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World-Destroying Finger Pricks March 18, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Ethics, Philosophy.
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This  was a minor but quite disturbing development last week that goes to the heart of why our political system does not work.

When President Obama submitted a budget that predicted passage of a revenue-raising climate change bill, hopes rose that Congress could successfully rein in carbon emissions this year.

But a cap-and-trade climate bill is almost certain to be filibustered by Republicans — and in a letter delivered to the Senate Budget Committee yesterday, eight Democratic senators joined 25 Republicans to defend the GOP’s right to set a 60-vote margin for passing emissions limits.
“We oppose using the budget process to expedite passage of climate legislation,” the senators, including eight centrist Democrats, wrote in their missive.

Using the procedure of budget reconciliation, which would allow a climate change measure to become law with 50 votes while preventing filibusters, “would circumvent normal Senate practice and would be inconsistent with the administration’s goals of bipartisanship, cooperation, and openness,” the 33 senators wrote.

Why is this a big deal? I can guarantee these Senators weren’t worried about Senate rules.

A cap-and-trade system of regulating greenhouse gases will increase the price of coal-generated electricity, hitting the South and Midwest especially hard.

The eight Democratic Senators who signed this letter were from states that generate most of their electricity from coal or have significant coal-mining industries. (The signees were Robert Byrd (WV), Blanche Lincoln (AR), Ben Nelson (NE), Evan Bayh (IN), Mark Pryor (AR), Bob Casey (PA), Carl Levin (MI), and Mary Landrieu (LA).)

The fact that greenhouse gases from burning coal (among other fossil fuels) threatens human life on this planet seems not to have been a main consideration.

David Hume famously said “It is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.” Hume meant that it was the passions, not reason, that drove us to care about others.

Apparently these Senators prefer the destruction of the whole world to inconveniencing their main campaign donors. (It would of course be irrational to piss off campaign donors.) For Republicans and centrist Democrats, politics is not about taking responsibility for the welfare of the country, although they never hesitate to wave the flag. Its about protecting their little piece of turf.

Events like this convince me that our biggest problem is a deficit of care.