Monday, June 16, 2008

John McCain on Cap and Trade

He doesn't know what he's talking about:
MCCAIN: Sure. I believe in the cap-and-trade system, as you know. I would not at this time make those -- impose a mandatory cap at this time. But I do believe that we have to establish targets for reductions of greenhouse gas emissions over time, and I think those can be met.
Matthew Yglesias elaborates:
Maybe he should explain to people the real difference between his plan and Barack Obama's, namely that under Obama's plan you need to pay the government for carbon permits whereas under McCain's plan polluters get free permits that they can then sell. Either way, energy's going to get more expensive and some hardship will exist, but under Obama's plan revenue will be generated that can be used to ease the pain. But of course to explain his plan to people McCain would need to get someone to explain it to him first.
McCain's confused explanation of his position is like that of a high school student who hasn't done the reading being called upon in class. God help us if we get stuck with yet another President who can't be bothered to understand what his own plans for the country are.

It's kinda weird. In the popular culture the knock against McCain is that he's old. I guess I'd prefer somebody more robust, but his age isn't really a big problem for me per se. The bigger problem is that, like George W. Bush, he takes stances and pursues policies that sound good to him without really considering anything logically. (Also like Bush, he wants war, war, and more war.) The problem with trying to win the election is that a lot of voters don't really think things through logically, either. A candidate tells them something that feels good, and they then they vote for him. This applies to both sides, of course; Obama's success has largely been because he's been able to communicate with people so well. But it means that explaining to voters that the problem with McCain is that he thinks like most of the electorate isn't really a winning strategy. So, maybe the effective attacks really are the ad hominem attacks on the candidate's age. It worked against Bob Dole.


At Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 12:59:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Victor said...

Um ... no ...

Stipulating for now the virtue of cap-and-trade systems and going on Yglesias's characterizations (I will further stipulate that this is an issue about which I care not at all in the final analysis) ...

But *he* is hiding a worldview assumption. He cites that under Obama's plan, the government sells the carbon permits, whereas under McCain's, the permits are set and then traded. That immediately becomes "under Obama's plan revenue will be generated that can be used to ease the pain."

(1) As if "revenue raised for the government" = "revenue generated."
(2) As if government were the only institution in society that "ease[d] the pain" on anyone.
(3) As if keeping economic resources in the private sector were equivalent to pissing them away.

Yglesias's confused explanation of his position is like that of the Tracy Flick-like high school student who has done the Keynes reading but not the Hayek reading calling on herself in class and denouncing someone else for not having done the reading.

At Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 1:59:00 AM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

It's fine to debate the details of the plans, but do you honestly think John McCain understands his position beyond "mandates bad -- must oppose."

At Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 8:13:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Victor said...

I would say that most elected politicians couldn't defend the details of their platforms, especially against a wonkish interlocutor.

And I would say that most discourse on most subjects is primarily driven on similar terms: "torture bad -- must oppose," "poverty bad -- must oppose," e.g.

Not a particularly distinguishing fact about McCain or this issue.

At Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 10:46:00 PM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

You're probably right, but one would think that the better a politician actually understood his issues, the more likely he'd be to actually make an intelligent decision on it.

Obviously this isn't absolute --- we don't really need a wonkocracy, and all told, it's more important for a politician to make decisions I agree with than to be able to speak intelligently on the matters.


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