Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cap & Trade & Stoopid Wingnuts Fainting

Think Progress: House passes American Clean Energy and Security Act.

In a 219-to-212 vote this evening, the House passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which will “for the first time put a price on carbon emissions” in the U.S. In the final minutes of the debate, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) threatened to obstruct the bill by reading 300 pages of amendments, but eventually relented and read only a few sentences from selected portions. Progressive Media compiled a video detailing the major arguments both for and against the bill. Watch it:

Despite promises that Republicans would rally against the bill, several members defected to support it, including Reps. Dave Reichart (R-WA), Mike Castle (R-DE), Mary Bono Mack, Mark Kirk (R-IL), Leonard Lance (R-NJ), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Chris Smith (R-NJ), and John McHugh (R-NY). 44 Democrats voted against the legislation. Reps. John Lewis (D-GA) and Pat Kennedy (D-RI) both returned to the floor for the first time after tending to significant health issues to support the legislation.

Yglesias: Waxman-Markey and the Economy

When you listen to conservative members of congress denouncing the Waxman-Markey bill’s sure-to-be-devastating impact on the economy, it’s worth keeping this post from Conor Clarke in mind:

Here’s an easy way of visualizing the costs of Waxman-Markey. The chart below shows projected U.S. GDP with and without Waxman-Markey (drawn from the data annex of the EPA’s big estimate). Projected U.S. GDP without the bill is in orange; it’s sitting behind projected GDP with the bill, which is in grey. The visible orange stripe is the difference between the two scenarios:


I don’t think it can be seriously denied that this is a small price to pay to avert a global catastrophe. The problem with Waxman-Markey is that it wouldn’t, on its own, actually avert said catastrophe. But this isn’t a flaw in the bill’s design, it speaks to the global nature of the problem—no one country’s activities can prevent catastrophe, you need coordinated action by all the world’s major economies.

As Conor says “The big question is whether this bill will increase or decrease the chance of such coordination.” I’ve heard some clever people who don’t want to be silly denialists about the threat of climate change, and who don’t want to be silly alarmists about the threat of Waxman-Markey, but who don’t have a self-conception as belonging to the same political coalition as Henry Waxman and Nancy Pelosi attempt to argue that the answer is “decrease.” But I’ve never heard any of the people actually charged with the international negotiations say that. As best I can tell, everyone involved with the Copenhagen process, everyone involved with the U.N., and all the climate negotiators from the major European countries are hoping for something like this bill to pass in order to give the international diplomatic process additional momentum.

  • Hilzoy adds:

    Think about it. Cap and trade is completely in line with standard market economics: you identify an externality that the market does not capture, design a market system to capture and price that externality, and rectify a market failure. The Democrats, who favor the bill, have a huge margin in Congress. They water it down in various ways to make it more palatable to various wavering people. And after all that, it still only passes by seven votes.

    That's sad. I hate to think what will happen to it in the Senate.

    It's also a testament to the power of special interests. Consider the bill's emissions credits. President Obama proposed to auction them all, which would have allowed them to be distributed to those businesses to whom they were most valuable; the proceeds from the auction would have gone both to rebates to consumers and to funding a continuation of the middle class tax cuts. Oh no! shrieked various utilities and other corporations that would have had to pay for those auctioned credits. And lo! our representatives caved, which means that the money that would have paid for our tax cuts is no longer there.

    I'm really glad it passed: it's a lot better than nothing. But it could have been better still.

  • Yglesias: Process and Substance: Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

    Ezra Klein remarks on our present dilemma:

    I think that analytically honest political commentators right now should be struggling with a pretty hard choice: Do you try to maximize the possibility of good, if still insufficient, outcomes? Or do you admit what many people already know and say that our political process has gone into total system failure and the overriding priority is building the long-term case for structural reform of America’s lawmaking process? Put another way, can you really solve any of our policy problems until you solve our fundamental political problem? And don’t think about it in terms of when your team is in power. Think of it in terms of the next 30 years, and the challenges we face.

    I think that this is a bit of a false choice. Normally, procedural and substantive reforms go together. Certainly you saw that the substantive legislation of the Civil Rights and Great Society period were intimately related to reforms of how congress operated. The New Deal required a revamping of Supreme Court constitutional doctrine and the construction of a modern administrative state apparatus. Even in 2009, it’s important to recall that the essential backdrop of today’s Waxman-Markey vote (substantive) was Henry Waxman’s successful challenge to John Dingell to helm the Energy & Commerce Committee.

