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Dark Days on Capitol Hill

  • Posted by on March 17, 2010 in Business
  • Of all the adjectives being applied to Congress right now, efficient isn’t one of them; two weeks ago, Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) paralyzed DC in order to prevent an extension of unemployment benefits; hundreds of bills, already passed by the House, currently stagnate in the logjammed senate; and, after a year of debate, health care reform is uncertain as ever.

    And yet Congress routinely disparages expert opinion. Take John Rockefeller’s Stationary Sources Regulations Delay Act as a case in point; the bill would put a moratorium on the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants and other stationary emitters. This is necessary, says Rockefeller, because “Congress, not the EPA, must be the ideal decision-maker on such a challenging issue.”

    The absurdity of the claim—that professional politicians, not scientists, are the ideal arbiters of carbon emissions regulations—is staggering. Given the 10 percent approval rating of Congress, it's also at odds with public opinion. Climate scientists, on the other hand, enjoy high levels of public trust; a recent Stanford study shows it at over 70 percent.

    But many US politicians stand in the way of meaningful action, under the guise of protecting the economy and claim that climate initiatives will rack up more dept. After passage of the toothless climate change bill, House Republican Leader John Boehner proclaimed it "the biggest job-killing bill that has ever been on the floor of the House of Representatives."

    Of course expert opinion has refuted this “climate change legislation is bad for the economy” mantra time and again. The latest instance came just this week, when a group of Nobel Prize winning scientists and economists urged the government to adopt immediate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. “If we don't act now,” their letter said, “we will run into even greater economic problems in the future."

    Don’t expect Congress to heed this call. D.C. will most likely remain focused on its own ineffectual fiddling, and the Nero analogies will get more fitting with each passing day.

    - Lance Steagall

    (Photo credit unknown)


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