Baby Got Build-Back | Crooked Media
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July 28, 2022
Positively Dreadful
Baby Got Build-Back

In This Episode

Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer strike a deal on a big budget bill that would dedicate hundreds of billions of dollars to clean energy, giving Democrats much needed wind at their backs ahead of the midterms. The climate fight is a case study for how Democrats can harness political power, win back voters, and proactively redefine what it means to be a Democrat.







Brian Beutler:  Quick note to listeners before we begin. We recorded this conversation on Tuesday, July 26th. The next day, Joe Manchin, the senator from West Virginia, and Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, announced that they’d reached an agreement on a big budget bill, the Inflation Reduction Act that will, among other things, allocate hundreds of billions of dollars to clean energy projects and development. As you’ll hear, much of the conversation was premised on the widespread belief that Manchin had vetoed all of that proposed spending. And that’s the news business for you. But the bigger picture takeaways are all, I think, still pretty relevant. So we decided to put it out there anyhow. Kind of like an artifact frozen in amber. Please enjoy.


Brian Beutler: Hi and welcome to Positively Dreadful with me, your host, Brian Beutler. So as you know, this is a show about trying to grasp and hopefully overcome a variety of alarming social trends. And you can’t host a show on that theme without eventually wrestling with climate change. I think in a lot of ways climate is the trend for us to cover. The stakes are global and enormous. Addressing it in a serious way is just a harrowingly, complex political and technological challenge. And unlike a lot of the things we’ve already discussed or will discuss in the future, the climate crisis isn’t new. I’ve known about climate change since I was a child. I learned the geophysics of climate change as an undergraduate in college. Climate has been on the national agenda my entire professional life. I remember seeing An Inconvenient Truth in theaters. I remember when mainstream Republicans at least genuflected towards the idea that the federal government should institute policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I’ve covered all of the various ten year goals for keeping atmospheric carbon below 350 parts per million than 450. And I remember settling into the state of kind of permanent disquiet about climate change in about 2010, when the Democrats climate change agenda unraveled and the House Democrats went out on a limb to pass what we called the Waxman-Markey bill got wiped out in the midterms. So for the past decade plus now, climate has kind of bubbled up and bubbled down as a focal point of federal action even before Waxman-Markey. President Obama’s Recovery Act earmarks tens of billions of dollars for cleaner energy, and the payoff for that spending on a per dollar basis has been substantial. It’s just not nearly enough. Then, after Waxman-Markey failed, the Obama administration promulgated the Clean Power Plan, which would have set state level emission caps and then let states sort out how to meet them. But of course, right wing judges blocked that plan. And then Donald Trump just rescinded it. After Trump, though, Biden got elected with the trifecta and for a few months, Democrats talked about enacting a clean electricity plan, which would have used financial carrots and sticks to get utilities to switch to renewable sources of power. Then Joe Manchin killed that idea. But when he did, he promised to support a bunch of direct, clean energy spending instead. Then more recently, he reneged on that promise, too. And so now we’re in this liminal phase between wondering if maybe Senate Democrats can breathe some life back into their climate agenda, or if President Biden might have to take matters into his own hands and declare a climate emergency. So let me be the first to admit that in all of this, over these many years of ups and downs, I’ve grown pretty jaundiced about the climate issue. And by no coincidence, I’m also just less steeped in the ins and outs of the issue than I used to be. Way back when all that stuff was happening in the Obama era, I used to be able to cite chapter and verse about various carbon tax and cap and trade bills circulating in Congress and what the latest IPCC report said. And I just generally felt I was up to speed on current activists and scientific and political thought about where things stood on the issue. Today, I can’t even really begin to say how much good declaring a climate emergency would do or how it compares to the legislative ideas Joe Manchin killed, or how close any of those ideas would bring us to Biden’s long term emissions goals. But as luck would have, two of my colleagues, remain immersed in all of this stuff and I’m going to count on them to help bring me back up to speed. So please welcome the host of Crooked Media, his very own hot take, Mary Annaïse Heglar and Amy Westervelt. Thank you, guys, so much for joining me.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Hi.


Amy Westervelt: Hi.


Brian Beutler: Okay, so before we get to all the bullshit, [laugh] can one of you walk me through what Democrats were trying to do with the climate spending provisions of the sort of second Build Back Better bill that they’ve been trying to put together for the last year or so.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Is it the second or the third, Amy?


