On Tuesday, President Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). It wasn’t everything we had hoped for, as compromises had to be made in order to get West Virginia’s Joe Manchin on board, but it was, as Dan Rather tells us, a BFD … I’ll let Dan ‘splain that one!
But Republicans fail the future (and the present)
President Joe Biden has signed into law a bill that is, to quote former President Barack Obama, a “BFD.” In other words, a “big deal” with a colorful adjective sandwiched in between for emphasis. It was Obama’s way of paying homage to Biden’s whispered comment (caught on mic) from back in 2010 with the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
With apologies to decorum, Obama’s summation is warranted.
The bill is called the Inflation Reduction Act, which most economists think is an accurate description. Inflation reduction is a worthy goal, but what is even more noteworthy — rising to the level of historic — is how the legislation intends to accomplish that feat. It is a compendium of long-desired action on the part of Democrats around health care costs, taxes, and climate change (representing the most ambitious climate measures ever enacted by Congress).
The details are varied and have been covered admirably in other publications. Were they everything that most Democrats sought? No. But they were significant. Once again, a BFD.
For the sake of this column, however, let us focus less on the policy than on the politics, and specifically the fact that this bill squeaked through on a purely party-line vote. All Democrats in the House and Senate voted “yea.” All Republicans who voted (four representatives did not) voted “nay.” All of them.
Perhaps we have become inured to this unblinking partisanship. Chalk it up to cynicism, to pure party politics, to the zero-sum game that seems to rule Washington, particularly from Republicans when Democrats are in the majority. Obstruct. Delay. Obfuscate. That is the playbook. But while extreme partisanship might explain the actions, it certainly does not excuse them.
This bill aimed to tackle tough challenges, particularly climate change. And on this issue in particular the politics of our time should not be measured in some temporal tally of wins and losses for congressional seats; this is about wins and losses for the habitability of our planet.
This isn’t about four-year election cycles. It is about epochs measured in millennia.
Those are the stakes. And on this score, most prominent Republican elected officials seem eager to deny reality. And the few who don’t fall into that camp are apparently satisfied with doing nothing.
There may not be a more serious yardstick by which to measure our political era than this failure. As we have often cautioned here, the future of American democracy is at risk these days. But, let us be clear, so is the future of planet Earth. Perhaps even more so.
When I tweeted the above, I expected to get a decent response; I never expected this level of engagement, but it makes sense. Unlike the politicians, according to polls, most Americans understand the peril and want action.
In this upside-down reality, questions emerge that demand answers and accountability:
- How can a politician who doesn’t take climate change seriously be taken seriously?
- How can someone who fails to protect our nation from the increasing threat of natural disasters be considered a voice to heed on national security?
- How can someone who denies this reality be considered a credible judge of the truth?
This is not a debate about policy. “How should we tackle this existential threat?” is a legitimate question on which fair minds can disagree. Should it be tax cuts for business or government regulation? Or both? A carbon tax or subsidies for new technologies? Is nuclear energy a viable option? Should we invest more in electric cars or public transportation? Let’s have a vigorous debate. Go at it. There is no monopoly on wisdom. And the country needs a strong two-party system, with a Congress of conscience on both sides of the aisle, to have such debates.
But debate whether we should do ANYTHING??? Really????
(Perhaps from the all caps and the number of question marks you can sense my feelings.)
This bill was a major step forward on addressing climate change. It’s not nearly enough. But it is something. A lot. A BFD. So say the scientists. It’s a foundation upon which to build.
But it was also a test of the seriousness of the Republican Party on the most serious of issues. It is a test they failed. All of them in Congress.
That is not political spin. It’s the truth. Just ask Mother Earth. She’s screaming out for all to hear. Maybe at some point the politicians who refuse to listen to her pleas will be forced to answer why, and not be taken seriously until they can answer in accordance with reality.