The Clinton presidency has spawned a jumble of entertainments, including the parlor-game exercise of trying to identify Bill Clinton’s real, true soul. Is the man a subterranean liberal or a misunderstood New Democrat?
The administration whispered the answer last week at a meeting in Geneva.
Timothy Wirth, the undersecretary of state for global affairs, committed the United States to an agreement that probably will require the U.S. economy to generate 10 percent less carbon dioxide in 2010 than it did in 1990, even though the nation’s population will have grown 25 percent.
Wirth said the deal set the stage for the “the most complicated scientific, environmental, economic and political challenge in history.”
Think of it as a Gringo Gulag: A future president would have the invigorating duty of forcing hundreds of millions of Americans to accept changes that will crimp their lives and cripple their futures - all because Bill Clinton cut a deal that made environmentalists happy during the 1996 election season.
Consider some key features of the treaty. The United States, virtually alone among major economic powers, would accept binding limits on emissions from fossil fuels - the source of 85 percent of our energy.
Our European competitors would not suffer similar restraints. They merely would have to achieve such reductions as a continent. And developing economies, including Korea and China, wouldn’t have to change their behavior at all. The document doesn’t apply to them.
The agreement would raise the price of everything - instantly. A DRI/McGraw Hill study estimates the government would have to impose a tax of 60 cents per gallon just to hold carbon emissions at 1990 levels and would have to slap a 50-percent price hike on heating oil. If the administration accepts the proposal to reduce pollution 10 percent, the price hikes could double.
Businesses either would have to pay gigantic fees or move to places that impose no such levies. That would be a no-brainer for manufacturers: Heavy industries would head for places such as India and China, which have large, low-wage labor pools and would not have to abide by the anti-pollution pact. Ironically, such a shift simply would shift jobs and pollution from one part of the planet to another.
The government has another option, of course. It could resist the temptation to tax and create a rationing system, instead. If you wanted to use energy, you’d have to pay for a permit.
This would give the government life-or-death power over six-sevenths of the economy - a sure recipe for mega-corruption. If we can’t run a food-stamp program without extensive fraud, can you imagine what would happen with a system that would bring energy under Washington’s ambit?
This agreement, quietly negotiated far away from the turmoil of presidential politics, ensures recession and oppression - without the benefit of representation.
Congress and the White House haggled for a decade over the provisions of the Clean Air Act extension of 1992. This time around, the Clinton cadres avoided unpleasantness by misleading key players on Capitol Hill.
Deputy Undersecretary of State Rafe Pomerance assured jittery lawmakers on June 19 that the administration would not accept any emissions limits during the Geneva deliberations. Wirth, Pomerance’s boss, broke that pledge less than four weeks later.
Now, you don’t have to be Alvin Toffler to anticipate the long-term outcome of this deal. America’s heavy industries and energy-dependent industries would, in the words of one well-known baron of commerce, “go down the crapper.”
Consad Research Corp. estimates the changes would kill off 1.6 million jobs over the next nine years and put another 3.5 million or so “at risk.” Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana and Michigan would take the hardest hits.
One always should take all such projections with a grain of salt, but even the White House admits the change will hurt people. As Wirth noted coyly in Switzerland, “In a world of change, everybody doesn’t remain advantaged.”
The agreement also would set off geopolitical chaos. If today’s globe features “haves” and “have nots,” this writ would create a world of “cans” and “cannots” - and American entrepreneurs would find themselves on the enemies list. And as manufacturing moved East, economic warfare would erupt.
This kind of thing makes ClintonCare look awesomely tame. With health care, the president wanted to mess up one-seventh of the economy. In this case, he wants to gut six-sevenths, without the consent of the people, while placing everybody under the suzerainty of Boutros Boutros-Ghali or some other U.N. potentate.
Talk about overreactions: In order to fend off what may be a fabricated fear of global warming, Bill Clinton has just committed the next generation of Americans to an economic ice age. Is it any wonder the markets (and workers) feel uneasy?