Time for 2020 Vision in Washington
March 22, 2010
Rejecting the Imbecility of Nope
History is the record of a people’s achievements and failures when tested. Make no mistake, our moment has arrived, as we will have more hard choices to make in the decade ahead — including health care, energy security, climate change and reducing our debt — than any other in recent memory.
The President has embraced this crucible, but needs to remind Congress and the nation that we cannot escape history and ultimately the decisions that we make in the coming months are not about 2010 but where we will be in 2020 and beyond.
It is easy to simply say “no” on health care, since people fear and resist change wherever possible. But that not only means that by 2020, the 46 million who have no health coverage will grow by 20 million to nearly one in five Americans; it also means that those who continue to have employer provided insurance will see their costs increase by 79 percent (which for a median family of four is equivalent to more than doubling their federal income tax).
Saying “no” means that our global competitiveness will continue to suffer under the weight of health insurance costs, which adds approximately $2,000 to the cost of each GM car and spurs employers to outsource jobs overseas. In addition, by 2020 workers will make over $15,000 less than under “Obamacare” since any wage gains will instead be eaten by employer paid insurance costs. As health costs eat a bigger and bigger share of state budgets, people will either have to pay more in taxes or see vital services such as education get a smaller share of the pie each year.
It is also easy to dismiss climate change as a “theory” of Al Gore and other “tree huggers,” but that ignores the fact that 21 National Academy of Sciences, the World Bank, the IMF, “tree huggers” such as DuPont, Shell Oil and Wal-Mart and even the Vatican have found that climate change is “unequivocally occurring.” It also ignores the fact that, for the past several years, the Pentagon has been citing climate change as a national security issue and making major investments in converting to renewable energy.
The House-passed “American Clean Energy and Security Act,” which seeks to reduce our carbon emissions by nearly half over the next twenty years, is supported by such companies as Alcoa, Dow Corning, GE and PG&E whose chairman stressed that “climate change is an urgent matter, requiring immediate action and bold solutions.”
Again, doing nothing comes with a hefty price tag — $3,500 per family over the next five years if we do nothing to reduce energy consumption and an additional $271 billion by 2025 in losses from the increasing intensity of hurricanes and rising tides caused by climate change.
While we cannot escape history, Republicans increasingly act as if it never happened. For example, California’s 20th century boom was due in no small part to substantial investments made in education and infrastructure by previous generations, yet today’s Republicans in Sacramento and Washington prefer to watch the nation’s infrastructure crumble rather than a pay a single dime more in taxes.
At the national level, President Obama’s push to spur economic growth through investments in high-speed rail, renewable energy and expanding access to broadband internet were dismissed as pork barrel politics and unnecessary government interference in the economy. This ignores the fact that the great innovations of the last century — aviation, nuclear energy, semiconductors and the internet — all required substantial government investment. To do nothing now means we will be mere spectators as Japan, Europe and China lead advancement in critical 21st century technologies such as the next generation Internet and renewable energy.
Beginning with that harsh winter in Valley Forge two centuries ago and at the present hour, we have been fortunate to have leaders who have had the grit and vision to lead us through difficult times. Members of Congress and voters should listen to President Obama and remember the words of Teddy Roosevelt: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”
As we emerge from an economic Valley Forge and consider questions of life or death, economic revival or stagnation and saving our planet or facing increased global insecurity, our elected officials must be mindful of the year 2020 and beyond, as well as the watchful eyes of history, and strive to do what is right and reject the imbecility of nope.
(1) The Urban Institute, The Cost of Failure to Enact Health Reform: 2010 – 2020
(2) Council of Economic Advisors, The Economic Case For Health Care Reform
(3) LogicalScience, The Consensus on Global Warming: From Science to Industry & Religion
(4) New Scientist, US Military Engages Climate Change
(5) Office of Speaker Pelosi, Building the Clean Energy Economy
(6) NRDC,The Cost of Climate Change
(7) Breakthrough Institute, Case Studies in Innovation