    For Waxman, there was no contradiction between seeking a substantive reform of energy policy and seeking a procedural shakeup. The problem is that very few other senior Democrats seem to be thinking Waxman-style. In particular, almost nobody in the United States Senate seems willing to admit that the Senate’s rules are a huge impediment to sound public policy rather than cute and lovable quirks.

  • Steve Benen: COMING UP ACES...
    Hilzoy noted overnight that the House, in a very close vote, approved the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), 219 to 212. In the end, 44 Democrats broke party ranks and joined the minority in opposition -- including a few who had told the leadership otherwise -- while eight Republicans voted with the Democratic majority.

    The legislation's flaws notwithstanding, yesterday's vote was a very big deal. The NYT noted that this is the "first time either house of Congress had approved a bill meant to curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change. The legislation ... could lead to profound changes in many sectors of the economy, including electric power generation, agriculture, manufacturing and construction."

    Under the circumstances, a handful of Democratic leaders have definitely earned a pat on the back.

    "It has been an incredible six months, to go from a point where no one believed we could pass this legislation to a point now where we can begin to say that we are going to send president Obama to Copenhagen in December as the leader of the of the world on climate change," said [Massachusetts Rep. Edward Markey (D)], referring to world climate talks scheduled this winter.

    When Markey says "no one believed we could pass this legislation," that's not an exaggeration. This was more than just an ambitious long shot; this was widely seen as nearly impossible. When House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) vowed to get this bill out of committee, onto the floor, and over to the Senate before the 4th of July, some literally laughed at him.

    And yet, here we are. Looks like Waxman was the right person for the job.

    Credit also has to go to Speaker Pelosi and President Obama, both of whom were tested on this, twisting arms on legislation Congress didn't want to pass, and both passed their tests nicely. The Hill called yesterday's vote "one of the biggest victories of [Pelosi's] tenure" as Speaker, which is an entirely fair assessment.

    As for the eight Republicans who supported the measure -- Reps. Mary Bono Mack (Calif.), Mike Castle (Del.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Leonard Lance (N.J.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), John McHugh (N.Y.), Dave Reichert (Wash,), and Chris Smith (N.J.) -- this should probably be seen as a sign of at least some progress. For one thing, the legislation likely would have failed without them. For another, a few of these GOP lawmakers are planning to run for statewide office next year, suggesting they see a political upside to being on the right side of climate change when seeking a promotion.

    And let's also not forget that House Republicans have been strikingly disciplined and in lock-step this year, giving Democrats exactly zero GOP votes on measures like the budget and the economic stimulus package. The Republican leadership would have loved nothing more than to see a united front against ACES yesterday, but it obviously didn't happen.

    Now, onto the Senate. Does it stand a chance? Stay tuned.

  • DougJ adds: Climate contrarianism

    Get ready for a lot of contrarianism about the cap-and-trade bill. Yglesias has a pretty good take down:

    I’ve heard some clever people who don’t want to be silly denialists about the threat of climate change, and who don’t want to be silly alarmists about the threat of Waxman-Markey, but who don’t have a self-conception as belonging to the same political coalition as Henry Waxman and Nancy Pelosi attempt to argue that the answer is “decrease.” But I’ve never heard any of the people actually charged with the international negotiations say that. As best I can tell, everyone involved with the Copenhagen process, everyone involved with the U.N., and all the climate negotiators from the major European countries are hoping for something like this bill to pass in order to give the international diplomatic process additional momentum.

    Commenter Hob describes the rhetoric perfectly:

    “Everyone thinks recycling is better than throwing all our shit in the river, but if you look beyond the conventional wisdom of our hippie overlords, you may be surprised to learn…”

    Obviously, the only truly rational position here is to do nothing until we’re sure that aliens won’t pelt us with small asteroids traveling at 99 percent of the speed of light.

Think Progress: Rep. Rob Bishop says passage of clean energy bill will be as tragic as the death of Michael Jackson.

Yesterday on Fox Business, anchor David Asman hosted a round table dedicated to smearing the Waxman-Markey clean energy economy legislation. The discussion, including Fox Business’ Cody Willard and the Heritage Foundation’s David Kreutzer, lacked a single proponent of the bill. Concluding the segment, Asman asked Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) — an opponent not just of clean energy legislation, but of green jobs in general — if the bill would pass the House. He responded with a morbid comparison:

ASMAN: Congressman Bishop is there any chance at all that this thing won’t pass tomorrow?

BISHOP: Well there’s hope, we’ll see if — I mean you guys covered a national tragedy today, let’s hope we don’t give you a tragedy tomorrow as well.

