Kristof attributes the spread of auxiliary generators to … tax cuts for the rich! He writes:
“That’s how things often work in America. Half-a-century of tax cuts focused on the wealthiest Americans leave us with third-rate public services, leading the wealthy to develop inefficient private workarounds.”
Has Mr. Kristof never heard of an electric bill? Public utilities such as electricity are not paid for through taxes. The problem is not lower taxes on the rich, but the fact that burying the wires would be prohibitively expensive in many suburban areas. In my town admittedly borderline exurbia there are 66 miles of roads and about 2,500 houses. According to Popular Mechanics it would cost on average $724,000 per mile to bury the lines. That comes to $47,784,000 in my small town, or $19,113.60 per household. Increase everyone’s electric bill by $100 a month more than doubling the average bill and it would take 15 years to pay for the buried wires ignoring interest costs, which would be very considerable. That’s just not going to happen.
See also, Glenn et. al.:
NICK KRISTOF WRITES A LOT ABOUT FOREIGN COUNTRIES. But given this dogs-breakfast of a column about America, I’m beginning to doubt the reliability of his observations from anywhere.
People want generators because the power goes out in storms. The reason power goes out in storms isn’t because marginal income tax rates aren’t high enough. The reason power goes out in storms in general is that ratepayers — who, not taxpayers, are the ones who pay for electrical-utility infrastructure — balk at paying the higher rates it would take to harden up the infrastructure, and the political bodies that oversee utility rates tend to agree.