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“Badly In Need Of Some New Talking Points”: Rubio Needs A New Excuse To Ignore The Climate Crisis

As recently as two years ago, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) made his favorite case for doing absolutely nothing about the climate crisis. First, the far-right senator argued “government can’t change the weather,” suggesting the Floridian’s understanding of the issue lacked maturity.

But Rubio then added, “There are other countries that are polluting in the atmosphere much greater than we are at this point. China and India, they’re not going to stop doing what they’re doing.”

This year, the Republican repeated the talking point at a Koch brothers event: “[A]s far as I can see, China and India and other developing countries are going to continue to burn anything they can get their hands on.”

This rationale for simply allowing the crisis to continue with no American leadership at all was always bankrupt, but last week, it started collapsing in new ways. China, for example, announced its first-ever commitment to a cap-and-trade policy – a step Rubio and others on the far-right insisted China would never take.

And now India is taking steps of its own.

Under growing pressure to join in an international accord to battle climate change, India on Thursday announced its long-term plan to reduce its rate of planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution and to aggressively ramp up its production of solar power, hydropower and wind energy.

So, when Rubio said China and India are “not going to stop doing what they’re doing,” he had it largely backwards.

It’s important to emphasize that India’s announcement isn’t nearly as ambitious as it should be, and does not constitute a sweeping plan to curtail carbon emissions. That said, as the New York Times’ report added, “some environmental advocates praised the plan’s commitment to renewable energy and said that, if enacted, it could put India on track to reduced carbon emissions in the long run.”

And given that Republicans have insisted for years that China and India intend to do literally nothing about the crisis – a claim that the GOP has used an excuse to ignore the climate emergency – it seems the right is badly in need of some new talking points.

The Rubio campaign was asked to respond to these developments the other day. A spokesperson for the Republican senator responded, “Marco is opposed to cap-and-trade and other forms of a national energy tax. He has outlined concrete proposals that will help us seize our energy potential without increasing the reach of the E.P.A.”

The answer had nothing to do with the question, and Rubio’s position still doesn’t make sense.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 2, 2015

October 3, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Global Warming, Marco Rubio | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Pre-Racial Society”: 5 Policies That Republicans Loved (Until Obama Did, Too)

On Friday, Texas senator and likely 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) took some heat when Mother Jones reported that the right-wing Republican once offered a resolute defense of the 2009 stimulus law that he now derides as an archetypal government overreach. As a private-practice lawyer representing the Texas Retired Teachers Association, Cruz declared that stimulus money “will directly impact the [Texas] economy…and will directly further the greater purpose of economic recovery for America.” But today, he considers the law to be a failure.

Cruz is far from the first Republican to change his mind on an issue championed by the White House. Here are five policies that high-profile Republicans loved — until President Obama came along.

Obamacare

Since before it even became law, Republicans have decried the Affordable Care Act as a job-killing, freedom-crushing abomination. But the right wasn’t always so vehemently opposed to the law’s underlying ideas, like the health care exchanges, the individual mandate, and Medicaid expansion. In fact, they were developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, and favored by many Republican politicians.

As recently as 2008, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney considered his health care law — which was largely the inspiration for Obama’s — to be “the ultimate conservative plan,” and a “model” for the rest of the nation. But with Obama in the White House, that didn’t last.

Common Core

Today, Republicans widely agree that the Common Core education standards are a hostile, oppressive government takeover of the education system. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has compared Common Core to “centralized planning” in the Soviet Union. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) derides it as “the Obamacare of education.” Senator Cruz has vowed to repeal it (even though it’s not a law passed by Congress). State Representative Charles Van Zant (R-FL) warns that it will “attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can.”

But before Republicans began associating the new educational guidelines with the Obama administration (and, by extension, gay communism), they were quite fond of them. After all, Common Core takes after George W. Bush’s education policy, was introduced by the bipartisan National Governors Association, and at one point was adopted by 46 states. Even the aforementioned Jindal, now a leader of the anti-Common Core push, once defended it by promising that his state would not “move one inch off more rigorous and higher standards for our kids.”

