The frustrating thing about the cliche "Washington is broken," is that we all hear it so much the phrase has lost all meaning. We hear it every two or four years from both incumbents and challengers giving simple-minded lip service to a very real criticism. A story today from the Washington Post perfectly highlights the structural flaws of the Senate specifically, but also of our larger political culture generally. The Post reports:
"The climate-change bill that has been moving slowly through the Senate will face a stark political reality when it emerges for committee debate on Tuesday: With Democrats deeply divided on the issue, unless some Republican lawmakers risk the backlash for signing on to the legislation, there is almost no hope for passage."
It is impossible to overstate both how important it is that the United States take Climate Change seriously, and how infuriating it is to know that that's not going to happen.
The Kerry-Boxer bill in the Senate is very similar to the Waxman-Markey bill in the House, both of which, at best, represent the absolute smallest steps that can be taken to prevent the WeatherPocalypse. According to the "liberal" (HAHAHAHA) The New Republic,
"In sum, an only marginally different starting point in the Senate from where the House ended does not bode well for the changing the trajectory in Congress on the nation’s energy and climate response."
If TNR is skeptical of your efforts at reform, that's a bad sign for anyone who doesn't want to live in a dust bowl that floods every 2.5 days.
Both bills have faced opposition from environmentalists, claiming they don't go far enough and offer too many corporate givaways. Still, Tim Flannery, speaking on Democracy Now!, urged Washington to pass a cap-and-trade bill.
"The US—I know the bill isn’t perfect. I know there’s a lot of giveaways in it, and I know a lot of people aren’t happy about provisions for subsidies for nuclear power and so forth. But we just have to get moving on this. We have to empower the president of the most powerful nation on earth to be able to negotiate and lead. And cap and trade is really about that."
That may be true, but my proclivities lie far closer to what Chris Hedges recently wrote on the issue:
"We can join Bill McKibben on Oct. 24 in nationwide protests over rising carbon emissions. We can cut our consumption of fossil fuels. We can use less water. We can banish plastic bags. We can install compact fluorescent light bulbs. We can compost in our backyard. But unless we dismantle the corporate state, all those actions will be just as ineffective as the Ghost Dance shirts donned by native American warriors to protect themselves from the bullets of white soldiers at Wounded Knee.[emphasis added]"
The Hedges article is an absolute must-read. He argues, persuasively, that small scale reform will get us nowhere. Private corporations will never voluntarily accept reforms that cut into their profit; the same can be said of any government who exists primarily to protect the opulence of the few. Whether or not you agree with Hedges, his arguments should be widely circulated. What he's saying should be the far-left limit of our discourse, not what Sen. John Kerry is saying.