Krugman on Obama’s ozone cave: It’s bad economics too

The world of environmentalists has flown into an uproar about Obama’s recent decision to overrule the recommendations of his own EPA’s scientists and not strengthen ozone standards (because, you know, jobs).

But be re-assured, we’re told wasn’t a political decision; it was a campaign calculation. Dave Roberts at

Senate staffer contacted me to let me know that smog decision not about votes, but about terror of post-Citizens United money. Feel better?

So, a bid for money, not a bid for votes. There’s a word for that, isn’t there?

In the meantime, Paul Krugman has harsh things to say about the economics of the decision (my emphasis):

And now you can see why tighter ozone regulation would actually have created jobs: it would have forced firms to spend on upgrading or replacing equipment, helping to boost demand. Yes, it would have cost money — but that’s the point! And with corporations sitting on lots of idle cash, the money spent would not, to any significant extent, come at the expense of other investment.

More broadly, if you’re going to do environmental investments — things that are worth doing even in flush times — it’s hard to think of a better time to do them than when the resources needed to make those investments would otherwise have been idle.

So, a lousy decision all around. Are you surprised?

Read the bolded sentence again; if you listen too much to the mainstream “conventional wisdom” megaphone, this is counter-intuitive. On the other hand, to the uncluttered mind, it makes perfect sense. Demand (i.e., spending) is exactly the antidote to a demand-driven recession (well, duh).

About the politics of the decision, Krugman is equally harsh. He thinks the crack Obama political machine “just keep[s] reinforcing the perception of mush from the wimp, of a president who doesn’t stand for anything.”

Mush from the wimp — that could take hold.

I think this “Obama is weak” meme, with which I disagree, is becoming conventional wisdom. Good; maybe calling him unmanly will embarrass him into playing strong for the team he’s pretending to be on — for a change.


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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