June 03, 2008

Let Them Eat Solar Panels

Thus far, John McCain’s outreach to the sort of white working class voters disaffected by Obama has largely consisted of going to Michigan and Ohio and sternly warning those voters that the good manufacturing jobs that used to sustain them and their communities aren’t coming back.  Today’s New York Times contained an article, by John Broder, on the global warming bill wending its way through the Senate that sheds light on how McCain intends to ensure that these jobs never come back.

The bill, according to Broder, will “force polluters to buy permits to emit carbon dioxide,” permits whose sale “would raise more than $5 trillion for the government in the coming decades, money that the bill proposes to distribute to affected industries, consumers and local governments in one of the biggest programs of redistribution of American wealth in history.”  McCain supports the cap and trade concept that lies at the heart of the bill, although he has expressed reservations about some of its specifics.

One provision of the bill attempts to ameliorate its effects on American industry by requiring tariffs to be placed on goods from such leading carbon producers as China, India, Brazil, and Mexico if they fail to take measures to reduce their own carbon dioxide emissions.  McCain once embraced such a proposal, but “has backed away from it because of objections from the free trade wing of the Republican Party.”

The effect of enacting such legislation without the tariff provision is predictable:  American industries that can move their operations abroad to avoid the need to purchase expensive permits will, and the Americans who used to work in those industries will lose their jobs.  This is madness on the level of policy, and may well prove suicidal politically as well.  McCain’s environmentalism may win him a few votes among the type of folks to whom Obama unbosomed his contempt for the gun-toting and the God-fearing, but “Let them eat solar panels” is unlikely to prove a winning slogan in November.

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