it would be to be uprooted and sent back the country of your ancestors.
U.S. Attorney-General Jeff Sessions has long made clear his opposition to immigrants. He says that they take jobs away from Americans.
Immigration has increased and created new jobs for the obvious reason that, in a consumer-driven economy, immigrants are new consumers. Sessions cannot provide any data to support his position, especially difficult in a country with today’s low unemployment.
Trump, who launched his presidential campaign on an anti-immigrant theme, seems to believe illegal immigrants turn out to be terrorists or criminals. If you break the law to get into the U.S., it makes sense you are likely to break the law again as a resident.
Both Sessions and Trump may sound logical, but their positions are not supported by the facts. People come to the U.S. because they want the benefits of the system, not to destroy it. To become citizens they must learn about the country – history, we assume without certainty, the rest of us already know.
Trump says the DACA situation demands congressional action. Similarly, being realistic and practical on immigration means that the government cannot and will not eject millions of people contributing to the economy. It must find a reasonable and constructive solution.
Reality dictates that more effective measures must be taken to recover control of immigration by blocking illegal entries. But it also dictates that the country deal with people already within its borders who are working, studying and contributing.
These people have always been included in the U.S. census. From the first census in 1790, the Constitution has required counting “persons” resident in the country – legal and illegal immigrants as well as citizens, to set the number of seats each state receives in the House of Representatives.
Immigration reform should mean becoming at least as realistic as the Constitution itself.

Friday, September 15, 2017

National debt to climb whoever wins budget-tax debate

Congress won't ever block an increase in the debt ceiling. Threats to cap it are pure political grandstanding.
Congress spends money without raising enough tax revenues to cover spending. The shortfall must be met by borrowing. If the debt ceiling increase were blocked, borrowing would be prevented. The U.S. government wouldn’t have the funds needed to operate.
If the federal government could not pay its bills, it would default on its debt. Overnight, the dollar would lose its standing as the principal world currency. No longer the home of the world's standard, the U.S. would forfeit leadership. No amount of military might could make up for that setback.
Opponents of raising the lid on the federal debt want the government cut back even if that means stopping Congress from paying its bills. That won't happen.
The debt ceiling could be made automatic or completely abandoned, because it stands in the way of Congress meeting financial obligations it has approved. Some scholars believe the Constitution guarantees payment on the federal debt, so no ceiling bill is required.
The debt service issue is closely linked to tax reform and the size of the federal budget, the main agenda items before Congress in coming months. President Trump may propose reductions for almost all taxpayers, though tax treatment of the wealthiest remains uncertain. Meanwhile, a small part of the budget, only one-sixth of the total, would bear deep cuts.
The underlying issue will be the size and scope of the federal government, brought into sharper focus than it has for many years. New debt will inevitably be created no matter how tight fisted Congress may be, though optimistic budget projections could include a path toward a balanced budget.
Tax cuts would be applied quickly, before next year’s elections. Government budget reductions need to be phased in, so they would take longer. The result? Even if the Trump proposals were adopted, the federal debt would keep on growing.
Trump economists argue that the tax cuts will stimulate economic growth, eventually yielding more tax revenues. Though the federal debt will increase at first, it should come down over a decade, they say.
The Democrats can be expected to argue in favor of keeping most government programs and for a tax increase on the wealthiest slice of the population. They believe that people who benefit from government policies would oppose program cuts and support such a tax increase.
The GOP’s view is that, above all, people want tax reduction. It remains to be seen how the results of the two approaches would compare.
This debate will take place without any in-depth look at the budget itself. Republicans dislike welfare and environmental programs enacted by Democrats and will target them. They will support increases in military spending. The Democrats will defend most existing programs.
Two-thirds of the budget is devoted to meeting the obligations under Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Congress requires payments be made to people who meet eligibility requirements, called “entitlements,” because the recipients have a legislated right to the payments.
They are financed in part by payroll taxes, not income taxes. But the payroll tax revenues do not cover the full cost. Besides, Congress has used some of the payroll tax revenues for other expenses. Shortfalls loom in these programs.
The budget will probably do nothing about entitlements, so their financing problems will grow. So will the debt. Congress will continue to allow taxpayers to live in a dream world of public spending, which will become a nightmare for later generations.
Solutions have been proposed to deal with the budget problems. For Social Security, a wide range of measures that includes increasing payroll tax revenues and slowing the growth in outlays have been proposed. Medicare costs can be cut by better controls. Medicaid eligibility needs review and greater uniformity.
What about the debt? Long-term capital spending for facilities that will used for decades could be financed by long-term debt. But borrowing would not be used to meet current spending except in case of unexpected emergencies like recent hurricanes.
Annual spending should be covered by annual revenues. They both should be kept under continuing review and regular alignment. That means no spending without matching revenues. Zero-based budgeting, in which, from scratch, each activity would be subject to regular justification, could be used.
Unless Washington stops playing politics with tax cuts and by ignoring major budget issues, the debt can only grow worse.
But nothing much will happen this time around. Most likely, despite all the talk, we’ll just keep increasing the debt – and the debt limit.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Ken Burns’ series on Vietnam shows the war that divided America

