Fred Upton, Shifting Ever-Rightward

The really distressing political trend of our time is that not only did the 111th Senate fail to pass a meaningful bill to reduce carbon emissions, but the overall political context has shifted enormously away from good sense and in favor of special interests. For example, read my colleague Brad Johnson on the shifting thoughts of Rep Fred Upton (R-MI) on climate change:

Upton once considered a “moderate on environmental issues,” but has worked hard to refashion himself as a hard-right defender of pollution in recent months. Some Tea Party groups tried to block Upton from taking the gavel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, attacking his past support for energy-efficient light bulbs. Upton previously claimed that “climate change is a serious problem” and that “the world will be better off” if we reduced carbon emissions. However, in the course of the past two years — as he received $20,000 from Koch Industries — Upton has shifted to oppose not only cap-and-trade legislation but any form of limits on climate pollution whatsoever, instead supporting investigations against climate scientists and lawsuits against the EPA and its supposed “unconstitutional power grab that will kill millions of jobs”.

I know it hurts the feelings of a lot of my right-of-center friends when people suggest that pollution money from the Kochs has some impact on their movement. Indeed, they quite enjoy making sport of the assertion that the Koch family’s pollution-fueled cash has any impact on anything. And yet I think that if you examine the classic liberal canon you’ll find not a single iota of support anywhere in it—not in Smith not in Mill not in Bastiat not in Hayek not in Friedman not anywhere—for the assertion that it’s an important free market principle that the Koch brothers should be allowed to put pollution into the air without compensating the billions of people around the world who are impacted by this activity. And yet an absolute consensus has developed around this idea in right-of-center American circles, including among people like Rep Upton who knew better in the very recent past.