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Paper Companies' Windfall of Unintended Consequences

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the pulp-nonfiction dept.

The Almighty Buck 284

Jamie found a post on ScienceBlogs that serves as a stark example of the law of unintended consequences, as well as the ability of private industry to game a system of laws to their advantage. It seems that large paper companies stand to reap as much as $8 billion this year by doing the opposite of what an alternative-fuel bill intended. Here is the article from The Nation with more details and a mild reaction from a Congressional staffer. "[T]he United States government stands to pay out as much as $8 billion this year to the ten largest paper companies.... even though the money comes from a transportation bill whose manifest intent was to reduce dependence on fossil fuel, paper mills are adding diesel fuel to a process that requires none in order to qualify for the tax credit. In other words, we are paying the industry — handsomely — to use more fossil fuel. 'Which is,' as a Goldman Sachs report archly noted, the 'opposite of what lawmakers likely had in mind when the tax credit was established.'"

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284 comments

lawmakers (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27547275)

Incompetent lawmakers are incompetent.

Re:lawmakers (5, Insightful)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547295)

Precisely. We live in a society where 'corporate selection' fosters public companies who mindlessly take the action which most increases value for their shareholders. If a law is written such that it can be gamed - it will be.

Lawmakers should take that into account and legislate around it; cause they sure ain't gonna change Corporate American Culture any time soon.

Re:lawmakers (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27547307)

Corporations in any country will do the same thing, those that do not will die. There are countries where they're legislated out of existence or they become the welfare provider for the state and never really do much good.

Since /. going farther and farther left this is AC signing off.

Re:lawmakers (5, Interesting)

mrcaseyj (902945) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547343)

In the short term the solution for this is for the president to order the IRS to withhold these payouts until congress can close the loophole. If the paper companies sue, they would get laughed at or scolded by the judges as this is an obvious and evil perversion of the intent of the law.

Re:lawmakers (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27547351)

When was the last time a US court looked at the spirit of the law, and not the letter of the law?

Re:lawmakers (5, Informative)

Ashriel (1457949) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547675)

Doesn't matter. Precedent from the Supreme Court states that the IRS has sovereign immunity and cannot be sued on any issue within it's own domain.

banana fucking republic (1, Flamebait)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547437)

The intent of the law is to encourage the use of alternative fuels. Paper companies are already using alternative fuels both economically and efficiently. Taxing them, and distributing that money to less-efficient companies that are not currently using alternative fuels economically, discourages paper companies from existing, thereby punishing them for using alternative fuels.

Regardless, concentrating on bullshit like this, instead of seriously addressing the negative externalities of dependence on foreign fossil fuels, makes all of us worse off.

But I seriously can't fucking believe, that after eight years of the incompetent fucking clowns in the Bush administration, that anyone has the brass balls to try to justify, let alone suggest, more retarded, illegal bravado from the executive branch. You are a complete dumbfuck, just like the tools who passed this law in 2005, and the tools who are currently skullfucking the concept of market economics for their ill-conceived political agenda. This country has become a sad fucking joke. And idiots like you are the primary reason. By now, absolutely no one should give two dry shits what the average mouth-breathing American thinks about who or what is "evil" and what his president-god-king should do about it, since it's obvious that most of their heads are so far up their own asses that they couldn't find them with two hands and a GPS device.

Re:lawmakers (2, Insightful)

cwilli01 (950229) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548035)

It's not perverted; nor is it malfeasant. If you had a more fuel efficient form of transportation, say a bike or motorcycle, or your feet, and bought a new car eligible for a tax credit, and accepted the tax credit, you'd be doing the same thing. I'd be less interested in this and more interested in illuminating the *intended* tax breaks that we perceive as unethical. Congress needs some sunlight (and a good disinfectant).

Re:lawmakers (4, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548097)

Except in our case, the cost of getting the car would exceed the benefit of getting the credit.

What the paper companies have is a benefit of the credit outweighing the initial cost to pull it off.

Re:lawmakers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27547359)

Excuse me ? We live in a society where everyone -corporations, individuals and all sorts of associations- are free to pursue their own intrest.

The problem here is that the real costs are not carried by the companies, due to government intervention.

The solution, obviously, is LESS government intervention. You want these companies to use as little as possible ?

How about letting them compete, not for government money, but for customer money ? Do you think Barack Obama cares about his credit card bill (which YOU are paying) ?

The problem with government spending money is simple : suppose the government does this 100% efficienctly (which is never going to happen), does not employ a single human being that needs to be paid, is not corrupt, not even a single little part of it, does not steal, does not own anything at all, has a way to spend their tax income the very same second it comes in, absolutely positively never loans a single penny, etc ... 100% efficient.

Then, under those circumstances, what is the advantage for normal citizens of money spent by the government (in the long run) ?

Well ... simple : ZERO. If the government is less efficient than 100%, then the balance is negative. Does is really need to be explained that if a theoretically perfect government cannot spend beneficially for it's citizens, that a real government is a black hole in which productivity disappears ?