We are about to start talking about the Vietnam War again. Not because of events in Korea, another divided Asian country, but because filmmaker Ken Burns has produced a major series of programs on that historically divisive conflict.
Many Americans are unfamiliar with this war, though its effects continue to be felt in our public affairs. It teaches lessons for a society now even more divided than during the Vietnam era.
The North Vietnamese Communist government sought to take over the southern half of the country. Even though its leaders had adopted the Declaration of Independence as their own credo, the U.S. worried about this regime’s expansion and its possible “domino effect” across southeast Asia.
Finally, in the Gulf of Tonkin, North Vietnam was reported to have attacked two U.S. destroyers. Those claims brought public and congressional support for America’s military involvement at the eventual cost of more than 58,000 lives of U.S. service personnel. The reports were dubious in one case and fictitious in the other.
The side the U.S. inevitably backed was hardly a democratic model compared with the North. It faced internal rebellion. Corrupt and authoritarian, it was replaced with U.S. support by a military regime. The former president was killed.
Within South Vietnam, there were democratic elements, opposed by both the North and the corrupt regime. In 1971, I accompanied Sen. George McGovern to Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) where we met with some of their leaders.
The South Vietnamese opposition complained they were treated almost as if they were the enemy. As we met them in a church building, we came under armed attack by pro-government forces.
Eventually, the North prevailed, and American forces withdrew. In the aftermath, relations between the U.S. and a unified Vietnam have improved, and commerce flourishes. The much dreaded takeover produced a reasonably benign outcome. It hardly had been worth the direct cost, both human and material.
The cost to the U.S. was far greater that the direct losses. The Vietnam War marked a turning point in America’s standing in the world.
Before Vietnam, the U.S. had been seen not only as the most powerful nation but also as a special country progressing toward the best human ideals. It had come to the aid of Europe in two World Wars. It had generously helped rebuild countries that had been its allies and enemies.
While there were serious flaws in this image, the prevailing view was of the U.S. as actively pursuing high political and social ideals. It was not only great, but good.
Involvement in Vietnam aroused controversy in the U.S. and opposition in many countries that had looked to the U.S. for both protection and moral leadership. America strayed from what was seen as its essential character and lost influence. Now, it was respected more for its power than its ideals.
Americans had felt superior to European cynicism. Vietnam turned the U.S. into a country that would now be viewed in a similar light. America would never be the same.
One major legacy of Vietnam, as Burns suggests, was the creation of a deep divide among the people.
Supporters of the war wanted to defeat what they saw as a Communist threat and believed the U.S. would prevail if it made an all-out commitment to the war effort. Once the U.S. became involved, national pride was engaged. Needless killing and uncertain victory were necessary risks.
Opponents focused on the futility of the war and the cruel loss of life by Americans and Vietnamese. Sometimes, they would romanticize the North and its Viet Cong army. They organized frequent demonstration in hopes of convincing the government to halt the increasingly unpopular war.
The division between the two sides was bitter and deep. There was no common ground, leading to a sense of mistrust previously seen only in the conflict over slavery. Opponents on either side were regarded as unpatriotic or hostile to traditional values.
Once this split developed, it made domestic ideological warfare a part of American politics. It remains today.
One casualty of the war was President Lyndon Johnson. More than any other president, he had led the country toward ending Jim Crow, the discriminatory legacy of slavery. For that alone, he deserves an honored place in history. But his standing is undercut by his support for increased U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict.
Vietnam was an American tragedy, affecting ordinary people in the U.S. and Vietnam. It had a profound impact on this country. Burns’ series is a timely opportunity to relearn its lessons.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Trump, America’s second independent president, shuns both parties

