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William O'Keefe
CEO, George C. Marshall Institute

William O'Keefe

William O'Keefe is CEO at the George C. Marshall Institute, a think tank that promotes better use of science in public policy. He is a former COO at the American Petroleum Institute. ALL POSTS

Legislation will likely be delayed

What does the outcome of the Massachusetts Senate election mean for the chances of a climate bill passing the Senate this year?

Pundits will be dissecting the Massachusetts "black swan" for weeks, while both parties will spin it to their own interests. This upset is just the latest in a series of signals that the American people have been sending to Washington.But so far, Washington doesn't seem to be listening.

Major events over the past few years -- the election of President Obama, tea parties, town hall meetings, the elections in Virginia and New Jersey, and now Massachusetts -- have clearly indicated that the public is unhappy with its government. In light of the increasing frequency and scope of Capitol Hill's failings, it's easy to see why that unhappiness spans the electorate:

  • The regulatory system failed to protect families from the financial debacle;
  • Congress failed to exercise fiscal restraint in addressing the recession that resulted from the collapse of our financial system;
  • Bi-partisanship has become anachronism;
  • Spending is out of control
  • Problems are compounded; not solved; and
  • Political elites have no faith in the public and the public has lost faith in them.

The recent most recent debacle, health care reform, simply became one political insult too many.

As Sen. Bayh observed, if the Massachusetts result didn't serve as a wake up call, you've got no hope of waking up. The White House and federal lawmakers would do well to remember Thomas Jefferson's observation that periodic rebellion is "medicine necessary for the sound health of government." If Congress' poor approval rating (a low 23%) is accurate, this rebellion we're witnessing may have a long way to go. Pushing wrong headed climate legislation that rewards Wall Street traders and special interests will only intensify the backlash.

Votes on previous cap and trade bills never came that close to 50 votes, much less the requisite 60. Now, the Senate would be lucky to even match its previous high which was in the low 40s. In all likelihood, climate legislation has been put off for at least the rest of this year and perhaps longer -- unless Congress goes back to square one.

The President's and Congress' first, second, and nth priorities ought to be spurring economic recovery and job creation, getting control of out of control spending, building bi-partisan health care reform, and making Capitol Hill a place where elected representatives make serious attempts to find common ground instead of spending most of their time playing the game of the politics of personal destruction.

A new approach to climate legislation, as well as to health care, would send a message to Americans that Congress "gets it." Since cap and trade is not going to happen this year, Congress has the opportunity to start anew with a policy that is in line with the true state of knowledge instead of one based on hyperbolic rhetoric about a climate apocalypse. Such a policy would set incentives for investment in low and no-carbon technologies without picking winners, create incentives for faster turnover of the capital stock, remove obstacles to private investment in nuclear power, and remove barriers to increased production and use of natural gas.

Any long term, effective climate policy must set a clear price on carbon in order to incentivize the private sector. A carbon tax is the best way to do that, and it doesn't even have to be a large, punishing one. Yet, no tax will be politically acceptable unless it is offset with a reduction in what economists call a more distorting tax. Reducing the payroll tax would put money immediately in the pockets of working Americans and send important messages not only about climate but also about the burden borne by Main Street.

By William O'Keefe  |  January 21, 2010; 2:10 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: It shouldn't make a difference! | Next: Game On! Bi-partisan approach needed.


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It is sad that Obama went to Copenhagen to sign away our sovereignty to the United Nations based on this Junk Science. The Global Warming hoax is the biggest Scam in the Last 100 years! Thank God Cap and Trade will fail miserably in the Senate this year. Wake up America! Green is the new Color of Socialism. Green Politicians like Al Gore and John Kerry don’t care about the environment. It has been proven that Al Gore will make Billions if Cap and Trade passes (which it won’t). Doesn’t that sound like a conflict of interest? This is about wealth re-distribution. They want to take American money and give it to 3rd world Communist countries to help Fight the theory which is global warming. Trust the U.N. anybody? Remember oil for food? Wikipedia it if you don’t know what happened.

Anybody that does just a little research of their own on this subject will discover what a fraud it is. Discover for yourself America.

Posted by: Senator_Salesman | January 23, 2010 11:46 AM
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Thank you, William O'Keefe. We have a lot going on in United States politics right now, and it is refreshing to read a post that recognizes this political reality.

Posted by: c0lnag0 | January 21, 2010 11:12 PM
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