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Will-fully Ignorant

June 3rd, 2008 · 3 Comments

We could easily ask: Washington Post editors, are you idiots? In publishing George F. Will’s Carbon Power Brokers, the Post editorial board is complicit in the dissemination of deceptiveness and falsehoods surrounding policy making on what likely will be the most significant issue of the 21st century. The Post published this deceptive drivel the day before the US Senate begins debating the Lieberman-Warner Climate inSecurity Act. While, clearly, I have quite serious problems with the CiSA and do not support its passage, this debate and discussion should be on the basis of fact and truth, rather then deceit and truthiness.

As an example of a direct falsehood, Will writes that John McCain supports the bill. Oops, BUZZ, false. John McCain has mouthed some strong words on Global Warming but has managed to be AWOL on every vote that matters when it comes to clean technology and environmental issues in the past year. His staff has already announced that this won’t be an exception to that rule. John McCain doesn’t support Lieberman-Warner (his two biggest Senate supporters) and won’t be there to vote on the bill. McFlip McFlop McSame McCain’s deceptive sleight of hand continues: listen to what I say, don’t watch what I do when it comes to the reality of Global Warming. That is, unless you’re in the reality-denial world, then ignore what I say and watch what I do. There seems to be an expression for this. What is it? Oh, yeah, “McCain wants to have his cake and eat it too.” To share that cake with George W Bush no matter what storms hit America’s shores.

Join me for a stroll through Will’s willful ignorance …

An unprecedentedly radical government grab for control of the American economy will be debated this week

Let’s get the blood boiling, using code-word language to get all red-blooded (and especially Red) Americans up-in-arms. “Unprecendentedly radical” … “Government” … “grab” … “control”

Time to man the barricades.

Time to dump some tea in the harbor.

Is your heart pounding yet?

when the Senate considers saving the planet by means of a cap-and-trade system to ration carbon emissions.

The plan is co-authored (with John Warner) by Joe Lieberman, an ardent supporter of John McCain, who supports Lieberman’s legislation and recently spoke about “the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring.”

Oops, George, John McCain has stated that he will be Missing in Action for the voting but that, if there, he would not support the bill. From that same Washington Post that published Will’s willful deception:

In a press conference … McCain defended his decision to skip the vote, and outlined his opposition to the bill.

FYI … long and short of that opposition: not enough subsidizing of nuclear power from the man who argues that he opposes subsidies. McFlip, McFlop, McSame?

Back to Will-ful ignorance.

Speaking of endless troubles, “cap-and-trade” comes cloaked in reassuring rhetoric about the government merely creating a market, but government actually would create a scarcity so that government could sell what it had made scarce.

Will is basically correct that what a Cap seeks to do is create a scarcity even if he doesn’t want to speak to what that might be. That “scarcity”: a reduced right to pollute the air that we breathe and the water that we drink.

The Wall Street Journal underestimates cap-and-trade’s perniciousness when it says the scheme would create a new right (”allowances”) to produce carbon dioxide and would put a price on the right. Actually, because freedom is the silence of the law, that right has always existed in the absence of prohibitions. With cap-and-trade, government would create a right for itself– an extraordinarily lucrative right to ration Americans’ exercise of their traditional rights.

Okay George, what is amazing is that you are unwilling to state, directly, what is that taken away “freedom”, that “traditional right” that will be rationed.

What is that right you are defending? The right to pollute the air, the water, the health of Americans (and others) without payment, without cost.

What is the traditional right at stake here? The right to reach out and affect the lives of others, negatively, without paying for the damage that one is doing.

What are those “traditional rights”? The right to poison (poison the earth, atmosphere, waters (oceans, lakes, rivers), poison people, poison (and Kill) Americans) without payment or penalty.

Businesses with unused emission allowances could sell their surpluses to businesses that exceed their allowances. The more expensive and constraining the allowances, the more money government would gain.