(google for "the broken windows fallacy")

The only spending the government can do is spending to prevent catastrophies. It can spend to prevent "natural" calamities that would be very much worse than the government's damage done while preventing the disaster. Therefore it needs to spend on defence, on a justice system, on dams, power plants, ... But make no mistake : having the government run a defence or police force, or pay for anything at all with tax money DAMAGES EVERYTHING. The only hope is that it damages less than the alternative, doing nothing course of action.

Since any private person that does something and hopes to continue doing it has to make sure the balance is positive, unlike the government, in the private sector things are simple : either it's beneficial (positive return) or it stops happening of it's own accord.

Re:lawmakers (3, Funny)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547401)

Corporations and individuals are not free to pursue their own interests in whatever method they want - we create laws specifically to prevent that.

Are you saying you want a type of anarchy where anyone can do whatever they want, and hope that acting in a way detrimental to society correlates with bankruptcy?

I agree with what you say about having to make sure the "balance is positive" - but I think copious legislation should be applied to ensure that you can only have achieve this by benefiting society.

Re:lawmakers (4, Interesting)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547495)

Exactly, and in this case, they did just that : they pursued their own intrest the way the law forced them to, instead of the most profitable (and therefore, at least in this case, most environmentally friendly, way).

In general, the cheapest way for factories is often the one using the least raw material, and therefore at least close to the most environmentally optimal way.

but I think copious legislation should be applied to ensure that you can only have achieve this by benefiting society.

You're assuming that laws always benefit society. I guess women should be glad they get stoned in muslim countries. After all, it benefits society, right ? That's what the law does. Of course, very nearly all muslim countries are, at best, third world countries, racist dictatorships or worse. Seems their laws are less than optimal ... for both society and the environment.

But of course, "America is different !". Oh wait, not at all in this case. I guess that what happened here, totally in compliance with the law, and bad for BOTH society and the environment ... means nothing to you ?

But this was in compliance with the law, and against market forces, so surely it must have been good for society and for the environment ... oops ...

Why don't we look at the environmental situation in a country where "copious legislation", in fact as copious as it gets, was in force.

And there we find ... chernobyl, in the soviet union.

It seems to me your argument is flawed, both in theory and in practice.

You see, you assume laws are in the intrest of society, which is a standpoint that's idiotic, to say the least. In fact, given the world's current situation, the less laws a society has, the better it does.

Re:lawmakers (3, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547595)

Exactly, and in this case, they did just that : they pursued their own intrest the way the law forced them to, instead of the most profitable (and therefore, at least in this case, most environmentally friendly, way).

Well, actually, in this case, the most profitable way was with the law. I'm not sure you entirely grasp what has happened here. Maybe you have and I'm just reading you wrong.

The paper companies already produce about 70% of their energy by using byproducts in the process of making paper. Under the law, if they add just a few gallons of fuel to the process, claim the process requires Gasoline, Diesel fuel or Kerosene, they get 50 cents per gallon on the 70% of energy they already created with the black liquor or whatever it was called. If they used 100 units of energy divided up with 70 gallons of their byproduct and 30KW or whatever the equivalent is of coal powered electricity, then by removing one KW electricity and adding it to the byproduct, they now get 50 cents for those 70 gallons. So at least in this case, they are doing both- "the most profitable (and therefore, at least in this case, most environmentally friendly, way)" and the most profitable way the law made them.

From the portion(s) of the law that I can tell, they don't have to add much more then one gallon of diesel to every batch of byproduct to qualify for the alternative fuel credit. The key point is in calling the process something else that requires Gasoline, Diesel fuel or Kerosene to get the credit for what they were already doing.

Re:lawmakers (5, Insightful)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547497)

we create laws specifically to prevent that.

The only thing this law has prevented is papermills from using alternative fuels.

Are you saying you want a type of anarchy

The parent said nothing about anarchy. No need to erect strawmen.

I think copious legislation should be applied

Your "copious" legislation has already been applied. It is demonstrably counterproductive.

Re:lawmakers (1)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547639)

The parent was suggesting as little government intervention as possible. What do you think anarchy is?

You want to know what a lack of sensible regulation and control gets you - look at the current financial troubles your country has caused.

Your house needs putting in order. I'd have thought the most efficient way is sensible legislation curtailing undesirable actions from your companies. but if you have a better plan, good luck to you.

Re:lawmakers (2, Insightful)

Ashriel (1457949) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547739)

The parent was suggesting as little government intervention as possible. What do you think anarchy is?

Anarchy would be no government. Small government leads to a situation known as freedom.

You want to know what a lack of sensible regulation and control gets you - look at the current financial troubles your country has caused.

Actually the current situation is not as simple as that. While the bank failure can be immediately attributed to the repeal of the Glass Seagal Act (which, by the way, no one in legislation has bothered to reinstate), the real problems with the economy can be attributed to the creation of the Federal Reserve (putting banks in charge of the economy in the first place), and the dissolution of the gold standard (allowing the Fed to create as much money as it wants, without creating actual wealth to accompany it).