Cap And Trade

Before Barack Obama became president, public officials broadly agreed that climate change was a real problem that required a serious policy response. Newt Gingrich even sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi to talk about it( http://youtu.be/qi6n_-wB154).

Many Republicans agreed that cap and trade, which was developed by a “strange alliance of free-market Republicans and renegade environmentalists,” was the solution that combined the most economic and environmental benefits. In fact, almost every Republican candidate in 2012 backed the plan — until they decided to run against Obama, at which point they reflexively turned against it.

Today, carbon limits remain unpopular on the right, where they are falsely considered to be a job-killing abomination.

Deficit Spending

When President Obama released his 2016 budget plan, congressional Republicans reacted as they often do to his proposals: by attacking it for failing to close the budget deficit.

“While Washington is still racking up debt, this budget doesn’t even try to balance the books,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy complained. “In fact, despite the best efforts of Republicans over the past four years to rein in spending and cut the deficit, this budget would erase all those gains over the 10-year budget horizon by increasing the deficit and adding even more to the debt. Our children and grandchildren can’t afford such recklessness.”

But back during the Bush administration, McCarthy and his fellow Republicans didn’t seem to mind budgets that never balanced; that’s why they voted for deficit-busting plans like the Bush tax cuts or the Iraq War, among many others.

Indeed, the Republican Party’s pre-Obama attitude towards balancing the budget can be best summed up by former vice president Dick Cheney: “Deficits don’t matter.” There’s a pretty good case that he was right — but don’t expect any Republican to make the argument while Obama is in the White House.

Immigration Reform

For years, many Republicans have agreed that the United States desperately needs to reform its immigration laws. In 2013, the Senate even passed a rare bipartisan bill which would strengthen border security and establish a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants who are already in the country. In other words, it closely mirrored President Obama’s goals. And that became a major problem for many Republicans. For example, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted against the 2013 bill despite having supported similar measures in 1986 and 2006.

But no Republican illustrates President Obama’s effect on the GOP better than Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). Rubio helped craft the 2013 bill in the first place, arguing that the issue is a question of human rights. But a year later, he had abandoned his plans — because “the Obama administration has ‘undermined’ negotiations by not defunding his signature health care law.”

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, February 13, 2015

 

February 16, 2015 Posted by | Domestic Policy, GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tiresome Assertions”: More Revisionist History About Clinton And Obama

I briefly mentioned Michael Gerson’s “Are Democrats Stuck in 1979?” column yesterday, but wasn’t in a big hurry to smack it down. It’s precisely Gerson’s history as the rare conservative willing on occasion to criticize his party’s extremism that probably makes this sort of claim that the other side is even more extreme inevitable.

But some editor or maybe even a history-conscious intern might have warned Gerson that choosing 1979 as the mythical apogee of Democratic liberalism was a bad idea. That’s a year in which a Democratic president began to prepare for a re-election campaign by pushing for a balanced budget and a big increase in defense spending, even as liberal icon Ted Kennedy headed for a humiliating defeat in the primaries.

In any event, here’s the tiresome assertion that really annoys me as a veteran of the New Democrat thing:

President Obama has now effectively undone everything that Clinton and the New Democrats did in the 1980s and ’90s.

Gerson’s not real specific about this claim, though I assume part of his argument would involve resuscitating the Romney-Ryan campaign’s lie that Obama had “gutted” welfare reform. But what else?

Since Gerson appears to assume that Clinton was strictly about appropriating conservative themes, I guess he cannot come to grips with the fact that the Affordable Care Act was based on the “managed competition” model that a lot of New Democrats preferred to Clinton’s own health care proposal, or that Obama’s “cap-and-trade” proposal was relentlessly and redundantly promoted by the New Democratic think tank the Progressive Policy Institute. Just about everything Obama has proposed on tax policy, education policy, infrastructure policy, trade policy and even national security policy has been right out of the Clintonian playbook. Has Gerson noticed that Obama’s not real popular with people on the left wing of the Democratic Party?

