Kevin Drum’s Jobs Plan

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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76 Responses

  1. Avatar Kim says:

    Fission’s needed, it works, and it’s here now. so too is hydro, another proven energy source. We should invest some in fusion, but dont’ put all our eggs there.Report

  2. I completely agree that we need some serious investment in our infrastructure; unfortunately, we’re completely averse to investing because it involves an outlay of cash. Great quote I read recently sums it up well: “America once prided itself on risk taking. Now we’re risk averse in all things because no one wants the sacrifice to be theirs.”

    Nuclear, as we know it today however, is one risk we don’t need to be taking, because there is a much safer alternative: thorium power. Invented at Oak Ridge Labs in the 1950s, thorium power is incredibly abundant, scalable, and very safe. It’s really a shame that it doesn’t get more attention. Read about it here: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/12/ff_new_nukes/Report

    • Avatar North says:

      The hysterical thing about thorium, and I salute you for mentioning it, is that a major reason it was passed over in the 50’s is because it didn’t crank out enough weaponizable byproducts to be used for making nuclear weapons. The irony, it burns.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        I’m going to call shenanigans on this. It’s not at the level of the 100 mpg carburetor that the oil industry doesn’t want you to have, but it’s along the same lines.

        Between the enrichment level and the design itself, most civilian nuke plant designed are ill-equipped for weapons production. And those plants that lend themselves to weaponization via spent fuel reprocessing, presidential administrations gradually banned the use of re-processed fuel for any use (power production or otherwise) in the 70’s (and before TMI) when even the wired article says that Thorium research was still ongoing.

        Most weapons grade nuclear material was made in the various government owned facilities (e.g. Hanford, Savannah River) and was rarely (never?) procured from straight utility-owned power plants.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Kolohe, my understanding was that Alvin Weinberg invented both the currently used nuclear reactor (104 of them across USA) and developed the Thorium molten salt reactor. The reasons MSR technology has been so shamefully neglected is because Thorium reactors were so good at burning up fuel that the waste products were unusable for Nuclear weapons therefore the project was forgotten about because at the time (1960’s) the US wanted weapons. Weinberg liked the MSR because it was so much more efficient than Uranium plus a number of other excellent reasons.Report

  3. Avatar Max says:

    What do you make of the pundits claiming that “shovel-ready” projects aren’t the low-hanging fruit they were under the New Deal? I’ve never understood this criticism. It seems very clear that there is a tremendous amount of infrastructural work to be done around the country.

    I’m a fan of high-speed rail and I hope to see it in my lifetime, but to be perfectly honest I think low-level broadband might be the smarter investment. Faster return, easier to manage (I imagine), and I bet we would see a considerable benefit multiplier from bringing that many more people into our information economy. Not to mention the stimulus side-benefit of allowing people who are struggling to pay their cable bills to spend that money elsewhere and rely on free state wifi.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      pish. we renovated our city parks with the stimulus money. didn’t take more than a few weeks for the engineers to come up with the specs, I’m sure. (now the contract/bidding process…). They regraded everything, and put a ton of kitty litter down. It really helps.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller says:

      My impression from being a transit nerd is that it really does take longer to build new infrastructure now, for a variety of reasons–environmental review is one, but there are plenty of other layers of review as well. Luckily (or not), unemployment is a long-term problem at this point–we can safely expect elevated levels for at least the next 2 years, maybe longer–so a slightly increased lead time will not lead us to do stimulus too late.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “I’m a fan of high-speed rail and I hope to see it in my lifetime, but to be perfectly honest I think low-level broadband might be the smarter investment. ”

      Oh look, another “subsidize the suburbs” initiative.Report

  4. We either invest in nuclear or we invest in coal and try to figure out how to make it as clean as possible. No other energy sources can plausibly power our country. Anything else is wishful thinking.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      … science fixes most problems. eventually. I think we can get clean and green. Well, I also walk to the grocery store (or drive to costco once a month).

      My lifestyle would break the American Economy within a week! (if adopted by everyone else).