Government involvement has done nothing but harm the economy since at least the 1920's, when anti-competitive legislation first began rearing up. It's only grown since then - we really do need less legislation: the people and the states will pull themselves out of this mess much more easily without the federal government mucking things up.

Re:lawmakers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27548185)

perhaps it was the lack of regulation of the mortgage industry that caused a good deal of the trouble, but someone was investing in these mortgages. Banks here would sell the mortgages, then sell them as a package oversees. This would be only a US problem otherwise. Its a global problem because everyone else BOUGHT those packages without due dilligence. Stupidity on the part of American Banks to selling the mortgages, stupidity on the investors globally for buying them. The rules of economics are the same regardless of weather you are a bank in Manhattan or a private investor in Tokyo. The global economic meltdown was a product of EVERYONE's stupidity. I'm an American, and I have no problem admitting that the mortgage market falling through (and no one being able raise the capital to cover it, causing the commercial paper crisis, which further made it difficult to pay the bills, leading to the CDS problems) started here, but its everyone's fault that its as big as it is. Its our fault that our economy is in the shitter. Its everyone else's fault that their economy is in the shitter.

Re:lawmakers (2, Informative)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547913)

You want to know what a lack of sensible regulation and control gets you - look at the current financial troubles your country has caused.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=community+reinvestment+act [google.com]
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=federal+reserve+act [google.com]
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=fractional+reserve+lending [google.com]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fannie_Mae [wikipedia.org] The Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) (NYSE: FNM), commonly known as Fannie Mae, is a stockholder-owned corporation chartered by Congress in 1968 as a government sponsored enterprise
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freddie_Mac [wikipedia.org] The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC) (NYSE: FRE), known as Freddie Mac, is a government sponsored enterprise (GSE) of the United States federal government

How strange it is to see a crash caused entirely by government intervention in the market continually touted as a "failure of capitalism" and blamed on a lack of regulation.

Fractional reserve lending backed by government edict (whether you think it is a good idea or not) creates the situation where the ongoing money supply is dependent on peoples ability to repay loans. The Community Reinvestment Act required lending institutions to make loans that would ultimately not be repaid. How any of this could be seriously accepted as the result of a lack of regulation is one of the most outstanding achievements of propagandists of all time.

Re:lawmakers (3, Informative)

jbengt (874751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548269)

I won't argue with your distaste of the Federal Reserve, Fannie May, or Freddie Mac, but I want to make a few points about regulation and government intervention.

The great majority of sub-prime loans made were not made under The Community Reinvestment Act.
The sub-prime loans made under the Community Reinvestment Act have a lower default rate than those made outside of its' purview

Too much regulation did not cause Fannie May, Freddie Mac, and others to overvalue their portfolios.
Too much regulation did not cause the ratings companies to give the securitized mortgages high ratings greatly understating their risk.

Too much regulation did not create the credit default swaps without enough reserve to pay them off in case of a bad economy, nor did it cause the companies selling those to insure their credit default swaps with more credit default swaps from another company that also did not have enough reserve to pay them off.
Too much regulation did not cause the ratings companies to rate the companies holding credit default swaps with insufficient backing AAA even though they could not pay off their obligations in case of default.

Re:lawmakers (2, Insightful)

kkissane (1029384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547813)

I think copious legislation should be applied

Your "copious" legislation has already been applied. It is demonstrably counterproductive.

I cannot think of any instance where government is effective and efficient. What I have trouble wrapping my mind around is the call for more government when it seems to be counter productive. Repeating the same action over and over and over is not going to yield a different result.

Re:lawmakers (1)

yndrd1984 (730475) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547771)

Start with: free to pursue their own interest
Add a bit: free to pursue their own interests in whatever method they want

Straw men - so easy, so convincing, so wrong.

Re:lawmakers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27547875)

The very concept of a corporation or even of business in general is sort of anti-socialism at best and when you think about it anti-social and anti-socialism are close to being identical.
          Businesses are valued often by their degree of psychopathy.

Re:lawmakers (0, Offtopic)

PeterKraus (1244558) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547549)

I wish they had "-1 Libertarian" mod here...

Re:lawmakers (2, Funny)

yndrd1984 (730475) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547795)

I wish they had "-1 Libertarian" mod here...

And I wish they had "+1 Libertarian" mod here....

Well, as a libertarian would say, "to each his own".

Re:lawmakers (2, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548251)

...to each his own

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

Apparently the paper companies need 8 billion dollars and the government has the ability to pay it. :-P

Re:lawmakers (1)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547835)

Do you really think "-1 I disagree with you" is good?

Re:lawmakers (1)

he-sk (103163) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547957)

That's what the foe list is for.

Slashdot. I come here to get my stereotypes validated.

Re:lawmakers (1)

Danathar (267989) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547477)

I started to read your comment and was impressed until you got to the "Lawmakers" part.

