Waxman Markey – Legislating Guaranteed Failure

In his July 1 editorial, “Just Do It”, Tom Friedman is exactly right when he says regarding the recently passed Waxman Markey climate bill: “It is too weak in key areas and way too complicated in others. A simple, straightforward carbon tax would have made much more sense than this Rube Goldberg contraption. It is pathetic that we couldn’t do better. It is appalling that so much had to be given away to polluters. It stinks. It’s a mess.”

He goes on to describe some of the completely counterproductive compromises made to buy votes for the bill that will in aggregate absolutely guarantee that the bill fails to provide any of its climate related goals.

But he really misleads the American people in describing Republican opposition to this massive pork barrel bill in saying: “What are Republicans thinking? It is not as if they put forward a different strategy, like a carbon tax.?”

In fact, two Republicans Representatives Ingliss and Flake along with their Democratic colleague Daniel Lipinski have proposed H.R. 2380, The Raise Wages, Cut Carbon Act of 2009, which is exactly the solution that Friedman has been advocating for several years. It puts real inescapable prices on carbon emmission starting immediately, that are far greater then the EPA and Congressional Budget Office estimate Waxman Markey will provide ten years from now. And it helps the economy by reducing payroll taxes, the most regressive form of taxation in the country, rather than handing out hundreds of billions in corporate welfare the way Waxman Markey does.

Sadly, instead of providing the real leadership the nation needs and serious solutions like the Ingliss bill, Friedman caves in after years of being a true leader on these matters by calling on the Senate to push forward the wasteful and completely counterproductive corporate pork that the House just passed.

Greenpeace has chosen to take a far more practical and principled stand suggesting: “the Waxman-Markey bill sets emission reduction targets far lower than science demands, then undermines even those targets with massive offsets. The giveaways and preferences in the bill will actually spur a new generation of nuclear and coal-fired power plants to the detriment of real energy solutions. To support such a bill is to abandon the real leadership that is called for at this pivotal moment in history.  We simply no longer have the time for legislation this weak.”

In their Philadelphia Enquirer editorial entitled “Cap-and-Trade Does More Harm Than Good”, public sector environmental attorneys Laurie Williams and Allan Zabel with experience in California’s Cap and Trade law start by stating: “We would support legislation in Congress to address climate change if it were capable of accomplishing that goal. Unfortunately, despite the best intentions of its proponents, the bill known as Waxman-Markey would disable our ability to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions for at least a decade”

After clarifying several of the fundamental reasons this legislation will completely fail to meet its purported goals, they go on to conclude: “The Waxman-Markey approach would not only guarantee a decades-long failure in the United States; it would also undermine U.S. credibility in international negotiations on climate change.”

“Those who favor Waxman-Markey as a political best-case scenario lack faith in the American people. We believe the American people can understand and support a more effective and fair approach.”

“Many observers across the political spectrum agree that carbon fees or taxes, with rebates to consumers, would be a more enforceable and effective alternative. While cap-and-trade-and-offsets will enrich special interests and delay the transition away from fossil fuels, carbon fees with monthly rebates could be the centerpiece of an affordable, equitable, rapid transition to a clean-energy future.”

White House Budget Director Peter Orszag was absolutely clear in his March testimony to Congress saying: “If you didn’t auction the permit, it would represent the largest corporate welfare program that has ever been enacted in the history of the United States”.

By giving away 85% of the credits, offering completely unverifiable offsets for all sorts of sheer nonsense, and removing the EPAs role in regulating greenhouse gasses, Waxman Markey will do more to set back any real solutions than just about any policy imaginable.

In “The Cap and Trade Giveaway” Alan Viard  suggests “under a system of free permit allocation, the stockholders of companies that receive free permits would receive windfall gains. A cap-and-trade system with freely allocated permits is equivalent to a carbon tax in which the tax revenue is given to stockholders.”

Is this corrupt pork barrel corporate welfare really the best Congress can do? Do they really think nobody is paying attention, when after giving trillions of dollars in direct and hidden subsidies to the “too big to fail” banks at the center of the global financial meltdown, they are now handing out hundreds of billions more to the companies most responsible for the environmental problems facing the planet. Do they cynically think we citizens are all just stupid or that nobody is paying attention to what they do? Is empty rhetoric really all that is needed to buy  support of most of the mainstream environmental organizations and cover up such a total failure of Congress?

Friedman is right in his conclusion that “We The People” are the only hope for a real solution with his call to “get out of Facebook and into somebody’s face. Get a million people on the Washington Mall calling for a price on carbon. That will get the Senate’s attention. Play hardball or don’t play at all.”

But he is completely wrong to suggest that we should accept and promote the corrupt politics currently masquerading as a solution to anything at all. The massive fraud being perpetrated in Waxman Markey will do exactly what Williams and Zabel suggest – it will set back any real solution by at least a decade. With its inevitable costs to the economy in the trillions of dollars and its failure to impact carbon emissions in a meaningful way, it will also essentially end all credibility that the environmental movement has to later advocate for real solutions.

Hopefully we can expect more of the Senate than the cynics in the House are apparently capable of.  Let’s hope we can expect them to treat us with the respect of at least trying to be honest and serious about this issue.

Instead of caving on this issue for political expedience, Tom Friedman, President Obama and everyone else seriously concerned about this issue need to stand up and call on the Senate to reject Waxman Markey completely and start over from scratch with a real solution like a straight forward carbon tax that puts a significant and inescapable price on carbon emissions right now.

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Filed under Climate Policy, Economic Policy, Energy Policy

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