Well, never mind; I guess the Obama-the-lefty construct, threadbare as it is, was necessary for Gerson to set up the heads-we-win tails-you-lose proposition that HRC needs to move the Democratic Party to the right or accept that “the political achievements of her husband [have] been washed away.” I do believe Obama was the first Democrat since FDR to be elected twice with a majority of the popular vote; that ought to count for something.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, January 7, 2014

January 9, 2015 Posted by | Bill Clinton, Conservatives, President Obama | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Interests, Ideology And Climate”: For Republicans, Overcoming Pride And Willful Ignorance Is Hard

There are three things we know about man-made global warming. First, the consequences will be terrible if we don’t take quick action to limit carbon emissions. Second, in pure economic terms the required action shouldn’t be hard to take: emission controls, done right, would probably slow economic growth, but not by much. Third, the politics of action are nonetheless very difficult.

But why is it so hard to act? Is it the power of vested interests?

I’ve been looking into that issue and have come to the somewhat surprising conclusion that it’s not mainly about the vested interests. They do, of course, exist and play an important role; funding from fossil-fuel interests has played a crucial role in sustaining the illusion that climate science is less settled than it is. But the monetary stakes aren’t nearly as big as you might think. What makes rational action on climate so hard is something else — a toxic mix of ideology and anti-intellectualism.

Before I get to that, however, an aside on the economics.

I’ve noted in earlier columns that every even halfway serious study of the economic impact of carbon reductions — including the recent study paid for by the anti-environmental U.S. Chamber of Commerce — finds at most modest costs. Practical experience points in the same direction. Back in the 1980s conservatives claimed that any attempt to limit acid rain would have devastating economic effects; in reality, the cap-and-trade system for sulfur dioxide was highly successful at minimal cost. The Northeastern states have had a cap-and-trade arrangement for carbon since 2009, and so far have seen emissions drop sharply while their economies grew faster than the rest of the country. Environmentalism is not the enemy of economic growth.

But wouldn’t protecting the environment nonetheless impose costs on some sectors and regions? Yes, it would — but not as much as you think.

Consider, in particular, the much-hyped “war on coal.” It’s true that getting serious about global warming means, above all, cutting back on (and eventually eliminating) coal-fired power, which would hurt regions of the country that depend on coal-mining jobs. What’s rarely pointed out is how few such jobs still exist.

Once upon a time King Coal was indeed a major employer: At the end of the 1970s there were more than 250,000 coal miners in America. Since then, however, coal employment has fallen by two-thirds, not because output is down — it’s up, substantially — but because most coal now comes from strip mines that require very few workers. At this point, coal mining accounts for only one-sixteenth of 1 percent of overall U.S. employment; shutting down the whole industry would eliminate fewer jobs than America lost in an average week during the Great Recession of 2007-9.

Or put it this way: The real war on coal, or at least on coal workers, took place a generation ago, waged not by liberal environmentalists but by the coal industry itself. And coal workers lost.

The owners of coal mines and coal-fired power plants do have a financial interest in blocking environmental policy, but even there the special interests don’t look all that big. So why is the opposition to climate policy so intense?

Well, think about global warming from the point of view of someone who grew up taking Ayn Rand seriously, believing that the untrammeled pursuit of self-interest is always good and that government is always the problem, never the solution. Along come some scientists declaring that unrestricted pursuit of self-interest will destroy the world, and that government intervention is the only answer. It doesn’t matter how market-friendly you make the proposed intervention; this is a direct challenge to the libertarian worldview.

And the natural reaction is denial — angry denial. Read or watch any extended debate over climate policy and you’ll be struck by the venom, the sheer rage, of the denialists.

