Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives took time out from fending off the world and exempted large cattle-, dairy- and hog-producing operations from an Environmental Protection Agency requirement for reporting greenhouse gas emissions. And 13 Great Lakes cargo ships were exempted from a proposed mandate requiring the use of low-sulfur fuel. When constituents’ interests conflict with global grandstanding, Congress’s rule is “act locally, think globally tomorrow, maybe.”
No student of Public Choice theory would be the least bit surprised. Elected politicians will act to increase their chances of re-election or post-career economic well being. Politicians from farm states know not to aggravate their farmers. That’s why the government pays farmers to grow tobacco. Politicians from industrialized states know not to aggravate the unions. That’s why public education has almost no chance of improving. Politicians who receive huge campaign funding from lawyers know not to aggravate the lawyers. That’s why there’s no interest in reforming malpractice insurance.
I’m not a big believer in taking urgent action on climate change, but even if I did think something was required, it’s apparent that there’s not enough campaign cash flowing through the political system to make a difference. We might get a “cap and trade” law to supposedly help the climate, but it’s main effect will be to reward campaign contributors and punish non-contributors.