“Trump is exactly what Republicans are not,” former Missouri GOP Sen. John Danforth wrote recently.
While that may seem extreme, the statement raises a serious issue about Trump’s relationship to the Republicans. “GOP leaders still puzzle over President Trump,” said a Boston Globe headline.
Is Trump a Republican? He looks increasingly like an independent. He attacks Republicans daily, often more fiercely than Democrats.
Trump could be the second independent president in U.S. history. John Tyler, the vice president who took office when the president died just one month after the 1841 inauguration, had been added to the Whig Party ticket for regional balance. The Whigs were the majority in Congress, but they fought with Tyler.
So they tossed Tyler out of the party with the result that he had no party and no domestic policy success. In a 2017 survey of historians, he ranked 39th out of 43 presidents.
Trump may have become a Republican purely to have a path to national office. Like Tyler, he was once a Democrat. By now, it is evident that he gets along with congressional Republicans no better than Tyler did with his adopted party.
Without strong loyalty to the party whose label they carried, both Tyler and Trump could easily be classified as presidents who were really independents. And both found the American party system made it difficult for an independent to deal with Congress.
So far, Trump is having no more success with Congress than did Tyler, who, like Trump, thought he could succeed by stressing his ultra-conservative principles. Tyler was said to dislike slavery, though he supported it and kept slaves. At best, Trump is equivocal about white supremacists.
Having alienated Congress, Tyler was the first president ever to face an impeachment effort. Without real party support, he risked removal. It’s early, but Trump could face Republican hostility matching his own open disdain for Senate Majority Leader McConnell, House Speaker Ryan and Sen. McCain.
Trump clearly believes that he has a special link with many voters, regardless of his rocky relationship with the GOP. By keeping the support of his “core” voters, he may reason that elected Republicans will have to follow him or risk losing to Trump-backed primary opponents. In effect, he would create his own party.
The media may not emphasize his ties to the “core” to his satisfaction, but his tweets provide a direct line of communication. The adulation of his backers and Fox News’ favorable coverage could be all he needs. He is unfazed by falling poll numbers, probably because he beat the polls in his surprise electoral victory.
Maine has had more experience than other states with independent chief executives. In recent decades, it elected two independent governors. Gov. LePage might also be classified an independent in the Trump pattern.
The two independents, James Longley and Angus King, were both Democrats who believed they would have a better chance of communicating their message and getting on the ballot if they left the party.
Winner with less than a popular majority, Longley was blunt talker, not above name-calling. His term was characterized by conflict. An upset winner frequently hostile to both parties, he chose not to run for re-election.
LePage has won the governorship twice without a popular majority. He shares much of Longley’s approach, confrontational and almost entirely independent of party, though he ran as a Republican. His positions leave little room for compromise. He often echoes Trump.
King was different from the others. He did not attack the parties, adopting some policies favorable to each. He was seen as a modernizing moderate. When he ran for reelection, most Democrats and some Republicans were with him, and he won by a wide margin.
The lesson of these three Maine governors seems to be that an independent’s greatest likelihood of success results from not taking independence to the point of going to war with the parties in the legislative branch.
Trump’s independence stems from having won when nobody, probably including himself, thought he would. As president, he continues to campaign in the belief that what worked to elect him will work in governing. He tries to intimidate congressional Republicans and spurns Democrats.
If Trump is correct in his belief that he represents a new kind of politics, perhaps he could transform American government.
More likely, he will find that an independent president must make an extra effort to work with Congress, not against it, or risk suffering Tyler’s fate. Having dodged impeachment, Tyler was denied nomination for a second term. His successor was a Democrat.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Trump continues campaigning; only Congress can save his presidency

