Monday, February 22, 2021

Elections Have Consequences: A Series

The people getting hammered (and yes, they have my sympathies; I'm not a Darwinist) are suffering directly as a result of Texas "deregulating" (it's just another form of regulation, where consumers get screwed) the electrical power industry 20+ years ago.

Those people started buying power "wholesale," using a company that automatically shifted them to the lowest rates, but with the risk of being this exposed (my rates are pretty much set in stone, though on average I pay more than I would on one of those "services".  I have some protection through the PUC, which regulates this stuff in Texas (kinda sorta).  I think those people uknowingly put themselves outside such even minimal regulation.  They played Russian Roulette with their utility bills, in short; and the loaded chamber finally came up.). 

This was supposed to be "the market" taking care of everything.  Electricity is like medical care:  you don't know what it costs until you've used it.  The market is more like a force of nature:  it will flatten you as easily as it provides you with warmth and comfort.  We know how to do something about that; we just decided not to worry about it.

Nobody sent these people an e-mail (as if they could get it last week!) saying, "Oh, by the way, your rates have gone from $35 a megawatt hour to $900 a megawatt hour, and that increase is passing to you straight through!"  The worst case so far is the most familiar:  the retired veteran who was billed $16,000+, and it paid straight through his credit card.  He found out about it after he'd already paid for it, IOW.  Will the Legislature get his money back?  I doubt it.

This kind of disaster was perfectly predictable but imperfectly described to anyone.  I've seen the ads for those companies:  it's all promise of upside and no downside, and if you stuck with "traditional" power companies, you were a benighted idiot.  I stuck just because I'm traditional (and cautious) that way.  I didn't see this coming either, mostly because I didn't realize how Enron-ed the system had been (no, literally).  I'm glad I stuck with what I knew, but I'm not gloating over the ones who didn't.  As I say, nobody told them.  We still assume that's a responsibility of government.  We also assume we have a responsible government.

Ted Cruz murdered his constituents.  Now he's asking for pity from the survivors and their descendants, and declaring himself their best friend.  He could have done that from Cancun, since he said he was in constant touch even while he was down there.  Funny there were no photos of him on his phone in the airport.  And he's just reduced to insulting the people of Texas.  The state won't pay those bills, and I don't think they can retroactively fix this problem.  If they do, it'll be by taking money from schools or state agencies (never the highways!).  Robbing Peter to pay Paul is another old Texas governance tactic, but I don't think that will work well this time, either.

Elections have consequences.  It's just not always only political ones.

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