“Party of Science” Ignores the Facts

Along with other topics in his bunker reports, Joe Biden weighed in on President Trump’s prophylactic use of hydroxychloroquine.  “It’s like saying maybe if you inject Clorox into your blood it may cure you.”

“Hydroxychloroquine” does contain all the letters in “Clorox,” but no serious medical person would equate the two.  And though there are studies that fail to find hydroxychloroquine to be effective in combating COVID19, there are others that do.  For example, the Henry Ford Health System recently published a peer-reviewed study of over 2,500 patients.  Dr. Steven Kalkanis, Chief Academic Officer of the Henry Ford Health System, said, “Our analysis shows that using hydroxychloroquine helped saves lives…the data here is clear that there was benefit to using the drug as a treatment for sick, hospitalized patients.”  Of course, one study does not end the debate and we may find that, indeed, hydroxychloroquine is an ineffective therapy for COVID19.  On the other hand, hydroxychloroquine may become a standard (and cheap) part of the COVID19-fighting toolbox.

What is strange is how views on the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine have become a litmus test of support or opposition to the president.  This creates roadblocks to scientific analysis of COVID19 therapies.  By ridiculing the president’s use of the drug, Senator Biden helped politicize what should be a scientific debate.  Unfortunately, politicizing science is evident in candidate Biden’s approach to climate change as well.

The co-chairs of Biden’s Climate Advisory Panel, John Kerry and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are Washington political operatives of the highest order.  However, they are deeply unserious when it comes to climate science and climate policy.

Though John Kerry is a well-known political actor on the climate-change stage, few people have made it clearer they know so little about climate science.  Perhaps his most famous climate sound bite equated climate change to a weapon of mass destruction.  It was a well-reported part of a talk in Jakarta.  What was not well-reported at all from that speech, was his totally fantastic description of climate science.  His phenomenally condescending science lecture was total nonsense.  His description of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere was, “Try and picture a very thin layer of gases – a quarter-inch, half an inch, somewhere in that vicinity – that’s how thick it is.  It’s in our atmosphere.  It’s way up there at the edge of the atmosphere.”  Ignoring all evidence of ice ages, he also asserted, “And for millions of years – literally millions of years – we know that layer has acted like a thermal blanket for the planet – trapping the sun’s heat and warming the surface of the Earth to the ideal, life-sustaining temperature.  Average temperature of the Earth has been about 57 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Like so many who claim to believe in science, he appears to know very little of it, especially with regard to climate.  When politics is the overarching concern, it seems science does not really matter.

Co-chair Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez famously said the world would end in 12 years if we did not take dramatic action to stop climate change.  (She also said the quote was taken out of context.  The audience did not seem to think it was out of context.  You be the judge. See it here.)  In any event, her solution was the Green New Deal.

Whether the 12-year statement was idiocy, a scare tactic or just AOC hyperbole, the Green New Deal was not primarily about climate anyway.  Her then chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, said “it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all … we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

This is the standard DC practice.  Hitch your special-interest policy wish-list to a perceived crisis.  Work to hype the severity of the crisis requiring the changes in policy you seek. The change-the-entire-economy-thing comes through loud and clear.

Here are some provisions of the Green New Deal that have sketchy (at best) connections to global warming, but long-running connections to the progressive agenda:

  • “strengthening and protecting the right of all workers to organize, unionize, and collectively bargain free of coercion, intimidation, and harassment”
  • “guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States”
  • “strengthening and enforcing labor, workplace health and safety, anti-discrimination, and wage and hour standards across all employers, industries, and sectors”
  • “directing investments to spur economic development, deepen and diversify industry and business in local and regional economies, and build wealth and community ownership” (emphasis added)

Plus, provisions for healthcare and antitrust.

A debate on the best way to free workers from coercion (from both sides) during labor organizing battles is certainly worth having, but it is not a climate issue.  Similarly, growing the income, wealth, and economic security for all Americans is a great goal, one on which record-making progress was being made immediately before the COVID pandemic.  However, it is not a climate topic either.

The fourth bullet might be the most worrisome.  The innocuous-sounding imperative to “direct investments” is a clear call for industrial policy where government does what it does worst—picks winners and losers.  For example, the Green New Deal explicitly calls for government financing for high-speed rail, just as the last government-financed high-speed rail project, the California bullet train, is drowning in cost overruns and is being drastically reduced in scope.  True to form, the loudest voices for continuing the high speed train are the firms and companies and politicians who are all in on the gravy train. Widely regarded as a fiasco, it has become a poster child for waste.  Do not worry rail fans, the Green New Deal is ready to double down on picking losers.  Biden is ready to shovel the money into the high-speed rail abyss, too.  This excites some politicians, most of whom know little about winning in the marketplace, but who are all-in when it comes to doling out political favors from which they accrue political points, the coin of the political realm.

Abusing a crisis (real or perceived) for political advantage is an old and sorry story.  So much so that Rahm Emanuel’s adage, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste,” has become a sort of DC mantra.  Good politics, maybe, but it leads to crummy policy.  That Biden’s Climate Task Force has taken it to heart is a bad omen for what we might see in a Biden administration.

*This article was originally published by the Institute for Energy Research.

For more information on these issues check out AEA’s Vote Energy 2020 election hub.

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