      If you kill the suburbs, we can plausibly power our country a lot easier.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Uh yes, but where would the people live and how’d you “kill’ the suburbs? High gas prices or some other financial incentive could do it but short of that I don’t know what would without involving government tyranny. People like yards.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          meh. I’m not saying people can’t have yards. put the yards on top of the buildings, just like we do in pittsburgh! You’d have the people live in places where they don’t need to drive 15 miles to get to work. Addln’tly, you could have buses with improved transportation networks.

          Americans do like yards (and horribly big houses), but they’re tremendously inefficient.

          I dont’ know how we convince people willing to waste $160,000 that they’d honestly be happier in a city. But maybe pointing out that number once in a while might help.

          besides, most suburbs in cali are drying up already…

          I think white flight hurt everyone really badly.Report

  5. Avatar North says:

    I’m skeptical about high speed rail. The US is a developed country. The rural regions where rail lines and right of ways can be easily acquired don’t need high speed rail. The cities that high speed rail would assist are utter nightmares to try and acquir rail lines through. You can’t use existing lines because slow freight rail is far far far more efficient in terms of energy use than its alternative (tractor trailers) and is utterly incompatible with high speed rail.

    Bonus answer:
    Nuclear power is not remotely as dangerous as it is imagined to be or marketed as being by anti-nuke nuts. The byproducts of nuclear power are not remotely as hard to deal with as said nuts or the uninformed public think. I remain deeply skeptical that any practical alternative base load enegy source exists (unless we somehow get into space bigtime and begin harvesting raw solar power and beaming it to earth somehow) that can be deployed.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      … all you need to do is get people to cities. I don’t mind if we have one train that runs from Pgh to Harrisburg, and another that runs from Har to Philly, and another that runs to Baltimore from DC.

      North, high speed rail stands to put the milk and butter airplanes out of business.

      Also, the nuclear power could be regulated well, that is not to say it is, or will be.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Yes and in Europe this is easy as they have lots of people and little land. But in the US where they have lots of people and lots of land it is more problematic.

        One would have to get high speed rails built before they could put anything out of business and I’m deeply skeptical of the feasability of building them.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          … ain’t they almost done with the one in San Francisco? I saw most of the development there.
          And that was a GREAT incentive to give up right of way,btw. Give up right of way, and we’ll give you an extra 20 stories per building. (disc: i’ve forgotten what tehy actually did. but this seems quite likely from what I know of their codes).Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            “…ain’t they almost done with the one in San Francisco?”

            …done with the what in the where now? There’s no “high speed rail” in California at all, let alone anywhere near San Franciso.Report

  6. Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

    > Should we invest in nuclear power

    Yes.

    > Or is it too dangerous?

    It’s dangerous, yes. So is getting out of bed in the morning 🙂

    The risk of meltdown in a well-designed reactor is vanishingly small, and the effects of meltdown in a well-designed reactor is substantially less than, say, a hurricane.

    I remember watching the tsunami come in on Japan, even before the reactor mess, and thinking to myself, “Damn, that’s a ton of oil, gas, household pesticides, construction material, and assorted toxic sludge that’s getting swept out into that farmland. Not to mention the sea salt. Cleaning all that up is going to take years, I bet the cancer rate in Japan skyrockets.”

    Getting off of fossil fuels and on nuclear might give us the occasional accident at a plant. It’s also going to cut down on all that crap in the soil and water and air. I think it’s reasonably safe to say it’s a win for nuclear.

    > If we don’t invest in nuclear, can
    > we ever hope to switch over from
    > fossil fuels to a renewable energy
    > economy?

    Sure, we can hope. Like Tom pointed out on the discussion on slavery on the other thread, all things must pass.

    Eventually, fossil fuel use on Terra will pass. We don’t have seas of liquid methane, after all. The question is do we make the change or does the change happen to us, and when is the best and most efficient time to change.

    I think starting right now is a pretty good idea.Report

  7. Avatar jeff says:

    does it matter that the last broadband stimulus cost $350,000 per home? Good use of money? Yes? No? I’m sure someone did some work with that money, thus “jobs”, thus it must have been a great idea.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      Wait, what? Where are you getting this number from? What are you talking about?Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        That number is all over the internet. It appears to have been pulled out of someone’s ass.Report

        • Avatar wardsmith says:

          it was at, uh, Forbes

          +1 LOL!Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

          You do realize how misleading your comment is right? You do realize the initial laying of broadband lines to rural areas will have a higher initial capital investment which will be watered down as those areas become more populated…..right?Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            A couple serious questions:

            1) How populated do we expect those areas to be?

