Attempting to repeal insurance reform would be bad enough. Attempting draconian budget cuts during a halting recovery from a deep recession would be bad enough. Making fools of themselves by wasting time reading selections from the Constitution while doing absolutely nothing to create jobs would be bad enough. Launching a war on women would be bad enough. Whining about deficits while proposing policies that would actually increase them would be bad enough. The entire Republican approach of knowing nothing and doing nothing, unless it is to attempt a return to the prevailing values of the Thirteenth Century, is so corrupt and irresponsible that it would defy credulity, were we not already so accustomed to it as to take it for granted. But it's even worse.
Imagine there was an impending global crisis that was estimated to displace up to 200 million people, worldwide, and imagine the geopolitical consequences of dealing with such. Imagine its damage would cost global GDP from 5 to 20 percent. Imagine it was expected to devastate global plant life, including dangerously reducing crop yields and causing devastatingly increased wildfires. Imagine if the very base of the food chain was threatened. Imagine if the scientific evidence was overwhelming, and pretty much every significant scientific body in the nation was warning about it. Imagine if other nations were charging ahead on developing the new technologies it demands, while irresponsible inaction in this country already was costing billions in lost investments. With all that, you'd think responsible politicians might want to do something about it. You'd think they might want to save lives and the economy and ecosystems and the food supply. But that assumes that the politicians themselves were capable of thinking.
When faced with the greatest crisis in known human history, this is how the Republicans are responding:
Republicans on the House of Representatives energy committee on Wednesday aired their proposal to block the Environmental Protection Agency from reducing greenhouse gases and to reverse the agency's scientific finding that climate change is dangerous.
While the plan might be blocked in the Senate or vetoed by President Barack Obama, the comments during Wednesday's hearing were a fresh indication of the depth of opposition in Congress to action on reducing U.S. carbon pollution. Supporters of the measure to revise the Clean Air Act to take away the EPA's authority to regulate this type of pollution said that curbing emissions would be too costly.
Too costly. Compared to a loss of 5 to 20% of global GDP?
The EPA's planned regulations "would boost the cost of energy, not just for homeowners and car owners, but for businesses both large and small," said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the author of the legislation. "EPA may be starting by regulating only the largest power plants and factories, but we will all feel the impact of higher prices and fewer jobs."
Higher prices and fewer jobs? Compared to a loss of 5 to 20% of global GDP, the endangerment of the base of the food chain, and hundreds of millions of people displaced, worldwide? Is it possible to think smaller? Is it possible to be smaller? It's not only that Republicans don't seem to understand what's really happening to the climate, it's that they don't even seem to care to find out. It's one thing to be uninformed, it's another to be willfully ignorant-- about the most dangerous crisis humanity has ever faced.
As recently written (firewalled) by Bruce Alberts, the Editor-in-Chief of the leading scientific journal, appropriately named Science:
Over the long run, any nation that makes crucial decisions while ignoring science is doomed. Consider, for example, the decision about how much arsenic should be allowed in drinking water supplies. There is no one “right answer” to this or many other policy questions, but it is critical that national legislation be based on what science knows about potential harm. It is therefore disturbing that so many lawmakers elected to the new U.S. Congress reject the overwhelming scientific consensus with respect to human-induced climate change. It will be difficult to make wise choices with such attitudes. The question now facing the United States is not only how to effectively reinject the facts of climate science back into the core of this particular debate, but also how to ensure that good science underlies all legislative decisions.
And distilling it to the pure political calculation, Andrew Leonard has this:
Bush's EPA refused to regulate greenhouse gases, dragging its feet even after the Supreme Court ruled, by a tight 5-4 margin (with Anthony Kennedy the deciding vote between liberal and conservative justices), that under the terms of the Clean Air Act, greenhouse gases qualified as pollutants. The Court not only found that the EPA had the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but would be required to do so if the agency determined that there was scientific evidence that greenhouse gases posed a threat to public health. In November 2009, the EPA determined that greenhouse gases did pose such a threat, and the wheels went into motion.
And he notes that one more Bush appointee on the Court and the ruling likely would have gone the other way. He also points out that a Republican EPA likely wouldn't have ruled that greenhouse gases threaten public health. The manifest irresponsibility of the Republicans on this most critical of issues is, in itself, justification for doing everything possible to ensure they don't soon again have control of the issue.
The Republican drive to rewrite the Clean Air Act so as to make the Supreme Court's ruling irrelevant and shackle the EPA is just the latest skirmish in this primal battle, but all the hollering about job-killing regulations should not obscure the fact that the EPA is proceeding according to plan. The steady rollout of guidelines and standards will not be easy to stop. So far, the courts have generally upheld the EPA's authority -- Texas is 0-3 in legal challenges -- and even if Republicans do manage to get some EPA-killing legislation through the Senate, they'd still face the likelihood of a presidential veto.
Slate's tireless political reporter/blogger David Weigel had the same impression of Obama's speech to the Chamber that I did earlier today -- the president made no concessions and signaled no real shift in policy. He defended his signature legislation, which the Chamber opposed, and even as he made rhetorical gestures on regulatory policy, his EPA is hard at work enforcing limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentalists who want the EPA to continue doing so should be thinking hard about how to re-elect Obama, because if a Republican moves into the White House, it will all come to a screeching halt, again.
Congressional Democrats have been far from perfect, and they and the White House justly have been criticized for not pushing hard enough to pass climate legislation. But the EPA regulation of greenhouse gases is something significant the administration can do on its own. And it is. But the Republicans aren't satisfied with merely killing good legislation, they're also trying to undermine any positive effort the administration attempts. They're not only trying to prevent effective measures from being enacted, they're trying to block any that have been enacted. They could not be more crazed and craven. Given the gravity of the growing crisis, they are not just shockingly irresponsible, they are dangerous. They may be the most irresponsible coalition of politicians ever.