John McCain had a good day today; no, John McCain had a great day today. He had the kind of day that he likes best, the kind that makes him smile and laugh that "Heh-Heh" laugh of his. McCain gave a speech that he knew would make people like me really unhappy with him.
McCain's speech on global warming, given in a windmill factory in Oregon, spelled out his "cap and trade" plan, which is ostensibly a free market approach to limiting CO2 emissions. Sadly, like most global warming schemes it a feel-good plan masquerading as reasoned policy. National Review Online editorialized against it today and hit on most of its very large flaws:
The Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) estimates that a U.S. cap-and-trade regime like the one discussed in this speech would cause about a one-percent reduction in GDP within five years. In less abstract terms, under that projection, by 2014 something like 1 million people would lose their jobs and the average American family would have about $150 less to spend every month. The costs would ramp up dramatically from there. In short, it would cost a lot. The U.N. IPCC estimates that unconstrained global warming is expected to cause damages equal to about 1-5 percent of global economic output about a century from now. William Nordhaus of Yale has estimated that the net benefit that would be created for the world by a perfectly implemented, globally harmonized carbon tax would be just under 0.2 percent of the present value of future global consumption. That presents a painfully thin margin for error, ignores the fact that costs will be disproportionately borne by the U.S., and does not bear much resemblance to the rhetoric of crisis that Sen. McCain uses in his speech.
It is highly unlikely that we could ever realize this theoretical benefit. Nobody has any realistic plan to get China and India to reduce emissions, and without doing so the costs of cap-and-trade to the U.S. would be dramatically greater than the benefits. Even if we could get the developing world to go along, the theoretical benefits that such a regulatory regime might create would, in the real world, be more than offset by the economic drag that would be created by the side deals required to get China, India, and the U.S. ethanol lobby, among many others, to go along with it.
Well, that's ok because McCain knows just what he'll do in relation to those countries that don't go along: nothing:
The scariest sentence in the speech was: “If the efforts to negotiate an international solution that includes China and India do not succeed, we still have an obligation to act.” This is posturing in the place of thought. It puts us in the worst possible negotiating position, and confirms that Sen. McCain is not engaging practically with the costs and benefits of his own policy. It indicates a foolish willingness to sacrifice trillions of dollars on the altar of fashionable, though uniformed, opinion and political expediency.
This is climate stupidity of Al Gore-ean proportions. It is harmful to the economy, won't accomplish its stated goals and diverts our attention from policies that might be sound.
But this is all about cynical calculation and has little to do with sound policies, anyway. McCain figures if he acts the maverick and annoys people like me, it will attract Independents away from Obama in the general election. Thinking as he does, he sees no way he can lose here. He'll get great press and while it is an extreme policy, Obama's response will attack it as being basically, not extreme enough. McCain figures he can live with that.
Apparently he believes that even though folks like me (and probably you) may throw our slippers at him whenever we see him on TV, on election day we'll still vote for him rather than Obama while at the same time he's attracting enough Independents to win. His calculation has a flaw, of course. Just because we'll never vote for Obama doesn't mean that we will vote for him. If he's going to give the finger to his base he may just find out that the base will give him the finger right back.
He's going to need a whole lot of Independents to make up for our loss.
Also discussing: Hot Air, A Newt One, Gina Cobb