The government seems to be operating without a president. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican like President Trump, questions if his presidency can be saved.
The 2016 campaign continues. Trump attacks Republicans, Democrats, and the media. He implies that he has no “moral” concern about Nazi and white supremacist demonstrators. If Democrats won’t support Americans paying for the border wall, not Mexico, he will shut down the government.
As president, he offers rhetoric, not substantive proposals. He attacks Congress, creating opponents whose support he needs. He has a freer hand in international affairs than on domestic policy, but often confuses and bewilders allies and adversaries. The generals running the government must correct his statements.
After his deeply divisive remarks on Charlottesville and his collapsing poll numbers, his scripted speech on Afghanistan, where he promised, “we will win,” may have been an attempt to appear more presidential. But he reverted to form with the Phoenix rally.
He appears to believe tax reform is his silver bullet. “This is our moment,” he says. He hopes to unite Republicans and Democrats, bring back the disaffected business community and send the stock market to new heights.
Called tax reform, it is mainly a tax cut for everybody, which should be widely popular. The prospect of tax reductions originally attracted business leaders and was the basis of the Trump bump in the stock market.
A couple of aspects of tax “reform” are certain. First, everybody, from the lowest income fifth to the wealthiest tenth, will have their income taxes reduced.
The wall-to-wall tax reduction is what Trump expects should produce sufficient congressional majorities. In theory, the GOP will get behind the cut, and Democrats could have a hard time opposing it.
Just who gets most of the tax cut may prove to be the problem with this theory. The Democrats favor a tax increase on those with incomes in the top one percent, but the Trump proposal is slated to give them the biggest reduction.
This is where the idea of tax reform departs from tax reduction. While there may be cuts for all, reform is meant to benefit the rich.
Some loopholes may be closed, but lower rates and eliminating the inheritance tax on people who leave more than about $10 million will be a boon to the most wealthy. The tax breaks for the wealthiest may be what limits Democratic support.
The second key aspect of the tax proposal is that the federal government will receive less revenue. That’s the GOP’s intention, and it means deep cuts in government services.
The federal budget has three parts. The largest is required support for programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The remainder, about one-third of outlays, has been evenly split between defense and all non-defense spending. Trump wants to end equal treatment, boosting defense and slashing the rest.
While that may be conservative policy, it fails to take into account the people whose services will be cut. That was the lesson of “repeal and replace Obamacare.” So many people would have lost coverage that some legislators could not support outright repeal.
Much the same would be true with cuts on programs from agriculture to the arts, many created by members of Congress responding to their constituents. It may be difficult for them to sell tax cuts for the rich financed by reductions in services to voters.
As for the conduct of his presidency, it’s not clear that Trump grasps all of this. He has shown little interest in the substance of policies, and looks for political wins that he can claim for himself. He relishes the cheers of his dwindling core supporters more than the details of governing.
He congratulates himself for creating one million jobs in the first half of the year. That’s exactly the job growth under President Obama in the same period last year. Trump counts the gain for himself but not for the president whose legacy he would destroy.
Without tax reform success and governing as if the presidency is really a continuing political campaign, Trump could find it difficult to achieve success with any domestic policy proposals. A solution must be found elsewhere or government will remain stalled.
If a reluctant McConnell and House Speaker Ryan would compromise with Democrats, moderate, veto-proof bills could be passed. Trump could take the credit for them. As with the nearly unanimously passed bill keeping sanctions on Russia, a bipartisan approach could reduce the risks of a Trump foreign policy.
In short, Congress might be able to save the Trump presidency.

