Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hijacked by the Economy

I think everyone can agree on is this: the most common word in usage during the past year is "economy."  Try to recount a conversation you had that didn't begin, end or get interrupted by "economy"?  Economy is always there, like that sensitive friend you need to coddle along so she won't get upset and ruin the night for everyone else; no matter what you do, it's always about her.

Now Economy has completely hijacked the government and the entire political discourse, and she's holding us all hostage until we deal with her needs.  To be fair, Economy does have some needs that need dealing, but that doesn't mean we need to set aside all our ideals, plans or legislation until Economy is happy.

Nowhere is the economy's hijacking more evident than in the text of California's Proposition 23.  Prop 23 goes by the name: "California Job's Initiative."  The goal of the California's Job Initiative is to suspend Assembly Bill 32, known as California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.  Basically, AB 32 requires California to lower its overall greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020.   So, you ask, why would a jobs initiative attack a global warming solution act?

As the argument goes, when the bill was passed times were better and unemployment was down, so we could afford the luxury of addressing global warming and air pollution.  Now times are tough and unemployment is up so we can no longer afford that luxury.  Therefore, we need to suspend AB 32 until unemployment goes back down and we can afford the luxury again.

Any debate about jobs versus clean air aside, Prop 23 is a sad, deceptive attempt by oil companies to use the down economy to serve their own interest.  Prop 23 is primarily funded by Valero and Tesoro Texas oil companies which each have large refineries in California (Charles Koch has also chipped in some scratch).  Obviously California's ambitious clean air legislation affects oil companies' bottom line and they have a monetary interest in suspending it.  However, they're deceptively hijacking the down economy to promote their monetary interests.

No one should be inundated with messages that ask them whether they value clean air or jobs more because the two issues are not mutually exclusive.  To begin, that proposition relies on the assumption that strong clean air legislation does not create growth in emerging clean technologies and more jobs in the long term.  Moreover, the proposition assumes that money saved from ease of air pollution would be reinvested in more California jobs.  Either way the tactics behind Prop 23's promotion illustrate a tiresome message as we head into midterm elections:

Every issue not named economy must go to the back of the line, and any action not directly creating jobs necessarily takes them away.

I'm not about to say the economy does not need fixing.  In fact the economy demands fixing, and I think it demands government action.  However, instead of providing constructive solutions or ideas; people, groups, corporations, and government officials prey on fears about the economy to promote their own interests.  As a result, any prudent idea, plan, or legislation is easily hijacked and held hostage by accusations that it is bad for the economy.

After all, you can't have clean air without killing jobs too... right?

For more information on Prop 23 you might follow some of these links:

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