In health care: Obamacare is a disaster; the GOP alternative will have none of its flaws.
From the minute the ACA passed, the right has been calling it an unmitigated disaster and predicting its demise. As one apocalyptic prediction after another failed to pan out, the tenor and direction of the criticism ... stayed exactly the same. It has never changed. Trump is saying the same things to this day: Obamacare is falling apart, it's a disaster.
It's not true now and it's never been true. The ACA has done what it set out to do: radically reduce the number of uninsured and slow the growth in health care costs. On both scores, it has done better than expected, not worse.
Alongside the right's unfulfilled prophecies of doom is a long history of promises that the mythical Republican alternative will accomplish the same things Obamacare does, but in better, more freedom-y ways. All subtlety in such matters was thrown to the wind by Donald Trump, who said outright that the GOP health care plan would have "insurance for everybody," no cuts to Medicaid, and cheaper premiums.
This kind of strategy worked fine when Republicans were in the opposition and all they had to do was block everything and issue bad punditry. But once they took power, people expected to see the mythical alternative. Unsurprisingly, that's been a disaster.
In climate: the CPP will crush the economy; the GOP alternative will lower emissions better.
It's difficult to pinpoint when Republicans and industry groups began catastrophizing about carbon regulations. They have been catastrophizing about air-quality regulations as long as the EPA has existed, at the exact same fever pitch. That their predictions have proven unerringly wrong — air-quality regs have some of the best benefit-to-cost ratios of any government policies in modern history — has not shaken their convictions.
Conservatives started blaming the CPP for things before it was ever implemented. (It never was implemented, by the way — the Supreme Court put a stay on it last year, and now Pruitt is going to scrap it.) Right-wing think tanks dutifully produced studies showing that it would cost US consumers $200 billion extra by 2030.
Meanwhile, it looks like the US is going to hit the CPP target — 32 percent reductions from 2005 levels by 2030 — with no regulation at all. Here's where we are now:
And here, based on a new analysis from the Rhodium Group, is what lies ahead in the absence of the CPP (see chart here).
So, hitting a target we probably would have hit anyway ... would cost US consumers $200 billion? No.
A recent report from the Institute for Policy Integrity shows that the rapidly falling cost of renewable energy technologies (wind and solar, but not only wind and solar), coupled with the stubbornly low price of natural gas, mean that CPP compliance is likely to be cheaper than anyone projected.
Regardless, predictions of doom are conservatives' stock in trade. It looks like Pruitt is going to manhandle the rules of cost-benefit analysis to make the CPP look bad.
Remember, though, the EPA is obligated by the Supreme Court case to take carbon seriously, or at least to present a plausible facsimile.
So Trump administration officials have fitfully been highlighting reductions in US emissions. Rick Perry boasted about them to an energy conference (even while bashing the Obama policies that produced them). Scott Pruitt noted, in his speech on the occasion of Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, that "between the years 2000 and 2014, the United States reduced its carbon emissions by more than 18 percent and this was accomplished largely by American innovation and technology from the private sector rather than government mandate." He said, "We lead with action, not words."
This is, among other things (like, say, false), a promise that the Trumpian strategy of deregulatory unleashing of private energy development will continue these emission reductions.
And finally, the leaked EPA document says that the agency is considering "developing a rule similarly intended to reduce CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel electric utility generating units."
But empowering fossil fuels is not going to reduce emissions, and the "inside the fenceline" provisions the EPA is likely to recommend in its new carbon rule won't reduce emissions much either. Courts are likely to look skeptically on the EPA issuing a weak, toothless provision that will not reduce an air pollutant it has identified as a threat to public health.
We return to the central dilemma facing conservatives here: They are determined to protect coal, but there's no way to reduce emissions from the electricity sector without closing coal plants (or switching them to a different fuel).
No alternative rule can reduce carbon significantly while saving coal. The circle cannot be squared. So its lies and promises, lies and promises.