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Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Senate Fiddles: The Waters Rise

I was happy to see Cap & Trade prominent on the legislative agenda this year. We need C&T--or a carbon tax (and we can argue about which one)--if we are to use market forces to blunt the impact of climate change; and I don’t see the problem being successfully addressed unless we can get the market to work with, rather than against, a sustainable future.

I wasn’t surprised to see the Republicans come out, full force, against Cap & Trade. I have been perhaps mildly surprised at the level of dishonesty, and also the ineptitude, they bring to the table.

Wanting to let House Republican Leader John Boehner speak for himself, I went directly to his website. Click “Issues,” then click “Environment,” and you get a half dozen blips, mostly on the farm bill, the newest one almost a year old. Reading his website, it would appear that climate change is not an environmental issue on Boehner's radar.

The Republicans have been trumpeting the idea that C&T will cost the average American some $3000 per year—Atlantic editor Jack Beatty, on the NPR program On Point, cited the real figure at closer to $31 per person.

The $3000 figure is extrapolated, erroneously, from the work of John Reilly, a senior lecturer at the Sloan School of Management at MIT. Reilly has been working to correct the record; Republicans have been diligently repeating the lie.

But wait, there’s more! Boehner is also on the record against frivolous expenditures like spending money to weatherize federal buildings. Hmmm. . . . Jobs during an economic downturn, lower energy costs for the government for the life of the building. Yes, I do see why that would be problematic.

Finally, it’s important to nod in the direction of our friends the Democrats.

On April Fools Day, a majority of Democrats in the Senate (26 of them) went on record AGAINST folding Cap & Trade into the budget reconciliation process—which would have made it filibuster proof. Lotta coal states on that last. Can’t say what the less cynical rationale might be.

Nice to be in the new era of bipartisanship: on both sides of the aisle, the senate fiddles while the waters rise.