Dude, what makes you think the lawmakers are not PART of the "Corporate American Culture"? It was probably lawmakers at the suggestion of said same "outside consultants" who gave the idea to the paper companies to put the loophole in the law to begin with.

Government is NOT the solution to this problem.

Re:lawmakers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27547537)

No, solution is complete anarchy because while nobody respects laws' intent in a democracy, everybody would feel compelled to respect libertarians non agression principle if we lived in a libertarian society.

Re:lawmakers (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27547767)

If Libertarian philosophy = Anarchy, then:

Democratic philosophy = Socialism, and
Republican philosophy = Fascism.

Given the alternatives, I'll accept anarchy.

Re:lawmakers (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547761)

Precisely. We live in a society where 'corporate selection' fosters public companies who mindlessly take the action which most increases value for their shareholders.

Are they not legally obliged to do so?

Re:lawmakers (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547897)

Precisely. We live in a society where 'corporate selection' fosters public companies who mindlessly take the action which most increases value for their shareholders. If a law is written such that it can be gamed - it will be.

Lawmakers should take that into account and legislate around it; cause they sure ain't gonna change Corporate American Culture any time soon.

"Mindlessly" eh? How can you not understand the motives and cunning of "public companies"? Here's my take. These types of laws go well beyond any reasonable task of the US government. Further, without some sort of corrective force, there's no incentive for anyone in government to act differently. Hence, it is to our collective advantage for someone to ruthlessly exploit these laws.

Re:lawmakers (3, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547379)

You appear to be making the mistake of thinking that this was an accident. It may not be. The "gaming of the system" may actually be by the lawmaker.

Re:lawmakers (2, Insightful)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547501)

Yet too many idiots are trying to turn that into an argument for more legislation. I mean, you'd think they'd learn ...

Not more per se... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27547649)

It isn't so much that people want more (or less) regulation per se, they want good legislation. If you look at the situation described in the article, it was foreseeable and preventable and 100% caused by sloppy drafting. No wonder people fire up their conspiracy theories, the incompetency levels in goverment are simply beyond too far our imagination. This isn't necessary. There are plenty of smart people on the planet. High tier goverment jobs pay well. It should be perfectly possible to get ourselves a competent lawmaker or two.

Re:lawmakers (2, Insightful)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547933)

Yet too many idiots are trying to turn that into an argument for more legislation. I mean, you'd think they'd learn ...

No, they want to be looked after, including having their thinking done for them.

Re:lawmakers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27547851)

Considering the downward spiral of the entire print industry as businesses transition more and more to electronic media it would not surprise me to learn that people were aware of the potential use of this legislation by the paper industry since its inception. Thus this would not be "unintended consequences." Though this may not be in the "spirit" of the legislation I imagine it's potential for staving off the rapid death of the paper industry was part of what got it passed in congress. Considering the current economic environment in the U.S.A. this may only be prolonging the inevitable bankruptcies and consolidations in the paper industry BUT it is allowing companies to adjust business models, raise cash, and then the big fish eat the little fish.

Re:lawmakers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27547385)

Only in US'n'A.

Re:lawmakers (1)

Informative (1347701) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548057)

The US is in decline and on the road to and insignificance.

The Michael Scott Paper Company (2, Funny)

Mr. Maestro (876173) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547311)

is all over this!

Law from 2005 (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27547313)

It wasn't mentioned in the summary, but the tax credit was passed in 2005. So no one thinks the $8 billion is related to stimulus packages passed more recently.

No, those will cost us a lot more when companies figure out how to fraud them.

Re:Law from 2005 (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547429)

They did already. From what I heard from internal sources, as much as possible of that stimulus package, goes into parties, sex, drugs, and hookers of the big bosses of all banking companies. Then into big houses and other material wealth. And so on. Unfortunately, with that much money, you can party a loooong time. So I guess it goes like the board game Go For Broke [boardgamegeek.com] . ;)

Well, folks... (2, Insightful)

u38cg (607297) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547315)

...this is why centrally planned aconomies don't work.

Re:Well, folks... (1, Insightful)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547483)

Care to offer any solutions that haven't already been tried?

Re:Well, folks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27547787)

free market anarchy

Re:Well, folks... (3, Interesting)

Ashriel (1457949) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547789)

Capitalism seemed to work pretty well until we gave up on it early last century (it was just too damn hard for large companies to compete in an open market). We could always try that again.

Re:Well, folks... (1)

glgraca (105308) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547703)

In a centrally planned economy, the factories would be under direct orders from the central authority and would not be able to abuse the legislation in this manner. In fact, you wouldn't need legislation, an administrative order would suffice.

If I am not mistaken (IANAL), you cannot do something a law does not forbid if you go against the law's intent (at least in my country - Brazil - that's the way it works). So this practice would actually be illegal here, because the law was written to reduce fossil fuel usage.

