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OK, I'll Say It: The Senate Is Senile

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If nobody else is going to say it, I will: the Senate is senile.

I use the word senile deliberately because it has the same latin root as "senate."

And the similarities don't stop at linguistics.

The world's most poorly designed deliberative body has lost its mind.

Sometimes the behavior this produces is just funny.

Sometimes it's infuriating. It cracks me up to see a bunch of old men, and a handful of old women, carping about how budget deficits are "generational theft," because their grand-children, people my age and younger, may ultimately have to pay higher taxes to cover our government's debts.

But when those same senators vote to make it more difficult to pass legislation that would fight man-made climate change, it's outrageous.

On Wednesday the Senate approved a procedural measure that would make it against the rules to pass cap-and-trade provisions, which would reduce carbon emissions, through the budget reconciliation process. Sounds boring, but it's a big deal because you can't filibuster the budget. It's the difference between needing 50 votes to pass cap-and-trade—doable—and needing 60 votes—impossible.

So pretty much the same Senators who cry bloody murder about generational theft when it has to do with government spending have absolutely no problem with generational theft when it comes to, you know, destroying the earth. That may be overstating the case a little, but there's a pretty strong scientific consensus that if we don't reign in carbon emissions, global warming could have some catastrophic consequences. We're talking rising sea levels, floods of biblical proportions, that sort of thing.

Personally, I have much more of a problem with these old fogies stealing my money than I do with them destroying my future habitat.

It's the difference between the government picking your pocket and the government burning down your house. Good to see they have their priorities straight.

I'm sensitive to the argument that this may be the wrong time to pass a law that will make companies and ultimately individuals pay more for energy. But Obama's cap-and-trade proposal wouldn't actually kick in until 2012. Again, I also get that companies and the stock market are forward-looking, and 2012 isn't that far away. So why not stick in a provision that says if GDP growth, or the unemployment rate, or some mix of the two doesn't pass some kind of threshold in 2011 then the introduction of cap-and-trade will get pushed back to 2013, and so on until the economy can handle it.

Hey, I came up with that brilliant compromise after about fifteen seconds of thought. Of course, my brain is younger than the average senator's, my synapses still fire at all the right times and everything, so maybe if we give our Senators fifteen months they'll arrive at the same place.

If not, I think the case for senility is pretty strong.

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