May 22, 2009 – By Washington Post Business Columnist Steven Pearlstein – Full Article here.
Excerpt: There are probably not more than a few hundred people who really understand what’s in this legislation, how it would work and what its impact is likely to be. […]
The other thing to say about it is that it is a badly flawed piece of public policy. It is so broad in its reach and complex in its details that it would be difficult to implement even in Sweden, let alone in a diverse and contentious country like the United States. It would create dozens of new government agencies with broad powers to set standards, dole out rebates and tax subsidies, and pick winning and losing technologies, even as it relies on newly created markets with newly created regulators to set prices and allocate resources. Its elaborate allocation of pollution allowances and offsets reads like a parody of industrial policy authored by the editorial page writers of the Wall Street Journal. The opportunities for waste, fraud and regulatory screwup look enormous. […]
It’s not too late to change our minds. […]
But there is no question that there are few pieces of legislation that are likely to have a more profound effect on the U.S. economy. It would bring about dramatic changes in the relative prices of energy and goods produced by energy-hungry industries. It would redistribute trillions of dollars in business sales and household income and generate hundreds of billions in government revenue. And it would represent the most dramatic extension of government’s regulatory powers into the workings of the economy since the early days of the New Deal. For all that, there are probably not more than a few hundred people who really understand what’s in this legislation, how it would work and what its impact is likely to be.
The result is an unwieldy compromise with lots of belt-and-suspenders redundancy. […] But now that we know what a climate-change bill looks like when it is jury-rigged to accommodate all the special interests, maybe Americans will be willing to reconsider one of the cleaner, simpler approaches — a carbon tax with all the revenue rebated to households, for example, or a cap-and-trade system that generates enough revenue to erase the national debt, or even a tough new regulatory regime requiring businesses to produce more fuel-efficient cars, buildings and appliances.
It’s not too late to change our minds.
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