The national debt isn’t the greatest short-term problem we face. That is spurring jobs and economic growth.
And the debt certainly isn’t close to the greatest long-term problem we face. That would obviously be unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases, which threaten human civilization with multiple simultaneous catastrophes — from endless superstorms to permanent DustBowls. And yes, we could solve the first by addressing the second — but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
I can understand why the Tea-Party-driven GOP has made the national debt its focus. Conservatives are using the debt debate as a stalking horse for their disdain of government to gut as many federal programs as possible, from clean energy to Medicare to EPA oversight. Since those programs are popular, the best strategy is for the GOP to attack them under the guise of their concern over some other issue.
As an aside, I’m not certain “conservatives” is the right word for them anymore, since they don’t actually want to conserve anything. A better term would be “anarchists.” If they cared about the debt more than their rigid self-destructive anti-tax ideology, they’d obviously be open to the unbelievable $4 trillion deficit-reduction deal that Obama put on the table and keeps offering every friggin’ day.
It’s mostly a mystery why the president has thrown the full weight of his bully pulpit and political muscle behind something that isn’t the biggest short-or long-term problem we face. Yes, he has boxed the GOP into a corner, exposing their hypocritically extremist position for all to see — but for what gain? He has bought into and reinforced the GOP narrative that debt and spending concerns reign supreme, which will undermine short-term and long-term efforts to create jobs or promote clean energy or reduce oil dependence or cut carbon pollution.
But what’s going on in Washington DC right now does provide an interesting window into the question, “What if the CO2 Ceiling Debate Were Like the Debt Ceiling Debate.” Obviously, that is purely a counterfactual for the foreseeable future. But by 2025, give or take 5 years, most everybody inside and outside of DC will realize that those pesky climate scientists were right all along. Our concern over greenhouse gas emissions then will exceed our concern over the debt now to an unimaginable degree — indeed by more than our concern over the debt currently exceeds our concern over emissions.
In this post, I’ll look at the counterfactual. After the debt ceiling debate is “resolved,” I’ll do a post on lessons learned.
What would be different if CO2 Ceiling Debate Were Like the Debt Ceiling Debate?