We have always known that the Editors of The New York Times are our betters, and that we should always follow what they say. Now, the Editors are just so upset that the plebeians don’t always behave as the patricians tell them they should:
An Electoral Brush Fire in Australia
Once again, analysts overestimated the resonance of climate change and underestimated the power of economic populism.
By The Editorial Board: The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section. | May 20, 2019
Admittedly, I wonder just how separate from the newsroom they are.
It was another election that couldn’t be lost until it was. Rived by years of infighting, Australia’s conservative governing coalition was trailing in the polls. The opposition Labor Party’s polls showed it all but certain of ousting Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and its action platform on climate change seemed bound to resonate in a country devastated by drought, heat waves, brush fires and the loss of its magnificent Great Barrier Reef to warming seas.
On Saturday, in another surprise of the sort that had stunned Americans and Britons, Australian voters handed Mr. Morrison what he called a “miracle” victory. His conservative Liberal-National coalition, sharply opposed to cutting down on carbon emissions and coal, is expected to take 77 seats, one more than enough for a majority.
It might surprise the Editors, but perhaps, just perhaps, the working men and women Down Under might have greater and more immediate concerns than whether wealthy Australians and foreign tourists have fun snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef.
In hindsight, there are many reasons Mr. Morrison defied predictions. One was his success in projecting himself as the average Joe, a rugby-loving, beer-drinking evangelical Christian in a baseball cap who peppered his speeches with folksy Australianisms and slogans like “a fair go for those who have a go.” Urban Australians rolled their eyes, but polls show that whatever they thought of his party, the larger pool of those Mr. Morrison called the “quiet Australians” — a category similar to those who voted for Brexit or President Trump — consistently favored him over the Labor Party’s Bill Shorten.
Once again, the Editors have simply learned nothing from recent elections. Perhaps Donald Trump isn’t exactly “the average Joe, a rugby-loving, beer-drinking evangelical Christian in a baseball cap,” but he has a definite charisma, while his Democratic opponent, massively favored in the polls, was a dour, humorless woman with all of the charisma, at least in the media, of a sink full of dirty dishes. No one should be surprised that Mr Morrison, as described by the Editors, out charismaed Mr Shorten.
The troubling message was that even on an island-continent where the ravages of climate change are there for all to see, especially after the hottest summer on record, invocations of economic stability, secure jobs, cuts to immigration and conservative family values trump the unknowns and costs of dealing with climate change.
One would think that even the Editors wouldn’t be all that surprised that economic stability and secure jobs would be pretty darned important to a whole lot of people, especially when contrasted with “the unknowns and costs of dealing with climate change.” Whatever those unknowns are, people know that there will be costs, costs in the form of real dollars out of their pockets, costs in the form of higher prices that will leave them poorer in real terms, all for the vague promise that things will be slightly better a hundred years from now, when all of last Saturday’s voters will be in their graves.
The Editors even pointed out that one of the economic models on which the challenging Labor Party ran projected economic costs of Labor’s proposals at the loss of 167,000 jobs and A$264 billion; can anyone really be surprised that the voters were less than enthused?
What the Australian election outcome revealed was the urgent need to broaden the message for reducing carbon emissions, and to separate it from the divisive culture wars afflicting Western democracies.
Here in the United States, in very blue Washington state, Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA), one of the cavalry charge of Democratic presidential candidates, put a carbon emissions tax before the voters, and those mostly liberal voters rejected it, by a landslide margin, 56.56% to 43.44%:
Voters in Washington state on Tuesday rejected a bid to tax carbon dioxide emissions, a stinging defeat for environmentalists after years of attempts to curb climate change through economic incentives, CNN projects.
Initiative 1631, which proposed to levy a tax of $15 per metric ton of carbon emissions, would have made Washington the first state in the nation to raise the cost of fossil-fuel intensive activities like driving gas-powered vehicles and heating buildings with natural gas in an effort to encourage clean energy sources like wind and solar power.
A broad coalition of progressive groups, tribes, health advocates, unions, and liberal billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and Bill Gates supported the measure, which was crafted to fix some of the problems that led to the failure of a similar effort in 2016.
Revenues from the tax — estimated to reach $1 billion annually by 2023 — would have been devoted to renewable energy projects and helping negatively affected workers, rather than offset by other tax cuts. Also, 1631 would have exempted some large industrial facilities like factories and paper plants, which helped win support from organized labor.
But the full force of the measure would have fallen on oil refiners, who spent heavily to defeat it. The Western States Petroleum Association raised $31.5 million to oppose 1631, mostly from BP America and Phillips 66, both of which have refineries in the state. Proponents raised about $16 million. The measure was poised to lose by several percentage points with the majority of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, drawing majority support only from a handful of counties including King, which contains Seattle.
Let’s tell the truth here: everyone would like to stop climate change . . . up to the point at which it costs them real money. And when CNN tells us that “the full force of the measure would have fallen on oil refiners,” sensible people — and the voters are very sensible people — know that the oil refiners will do what every business does, and that’s pass their costs down to the consumers.
The Editors see doom-and-gloom:
It is certainly discouraging that so many voters in a democratic society could choose to shut their eyes to the obvious and immediate danger of climate change.
Perhaps, just perhaps, projections that, without action, the world will warm up a few centigrade degrees in eighty or a hundred years from now might seem a touch less “immediate” a danger than paying their bills and keeping food on the table.
Let’s face it: the august members of the Times Editorial Board are all very well paid. They are concerned about at which Manhattan restaurant they should dine this evening than whether there will be enough food on the table for their families in a sixth floor walk-up apartment, or perhaps in a West Virginia coal town in which the mine has closed.
Even in New York state, where the Times has the most influence, only 17 of 62 counties were carried by Hillary Clinton, while Donald Trump won the other 45. Even in New York state, it would seem that there are a whole lot of people who do not share the outlooks and viewpoints of the Editors of The New York Times.
The credentialed media, as heavily concentrated as they are in our big urban areas, suffer from an almost complete lack of perspective and understanding. There might be nothing as symbolic of it as the Sunday morning interview shows, which now all end with their panel of journalists, all of whom lead similar lives, all of whom make very good money, all of whom live in the choicer neighborhoods in major urban areas. It’s not that they are stupid people; it’s that they are wholly insular in their outlook and just plainly ignorant of what goes on outside of their professions.
And that, in the end, is the problem for the Editors. They found it “certainly discouraging” that the voters in a “democratic society” would not see things their way, would not vote as the credentialed media told them they must. The plebeians are just so uncooperative!
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