Climate Vote Shows Why I Am Still a Man Without a Party

Sat, 27 Jun 2009 15:08:24 +0000

I had three reactions to yesterday's cap-and-trade vote, two of which came from The New York Times article that I read this morning and one of which came from Stan's very smart post. Here they are:

  1. From the article, "Only eight Republicans voted for the bill, which runs to more than 1,300 pages."
  2. From the article, "The bill would grant a majority of the permits free in the early years of the program, to keep costs low."
  3. From Stan, "But the bigger story is that the White House once again has demonstrated an excellent ability to get Congress to go along with the things it wants."

And now let me take each one in turn.

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1) From the article, "Only eight Republicans voted for the bill, which runs to more than 1,300 pages."

Much as you may like the idea, this is another 1300 pages of complexity and loopholes. Buried in there, I'll wager, are more than enough ways for large organizations (the ones who hire lobbyists) to get all the exemption and evasion they'll need. Consider the alternative of a carbon tax calibrated to achieve the same emission reductions, and applied to all sectors including vehicle fuel consumption. I'm no expert on translating ideas into pages of a bill, but that can't be much. And given that it allows us to do away with the CAFE standards, I figure we've done a great service of dramatically simplifying the whole regulatory process for carbon emissions.

2) From the article, "The bill would grant a majority of the permits free in the early years of the program, to keep costs low."

That's a couple of interesting pages, no? This is the critical issue and the bill is flawed for giving into the special interests who demanded and got this giveaway. The caps require the price to go up, much like a tax would. Advocates of a green tax swap, like me, would like the additional revenue that consumers of carbon-intensive products pay to be returned to the private sector in a way that lowers the taxes on something desirable, like payroll. Giving the revenue back to the producers should not be an option.

3) From Stan, "But the bigger story is that the White House once again has demonstrated an excellent ability to get Congress to go along with the things it wants."

I think that this sentence -- which is a completely accurate description of the way policy gets made in Washington -- is also an indication of what's backwards about the way policy gets made in Washington. The power in government should reside with the legislature, not the executive. I think that much of the reason why the presidential election season has grown to its current monstrous proportions (a full two years of campaigning) is that politicians have realized that the presidency has all the power and the Congress has made itself a weak, secondary player. I'll be a much happier citizen when Stan has occasion to write, "But the bigger story is that the Congress once again has demonstrated an excellent ability to get the White House to go along with the things it wants."

So how does all of this make me a man without a party? On each one of these issues, my reading of the polical landscape is that the Republicans are further from the correct policy action than the Democrats.