Friday, August 18, 2017

GOP conservatives forced to confront Trump’s “base”

The white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. provides strong evidence of the widening division in American politics.
President Trump’s reaction shows a new stage in the rightward evolution of the Republican Party, one rejected by many GOP leaders.
He would not single out the far right demonstrators for responsibility, even after one of them had killed a woman. Two days later, he read a prepared statement criticizing white supremacists, only to revert to assigning equal blame to racists and their angry opponents.
The GOP has evolved from Lincoln’s war to defeat slave state rebellion to a party led by a president giving comfort to racism. After the Civil War, the GOP became the dominant party. Its platform favored business, while keeping government small and workers under control.
The Great Depression of 1929, the deepest economic crash, revealed the limits of Republican policy. With Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and a larger role for government, it lost its dominance.
Sen. Susan Collins remains loyal to many of the values of the traditional, pro-business Republican Party, while accepting the need for change. In her views, voters can see a mix of conservatism and practical concern for the less fortunate.
But the party came under the influence of leaders exploiting social issues and opposition to gun control. Under President Ronald Reagan, the party moved to the right. The 1994 congressional elections brought a disciplined and strongly conservative GOP to power in Congress.
The GOP has been tightening its grip on power through the successful use of tactics designed to suppress Democratic voting. Traditional Republicans have been increasingly challenged by strong conservatives, some of them participants in the Tea Party movement, and the elected face of the party became more conservative.
Social conservatives, most of whom would pare government back to little more than national defense, came to dominate the GOP. To them, Collins, though a lifelong party member, is seen as a Rino – a Republican in name only. They now own the brand name, not her,
Trump’s election represented the next step in the rightward evolution of the party. His anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim, anti-“politically correct” rhetoric made some on the far right, who had remained outside the world of politics, believe they now had a one of their own as president.
They suddenly feel free to express and act on their views. Believing them part of his political “base,” Trump seems reluctant to reject their overt and extreme racism. Hence, the Charlottesville rally and Trump’s reaction, applauded by right-wingers promoting white supremacy.
The reaction of elected Republican conservatives suggests that, while the party may have shifted to the right and chosen to emphasize wedge social issues, the party is not ready to embrace racist elements even for their votes.
Still, today’s Republican Party is deeply conservative on a broad range of issues. Because its electoral success appears to be based on a combination of traditional GOP support and the newly self-confident hard right, it is reluctant to compromise with Democrats.
The Democrats run the risk of insisting on a similar degree of strict adherence to a set of principles enforced by real party discipline.
Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders may legitimately feel their man would have won the presidential election if he had overcome the Clinton forces control of the Democratic Party. The party had not been neutral and had lost. Now, some Bernie activists want to purge the party’s traditional supporters, whom they see as discredited.
A key to the Democrats’ historic strength has been its openness to a wide range of views. Roosevelt transformed his party’s traditional reliance on the South into a broad coalition including northern liberals. Eventually that combination would break apart after southern conservatives moved to the GOP.

The 2018 congressional elections will be a test to see if conservative Republicanism, in which Trump welcomes extremists, will be sustained or rejected. But the Democrats must do more than merely stand by the pick up the pieces.

The 2020 presidential election may show if progressive Democrats accept the need for a “big umbrella” more than the creation of an uncompromising, ideologically pure party. It may also reveal if the GOP recovers its traditional conservatism or continues its drift to the hard right.

For many people, what is of greatest importance is not the triumph of a party or a political philosophy, no matter how correct it may seem, but whether the political divide has become impossible to close, making compromise impossible.

