Smart Ideas: The Grid

Plus: A VA in crisis.

AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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April 22, 2019, 8 p.m.

A world without electricity

Keith Harary, writing for Aeon

The electric grid could be on the verge of catastrophic failure. An electromagnetic pulse could be caused by a nuclear explosion, a burst of magnetized plasma released from the sun, or a microwave weapon (which some adversaries may already have developed.) An EMP could affect one area or an entire country. Such an event would overload electronics, causing them to fail. It would potentially make it impossible to travel in cars and trucks, as gas pumps might not function. “In behind-the-scenes projections, some experts predict that if such a critical meltdown of infrastructure expands beyond regional containment, anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of the U.S. population will be dead within roughly the first 11 months.” It’s therefore critical to prepare for such an event, as some are already doing as they develop local microgrids and attempt to strengthen at least some of our electrical infrastructure.

Municipal bonds can help states recover

Brian Chappatta, writing for Bloomberg Opinion

The Federal Reserve should help states prepare for the next recession by buying municipal bonds. Right now, states are still recovering from the financial crisis. “Unlike the federal government, states can’t rely on running persistent budget deficits during a downturn, nor can they rapidly add workers to their payrolls. That means either sharp cutbacks in public services, higher taxes or shortchanging pensions. None of those options will stimulate growth.” Plans to direct funds from the federal government to the states haven’t helped. Under current law, the Fed can only “purchase munis with maturities up to six months,” but a change to this rule would give states the money needed to bounce back and the time to repay their debts.

The VA is in crisis

Noah Rothman, writing for Commentary

The Veterans Affairs Department has serious problems that can’t be solved simply by making it bigger. Recent years have seen widespread scandal at the VA. “In Washington D.C., patients were given ‘prolonged or unnecessary anesthesia’ while medical staff searched for missing medical equipment. Care is routinely delayed or denied, and incompetence in at least one facility resulted in ‘unnecessary risk’ for patients ‘and resulted in a breakdown of core services.’" Those on the left ignore or downplay such issues, which several VA secretaries have failed to solve. By comparison, privatization efforts might not look so bad.

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