In Thursday’s post, in which I said VA secretary Erik Shinseki and President Barack Obama would both pay a price for the mushrooming VA scandal, I qualified my criticism of Obama by saying I was glad he was president instead of John McCain or Mitt Romney.
I said…I say I said, and, ahem, I quote:
“Overall, while Obama hasn’t been able to get much done through the legislative route, he has been able — mostly through regulations and administrative policy — to improve the lot of the poor and keep wealthy individuals and big corporations from constantly getting their way.”
And wouldn’t you know it? A New York Times story published Friday (and picked up by The Kansas City Star) provided a perfect example of what I was talking about.
The story said that Obama will unveil on Monday a plan to cut carbon emissions from the country’s coal-fired power plants by up to 20 percent.
The plan will be the centerpiece of a new regulation written by the Environmental Protection Agency. Obama won’t be seeking (and won’t have to get) legislative approval because the Republicans would never go for it. But in this case, at least, thank God for the power of the administrative branch.
The article said the regulation would be “the strongest action ever taken by a U.S. president to tackle climate change and could become one of the defining elements of Obama’s legacy.”
Cutting carbon emissions by 20 percent, the story continued, “would be the most important step in the administration’s pledged goal to reduce pollution over the next six years and could eventually shut down hundreds of coal-fired power pants across the country.”
If somebody would have just taken my picture, you’d see me standing and applauding.
Sustainability is an area where the Tea Party has scared moderate, right-thinking Republicans shitless. Ironically, though, it’s Republicans whom the Democrats and Obama can thank for introducing the formula, called cap and trade, that is at the core of the new regulation.
Carbon cap and trade works like this: The government will set limits on the amount of carbon that can be emitted. The limit, or cap, is allocated or sold to firms in the form of emissions permits, which represent the right to discharge a specific volume of carbon. Industries can buy and sell — trade — their permits within the finite “carbon market.”
This “free market” approach is seen by many as more palatable than an outright carbon tax.
But back to the Republicans…
The Times article explains that none other than Romney was the key architect of a cap-and-trade program in nine northeastern states. The story says that in establishing the program, Romney worked closely with a top Massachusetts environmental official, Gina McCarthy, who now is — well, shiver me timbers! — EPA administrator.
California is the other model for successful cap-and-trade programs, and its sponsor was former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The California law caps emissions of heat-trapping fossil-fuel pollution from power plants, factories and oil refineries, with a goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
During his presidential campaign in 2012, of course, Romney disavowed the cap-and-trade program that he had initiated. He could have touted it as one of his greatest achievements, but, in his effort to become “conservative enough,” he decided to run from his legacy.
And where did the backpedaling get him? Nowhere except in a corner where he sacrificed whatever authenticity he had to start with.
That’s why I’m not really too worried, even if the Republicans take back the Senate in November.
I don’t see a Republican out there — other than maybe Chris Cristie, whose stock has dropped precipitously — who will have the guts to stand up to the Republican right wing and take his chances appealing to those Republicans who trade in common sense, instead of fear and loathing.
In the long run, I’m convinced, all the chips will fall into place: Democrats will retain the White House in 2016; they will again have a Senate majority; and the Democratic president can go on implementing policies and regulations that keep the Koch brothers, their fellow one-percenters and the right-wing nuts from running roughshod over the middle class and the poor.
It’s still a beautiful country, isn’t it?