            2) What’s the argument for fostering increase population in those particular areas?Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              A couple other serious questions: What is the argument against spending $350,000 per household to lay broadband in rural areas during a time when government spending is needed and borrowing money to do it is essentially a money-making proposition given negative real interests — if that’s what it costs to get it done? What’s the argument for that infrastructure not existing in those places?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                The partisan, snarky argument: because these sorts of projects distort the donor/beneficiary map and allows urban liberals to point to rural beneficiary red states and say “WELFARE QUEENS!!!” because the benefits conferred on a few residents in Gallatin County makes a voter in Billings into an instant hypocrite if he votes Republican.

                The real argument to come…Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                The argument against it is that even if we are going to spend the millions and millions of dollars required here to stimulate the economy, surely there are better ways to do it than this. Buy the ones that can get 3G a cell phone. Buy the ones that can’t a new house. Or buy them all satellite dishes and let them get their internet from there. It’s not ideal, but they chose to live where they did. And even though I am not at all an urbanist, there are limits to the degree that I want to make accommodations for people to live in wide open spaces.

                I mean, look, I live in a place not to dissimilar to where they are putting these things up. You don’t have to move far out of town at all before the telco and cable company will tell you to go to hell. And so when I hear about a project about hooking places like this up, I am inclined to be supportive. But at that price tag? I don’t see how we wouldn’t collectively be far better off spending the money somewhere else.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I honestly don’t see an argument that even purports to say why I should want this infrastructure brought into existence, Will. I only see an argument for why I shouldn’t want to spend this much per household doing. But the things, the main thing I do want is for shit tons of spending to happen in short order. If soemone has done the numbers and is ready to start employing people doing this, then I want it to start happening yesterday.

                So I’ll ask this again: is there a reason for me to simply not want this infrastructure created? Like, such that if it were going to happen free of cost, I’d still not want it to happen (like, in most cases bombing people, for example)?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                …sorry: why I should not want it brought into existence. (re: fist sentence)Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Oh, I would support it if it were free. I would support it if it were cheap. I could be convinced into supporting it anyway.

                Even if the main goal is to just spend, spend, spend, I just don’t see this as the best thing to actually spend it on. For instance, I would be much more likely to come to the defense of an infrastructure plan to put up more cell towers to get rid of the dark spots along our rural interstates and highways.Report

          • Avatar jeff says:

            I never see preparing those areas for greater population density as a justification for the subsidy. I see the following:

            1) the bad justification: something to the extent that hey, we don’t want these people being left behind without high speed internet access. Digital Divides and all. The internet is an essential part of life.

            2) the worse justification: it “creates jobs”.

            If the investment could be justified over time with some reasonable assumption about population growth, it would already be happening, without a “stimulus”Report

          • Avatar wardsmith says:

            @ED, your statement smells of grasping at straws. From the “Forbes” article: So the cost of extending access in the Montana case comes to about $7 million for each additional household served.

            At issue here isn’t whether the per capita cost of the infrastructure /might/ come down over time with increased population, but the market distorting nature of a federal behemoth stomping all over normal capitalism. I could point to the grid infrastructure upgrades and how utilities across the country FROZE their upgrade plans while they waited to see whether they would receive federal stimulus funds. Market distortions ensued and contracting companies had a period of tremendous famine while they waited for the feast to come. Unfortunately as all the stimulus funds hit the utilities at once, all the orders went to the (now undermanned) contractors at once and the prices went up while the quality of work went down.

            Command and control economies are inefficient at best and highly destructive at worst. How many lessons did we NOT learn from the Soviets in this?Report

            • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

              If you want to be taken seriously even one tiny bit I would recommend you avoid referencing the soviets…Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Yeah, of course don’t go back to the progenitor

                The phrase ‘command economy’ comes from the German ‘Befehlswirtschaft’, and was originally
                applied to the Nazi economy, which shared many formal similarities with that of Soviet Russia. It
                has received its fullest development in the analysis of the economic system of the Soviet Union
                Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                Au contraire Erik, if you want to be taken seriously in a venue that you don’t own, you need to appreciate the consequences of left wing economics more than you apparently do.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Can we talk about squirrels now? jeff’s not a squirrel, but his numbers are filled with them.Report

  8. Avatar MFarmer says:

    A big, nationwide infrastructure project will become the Gigantic Clusterfuck of 2011.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      Fustercluck? Clusterfish? Fishtercluck? Surely there’s a more gentlepersonishly way to convey the concept, Mr. Farmer.