True, George, but let’s take another angle. What has been shown, over time, is that estimates for reducing costs grossly (orders-of-magnitude) exaggerate the actual costs. Whether it was for reducing ozone-depleting CFCs, cutting sulphur emissions from smokestacks (acid rain), or otherwise, the costs for reducing pollution into the commons has been far less than what has been warned.

If one wants to attack Lieberman-Warner about costs of allowances, the real argument might be that Joe and John are promising far more revenues from the allowances than what would likely be the case as Americans (and others) are incentivized to be inventive in developing ways to cut carbon (and other Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions). This is, by the way, one of the saddest elements of Will-ful ignorance, this implicit attack on the very concept of American ingenuity and responsiveness to challenges. Inherent to Will’s arguments is an assumption that Americans will fail to take up the challenge and succeed.

If carbon emissions are the planetary menace that the political class suddenly says they are, why not a straightforward tax on fossil fuels based on each fuel’s carbon content? This would have none of the enormous administrative costs of the baroque cap-and-trade regime. And a carbon tax would avoid the uncertainties inseparable from cap-and-trade’s government allocation of emission permits sector by sector, industry by industry. So a carbon tax would be a clear and candid incentive to adopt energy-saving and carbon-minimizing technologies. That is the problem.

A carbon tax would be too clear and candid for political comfort. It would clearly be what cap-and-trade deviously is, a tax, but one with a known cost. Therefore, taxpayers would demand a commensurate reduction of other taxes. Cap-and-trade — government auctioning permits for businesses to continue to do business — is a huge tax hidden in a bureaucratic labyrinth of opaque permit transactions.

Okay, while the words are terrible, to a good extent Will is right on this. Cap-and-Trade is inefficient, fiscally.

But, the deception continues here … strongly. Think about this for a moment:

A carbon tax would be too clear and candid for political comfort. It would clearly be what cap-and-trade deviously is, a tax, but one with a known cost.

“Known cost …” What is missing here? Any discussion or suggestion of “benefit”. To “Tax” is evil, but to have government services (or those services you want) is good. A “carbon tax” would have a “known cost” but, evidently, no benefit worth speaking of.

The proper price of permits for carbon emissions should reflect the future warming costs of current emissions. That is bound to be a guess based on computer models built on guesses.

Actually, George, probably not.

The “proper price”, in a permitting environment, should be balancing the total available permits against the cost of reducing pollution. If, as was the case with CFCs and Ozone, we quickly find low-cost methods for achieving significant reductions and the cap slowly decreases, permit prices are likely to remain very inexpensive. (Which, sadly, will not foster accelerated reductions in pollution levels.)

Lieberman guesses that the market value of all permits would be “about $7 trillion by 2050.”

Again, there is great uncertainty as to that figure … great. And, note that about 40 percent of permits between 2012 and 2032 would be given away, for free. You want to talk about potential windfall profits? This could make the oil companies look like nothing.

Will that staggering sum pay for a $7 trillion reduction of other taxes? Not exactly.

It would go to a Climate Change Credit Corporation, which Lieberman calls “a private-public entity” that, operating outside the budget process, would invest “in many things.” This would be industrial policy, a.k.a. socialism, on a grand scale — government picking winners and losers, all of whom will have powerful incentives to invest in lobbyists to influence government’s thousands of new wealth-allocating decisions.

Boy, do I hate having to defend the CiSA, but this is disingenuous, at best. It is, of course, interesting to see Will wrapped up in attacks on “lobbyists”, another one of those terms to get the blood-boiling. It becomes something of concern to Will when convenient, rather than (it seems) due to any conviction about lobbyist influence.

But, “Industrial policy …” Isn’t the entire tax code “industrial policy”? The question becomes when is “industrial policy” good and when is it bad? And, of course, Will is being will-fully deceptive in not discussing what some of the benefits might be from improved health to more secure and cleaner energy systems.