Re:Well, folks... (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547729)

I also wonder where grandparent has been hiding the last few months/years. We all have seen how much fun and profit the deregulation of the banking market has brought us.

Deregulation (2, Informative)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547871)

You mean the kind of deregulation where a central entity whose management is appointed by the president determines the money supply and a lot of the interest rates?

We haven't had deregulated banking since 1913 [wikipedia.org] . All we did was change one regulatory regime to another, which arguably allowed more abuse.

Re:Well, folks... (1)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547955)

I refer you to my post here: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1196071&cid=27547913 [slashdot.org]
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, The Federal Reserve Act, fractional reserve lending and the Community Reinvestment Act all get a mention.

How any of this could be seriously accepted as the result of a lack of regulation is one of the most outstanding achievements of propagandists of all time.

Wording vs. Intent (1)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547879)

If I am not mistaken (IANAL), you cannot do something a law does not forbid if you go against the law's intent (at least in my country - Brazil - that's the way it works).

In the US it is the wording that counts. The intent is even easier for a court to manipulate than the interpretation of the wording.

If the government does not explicitly forbid something, it is permitted.

Re:Well, folks... (4, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548037)

This has nothing to do with central planning, this is clearly a case of abusing the law for gain.

The two are NOT the same.

Nor does is it evidence of your implied counterpoint that in a decentralized economy stupid economic or environmental decisions would not get made, they certainly would.

There's a reason why we have laws in the first place, some days I wonder if anyone certain people on slashdot has read the history of corporate America and the things they used to get away with in a more decentralized economy because there was no authority whatsoever.

It's only the Paper industry so far? (2, Interesting)

SunSpot505 (1356127) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547321)

I'm just waiting to see how long it takes the banking industry to hop on board once they realize how much money they can make by producing all their sub-prime lending bailout paperwork on in-house paper with alternative fuel tax credits. Your tax dollars at work.

Laws are used as written, not intended (4, Insightful)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547331)

This is another example where the intention of the law doesn't mean anything, what is actually written and what that can be stretched to mean does.

If a law is supposed to have a specific intention, then it should be written just for that.

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (5, Insightful)

cjfs (1253208) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547353)

This is another example where the intention of the law doesn't mean anything, what is actually written and what that can be stretched to mean does.

This is rather troublesome. If these situations continue our representatives may be forced to actually read the legislation they're passing.

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (4, Funny)

amrik98 (1214484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547441)

This is another example where the intention of the law doesn't mean anything, what is actually written and what that can be stretched to mean does.

This is rather troublesome. If these situations continue our representatives may be forced to actually read the legislation they're passing.

Instead of thinking of the children?

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547523)

It's thinking about co2 these days. You see otherwise our kids will ... something that's very bad and nobody cares about.

But co2 legislation lets them pass idiotic laws. How about we tax the countries PROFITING from co2 production, instead of the ones suffering from it ? Tax the oil producing states, leave the rest alone.

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (1)

Rue C Koegel (1448549) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547455)

you don't need laws to govern responsible businesses!

solve the problem at the base!

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (1)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547883)

How? Set up a central entity to judge which businesses are responsible, and staff it with incorruptible angels?

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (1)

sugarboy (125106) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547553)

This is rather troublesome. If these situations continue our representatives may be forced to actually read the legislation they're passing.

If I can't be bothered to rtfa, how can I expect the representatives to rtfl?

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (1)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548175)

You're not being paid to RTFA.

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547367)

I could swear Slashdot is becoming sentient. The fortune at the bottom of the page:

... Logically incoherent, semantically incomprehensible, and legally ... impeccable!

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (0, Flamebait)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547513)

*Ahem* this is the real world, intention and result ... don't match. Not for anyone at all, not for me, not for you, and sure as hell not for the government. This is not anything new, nor will it ever change.

I'd suggest these idiots grow up before spending us all into the ground ... oh wait ...

Well, they're politicians, let's just hope they wake up AFTER spending us all into the ground. After all, Barack Hussein Obama did just that.

But the reality of the matter is ... these idiots will keep spending until the below average half of the population is only 10% of people.

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (2, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547551)

*Ahem* this is the real world, intention and result ... don't match.

Not if the intention was to give certain industry 8 billion dollars. Then the intention and the result match perfectly. Incompetence is only one of the major problems with the big government, corruption is another.

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547775)

The intention was never to give something. The intention, of all politicians "giving", is to buy loyalty.

Buy loyalty with other people's money. That's what Barack Hussein Obama is doing.

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (1)

Finsterwald P Ogleth (759715) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548239)

Most of what you say makes sense...

But this?

But the reality of the matter is ... these idiots will keep spending until the below average half of the population is only 10% of people.

So let's see...changing the "average" point of the population will result in a smaller number of members below that point. That probably works, if you "keep" the average point through all subsequent measurements...

But the "average" changes with the segment of population being measured. No matter how you try to bend, fold, or twist the statistics, average is always the "mean": the sum of observation values divided by the number of observations.