      Although I quite agree with the sentiment. We’re way past NIMBY–we don’t want the ecological or aesthetic nuisance of any public works project like the Hoover Dam in anybody’s back yard.

      [By “we,” I don’t mean “we” as in you or I, of course…]Report

  9. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    The problem with infrastructure spending is that it assumes that there is a glut of available workers to build it. Problem is, unless we have lots of unemployed/underemployed Civil Engineers and Specialized Construction workers, the money isn’t gonna do anyone any good for at least 5-10 years while the people are trained up.

    You can’t just have a bunch of out-of work MBAs or Computer Engineers designing railways & bridges, and the guys who build houses with wood & drywall are not able to turn around and build with steel & concrete.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      Unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree or better: 4.3%.

      We actually DO have a glut of unskilled and skilled blue-collar workers. The hardest hit being, of course, the entire construction industry.

      Pretty much exactly the people with the skill sets you’d use to rebuild bridges, roads, and schools — or people whose skill set is close enough that they can pick up the necessary skills on the job with minimal cost.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Saying the “Construction Industry” is hard hit is nice, but if the majority of the the unemployed Construction Industry are home builders, and not concrete & steel workers, we still have a lot of lag time while people are being retrained.

        If I look at the last census data, there were a lot more industrial construction workers employed than home construction workers.

        So again, before calling for lots of infrastructure spending (IMHO, a good idea), make sure the workforce is available, or commit to spending the money to bring that workforce online first.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          … on point, and on target!
          Let’s build green buildings instead. Pay gobs of money to increase insulation and do things that will save money in the long run… Kinda like what the Last Stimulus did, actually.

          Yay, washington did something right!Report

          • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

            Funny thing about that. Out here in Seattle, we got millions of dollars from the fed to create grants & low interest loans so homeowners could upgrade & insulate their homes (reduce energy & create jobs, YEAH!), except after a year, only one customer sought funds.

            Also, maybe things have changed, but last time I checked, we still have a housing surplus, so building new homes will only serve to further depress the market prices.

            Until things stabilize, people are not gonna be so eager to take such risks.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      … this is why when the real estate market tanked, it was such a good idea.
      not applicable to all Great Recessions, but this one is a fine time. (also, I’m not sure how skilled most construction work is. If you’re driving a steamroller… you pretty much have to make sure it doesn’t go off the cliff, but that’s about it, isn’t it?)Report

  10. Avatar Katherine says:

    If there’s a lesson to be learned from Japan: invest in nuclear so long as it’s nowhere near a fault line. Somewhere in the prairies or midwest.

    I agree with the infrastructure plan. Nationwide high-speed rail is probably not fiscally manageable – if you did it, it would become a money sink. Only reasonable if you want it to replace air travel for environmental reasons, and don’t care about the cost.
    Otherwise, run it down the eastern seaboard, and from San Francisco – LA – San Diego: significant urban centres are the only places it’s useful for. Europe has a lot more big cities in a lot less space, so it works for them.

    Nationwide Wifi would be a great investment, considering the near-omnipresence of the internet in daily life now.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      *nods* throw a few feeder lines out to places like pittsburgh seattle portland (if they’re cheapish and easy). don’t need to go across the country until we get widespread adoption.

      isn’t mcd’s doing wifi now?Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      The problem with Fukishima wasn’t that it was on a fault line, the problem is that it was on the coast. And most nuclear designs require a steady supply of water for a heat sink and other purposes.

