Inept opportunism harms national interest
Important decisions are often dominated by opportunistic pursuit of “easy money” at the expense of longer-term economic benefits, not to mention human health and quality-of-life.
At the heart of this problem is an over-simplistic, readily contradicted assumption that, whatever the circumstances, profitable job-creating schemes must proceed unimpeded, making all other factors secondary. Consequences neglected by these practices impose ever-growing threats to nation interest.
Hidden within this approach is the fiercely defended fantasy that markets are “free” and self-regulating. Contrary to that sacrosanct tenet, it’s clear that the costs of goods and services have long been at the mercy of public policies that decide what activities are favored in policy – such as oil-industry tax credits, or allowing pollution and other destructive impacts to become public costs.
For instance, when fossil-fuel activities contaminate water resources, if protecting and restoring water-quality isn’t included in the profit-maker’s obligations, the “market’ is inherently distorted by the arbitrary exclusion of those responsibilities. Accordingly, market prices of related products are discounted by the value of exempted impacts, and a significant portion of business activities are covertly shifted onto unwary taxpayers.
Similarly, creating jobs as if all employment has comparable benefits and costs often imposes unfair burdens on society. Consider the environmental consequences of a job in the solar-power industry compared with working at a fracking operation. Given the scientifically verified consequences of fracking and the combustion of fossil-fuels, important distinctions between these alternatives are self-evident. Yet U.S. policies favor all jobs equally.
Recently, tariffs have been reintroduced into the arsenal of U.S. market-manipulating policy devices. Tariffs are explicitly intended to “correct” alleged impacts of global markets on American interests. However, tariffs are now imposing self-abusive market distortions that handicap certain domestic industries while attempting to help others. Tariffs also create incentives for penalized trading partners to seek alliances with other nations – weakening long-term American economic prospects.
Responsible economic goals must be tempered by insightful understanding of market dysfunctions and unwanted outcomes caused by public policy. Economic prospects are worsened by imprudent economic policies incorporating inept provisions that encourage reckless profit-making pursuits. Environmental quality and public health are also degraded.
Compounding these negligent, misunderstood policies are dire warnings in recent reports on climate change. Unless U.S. policies ensure crucial and timely priority to reducing greenhouse gases, irresponsible economic and trade practices will sabotage vital environmental functions that are essential to our quality of life, indeed our very survival.
David Kyler, Executive Director, Center for a Sustainable Coast, St. Simons Island