Friday, November 11, 2011

If You Talk the Talk...

On Wednesday, I examined a Monday post by James Maule. See The Tax and Spending Stalemate: Can It Destroy the Nation?, MauledAgain (Nov. 7, 2011).

Maule blamed Republicans for the legislative gridlock surrounding competing infrastructure proposals. The Democrats are pushing a $60 billion spending measure, "funded" by tax surcharges on "millionaires and billionaires." The Republicans are pushing a $40 billion spending measure, "funded" by unused outlays for other programs.

Maule was nominally venting about our crumbling infrastructure and jobs crisis. In substance, he was channeling the anxiety of the political left. If Maule were serious about infrastructure spending and economic stimulus, he would have lectured the Democrats for rejecting the $40 billion measure. A compromise starts with common ground. As between $60 billion and $40 billion in spending, $40 billion is the "common ground."

I'm sure that Maule is genuinely concerned about the current unemployment crisis. As such, I'm guessing that he'll be disturbed by a recent setback to energy infrastructure development.

On Thursday, Team Obama delayed the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline until after the 2012 election.
The proposed Keystone XL Project (click here for map) consists of a 1,700-mile crude oil pipeline and related facilities that would primarily be used to transport [oil] from an oil supply hub in Alberta, Canada to delivery points in Oklahoma and Texas. The proposed Project would also be capable of transporting U.S. crude oil to those delivery points. The proposed project could transport up to 830,000 barrels per day and is estimated to cost $7 billion.
The announcement marked a sharp reversal by Team Obama. The State Department had previously supported the pipeline on national security grounds. Obviously, importing oil from Canada reduces our dependence on Middle Eastern oil imports. The $7 billion project would upgrade the nation's energy infrastructure; a Democratic priority until yesterday. It was expected to created tens of thousands of jobs during the midst of a national unemployment crisis. And it was funded with private capital, thus avoiding Congressional gridlock entirely.

Unfortunately, the end run around Congress ran into the brick wall of regulatory delay. Environmental activists were particularly hostile to the Keystone XL project, because the pipeline would transport oil from Canadian tar sands. (Never mind that Canada could route the oil from tar sands to the Pacific coast for export to Asia.) As noted by the LA Times, the decision exposes Team Obama "to the same criticism the White House has leveled at congressional Republicans regarding deficit reduction: delaying a tough call in hopes that the politics will be better after next November's election."

The building trade unions, whose members have been disproportionately hurt by the Great Recession, condemned the decision:
Terry O'Sullivan, general president of the Laborers' International Union of North America, said the move would "inflict a potentially fatal delay to a project that is not just a pipeline, but is a lifeline for thousands of desperate working men and women. The administration chose to support environmentalists over jobs—job-killers win, American workers lose."
Mr. O'Sullivan's comments are right on the mark. The political left talks the talk about infrastructure and jobs. But they don't walk the walk, as evidenced by the flip flop on the Keystone XL project. It boils down to a question of priorities. We're in the midst of a national unemployment crisis. Do we want a government that responds flexibly to balance environmental, labor and other considerations while fostering public and private infrastructure spending? Or do we want a government that prioritizes environmental or other regulatory considerations above infrastructure upgrades and job creation?

A cynic might take a hard look at the Keystone XL decision and allege that Team Obama is trying "to do everything they can to drag down this economy." But I'll leave that commentary to Harry Reid and left-wing academics.

1 comment:

  1. Everybody should have the right to try and protect their interests. Therefore...there should be no limit on campaign contributions...taxpayers should be allowed to directly allocate their taxes...and kids of any age should be allowed to vote.

    A month ago I posted a comment on the pipeline over at the Bleeding Heart Libertarian blog.