      (See for example the Lake Anna plant – still off line I think, but so far no health, safety or environmental problems from a once in a century seismic event)Report

  11. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Why does everyone think that trains are the answer to everything? For the money that we’re planning to spend on high-speed rail right now (let alone what it will actually cost to build) we could equip every airliner in America with autonomous air traffic control systems. We could give tax breaks to airlines that used point-to-point routes instead of hub-and-spoke.Report

  12. Avatar Koz says:

    “Infrastructure” can mean any number of things. For several reasons, high-speed rail is just about the worst possible use of federal money, and that’s saying a lot. (Yes Erik, it’s significantly worse than bombing Libya.)Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      Koz this is why I can’t really take what you have to say seriously.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        Yeah, I get that well enough. What you’re not appreciating is that’s on you, not me.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        And just for clarity/completeness, I don’t necessarily oppose gov’t spending on infrastructure in general, and I hate hate the Libya war.Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

          Look, I think it’s great you opposed the Libyan war, and I’m fine that you disagree on HSR. I just find it hyperbolic as hell to claim that mass transit is worse than bombing people. If that’s “on me” and not you, okay. I’m not sure what that even means in this context, but okay.Report

          • Avatar Koz says:

            But it’s not at all hyperbolic, and it should be pretty clear why it’s not.

            The logistics and cost structure of high-speed rail pretty much guarantee that it’s a horrific, mind-blowingly expensive failure. Whereas there’s some non-negligible chance that the Libya war could actually accomplish something.

            It’s your prerogative not to take me seriously, of course, but I write pretty clear most of the time. So if you close your mind on purpose, well
            it’s on you. Most of the time it’s something like Libya where the emotional aversion to it prevents you from actually processing rationally.Report

  13. I’m skeptical of the value of infrastructure because rationally as the Internet gets more and more Shaq-diesel, fewer people will be making the long commute into the city. Whatever kinds of plans we come up with for “updating” infrastructure will probably be super outdated by the time they come to fruition sometime after the Towers have been rebuilt forty years from now, if the new train from my town to Boston that no one uses is any indication.

    Apropos, I think the criticism that infrastructure spending is not stimulus because the interpreters of so-and-so model and so-and-so number say so is off-base. The point is to provide people with jobs. Infrastructure development can definitely do that.

    A better way to do “stimulus” would be to make it easier for entrepreneurs to make companies.Report

  14. I started this as a reply to Pat above, but it just got longer and longer and longer, and it’s probably the most significant thing I’ve written about Fukushima since it all went down, so I decided to start a new thread with it.

    I was a proponent of nuclear power before the Fukushima disaster, and I’ve had a long six months or so to think about this, but I’m not sure if I’m still on board with nuclear because: human error rates are always higher than we estimate them to be. I’m not sure the real risks are worth the benefits; so I’m skeptical of the way we usually evaluate risk when it comes to nuclear power.

    In the case of Japan, the tsunami affected sparsely-populated coastal areas (Japan’s infrastructure has already been shaped by insider’s knowledge of risk distributed over thousands of years of seismic activity.) Nevertheless, the tsunami still managed to kill almost 30,000 people. This speaks to the sheer power of a 9.2 quake right offshore more than it does to poor planning à la New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. For what Fate dealt it, Japan did a hell of a job minimizing casualties.

    In contrast to the 30,000 tsunami victims, the nuclear meltdown so far has sentenced about eighty people to death from various cancers, according to certain epidemiology panels. This number could be way off-base, but even if it wildly underestimates increases in the incidence of cancer, the point is that the number of deaths-by-tsunami is significantly larger than the deaths-by-nuclear-meltdown. Therefore, in consideration of a worst-case scenario like Fukushima, nuclear power is not that much of a threat to public safety. Or so the proponent’s argument goes.

    This argument misses the point that nuclear disaster – even if properly managed – represents a deceptively large economic and social cost. Right now in Fukushima City, Koriyama City, Sendai, and even Tokyo (four urban centers with a combined population of almost forty million people) there are places where the risk of cancer significantly increases after only a few years of normal lifestyle. Where these places are is determinable, especially with so many amateurs wielding Geiger counters and the crowd-sourcing opportunities offered by information technologies. (One of things I want to do with my future medical degree is to create a global toxin crowd-sourced platform.)

    Right now, all the people who live in these “hot spots” have modified their lifestyles considerably while they wait for further instructions from the government and scientific experts. (This NHK documentary describes the stress of living in hot spots: http://www.nippon-sekai.com/main/articles/fukushima-daiichi-nuclear-power-plant-crisis/nhk-special-japans-nuclear-crisis-part-2/). These people don’t or can’t go outside, or they have to minimize their exposure to radiation. They can’t start businesses or buy homes, because they may become part of an ever-expanding evacuation zone in the near future.

