Food stamps have never been more popular, economic growth is in the doldrums, average household income remains in a slump, the work force is still shrinking, a third of everyone between 18 and 34 is living with parents, often as a means of rent rescue, and President Barack Obama wants to make things worse.
The issue for him is climate change, but the issue for the rest of us should be political change. Focus on November, everyone, as you contemplate a new directive dictating to states that, for the sake of a cooler future, they must vastly decrease the use of coal in electric plants. The states are given some options about how they go about it, but the sure-enough facts are that none of the allowed steps will do boo to budge global warming a fraction of a degree downward even as they visit the nation with dour economic consequences.
Obama himself once conceded that measures of the sort he is now dictating would send electric rates skyrocketing, an instance of candor now in remission. The Environmental Protection Agency says rates will sit there as if nothing is happening. My own observation is that when the government mandates changes that must at least initially be expensive, as some of these absolutely will be, the costs are passed on to consumers.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says the hit will be $51 billion and 200,000 jobs a year, and if you want to reply, oh, well, that's just greedy business noodles talking, consider the bureaucracy-bound, fiercely anti-warming European Union that fairly recently said it was putting higher emission-reduction goals in place even as it was going to ease up on how members get there. The issue, you see, is that Europe, too, is in a bad way economically, discovered that its anti-warming regulations were leading to deindustrialization, as one German official put it, and is now backing off of them, choosing to mouth lofty aspirations instead.
Of course, what the Europeans know is what everyone who knows anything at all about global warming knows. There are lots of countries but just one global atmosphere, and what is done across the Atlantic or in the United States will make not a smidgen of difference if the rest of the world does not join in. Much of it will not. China, for instance, may have rescued hundreds of millions of its people from destitution, but 900 million are as bad off as communism once helped to ensure, and China will never, ever sacrifice them for the sake of warming worries.
Some analysts contend otherwise. If the United States gets out front, leads the way with self-abnegating boldness, others will line up and salute with cheery smiles on their faces, they say. Do you suppose they've noticed that China is now strutting its bullying power internationally as much as anytime in decades, might every now and then say something meant to mislead people about its noble intentions, but then shows by its actions that it meant not a word of it?
A final argument may be that we should begin the good fight even if it won't help right off the bat just on the chance China and others do eventually come along, and the answer is we are. Through the technological genius of the free market system, we have reduced carbon emissions significantly.
It is also the case that the EPA intervention will get lots of things wrong -- that's a governmental certitude -- and that additional technological breakthroughs will supply more lots more solutions over time. Some of the worst warming scare talk is scientifically disputable, by the way, and some of the economic concerns are worth listening to. Lend an ear.
(Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune.)