I'm sure you meant to say "median"...right? Very different statistic...and very different implications.

FPO

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (3, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547519)

If a law is supposed to have a specific intention, then it should be written just for that.

Don't count on that happening any time soon. I've made similar points with my local MP about badly-drafted laws a couple of times - the response is inevitably a "soothing" "I'm sure they won't use it for that".

There have been cases recently where I have been proved correct. I wonder if I should write to my MP and say "Further to my letter of 1999, I told you so".

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547601)

"Just for that" like how? By trying to enumerate and define all the good ways to use alternative fuels? Most likely you'd miss many ways and include many ways that shouldn't be in there as the act balloons to ten times the size. Or you can try to legislate intent, but good luck trying. Unleaded petrol? Well, that's ecofriendly since it's better than leaded petrol, right? And that alternative fuel, it made a few hippies start driving instead of taking the bike so it's ecoUNfriendly right? Things will get crazy if everything becomes a soul-searching expedition as to why you did it. Criminal law has enough trying to separate premediated vs intentional vs negligent vs insane, imagine if we took down the speed signs and made every ticket into a discussion about the conditions of the road, the car, the weather, the traffic and your intentions by going at that speed. It'd break down in an instant, everybody wants simple and clear guidelines on what actions are legal and not without trying to win some popularity contest because people believe your intentions. It's easy to be an armchair congressman but I think you will find it difficult to do in practise.

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27547743)

The problem has nothing to do with intention. The problem is that the law was very badly written for every purpose. The law gives a $0.50 tax credit for every gallon of diesel mix used but the credit should have been based on some fraction of the price of diesel. The paper makers scam only works because the price of diesel has fallen so much.

Indeed, if diesel and biofuel prices fell far enough we could all make money simply by burning gallons of it in our back yards: spend $0.40 on a gallon of mix; claim $0.50 from the IRS.

If the law had been drafted by someone who wasn't retarded this situation would never have arisen.

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547797)

I think it's a mistake to assume that this law wasn't intended to have this effect. I'm not asserting that it does, but that kind of thinking can make you blind -- the kind where you assume things, I mean, not the paranoid part. The thing about government is that it creates beautiful opportunities to bone the people, so not being paranoid about government is insane.

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (0, Troll)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548091)

Don't worry about it with President Obama. See, when people don't do as his administration *intended*, he just leverages the federal money they depend on to get them back into the fold.

See what Arne Duncan is threatening with states who don't follow his feelings on the stimulus bills' education funds.

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (3, Interesting)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548247)

The real problem here is that the law is basically an attempt to circumvent the fundamental principals of the Constitution, which was written to limit the powers of the Federal government. The founders didn't trust government, and sought to mitigate the necessary evil of having a government at all by restricting it to some very specific powers.

The 16th amendment gave the Feds all kinds of new power, so that's what they always use to try things like controlling behavior (a power they really shouldn't have). So whenever they pass a law offering a "tax credit", people sit around going "hmmm... how can we get some of that?" And why not? That's what people do. The more of your money goes to taxes, the greater the motivation to limit your liability or to have some benefit from government giveaways.

Same thing with all government handouts. About 40% of the budget of Medicaid and Medicare is spent on fraud. 40%. Because if people can get something for free, they will. Some will find legal ways (like these paper companies), and others don't care whether it's legal or not (like people that commit Medicare and welfare fraud).

So the real problem is $3.8 trillion of government spending. It attracts corruption, fraud, waste, opportunists, and everything else bad that people keep complaining about. And the 535 or so deciding how to spend that money aren't really very interested in being very diligent with it, because it's other people's money - so who cares about a few billion wasted here or there?

Repeal the 16th amendment, institute very strict term limits, hold the Federal government to the Constitution, and these problems would go away.

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (1)

Finsterwald P Ogleth (759715) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548289)

So the real problem is $3.8 trillion of government spending. It attracts corruption, fraud, waste, opportunists, and everything else bad that people keep complaining about.

Okay, so that explains why 537 people behave the way they do. Now, what about the rest of us?

FPO

Re:Laws are used as written, not intended (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548305)

This is another example where the intention of the law doesn't mean anything, what is actually written and what that can be stretched to mean does.

Stretched and reinterpreted by many groups of people...

If a law is supposed to have a specific intention, then it should be written just for that.

Which requires legislators to actually do their jobs. Both reading and critically examining proposed (and existing) laws.

In general, sneakyness beats altruism (1)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547361)

In general, good intentions are overruled by individual and corporate greed and sneakyness.

The lawmakers may spend an hour thinking over the consequences of a bill, while the folks affected have all sorts of time and inclination to poke holes in the laws. Guess which side usually wins?

Re:In general, sneakyness beats altruism (2, Insightful)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547417)

If the lawmakers find a hole they gain nothing. If they miss a hole they lose nothing.

If companies miss a hole they gain nothing, if they find a hole they gain $8 billion.

Guess which side is willing to devote more resources to poke holes in laws?