The survival of the American system of government, operating in a vast and diverse country, depends on compromise.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Electric bills hide costly government policies

Electric bills hide turmoil in the electric industry.
Some recent events illustrate the point. The Maine Legislature sustained Gov. LePage’s veto of solar power subsidies. Renewable subsidies are pushing up costs. New transmission lines are raising rates. Major Canadian hydro projects, hoping for U.S. markets, experience runaway costs
Policy decisions contribute to hidden increases in the price of power. In short, the electric bill pays for more than economical, reliable power.
Back in 1993, Congress remodeled the industry. Formerly, utilities owned both power generators and all the wires, used to serve captive customers. Then Congress ruled transmission lines had to carry any producers’ power, not just that from the line-owners.
In many states, including Maine, utilities were forced to sell off their generators, becoming solely wires companies. The risk of costly, faulty power supply decisions was moved from their customers to independent power suppliers.
The goal was competition among suppliers in a reasonably open market. That worked and the customer’s cost of power may have fallen by about one-third, particularly for those sticking with the standard or default offer.
That’s the good news. The not-so-good news was that the cost of wires just about doubled, allowing the traditional utilities to thrive with little risk.
Wires costs rose because utilities convinced regulators that their transmission lines were old and needed replacement, not always the case.
Siting of new generators also boosted costs. Traditionally, to keep transmission costs low, generators were located close to big markets. But such siting became increasingly difficult.
Some thought that cheap power could be imported from Canada, avoiding siting problems. But that power wouldn’t be any less costly than prices set in the U.S. market where it would be sold. And production costs in Canada are rising.
Public policy encourages renewable resources like hydro, solar and wind. Costly lines from new, distant generators to urban customers may be necessary. That could be the result of recent proposals to generate power in Maine for use in Massachusetts.
But government ordered regulators to go even further. Renewable power could be expensive to produce, slowing its development. Regulators were required to build subsidies into electric rates to allow renewables to appear to be competitive with traditional fuels like coal and oil.
Higher costs paid by today’s customers would supposedly produce cleaner and less costly power for tomorrow’s customers. That’s been promised for decades with dubious results.
Regulators forecast future electricity costs and then price renewables in line with their predictions. The problem is they usually get their forecasts wrong. For example, today’s natural gas prices are far below what they foresaw. Plus, there are new wires costs.
Customers pay a premium price to subsidize renewables without gaining an immediate economic benefit. That’s a real problem for Maine, the poorest state in New England and one struggling to attract new industry.
When the Legislature fell short of the votes to override Gov. LePage’s veto of solar subsidies, it aided customers. The veto may have slowed solar development from becoming competitive and improving the state’s energy mix, but it kept the subsidy’s direct and indirect effects out of current rates.
Renewables deserve public support, but why should today’s customers be forced to pay the subsidy? If regulators were limited to setting rates only for reliable service, legislators could set public policy and subsidize renewables with tax revenues, not rates. Trying to finance subsidies by taxes could reveal if voters favor such support.
By shifting subsidies into electric rates, government levies hidden taxes. It’s public policy without public responsibility. But it can hurt low-income customers and discourage some industries from locating in a high-cost market. On this one, LePage is correct.
Utilities will soon face paying the costs of underused utility lines, as more local resources are developed to serve local users. That’s called “distributed generation,” and it is likely the wave of the future. With improved batteries and other power storage, smaller local solar and wind mini-grids will be possible.
Utilities may stop growing, if new lines are not needed. While they will be allowed to cover their costs, their profits might suffer. They will expect customers to cover expected profits.
The solution could be to allow utilities to become developers of small-scale, renewable generators. Waning profits from big wires projects could be gradually offset by local power systems.
The cost of electricity reflects policy decisions about what resources we use, where they are located and what we pay for them. The monthly bill hides all that.
(Disclosure: I was Maine’s first Public Advocate and headed the state energy office.)