Watch it:

Earlier during the programming (the segment aired at 7:30 eastern time), the death of Michael Jackson was announced.

Think Progress: Rep. Broun receives applause on the House floor for calling global warming a ‘hoax.’

During the floor debate this morning over the historic American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) received a round of applause from GOP colleagues when he claimed that man-made global warming is a “hoax” with “no scientific consensus.” Broun, citing misleading statistics, also claimed that the bill would hurt the poor and “kill jobs:”

BROUN: Scientists all over this world say that the idea of human induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community. It is a hoax. There is no scientific consensus. … And who’s going to be hurt most [by ACES] the poor, the people on limited income…the people who can least afford to have their energy taxes raised by MIT says $3100 per family. … This bill must be defeated. We need to be good stewards of our environment, but this is not it, it’s a hoax! … [APPLAUSE.]

Watch it:

Broun’s tired hoax claims aside, Broun’s $3,100 talking point is contradicted by the Congressional Budget Office, which found that that the average cost of the legislation would be only 48-cents a day, the price of a postage stamp, and that “households in the lowest income quintile would see an average net benefit of about $40 in 2020.” A report by the Center for American Progress and the University of Massachusetts also found that the bill would create 1.7 million new jobs, including 59,000 new jobs in Broun’s homestate of Georgia.

  • Steve Benen adds:

    The "$3,100 per family" line has been debunked over and over again -- the MIT scholar Broun cites has specifically tried to explain to Republican lawmakers that it's completely bogus -- but they just can't seem to stop using it.

    Regardless, the general inanity of the speech is what's troubling. Ideally, the two major parties would at least agree on reality. Reasonable people would look at the evidence and recognize the seriousness of the climate crisis. From there, Democrats and Republicans could argue fiercely over how best to address the problem.

    But policymakers can't work together to tackle problems when one side prefers to believe the problems don't exist.

Think Progress: Gingrey Compares Democratic Leadership To The ‘Forces Of Darkness’ In Iran And North Korea

Last week, several Republican House members compared themselves to Iranian protesters, claiming that being in the minority in Congress was just like being violently oppressed in Iran. “I wonder if there isn’t more freedom on the streets of Tehran right now than we are seeing here,” said Rep. David Dreier (R-CA). Reps. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) and John Culberson (R-TX) made similar comparisons on Twitter.

Despite the online uproar that followed the egregious comparisons, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) went even further today. Complaining about the proposed rules for debate on clean energy legislation, Gingrey compared Democrats to the “forces of darkness” in Iran and North Korea:

GINGREY: Madam speaker, thank you. I rise in opposition to this rule and to the underlying legislation. I’m just not sure to which I’m more opposed. Americans are watching as from Iran to North Korea, the forces of darkness are attempting to silence the forces of democracy and freedom. The irony is on this day, the Democratic process and the nation’s economic freedom are under threat not by some rogue state, but in this very chamber in which we stand. Good people may disagree on the impact or the merits of this bill. But no one can disagree with the fact that the speaker and her rules committee have silenced the opposition.

Watch it:

UpdateIn his Washington Examiner column this week, Newt Gringrich compared the fight against the climate change bill to Soviet oppression of the Polish Solidarity Movement for freedom in the 1980s.
Think Progress: Glenn Beck claims supporters of cap-and-trade are either dumb, ‘greedy,’ ‘wicked’ or ‘treasonous.’
On his radio show today, global warming denier Glenn Beck played an audio clip of Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine speaking favorably of cap-and-trade, but saying it would be “difficult” to do it in Virginia alone. “This is something that is much better done, either on a very huge regional basis or a national basis,” said Kaine. Kaine’s comments caused Beck to accuse cap-and-trade supporters of being “the dumbest people to ever walk the face of the Earth,” “greedy,” “wicked” and even “treasonous“:

BECK: And these people know it. They are either the dumbest people to ever walk the face of the Earth, which I think some of them are. They are just greedy and just want their own power and their own control, which I think some of them are. Or, they believe in a different system other than the Republic, which I think some of them do. They are, they have exposed themselves as incompetent. They have exposed themselves as wicked. They have exposed themselves, quite honestly I think, as treasonous. I think some of them are treasonous. They have exposed themselves. Now the question is are there enough people in America still that believes in liberty and freedom and the Constitution?

Listen here:



  1. Weird. That pretty much sums up how I think of Beck.

    Guess I won't be holding out for reasonable discourse with him, then.

  2. Probably a good idea, Cliff.