Re:In general, sneakyness beats altruism (3, Insightful)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547525)

Ever heard of corruption ?

If the lawmakers find a hole they gain nothing. If they miss a hole they lose nothing.

If companies miss a hole they gain nothing, if they find a hole they gain $8 billion.

If lawmakers find a hole, they gain nothing. If they miss a hole, they get 2% of that $8 billion.

There, fixed that for ya.

Re:In general, sneakyness beats altruism (1)

SQL Error (16383) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547613)

More like 0.02%. Not just corrupt, but cheap.

Re:In general, sneakyness beats altruism (1)

balloonhead (589759) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548061)

$1.6M doesn't sound too cheap to me

Re:In general, sneakyness beats altruism (2, Insightful)

MPAB (1074440) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547547)

If a company misses a hole, the competitor that finds it instead gets the upper hand. If the hole is big enough, it could even outcompete the first one into oblivion by using the power of the state (and our taxes).

Government interfearence screws up everything (3, Interesting)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547479)

There is a limit to the amount of profit a car manufacturer on an individual car in the U.S. This only applies to basic passenger cars, not luxury cars or trucks. The answer? This is why the big 3 pushed trucks and SUV's so hard - which granted a large part of their customers wanted, but they largely ignored another large crowd that wanted small U.S. made economy cars. They produced crap instead, so we bought Japanese. Thank you Uncle Sam.

Some Americans With Disabilities Act rules apply only to companies of certain size, as in number of employees. Compliance is incredibly expensive in many cases. Some companies put the brakes on at a certain number of employees due to the expense of compliance sentencing said companies to stagnate growth at a certain size giving their mega corporation competitors an upper hand. Thank You Uncle Sam. The same can be said of certain FDA regulations and any other regulatory agency you can name.

My sister works for the Department of Agriculture. She writes checks to farmers to not grow crops.

Here's an idea:
KEEP THE FUCKING GOVERNMENT OUT OF IT

Unless something really needs regulating, leave it the hell alone. Food? Fine we need an FDA to make sure our food isn't nasty and contaminated. They probably overstep their usefulness in some cases, and under step it in others, but that's expected.

Yes, we do need an agency to keep track of Plutonium and Uranium. Just saying, yeah, track that.

We need an EPA - but it needs to know it's place.

ATF? We don't need that. It's a redundant agency originally created for tax purposes, not what they're doing now. It's also limiting freedom.

No government regulation usually helps huge companies by keeping the small competitors down. Create an agency to regulate an industry, then the companies buy the candidates they want and put them in the regulatory committees. The little guys can't do that.

Re:Government interfearence screws up everything (4, Insightful)

Samschnooks (1415697) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547589)

Unless something really needs regulating, leave it the hell alone. Food? Fine we need an FDA to make sure our food isn't nasty and contaminated. They probably overstep their usefulness in some cases, and under step it in others, but that's expected.

Unfortunately, industry will stick their noses in when regulations are being written. Wonder why the FDA doesn't have many warning about the mercury in Tuna whereas private consumer groups do? [consumerreports.org]

Let's just say, legally this would be considered hearsay, but it was said that the Tuna industry was literally looking over the FDA'a shoulder when those regs were written.

So, even then, Government is too easily corrupted. Unfortunately, I don't have a better idea.

Re:Government interfearence screws up everything (4, Interesting)

mmalove (919245) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547823)

"So, even then, Government is too easily corrupted. Unfortunately, I don't have a better idea."

I do. You have to take the law back to principles, rather than specifics. Here's a few many of you are familiar with:

THOU SHALT NOT KILL.
THOU SHALT NOT STEAL.

Therefore, undisclosed mercury in Tuna and defrauding an energy subsidy as a paper mill would be considered BREAKING THE LAW.

While we're at it, I have another recommendation. Since waterboarding is simply "enhanced interrigation", I'd suggest it should be a viable questioning technique for these types of white collar crimes. I have a strange belief system where if someone elses' countrymen are trying to kill me, I can at least see they were raised and taught that way. When my OWN countryman are trying to kill me, they should be punished ten times worse.

Re:Government interfearence screws up everything (3, Insightful)

glgraca (105308) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547715)

I have a better ideia: keep the private sector out of government.

If you look closer, you'll find it's the agricultural lobbies that have gotten these absurd incentives, not the government that decided out of thin air to grant them.

Re:Government interfearence screws up everything (1)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547733)

Yin Yang

The cause is the effect, the effect is the cause. It's going to take an outside force to break the two apart.

Re:Government interfearence screws up everything (2, Insightful)

downix (84795) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547719)

Alright, let's get the government out of it.  Oh hey, that reminds me, be careful what you eat, because now there's no limit on the amount of rat feces that a company can put inside of your food.  And, with no government involvement, no way to find out either. Have a nice day.

Re:Government interfearence screws up everything (2, Informative)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547731)

You didn't actually read my post did you?

