Saturday, September 26, 2009


Reflections On Mackinac Island

I participated on an energy panel at the Republican Leadership Conference at Mackinac Island on Friday. (I was there in my capacity as an economist with IER. I'm pretty sure they would have me talk at the UAW convention if we were welcome, which we're not.) Some highlights:

* I met Jay Riemersma who is running for Congress. He had been a tight end for the Buffalo Bills so I had to text my brother and dad. (I grew up in Rochester, NY. The Bills lost the Superbowl every year I was in high school. That seriously affected the trajectory of my life. I'm not kidding.) The guy who introduced us said, "Yeah, Jay here used to play QB, and then he had to put on 30 lbs. for his new job as tight end." So I said, "That's funny, when I got hired as an economist I put on 30 lbs. too." He chuckled, but then again he was running for office.

* I've been to this event once before, in 2007. I love it because the guy running for attorney general will stand outside the ferry dock, shaking everybody's hand. If you explain you're not a Michigan voter, he'll say, "You can still vote with your checkbook." Hey it doesn't hurt to ask.

* I had a few hours to kill before my talk, so I wandered around the island looking at all the quaint shops. (BTW there are no cars allowed on the island, except some emergency vehicles. Otherwise it's horses and bicycles. And yes we made the obvious jokes about cap and trade 2 years ago.) The best sign I came across said, "The difference between inlaws and outlaws is that outlaws are wanted." Ba-DUM.

* When we lived in Hillsdale, MI my wife and I loved the ice cream from "Mackinac Island Creamery." Well, turns out there is no such thing. First Santa, now this.

* Some guy in the crowd tried to zing me during the Q&A. I was there to discuss the impacts of cap and trade on Michigan's economy. Now I really did give a big caveat and say, "Nobody knows what the impact of something in 30 years will be, but, the Heritage Foundation used a Global Insight model blah blah blah, and projected an average job loss of 40,000 between the years 2012 and 2030" or something like that. So this guy asks me if that's really a per year job loss figure. I can see where he's going--i.e. you're going to lose more jobs than there are people in Michigan--and so I try to clarify that no, what the figure means is that the model shows the number of jobs below a baseline (with no cap and trade), and that gap is, on average, 40,000 jobs. Then someone else on the panel [who was the local moderator, not an actual presenter] jumps in and says that he's seen estimates of cap and trade on a national scale, where the loss is 2 million jobs. So the heckler comes back and says, "That's per year?" and the other guy says, "Yeah." (I think it's actually what I was trying to say in reference to the figure I cited for Michigan.) Then the heckler says, "So over a ten-year frame, that's 10% of the entire US workforce you're saying will lose their jobs from cap and trade?" and the other guy just goes, "Exactly," and takes the next question. I think the other guy didn't really understand the distinction the heckler was making, but I just thought it was hilarious because the heckler was expecting him to slap his head and say, "You're right, we'll leave the room now."

* Apparently these Mackinac Island conferences have a reputation for being quite socially liberal in terms of alcohol. (There was a girl puking in a flowerpot when I walked back to the hotel Friday night from the bar.) Picture it: 2,100 enthusiastic Republicans invade a sleepy island for a weekend, with political groups having open bars all over the place. (And I mean, you go into the actual bar, and the waitresses serve you for free.) If only Robert Wenzel had been there! Then he could have approached two girls and said, "Do you ladies know my famous friend Bob? He corresponds with Glenn Greenwald..."

* Back in 2007, Rudy Giuiliani gave the keynote dinner address, and it truly was a good speech. I thought he had a good shot at being the nominee at that point. In contrast, my chaperone on the island--you can't let PhDs loose in an unfamiliar place; we might end up in a locker or something--referred to John McCain as "dead man walking" when his procession went by. So, we basically didn't predict the primaries very well. Anyway, this time around I left Saturday morning, so I didn't get to hear Mitt Romney give the keynote dinner talk. During the Friday dinner, one of the warmup guys had a good generic line deployed against some Michigan Democrat: "He reminds me of a slinky. He's not useful for anything, but he's fun to push down the stairs." Ba-DUM.

UPDATE: Oh man, I almost forgot to mention that I met Michael Lynch, occasional blogger for MasterResource. (See him take on "peak oil" here, where he defends himself from the critics of his NYT op ed.) Believe it or not, Lynch is a bigger wise*ss than me. (!!) Quick example: We were waiting to get on the ferry, and there was a big yellow school bus that pulled up. Out flowed about 30 kids, probably 10 - 12 years old. Of course they're all excited to ride the ferry, the chaperones are trying to keep them from jumping into the frigid water, etc. etc. So one girl comes up to us and goes, "We're here on a field trip. We all go to the same school." Lynch says, completely deadpan, "Oh, I figured it was either that, or you had all escaped from a prison for really short people." I'm not kidding, he didn't crack a smile or anything, he just let the girl process that for a moment and shrug it off as she told her friends they could cut us in line.

It's nice to know I'm missed. I had an interesting night also.
I had an interesting night also.

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