Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Octopus Left Reviews ObamaCare and Cap-and-Trade

We all know Harvard political scientist Theda Skocpol as a leading light in the Defenestration of Cambridge.  That was the Harvard faculty campaign to toss Harvard President Larry Summers out of his office--ostensibly for the thoughtcrime of saying in a public forum that women were different than men.

She's also written an analysis (pdf) of two signature Obama initiatives: the successful Obamacare campaign and the failed "cap and trade" campaign. (H/T Powerline)

Skocpol is a lefty-liberal, and her analysis of politics is drenched in anti-right pejoratives.  But when you read between the lines you learn a thing or two.

You learn that the left is broad and deep in money and institutional muscle.  Skocpol's description of the money and the resources assembled to push Obamacare and cap-and-trade is a recipe of activist groups and foundations pledging millions here and millions there, and activists and staff resources all over the place, all in the campaign to punch their agendas through Congress.

But when she turns to describing right-wing efforts it's pretty thin gruel.  There are think tanks and then there are the Koch brothers.  And there is the Tea Party.

There is interesting stuff in her report.  First, that Republican elected officials turned sharply against the environmentalist agenda in the early 1990s.  What happened?  Skocpol says they were pushed by conservatives.
They used non-profit, right-wing think tanks to sponsor and promote a cascade of books questioning the validity of climate science; and they pounced on occasional dissenters in the academic world, promoting them as beleaguered experts.
There were "long-standing general-purpose conservative organizations" and "ideological funders" behind it all.  When you think about it, that's how politics is supposed to work.  People with an ideological ax to grind get books and ideas out there and push!

But there is no real identification of the supposed greedy corporations pushing against the sweetness and light of cap-and-tax.  Indeed, there were a number of large corporations that got co-opted into the pro cap-and-tax campaign.

There is no mention of Climategate and the anti-global-warming blogs.

Is it possible to get climate-change legislation through Congress ever again, Skocpol wonders?
The political tide can be turned over the next decade only by the creation of a climate-change politics that includes broad popular mobilization on the center left. That is what it will take to counter the recently jelled combination of free-market elite opposition and right-wing popular mobilization against global warming remedies.
But the problem is, as Skocpol recognizes, that it's difficult to get rank-and-file Democrats mobilized for something that doesn't provide them with "free stuff" in their pockets.  Anyway "liberals and friendly moderates need to build a populist anti-global warming movement on their own side of the political spectrum."

As if. As if liberals haven't been doing this flat out for decades.  But Skocpol is clear that carbon-capping legislation cannot be an inside deal in Washington.  It has to have popular support.  So she thinks that the CLEAR Act from Sens. Cantwell and Collins might do the trick.  Its "cap and dividend" approach taxes energy and then distributes dividend checks to voters.

So there is hope.  If the global warming movement is based on bad science that gets publicized and critiqued every day by chaps like and, it will be very difficult for the ruling elite to advance its climate control agenda.

Skocpol presents an intriguing story of how elite interest combine to push big government.  But what interests me is how we can develop a politics to unwind the disaster of the administrative welfare state.  How can you get people to give up their "free stuff" even as it's the free stuff that is pushing the nation into bankruptcy?

I have a feeling that politics-as-usual won't do the job.  You can only take the free stuff out of our cold dead--or at the very least trembling, terrified--hands.  And that would take a revolution.

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