    Accordingly, the economies of five or ten prefectures have been permanently set on courses for destruction. Tohoku is a region which derives its wealth from the pursuits of agriculture, industry, and tourism, much like the Midwest in the United States (minus tourism perhaps). What do you think would happen if even a small amount of nuclear fall-out covered the Midwest from Denver to Detroit? Staple products like corn and wheat would see significant losses (What kinds of images does the phrase “Chernobyl apple” or “Fukushima peach” conjure up? Would you consider buying such products at the supermarket?); and no one would buy Ford, Chrysler, or GM products, just as American companies have stopped importing the hypodermic needles one of my students normally inspects. The motor and steel cities would crumble. Such is happening to northern Japan. Everything that region produces is unmarketable for the next hundred years.

    Accordingly, in the six months after the earthquake and nuclear disaster, there has been a brain drain of epic proportions. The wealthy can afford to leave. Foreigners like me can come back to America and weather the comparably-mild displeasures of unemployment for six months and then go start taking classes at Harvard next week. Some of my wealthier professional students have accepted fellowships abroad, or sent their children to international boarding schools, or moved to other cities in Western Japan. Doctors and lawyers and other knowledge-based professionals can perform their services anywhere. The working class – and particularly farmers – remain. This is remarkably unjust.

    The risk-management models for nuclear power all miss this human story. It is a unique and significant psychological, black swan consideration that doesn’t exist for other power sources. Oil spills may ravage a region, but no one is afraid of gumbo or Gulf Albacore.Report

    • Avatar wardsmith says:

      Chris, the problem as usual is that people have no idea what radiation means. Ionizing radiation is the surest method to save us from e-coli outbreaks but the complete lack of proper science and physics education leads the great unwashed to believe they are going to grow three heads if they eat food thus irradiated. More’s the pity because with 3 heads the odds are substantially higher that at least ONE of them could think. Even the cancers numbers from Chernobyl are vastly lower than originally predicted .

      The same people are also afraid of Frankenfood for similar ignorance reasons. Of course they all believe in evolution gone crazy 😉

      It is a shame that the locals are impacted by a disaster but they also benefited from the economic wealth effect of those plants these past several decades. We as a society are going to have less and less choices going forward in our energy production/consumption mix. This won’t be a good thing.Report

      • Probably the only fundamental truth of epidemiology is that, in the words of David Quammen, ecological disturbance causes diseases to emerge. I’m afraid of Frankenfood too, because I can afford to and its convenient for me to buy local – plus metabolic disease is sweeping the nation despite any significance lifestyle changes. All else being equal, no one in Tokyo or Yokohama or any of the other former markets for Fukushima food is going to buy Fukushima peaches over those from Shizuoka or Yamanashi. I don’t think this is at all irrational. If anything it’s overly cautious.

        Japan has definitely benefited from nuclear power. If there hadn’t been a meltdown, I’d still be brashly trumpeting that we should be more like France and Japan and switch to nuclear.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Chris, I’d say that Fukushima is somewhat unprecedented in that it’s occurred in such a densly populated area with such an enigmatic outcome (enigmatic not in terms of the physics etc but rather in terms of how the environment, the population and the economics respond to it). It may be very interesting to see how it all pans out in terms of economics and perception. During the BP spill the airwaves were full of stories of the Gulf being steralized by the toxins the ruptured well was putting out. After the fact the marine biologists went hunting for the oil blight. Instead of oil they just found great swaths of fat happy bacteria.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      There’s lot a bad public policy based on bad public perception of risk (vaccines*, marijuana, terrorism – the list goes on). That doesn’t mean one should give up on making better public policy by better public intelligence. It’s seems kinda arbitrary to single out nuclear power as the ‘frak it, the people are morans’ exception.

      *this one seems to be have nipped in the bud though.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      … babies die from radiation. Works the same in rural PA as it does in Japan, they cook from the inside out.Report

  15. Avatar mike says:

    right..high speed rail..another bankrupt government entity like the US Post Office, AMTRAK, Solar energy–just what the taxpayers needsReport