Think of this as Volume 14, Number 33 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I've written since 1997. Enjoy.
The problems haven't been solved. The President seems to be moving too slowly. He's trapped between his need to be the old AntiThesis (Clinton the Triangulator in this case) and the old fading Thesis (Bushism) still practiced in the Capitol. His own troops are dejected. Change is hard.
What turned things around for all past crisis leaders was, simply, an agenda. Setting a course against the true enemy, in defiance of political assumptions, is the test of leadership.
In the current case, that agenda is simple.
The War Against Oil.
As I've said before, a climate bill isn't really a climate bill. It's really a jobs bill. It's also, right now, the hardest bill to get through the Congress. Republicans won't touch it, and many Democrats are wary as well.
The argument is over stimulus. The question should not be how much, but what the stimulus does. A stimulus that doesn't take us in a useful direction is mindless spending. Whether that's in the form of government aid or tax cuts, it's equally mindless.
We need a stimulus that creates stuff.
The last depression was ended by World War II. Republicans love to say that. They don't like to admit that the war was fought at a deficit, although it was. But we don't have to build bombs to win this war. We can win it with plowshares.
But we first have to declare it.
It's been hotter in Atlanta, but never this hot, steadily, day after day, week after week. We haven't seen a high in the 80s since June, and we might not see another one until late September. Russia is burning, huge chunks of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets have sloughed off this year, the evidence of a planet boiling away is undeniable.
Yet still it's denied.
Politically this is a good thing. As much as Democrats might like to bitch-and-moan about it, the divide on climate is the starkest difference between liberals and conservatives today. This makes it the greatest political opportunity the President has.
Scientists tell us the reason we're cooking our own planet is dependence on hydrocarbons. So stop subsidizing them. Put that money to work creating energy from the Sun above us, the air around us and the Earth's own heat below us. I have never understood why Hawaii had to import energy when it's there in so much abundance. It's the President's home state. Let him make the announcement from there.
We know the Democrats are going to campaign with both the President (in blue states) and the former President (in purple states). Did I mention this will get Al Gore out of storage?
Everyone knows the economy is our biggest real problem, that unemployment is threatening our way of life. The climate bill helps solve the problem.
The deal is simple. We remove incentives from hydrocarbons. We know they can take care of themselves. Putting just half this money into incentives for device energy -- solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, etc. -- puts rocket fuel into these fast-growing industries. It turns research into manufacturing, and encourages hiring.
Every solar cell built in America is an American manufacturing job. But there are many other places we can put solar to work -- in our roads, on our buildings. (Yes, you can see through some cells.) Just as important are the research jobs we can be creating.
And they're not just high-paying jobs either. Just paying people to paint the tops of buildings white will save more in energy than the jobs cost.
The best way to go from deficit to surplus is to grow the economy. We can't cut our way to solvency, because we will always have obligations -- defense, police, etc. -- and the economy will always fall faster than our spending. It's what we learned, as individuals and a nation, during the last Depression.
But the only way to get growth going is to have a new industry to grow into. Last time it was finance and construction. Before that it was the Internet. Before that computing and biochemistry. In the 1930s it was infrastructure. The old jobs don't really come back. The economy just creates new jobs, and new types of jobs, with each growth cycle.
That's what the renewable energy opportunity is all about. We're going to have obligations. You meet them by seizing opportunities.
Every dollar in energy we save is a dollar that isn't going overseas. It's a thumb on the scale of energy prices, reducing our need for imports. And it can be a lever for exports. Economic competitiveness demands we not import this technology from China, but export it to the rest of the world. And anyone who argues we can't win in this economic battle is defeatist.
And that's true for every dollar. There is still an enormous amount of energy to be saved in conservation, which can take place without changing lifestyles. New light bulbs require less energy than those that came before. So do the new computers. Cities cost less in energy, per capita, than suburbs. Insulation is free money. Manufacturing equipment gets more efficient every year. Railroads cost less to run than highways.
Buy it, install it, save with it. It makes us more competitive in other areas. Energy efficiency can make up for high wages, if we're the leader in it. There is no reason why we can't be. And since we're currently the world's energy hog we can save more than anyone else, get more growth from it than anyone else.
It's the obvious way forward.
The War Against Oil defines our time. We either win it or we lose the planet. That also makes it a prime political opportunity for the party that can seize the high ground.
Republicans have ceded that ground. Willingly, eagerly. They are buried with oil and coal up to their eyeballs. Follow the money, we know where it's going.
Making the War Against Oil your top priority will, in the long run, de-fund the right, and force it to engage in the problems of our time. It's political reform as well as economic reform. It may appear to be a risk, but there are so many other benefits it's foolish not to take it.
Right now, the midterms seem to be a battle between the direction we're going in, which isn't getting us very far very fast, and a new agenda which seems attractive because it's what we used to believe in.
The best way out of that place is a new agenda. Say, if you vote for Democrats this is what I will commit them to. It's what helped win the White House last time. It can win through again.
Seize the agenda and let's go fight the War Against Oil as one country, united.