This Political Cartoon Annoys Me

This political cartoon annoys me. If you can't see the image, it's an ostrich with Capitol Hill for its body and its head in the sand, in a desert with a sweltering sun, and the caption, "212 Congressmen Actually Voted Against Taking Action on Global Warming."

Again, for most politicians, the logic goes something like this: "We must do something. This plan is something. Therefore, we must do this plan." And the corollary: "This plan is about Issue X. You are against this plan. Therefore, you are against Issue X."

But what if the plan doesn't get you further ahead on Issue X? What if, within reason, there's a better plan to get you further ahead on Issue X? (I say "within reason" because sometimes it is better to do something rather than wait to find something better.) What if the plan actually gets you further behind on Issue X?

I have stated my particular skepticisms about the Waxman-Markey Clean Energy Bill (here's a nice post on the bill's flaws)‎. My beef today isn't about that bill or this topic; it's about the presumption that if you're not for a particular piece of legislation, you must be a dinosaur (or, in Tony Auth's case, an ostrich with its head in the sand).

Whatever happened to due diligence, making sure you're not unleashing disastrous unintended consequences, and civilly debating your way to a better policy? It was wrong earlier this decade to say that if you're not for President Bush's policies, you're anti-American; and it is wrong now to say that if you're not for President Obama's policies, you're anti-environment. That's not the sort of public discourse and freedom of speech/thought/opinion we want to encourage.


Daniel said...

Good points. It's frustrating to me that bills that start up as good ideas get stuffed with so many concessions and exceptions that it's hard to tell if the whole thing is net positive anymore. It's hard for people like me who can't devote much time to all of the details to even know what to think. It's too bad that the easier one-caption cartoon answer often makes people's minds.

David Larsson said...


Those 212 people (one of whom is Rep. Dennis Kucinich: "It won’t address the problem. In fact, it might make the problem worse”) have some company:

1. James Hansen, who did the pioneering work on global warming in the 70s and 80s (and the arch villain of the denialists), also opposes Waxman-Markey, basically because he, like you and those two Republican congressmen you wrote about, thinks we ought to be taxing carbon instead of screwing around with cap'n'trade. (Note: the hyperlink takes you to an excerpt from the current New Yorker article by Elizabeth Kolbert; full version requires registration, or buying the issue on the newsstand.

3. For inflammatory but very fun reading, don't miss Matt Taibbi's takedown of Goldman Sachs in the current Rolling Stone; see "Bubble #6: Global Warming" for Matt's views on GS and its role in cap and trade.

Finally, for a great article on what it will take for the USA to take leadership in clean tech, see the excellent article in this month's Atlantic by Josh Green.

LH said...

Daniel, thanks for chiming in. I hear you: I wouldn't trade our political process for anyone else's, but it is unfortunate when really important issues get boiled down to sound bites and rally cries. Which, by the way, makes me appreciate our last two presidential candidates all the more: one who had such a reputation for being independent that they called him "Maverick," and one who demonstrated and has continued to demonstrate a preternatural coolness amidst mob cries for rash action.

LH said...

David, thanks for those links. I appreciate you sending them my way. I'll look forward to reading them.