Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blumenthal’s Two Faces

A newspaper has noted in an editorial rough-up of U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal that energy costs in Connecticut are among the highest in the nation, owing in part to the former attorney general’s itchy trigger finger.

As an AG with attitude, Mr. Blumenthal, who even now understands little about how the free market works, very quickly intervened in a host of self-serving situations to prevent an increase in the supply of widely available energy products.

The easiest, quickest and most rational way to reduce the cost of a product is to increase its supply. When we have a surfeit of oranges or gas or any other consumable product, the price of the product is reduced and the consumer benefits from the abundant supply because his monthly costs are correspondingly reduced, which means he has more money to spend on products that may disappoint some politicians such as Mr. Blumenthal – say, gas guzzling cars or wine, women and song – but the trickling down to consumers of abundant low cost products is what keeps the country humming along.

When, during his successful run for the U.S. Senate, Mr. Blumenthal’s Republican opponent asked the attorney general to explain how a job was created, the poor thing stumbled like a doe with its hoof caught in a snare through a tortuous and wrongheaded explanation. He hobbled along on his shattered foot as best he could, but his answer suggested that all the good and acceptable products would in the future be stamped “made in Washington D.C.”

As attorney general, Mr. Blumenthal’s quarrel with Connecticut’s energy suppliers centered upon the energy product itself; even now he regards some energy products – nuclear, oil derivatives and other affordable resources frowned upon by radical neo-pagan Greens – as the devil’s paw, toxic to Mother Earth and less friendly than, say, bird slaughtering wind turbines and other futuristic unaffordable and undeveloped energy sources.

If Mr. Blumenthal “was responsible for anything,” the paper observed, “it was choking off supply while demand was increasing, and that meant rising rates for families and businesses. Indeed, while he was attorney general, inflation-adjusted electric rates in the state rose almost six times faster than the national average.”

Now that Mr. Blumenthal has moved from the attorney general’s office to the U.S. Senate, he is finding it difficult to leave behind his old public persona. Old habits die hard. The new face Mr. Blumenthal will unveil as he progresses up the Beltway ladder -- a senator “who is willing to work hard for Connecticut” -- is yet in its fetal stage. The new mask is not yet in place on either of Mr. Blumenthal’s faces.

And so, when Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) intimated it might raise rates to cover losses from the recent tropical storm, an unforgiving and relentless Mr. Blumenthal dashed off one of his attorney general philippics denouncing the energy supplier.

Sure, the hurricane -- downgraded in Connecticut to a tropical storm – resulted in unusual expenditures. But now, when some householders in the state were suffering from the battering, was no time to recover costs by raising prices. Mr. Blumenthal did not in his letter suggest a more convenient time.

Mr. Blumenthal was troubled, very troubled, by a suggestion made in a state-wide newspaper that CL&P “will be considering steps to recoup financial losses from this storm by raising utility rates on the very customers who have been left without power. This suggestion for raising rates is unacceptable. I urge CL&P to immediately and publicly disavow and abandon this idea and assure the people of Connecticut that they will not be forced to bear this additional burden.”

There was no immediate disavowal forthcoming and, had Mr. Blumenthal retained his options as attorney general, his profound disappointment would have been accompanied by a threat to sue the toxic producing energy suppliers, thus reducing their obscene profit margin, thus forcing CL&P to maintain costs through attrition – worker reduction, a reliance on out of state staff and resources, annoying expedients that make it less possible for energy suppliers to respond with alacrity to occasional tropical storms that race through the state like media hungry politicians who leave in their wake shattered economies and businesses too big to fail that ultimately must be rescued by frequent transfusions of taxpayer’s blood.

And so the merry dance goes on and on, benefiting lawyers who live in regulatory webs like spiders, politicians on the make, and sundry other public nuisances – but not those consumers who ultimately bear the costs of political excess.

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