Re:Government interfearence screws up everything (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547807)

Heh. If you limit the number of warm bodies sucking at the government teat, you're like, poisoning kids or something.

Re:Government interfearence screws up everything (3, Interesting)

downix (84795) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547861)

I did, I intentionally pushed to the logical conclusion of "where do you draw the line".  You want food regulated, but what about silverware?  Got to make sure we don't see a return to mercury/lead for those, or the use of toxic plastics, but then we have plates, which leads us to..... you see the pattern?

Now, I am with you in some respects, that the regulations are custom tailored to the corporate giants as/is, and that needs to stop.  I miss the days of the trust-busting, breaking up big business to give the little guy the shot at the top, Theodore Rooseveltites.  Now that was how to regulate.

Re:Government interfearence screws up everything (1)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548053)

I consider Roosevelt was a horrible thing to happen. He received fan mail from Hitler and Benito Mussolini before the war. They all three had more or less the same goals, until Hitler decided to go on a Jew killing rampage and Mussolini went into Africa. Look into the Blue Eagle and the NRA thugs (not the rifle association) to see why I feel this way, he was going for all out socialism.

I'm of the Libertarian persuasion, "do no harm". If what you're selling, no matter what it is, endangers people in ways not stated or expected then you need to shape up or face the gavel. This covers everything, silverware, food, etc... If you're wearing a bullet proof vest and you get shot in the leg, that's not the vest makers fault. If you're wearing a bullet proof vest and it gives you, and everyone else who wears one like it a horrible skin rash because it's full of nasty chemicals like Walmart shoes from China then you need to take corrective action of face the gavel.

I haven't fully figured out how to get rid of frivolous lawsuits yet. Loser pays seems to be a decent idea, but that doesn't always work.

Re:Government interfearence screws up everything (2, Insightful)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548095)

I did, I intentionally pushed to the logical conclusion of "where do you draw the line". You want food regulated, but what about silverware? Got to make sure we don't see a return to mercury/lead for those, or the use of toxic plastics, but then we have plates, which leads us to..... you see the pattern?

That's not necessarily the logical conclusion though. Free market theories require an informed customer. Requiring accurate and complete product information is a basic requirement of a free market, though more obvious now than when Adam Smith was around. Want to sell cans of Rat Faeces Stew? No problem, so long as you label it honestly. I don't anticipate a big market for it, but go for your life trying. Sell it labelled as beef, go to prison. Existing laws against fraud etc are enough for that situation if applied correctly.

So the next hole in teh road you hit.... (2, Funny)

3seas (184403) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547515)

... call DOT and tell them to fill it with paper.....

Wait, this seems familiar... (3, Funny)

dcmoebius (1527443) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547611)

Does anyone else feel like this is an episode of "The Office"?

Re:Wait, this seems familiar... (1)

Epistax (544591) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547989)

Nah. This isn't funny.

Oh wait I guess this does remind me of The Office.


/I keeeed

Why assume this was unintended? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27547677)

It seems business as usual - transferring taxpayers money to corporations bottom line

UFaIlzors.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27547799)

is EFNet, and you ccomunity. The

legal bugs (1)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27547987)

Laws have bugs just like software. We don't stop writing useful software just because it may fail, we use bug tracking, debuggers, and bug fix releases. So, it's neither surprising nor avoidable that laws like this have unintended consequences. Lawmakers should simply have better turnaround times for fixing bugs in laws.

The road to... (1)

Ramley (1168049) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548221)

FTFS -- "It seems that large paper companies stand to reap as much as $8 billion this year by doing the opposite of what an alternative-fuel bill intended."

The road to hell was paved with good intentions. (can I say that on Easter Sunday?)

Welcome to the USA

Shenanigans! (2, Informative)

Brickwall (985910) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548225)

From TFA: "In developed nations, paper is the third-largest industrial greenhouse gas emitter, behind the steel and chemical industries."

Oh, really? Not according to the US government. http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/usinventoryreport.html [epa.gov] Paper doesn't even show up, and all of the "industrial" processes (as opposed to home heating, electricity generation, and transportation) make up less than 7% of US emissions, so paper-making is barely a roundoff error. I'm not arguing that the paper companies aren't taking advantage of a loophole, but to suggest that this is having any meaningful impact on emissions one way or the other is ludicrous.

Too bad the 10th Amendment is dead (1)

tomohawk (1187855) | more than 5 years ago | (#27548321)

Here's another example: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,366601,00.html [foxnews.com]

The more they legislate, the more (supposedly) unintended consequences we get. If only they'd agree to be limited by the Constitution's enumerated powers - we'd get far fewer unintended consequences.

How about if we 1) term limit lawmakers, and 2) put mandatory sunset provisions on each law so that it automatically expires after 25 years?

What good would that do? For #1, we'd at least get some new blood in there once in a while. For #2, remember the telephone tax that was imposed to pay for the Spanish - American War, and was still in place 100 years later? Do we really want this law on the books in 100 years?

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