Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fire Congress!

This morning's newspaper reports that in the U.S. Senate refused to repeal a $5 billion subsidy for ethanol production from corn. This project, instituted under the previous president, has created a shortage of corn and raised food prices around the world. Producing gasoline from corn is not an energy efficient process. The whole thing was a bad idea from the beginning. But the Senate does not want to let it go even in the midst of a major effort to cut the budget.

One part of this situation has to do with many Republicans not believing global warming exists. They think that the current, unusually violent weather patterns are part of a natural cyclical process that will stop after a while.

This is a free country. People can believe whatever they choose. But when they act on their beliefs – especially really goofy ones – and that action affects the whole country, the matter becomes really serious.

What we have today is total lack of accountability. If Congress refuses to encourage alternate sources of energy besides gas from corn, and that turns out, in ten or twenty years to have been a really disastrous choice, what happens to the benighted elected representatives who went by their own beliefs, such as “there is no such thing as global warming”? Well nothing. What people in Congress do may have consequences for them as individuals. They may not get reelected. But they bear no responsibility for the damage they do while in office. Congress men and women are not held responsible for the deaths of soldiers in bizarre expeditions like the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. They are not held accountable for the damage to the environment that they are directly responsible for.

It is clear that we need a constitutional change. People elected as our representatives to make policy on our behalf, should have to be responsible for the results of their legislation. Votes need to be carefully recorded and all those people in Congress who voted against measures to protect the environment, should be held personally responsible twenty of years from now when the results of those choices become incontrovertibly obvious.

Twenty years from now Boston and New York and other coastal cities may be partially under water because the ocean level rises with the melting north and south poles. Many cities may be regularly devastated by tornadoes and hurricanes because of more frequent and violent storms. The congresspeople who today do not support legislation to protect the environment, to encourage alternative energy sources, would then be called into court in order to be adjudicated responsible. Sending them to prison is a waste of energy. But they may have to go and fill sandbags, build shelters for people displaced by storms and rising sea levels, or in other ways make restitution for their present actions and the consequences of those actions.

We have had enough impunity on the part of the elected representatives. If they are willing to hold on to really crazy beliefs, that is their own business. If they damage our lives and cities as a consequence of those beliefs, they should be held responsible and be made to offer restitution.