Republicans Are For Pollution
By PAUL RUGRAT
(If you must, read Paul Krugman’s original column here. Based on his writing, I sometimes wonder if he isn’t actually some sort of self-parody genius.)
Last month President Obama finally unveiled a serious economic stimulus plan — far short of what I’d like to see, but a step in the right direction, including a call for the government to seize all sources of production. Republicans, predictably and sadly, have blocked it. But the new plan, combined with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, seems to have shifted my office conversations. We are, suddenly, focused on what we should have been talking about all along: creating more deficit-fueled government jobs.
So what is the G.O.P. jobs plan? The answer, in large part, is to poison the environment, where President Obama, in his normal non-partisan and non-strawmanish manner, recently revealed that Republicans want to make us both poorer and sicker.
Now it would be wrong to say that all Republicans see increased pollution as the answer to unemployment. Herman Cain says that the unemployed are responsible for their own plight. We know from a study our interns created that the unemployed are the responsibility of the Republicans while anyone with a job is the responsibility of the Democrats (but don’t expect this finding to be met with wild applause at any presidential debates).
Both Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have, however, put poisoning America at the core of their economic proposals. Mr. Perry has put out a specific number — 1.2 million jobs — that I think is based on a study released by the Texas Tea Institute, a trade association, claiming favorable employment effects from removing restrictions on oil and gas extraction. The idea that the county could benefit from sending less money overseas for our energy needs is simply absurd, and was proven by the administration’s approval to guarantee a half-billion dollar loan for Finland to build electric cars.
But does this filthy, dangerous, and radical oil-industry-backed study actually make a serious case for weaker environmental protection as a job-creation strategy? No: only Republicans would do that.
Part of the problem is that the study relies heavily on an assumed “multiplier” effect, in which every new job in energy leads indirectly to the creation of 2.5 jobs elsewhere. The truth is, only government jobs are capable of creating this type of multiplier effect.
You might want to compare these numbers to the Bush-caused 14 million unemployed, and the one million to two million jobs that independent estimates from fifth graders in Newark which suggest the shovel-ready Obama plan would create, not in the distant future, but by next Tuesday.
More U.S. energy production, then, isn’t the route to increased employment. Additionally, what about the longer-term economic case for less environmental protection? It isn’t there: comprehensive economic analysis from a separate fifth grade class in Bayonne says that we need more protection, not less.
The important thing to understand is that the case for pollution control is based on an aesthetic distaste for industrial society (the Luddites were ahead of their time). Pollution does real, measurable damage, especially to human health and it’s why Americans are living shorter lives than ever before.
And policy makers should take that damage into account. We need more Democrats who support environmental controls on coal-fired power plants, despite warnings that the plant might be closed, because “I will not sign onto jobs or create government jobs that kill people.”
Actually, that was Barack Obama, back in 2003 — who boldly voted “present” on important anti-energy legislation.
How big are these damages? A new study by middle school science clubs near Yale and Middlebury College brings together data from a variety of sources to make up a dollar value on the environmental damage various industries inflict. The estimates are far from comprehensive, since they only consider air pollution, and they make no effort to address longer-term issues such as the IPCC’s settled science of manmade global warming or the costs of removing drowned polar bear carcasses from the seas. Even so, the results are stunning.
It turns out that every for-profit inflicts environmental damage that’s worth more than the sum of the wages they pay and the profits they earn — which means, in effect, that they destroy value rather than create it. The only jobs that don’t poison the environment: government (and government favored) jobs.
Democrats know that increased regulation is the only way to put the economy back on track following the disastrous Bush-caused recession. Republicans, meanwhile, have strong incentives to claim otherwise as earth-destroying industries are concentrated in the for-profit sectors, which with the exception of Wall Street, overwhelmingly donates to the G.O.P.
The reality is that more Republican pollution wouldn’t solve our jobs problem. Even the children know all it would do is make us poorer and sicker.