The Dernogalizer

May 27, 2009

Small Steps, Big Problems

          

  Typically, the health care industry, the automotive industry, and the energy industry have teamed up with Republicans on major issues in Washington.  For many years, these alliances have derailed health care reform, bold fuel economy standards, and significant legislation to combat climate change.  It would appear these special interests have done a complete 360.

            President Barack Obama gathered at the White House with the health care industry on May 11th announcing a commitment to cut 2 trillion in costs in 10 years.  A week after, Obama appeared with the major car companies, announcing an increase of fuel economy standards of passenger cars to 39 mpg by 2016.  Days later, a climate change bill passed out of the Energy and Commerce Committee.  The bill was supported by energy companies including Duke Energy and Excelon.  Well, this is a change.  Contrary to what Obama would have us believe, the change is smaller in reality than it’s written on paper.

            For some strange reason, the Republicans have decided to stop making sense.  Their arguments over health care, fuel efficient cars, and global warming amongst other issues are so blatantly irrational, they’ve reduced their party to an irrelevance.  Even worse, they’re attempting to legislate as though the American people have given them control of the entire government.  Not surprisingly, big business bolted.  Their once reliable and seemingly rational ally lost all sense of reality.  Facing the prospect of universal health care, strong fuel economy mandates, and a tough cap on greenhouse gas emissions, they crossed the isle.

            This involved making compromises and meeting Democratic lawmakers halfway on major issues.  In their eyes, corporations would rather bite the bullet than swallow the grenade.  Democrats would prefer easily won battles over hard fought wars.  Why expend your political capital on a single issue you might lose on when you can make it appear to the public you’ve won big while holding hands with longtime opponents?     

            The new 39 mpg fuel economy standards by 2016 may appear bold.  Compare them to the rest of the world.  China’s average cars had to meet a standard of 35.8 mpg in 2008, nevermind passenger!  In Japan and the EU, the standards are even greater right now.  Somehow, some way, our automakers will find the “technological innovation” to meet the standards in 2016 that foreign companies are meeting right now.  In order to get off foreign oil, we must do better.

            Consider the climate change bill.  The most effective way to manage a cap and trade bill is to auction off 100% of the pollution permits, as President Obama originally called for.  This forces the polluting industries to pay, and then the revenues can be returned to the American people to offset higher energy costs.  On the condition that companies such as Excelon and Duke Energy support the bill, the vast majority of the permits are being given away for free to the polluters.  Democratic lawmakers on the Energy and Commerce Committee such as Rick Boucher of Virginia have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from the coal industry.  Not surprisingly, he has led the charge on weakening the bill, and will continue to do so in a way that threatens to render it ineffective at preventing catastrophic climate change.

            Since the EPA has declared carbon dioxide is a health hazard, the executive branch has the authority to regulate the pollutant if it so chooses.  If Obama truly wanted a strong climate bill, he could use this possibility to bully lawmakers and big business into supporting a stronger bill that places American interests above the coal interests.  The alternative to a weak climate bill could be the EPA taking matters into its own hands.  Obama has been very hands off, fine with allowing the coal industry to write the bill.                      

            The battle over health care will come soon in Congress, and progressive advocates will face their own hardships in achieving meaningful legislation.  How $2 trillion dollars in savings would be achieved was left to the imagination of the public.  As the AP noted “the specifics, industry officials said, would come later.”  When put into context, the specifics of the fuel economy standards and the climate bill are far from welcome. 

            The small steps President Obama is taking on these issues are far preferable to the backwards thinking of the previous administration.  What’s not right is painting the picture to the American public that Washington is taking major steps to confront global warming, energy independence, and health care.  This is simply a political game being used to keep the approval ratings steady.  It’s working, and Obama along with the Democratic party will likely be reelected in 2010 and 2012.   Much to Rush Limbaugh’s dismay, Obama will succeed.  But given the monumental challenges we face, and the half-hearted measures being used to confront them, will we?

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Cross-posted from: here […]

    Pingback by Small Steps, Big Problems | CCAN Blog — May 27, 2009 @ 1:32 pm | Reply


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