Lieberman’s legislation also would create a Carbon Market Efficiency Board empowered to “provide allowances and alter demands” in response to “an impact that is much more onerous” than expected.

This is amazing. Lieberman-Warner is highly business friendly. Here is an example of it, staring readers in the face, that is if they are informed. The CMEB would enable liberalization of the allowances (e.g., to allow more pollution, even if the science said tightening is required) to help economic growth … that is, “economic” defined in traditional terms without consideration of long-term risks and costs.

And Lieberman says that if a foreign company selling a product in America “enjoys a price advantage over an American competitor” because the American firm has had to comply with the cap-and-trade regime, “we will impose a fee” on the foreign company “to equalize the price.” Protectionism-masquerading-as-environmentalism will thicken the unsavory entanglement of commercial life and political life.

Pretty impressive George. Let us be explicit about what George is stating he supports here:

  • A country engages in slave labor, using children as slaves, and it would be illegitimate “protectionism” to limit imports from that country, on the basis of stating that slavery is immoral and economically disadvantages US companies, in any way.
  • A country is governed in a way that we don’t like, it would be illegitimate “protectionism” masquerading as what to constrain imports from that country. (Oops, never mind, remember Cuba.)
  • A country is poisoning the globe in production of products and ti would be illegitimate “protectionism” to do anything about this.

Think about the world that George’s world implies. Is that the world you wish to live in?

McCain, who supports Lieberman’s unprecedented expansion of government’s regulatory reach, is the scourge of all lobbyists (other than those employed by his campaign). But cap-and-trade would be a bonanza for K Street, the lobbyists’ habitat, because it would vastly deepen and broaden the upside benefits and downside risks that the government’s choices mean for businesses.

While amused by Will’s attack on McCain, it is a deceptive attack. Again, McCain does not support the bill.

Yet, painfully, one has to agreed with Will that the very poor structuring of the Lieberman-Warner Climate inSecurity Act will

McCain, the political hygienist, is eager to reduce the amount of money in politics. But cap-and-trade, by hugely increasing the amount of politics in the allocation of money, would guarantee a surge of money into politics.

Regarding McCain’s “central facts,” the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization, which helped establish the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — co-winner, with Al Gore, of the Nobel Peace Prize — says global temperatures have not risen in a decade.

Oh, George Will is gifted with words and gifted with misleading using them. 1998 was a hot year, a warmth that is directly related to an exceptional El NiƱo event. If one shows temperatures solely from 1998 to the present, it looks as if there hasn’t been a rise in temperature (even, perhaps, a slight reduction). But, if one shows a longer time frame, such as 150 years, a more explicit and direct pattern appears. The ten hottest years of the past 150 years have been in the past 20 years. Nine of the ten hottest in the past ten years.

Hmmm …

Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and Statistics about weather from George Will’s pen.

So Congress might be arriving late at the save-the-planet party.

This is ever so true. We might be too late. And, serious action from the United States (including the Congress) is certainly later than it should have been.

Better late than never? No.

Buzz.

Wrong.

While we will suffer heavily for being late to action, we don’t have a real choice. “Better late than never?” Absolutely, without a question.

When government, ever eager to expand its grip on the governed and their wealth, manufactures hysteria as an excuse for doing so, then: better never.

In case your blood cooled reading his OPED, Willfully Ignorant Will ends with some more blood curdling language and images.

“Manufactures hysteria”? Actually, George, want to talk about manufacturing? We should talk about the industry of manufacturing doubt (and here and here and …). Yes, George, that industry of which you are such a useful cog.

NOTE: The Washington Post has had multiple bad columns on this issue. On the same page with George Will was yet another bad piece by Robert Samuelson. Joe Romm has spoken up on this with Why does the Post let conservative columnists make up climate facts? (which dissects truthiness from Charles Krauthammer and Will) and the real reason conservatives don’t believe in climate science.

Tags: Washington Post · lieberman-warner · truthiness

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