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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Do Republican Politicians Really "Fear" Efforts to Slow Global Warming Will Cost the Jobs of Miners and Hurt the Economy?

Do Republican Politicians Really "Fear" Efforts to Slow Global Warming Will Cost the Jobs of Miners and Hurt the Economy?

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Tuesday, 06 May 2014 13:45

In an article on the release of a report that documents the impact to date of climate change on the United States, the NYT told readers:

"Other Republicans concede that climate change caused by human activity is real, but nonetheless fear — as do some Democrats — that the president’s policies will destroy jobs for miners and hurt the broader economy."

While politicians obviously say they are concerned about job loss for miners and damage to the economy, does the NYT know that they really "fear" this prospect? Few Republicans or Democrats expressed concern about surface top mining that both causes damage to the environment and displaced tens of thousands of underground miners. If they feared the destruction of jobs for miners it would have been reasonable to insist that environmental restrictions be tightly enforced in order to limit this practice. The fact that they didn't suggests that concern about jobs for miners is not a high priority for these Republicans.

Similarly, global warming is causing large amounts of economic damage as illustrated in this report. Weather events that are at least partially attributable to global warming have already caused tens of billions of dollars of damage to homes and businesses. Anyone who was concerned about the damage to the economy caused by efforts to slow global warming would presumably also be concerned about the damage to the economy from global warming.

It seems unlikely that the politicians the NYT claims are fearful about the economy have carefully weighed the two effects. It is worth noting that in the context of an economy that is operating well below its full employment level of output, as is the case for the United States economy, spending money to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be almost costless. We would be putting people to work who would not otherwise be employed.

The reality is the NYT has no clue as to whether the politicians to whom it refers are actually concerned about coal miners' jobs and the economy. They only that they say they are concerned. If they wanted to stop measures that would reduce the profits of the oil and gas industries, it is likely that they would express concerns over jobs and the economy whether or not they had them. It sounds much better for a politician to say that he is concerned about a coal miner's job than Exxon-Mobil's profit.

Rather than telling readers what politicians' actually think, the NYT should focus on telling readers what they do and what they say.

Comments (9)Add Comment
Reporters are phoning it in, almost all of them
written by Dave, May 06, 2014 3:32
Watching "Independent Lens" last night, I realized just how bad the culture of our press is. Was Jayson Blair an anomaly or just a symptom?

I've talked to people that have run for office, and these are honest people, not people with continued ambitions. They've seen it from the inside. Most reporters on politics are phoning it in.

The idea that "toe touches" are ok but there's a hard line to be drawn on the rest is absurd. Memo to the NYT: Toe Touches are unethical, immoral and wrong.

Does anyone at the NYT even know what any politician thinks? Do they know how politicians become so resigned to such a corrupt system from day 1?

I'm writing a long essay to be posted somewhere soon. The thesis is that we've become a society of comfortable cowards. This clearly doesn't apply to all: We have people in the armed services that are as brave as anyone in history! But the people who run the show, that make the decisions, are more cowardly than at any time in history.
Live Free, Die Free: Rugged Individualism and Climate Change Denial
written by Last Mover, May 06, 2014 6:10

That's what denialists really believe and think, whatever the NYT may attribute to them. In economic terms it's the rational ignorance effect. Even if it does exist it can't be stopped anyway so why destroy jobs in the process as well. Ignore it and party on as long as you can. Life is short. Don't be stupid and make it worse.

If there was ever a bright line test of battle lines formed across a failing America, this is it. This one trumps every doomsday prediction before it. Even the debt monster doesn't hold a candle to climate chaos.

As it unfolds before our eyes the denialists will dig deeper into the obsolete bunker mentality of rugged individualism to gleefully demonstrate their hands-on prowess at solving real problems like flattened houses underwater with real solutions like macho off-road vehicles that finally have a purpose with mud in every direction.

What an opportunity for the return of real law and order America. Climate change will bring big government like you've never seen before.

And guess who will be running it. The same ones who suddenly decide now is the time for communities to pull together to show what people can really do for each other when faced with a common danger. After it's too late.
Correction...
written by Mark Brucker, May 06, 2014 6:42
The reality is the NYT has no clue as to whether the politicians to whom it refers are actually concerned about coal miners' jobs and the economy. They only KNOW that they say they are concerned. If they wanted to stop measures that would reduce the profits of the oil and gas industries, it is likely that they would express concerns over jobs and the economy whether or not they had them. It sounds much better for a politician to say that he is concerned about a coal miner's job than Exxon-Mobil's profit.

Rather than telling readers what politicians' actually think, the NYT should focus on telling readers what they do and what they say.
Article also claims President Obama is motivated by desire for fresh ammo
written by jaaaaayceeeee, May 06, 2014 9:06

You explain well how misleading reporting can be, and point out why, with examples, "It sounds much better for a politician to say that he is concerned about a coal miner's job than Exxon-Mobil's profit".

I also noticed the claim that the President, whose government produced the report's ominous findings, likely gets, " ... fresh ammunition as he seeks to tackle the problem".

Reporting and supporting opposing spin isn't cowardly; it's a big business.
Big Biz
written by John Parks, May 06, 2014 9:52
Upton Sinclair might have nailed it with:
"Journalism in America is the business and practice of presenting the news of the day in the interest of economic privilege."

And Homer could have written warning labels for the readers of our daily pap. "We mortals hear only the news, and know nothing at all."
Spending money to reduce emissions versus repair weather damage
written by Melissa, May 07, 2014 7:08
Cynical though it is to say it, from a purely economic perspective isn't the damage being done by extreme weather events also good for the depressed economy, as the repair and rebuilding creates jobs? And worse, retrofitting to reduce greenhouse emissions is more or less a "one time" job, whereas if we don't fix global warming, the weather-related damage will just continue and create more jobs for the long term.
...
written by jhm, May 07, 2014 7:11
It would be nice if this purported concern for miners extended to the health and safety as well as the profits of their bosses.
...
written by Ted Boettner, May 07, 2014 9:29
I think you have to be careful in making the economic assumption that a crack down on surface mining would equate to more underground coal mining jobs. Central Appalachian coal has become very uncompetitive because of a sharp decline in productivity which has increased the price of coal from southern WV, Eastern KY and Eastern TN. While making it harder to surface mine could lead to some increased underground coal mining in northern Appalachia, it would must likely result in more coal mining in Wyoming and Illinois. Therefore, I don't think the members of congress that represent areas in Central Appalachia are wrong to assume that a crack down on carbon would negatively impact mining in their districts. Of course, this is why they should have supported the cap & trade bill in 2008 so they could get some transition assistance and money for CCS. With that proposal off of the table, I don't think they are wrong in assuming that it will negatively impact their areas.
Black Belt
written by Philip Copley, May 07, 2014 5:26
What cynicism. Next you're going to tell me that all this talk about intractable unemployment and burgeoning hyperinflation is a surrogate argument for those who want the Fed to raise rates so that they can buy treasuries and live of the coupons.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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