The fact that climate concerns rest on scientific consensus makes things even worse, because it plays into the anti-intellectualism that has always been a powerful force in American life, mainly on the right. It’s not really surprising that so many right-wing politicians and pundits quickly turned to conspiracy theories, to accusations that thousands of researchers around the world were colluding in a gigantic hoax whose real purpose was to justify a big-government power grab. After all, right-wingers never liked or trusted scientists in the first place.

So the real obstacle, as we try to confront global warming, is economic ideology reinforced by hostility to science. In some ways this makes the task easier: we do not, in fact, have to force people to accept large monetary losses. But we do have to overcome pride and willful ignorance, which is hard indeed.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, June 8, 2014

June 9, 2014 Posted by | Climate Change, Climate Science, Global Warming | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Matters Is Reducing Emissions”: How Conservatives Will React To Obama’s New Climate Regulations

President Obama is set to announce new rules for carbon emissions today, and what we’ll see is a familiar pattern. The administration decides to confront one of the most profound challenges we face. It bends over backward to accommodate the concerns of its opponents, shaping the policy to achieve the goal in ways that Republicans might find palatable. Then not only are its efforts to win support from the other side fruitless, the opposition is so vituperative that it veers into self-parody.

That’s what happened with the Affordable Care Act; not only was the law not “socialism” as Republicans charged, it was about as far from socialism as you could get and still achieve universal coverage. It involved getting as many people as possible into private insurance plans, where they could see private medical providers. But Republicans who had previously embraced similar market-based ideas decided that once Obama poisoned them with his support, they were now the height of statist oppression.

Something similar happened with cap and trade, a carbon-credit system, which before 2008 was considered a conservative alternative to heavy-handed government regulation, harnessing the power of the market to reduce pollution—one that had the support of many Republicans. But once Obama began advocating cap and trade, Republicans decided it was the most vile sort of government overreach. The new regulations the administration is about to announce allow for state cap and trade systems, but the administration is carefully avoiding using the term.

The essence of the administration’s plan, at least in the details that have been reported so far, is that it will set statewide targets for reduction of carbon emissions from existing power plants (which are the single largest source of such emissions), then let each state decide how it wants to meet those targets. A state could institute a cap and trade program, or it could do any number of other things. That’s supposed to be just the kind of federalism conservatives love.

We’re likely to hear a number of responses from conservatives to these new regulations. Some will say climate change is a hoax, and there’s no reason to worry about it. Others will say that though climate change is real, we shouldn’t actually do anything about it. Others will talk about how despite the state-by-state flexibility, these regulations will be “job-killing.” But the word you’re likely to hear more than any other is “lawless.”

Every time Barack Obama takes an executive action they don’t like, Republicans describe it as “lawless.” There are certainly times when Obama has tested the limits of presidential power, just like pretty much every president before him. But Republicans make this charge even if what he’s doing is squarely within the president’s rights. (I contend that they make this charge so often because at a fundamental level, they believe Obama’s entire presidency is illegitimate, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

It’s true that early in his presidency, Obama tried unsuccessfully to pass climate legislation (a cap and trade bill passed the House but died in the Senate), and is now doing through regulation what he couldn’t do through legislation. But there’s nothing lawless about that, so long as the regulations are within his authority. In this case, Obama is not only allowed to regulate carbon emissions, he’s required to do so by law. In a 2007 case called Massachusetts v. E.P.A., the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act mandated that the federal government take steps to regulate carbon emissions, and that’s what the EPA will be doing.

Even if the state flexibility fails to win over Republicans, it’s still a good idea. What matters is reducing emissions, and whichever way a state gets there is fine. The states will be able to learn from each other; if they accomplish the reductions in different ways, we’ll discover which paths were the easiest, most effective, and least expensive, and states can adapt over time with that knowledge. But the details won’t matter to the administration’s opponents; because Barack Obama is proposing these regulations, they must be job-killing socialism intended to destroy America.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 27, 2014

May 28, 2014 Posted by | Carbon Emissions, Conservatives | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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