One of the striking things about the United States over the past 30-35 years or so has been the incredible level of solidarity demonstrated by the business elite. Climate change is a case in point. A well-designed climate change bill really would be bad for some businesses, primarily producers of dirty energy and to some extent firms that rely on an unusually large quantity of dirty energy inputs. But by the same token, firms that don’t rely on an unusually large quantity of dirty energy inputs would actually benefit from reasonable carbon pricing even when you leave the environmental benefits aside. And, of course, even evil CEOs have children and grandchildren who stand to benefit from not wrecking the climate.
But “business” has largely stood together as a bloc on this.
And in general that’s what you’ve seen for decades—a highly ideological business community standing together against taxes and against tough regulations. Of course firms are always going to lobby vigorously in their own interests, but it would be plausible to imagine a world in which when you have an issue like climate change that firms who aren’t directly affected by the issue focus their energy on trying to see that it’s addressed in a responsible and economically optimal way. Similarly, the odd thing about the depressing shape of financial reform legislation isn’t so much that Wall Street has a lot of clout in Congress, but that non-financial firms don’t seem interested in using any of their clout to press members to get it right.