- 25 November 2013
Moving on climate can “enhance jobs, growth”
Norman Ornstein is a long-time observer of Congress and politics. He is a contributing editor and columnist for National Journal and The Atlantic and is an election eve analyst for BBC News. He served as codirector of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project and participates in AEI's Election Watch series. Mr. Ornstein led a working group of scholars and practitioners that helped shape the law, known as McCain-Feingold, that reformed the campaign financing system. His many books include, most recently, the New York Times bestseller, It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, also with Tom Mann, published in May 2012 by Basic Books.
He spoke at Climate Week NYC in September 2012 about the need to change the US climate debate.
“Thanks so much. It’s an honor for me too. Tony Blair mentioned the Middle East and that’s probably a good segue to talking about American politics now as well.
"I have an expertise on our politics and I have a new book that expresses I think where we are. It’s called: It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. In the 43 years that I have been immersed in the politics of Washington and the policy process in the United States, I frankly have never seen it this dysfunctional.
"It’s never pretty. We are built around, as almost every Democratic political system, contentiousness, differences, division, even partisanship. But we now live in a world where partisanship has been transcended by a kind of tribalism. And the focus on problem-solving has been replaced by a winner-take-all kind of idea. We’ve seen the triumph of extreme politics – something that’s not conservative, but radical on one side, where litmus tests, such as ‘science is not be trusted’ or ‘climate change is a hoax’ have captured even a Presidential primary process.
"Our challenge as we look ahead, with just over six weeks to go in a Presidential campaign that is anything but edifying in terms of moving us in a different direction, is to move this from a debate about climate, and in particular the wrong-headed notion that we live in a zero-sum world where progress on climate means failure on jobs and economic growth, towards the real reality and the opportunity, which is moving on one means that we can actually enhance jobs, growth, and America’s role in the future in a global economy.
"We have to change the dialogue to make this, as it should be, about infrastructure, about jobs, and competing successfully in a global economy where others, like China, have seized the opening and seized the opportunity.
"I think it’s doable as we look towards the period after November. But it is going to be no easy task. I also hope we’ll use the opportunity, which I think we’ll see next year, as people begin to look at tax reform, to begin to see that one direction in which we can move is to replace something that taxes jobs – a payroll tax – and replace it with something that we want to discourage, which is carbon.
"So opportunities may exist and I applaud the work of The Climate Group in helping us to turn this ship away from its deep dysfunction and back towards the kind of problem-solving we need. And one that will work to the benefit of all of us, and perhaps help us to heal some of our tribal politics.”
Watch the speech recorded live at Climate Week NYC: