Environmentalists won a key victory today, blocking a truly risible attempt by Sen. Ted Stevens to cram Arctic Refuge drilling through on the back of the defense bill. It’s a good thing.
Why am I not more celebratory? Well, because I’m not just an environmentalist. My muted feelings are well explained in this post by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson:
The scorecard that most political analysts will probably post after today’s big Senate showdown is one for two. Republicans — with the help of Dick Cheney, who rushed back from the Middle East to cast the tie-breaking vote — managed to squeeze through their big budget package, complete with around $40 billion in spending cuts focused mostly on the least advantaged. However, when they tried, in their second audacious move, to cram ANWR oil drilling into a must-pass defense appropriations bill, they were narrowly rebuffed by a successful filibuster.
The normal give and take of politics, right? Win one, lose one?
The budget is far and away the more important of these two battles, and here the Republican leadership showed that it’s not in the slightest bit willing to relinquish control to GOP moderates or change its overall course. The big lesson of today’s Senate showdown is that on the overriding tax and budget issues that have defined the GOP’s course over the last eleven years (and especially over the last five), Republican leaders and most of their rank-and-file are still willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their larger conservative goals.
Environmental goals are not achieved in isolation. A country with enormous disparities in wealth, with a weakened, denuded public sector, with crippling health care costs, can never be sustainable.
Like it or not, people protect the environment when they can — when they do not feel physically or economically threatened. Shared prosperity is the best thing for environmental protection. The kind of budget priorities pursued by the modern-day GOP simply are not compatible with ecological health.
Of course, this sentiment is not universally shared among environmentalists. If you disagree, please say so in comments.