Thursday, November 1, 2012

Big picture view

It's good to get up into the mountains to reflect on events. My sense of the political situation is that Romney's momentum has largely dissipated but not before giving him a real shot at victory. Bloomberg, the Economist and Colin Powell have given Obama some of the centrist imprimatur he needs to win over swing voters. Hurricane Sandy, which has made a hash of my New Jersey neighborhood, has given Obama some of the reputation for competence that had been tattered by everything from Benghazi back to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. I don't think the perceptions of centrism and competence are accurate as applied to this president, and if he is reelected I expect that people who are voting on such a basis are going to be disappointed, to say the least.

Moreover, I think the notion that a post-Sandy Obama victory would be some kind of victory for better climate policy is, sadly, completely wrong. Obama in this campaign has acted as a sycophant to the coal and oil industries, no less than has Romney. Worse, Obama also has cast his lot with higher taxes on incomes and greater burdens on growth, which in turn mean there is no flexibility for the policies that are needed to limit carbon emissions. A carbon tax could only be implemented in an economy with a relatively light tax regime on incomes. A robust research program, including exploration of long-term geoengineering options, could only occur in the context of a federal budget that includes entitlement reforms. And, getting back to the short term, tight federal regulation of natural gas production would have the perverse effect of shifting energy use away from the cheapest and most efficient alternative to oil and coal.

Romney, for his part, is a flawed and frustrating candidate, for many reasons. But a President Romney, likely facing a Congress with a Democratic Senate and a smaller GOP House majority than the present one, has greater upside potential than the guaranteed mediocrity-at-best of Obama II. So my vote remains unchanged (assuming they have a vote in New Jersey). As for my prediction, I'm still inclined to say Romney pulls it out, even though I recognize that could easily be wrong.

Pictured: mountains around New Paltz, NY.

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