Amy Westervelt: Oh… [laughter]


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Amy’s like the, Amy’s the like real brain on this stuff. So.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah, the the sort of simplest way to put it is just that they figured that they couldn’t get any of the sticks passed.


Brian Beutler: Mm hmm.


Amy Westervelt: And so they were trying to unlock spending for increased manufacturing of solar heat pumps and wind offshore wind in particular. So honestly, I don’t I don’t really understand why that wouldn’t work for for Manchin. Except except that, you know, for all of the talk that the fossil fuel industry trots out about how it’s totally embracing a clean energy transition—


Brian Beutler: Yeah— [both speaking]


Amy Westervelt: —it is, in fact, not.


Brian Beutler: Yeah.


Amy Westervelt: So, yeah, I mean, it was really just like all incentives, no regulation. And yet still, which is what he said was, you know, what it would take to get him to get on board with climate policy, and yet he’s still saying no, although it’s this weird, like we can revisit it in September if inflation—


Brian Beutler: Right.


Amy Westervelt: —is down thing. So yeah, he likes to keep us guessing that Manchin. [laughter] Yeah, yeah, yeah.


Brian Beutler: So he pulled the rug out from under the spending.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Brian Beutler: But then, as you suggested, he kind of at least pretended that maybe if inflation isn’t so bad in July, then he might warm back up to it. Right.


Amy Westervelt: Again, like, I just want to make really clear to people that there was nothing in these proposals that would have made inflation worse—


Brian Beutler: The contrary, right?


Amy Westervelt: — or would have made gas prices worse or electricity prices worse. Yeah, in fact, it would. It’s the opposite.


Brian Beutler: Right.


Amy Westervelt: Like this spending would have actually made people’s electricity bills cheaper. It would have had zero impact on gas prices whatsoever. So the idea that he’s like, oh, no, we can’t because of inflation doesn’t make any sense at all. But yet, like, it’s kind of being just unquestioned in a lot of places. [laugh] So yeah, that’s bullshit.


Brian Beutler: Yeah, you’ve got to do some bootstrapping to even to even sort of begin to game out where we’re going from here. Right. You have to.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Brian Beutler: Just set aside the fact that that Manchin’s explanation of why he pulled the rug out from under all this spending—


Amy Westervelt: Mm hmm.


Brian Beutler: —doesn’t make any sense. And if you just assume that he just doesn’t get it and really will change his mind if the inflation numbers come out better in July than in June, then you have to wonder, okay, like maybe it makes sense to wait him out a little bit.


Amy Westervelt: Mm hmm.


Brian Beutler: But then President Biden basically seemed to say, all right, I’m done with this guy. Let’s just move ahead without letting him waste more of our time and pass the basically the health care centered provisions of what’s left of Build Back Better on their own and and and stop playing around. I mean, am I right to think that those spending provisions are really dead for this Congress with Biden now saying, I don’t want to I don’t want to negotiate with this guy anymore, I don’t think Chuck Schumer should negotiate with him anymore?


Amy Westervelt: Yeah. I mean, I think they’re dead from a from a policy perspective. I think that’s why you’re starting to see more and more of this climate emergency talk bubbling up, because there’s some slim chance that we could recover some of that funding via the declaration of a climate emergency, which would unlock the Defense Production Act budget, but also potentially tap into some federal procurement budget stuff. So. So, yeah, but I mean, I think it’s important for people to remember that when Build Back Better first came about, it was $555 billion worth of climate spending. [laugh] And now, like even this most recent proposal, it’s like so big that no one thought that was enough. This most recent proposal is way less than that. And then now, you know, we’re down to Biden announcing, you know, a few billion dollars for a couple of specific programs this week, I think on Wednesday or last week. So, you know, I think. As far as like passing big climate policy or big, you know, spending proposals? Yeah, I think it’s dead. I think it’s been dead for a while.


Brian Beutler: Yeah. I mean, there was I don’t know how many there were a few dozen Senate staffers, I think, who were parking—


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Brian Beutler: —themselves outside of Chuck Schumer’s office saying, you know, continue negotiating, don’t put a bill on the floor that basically uses up our authority under the Budget Act to pass a bill without a filibuster, without giving like the climate provisions of that bill one more chance. And, you know, I, I strongly sympathize with with those staffers, but I was also what I thought when I saw them doing that is if the members that they worked for thought that Chuck Schumer had made some miscalculation and that there was still a chance of of getting Biden on board for a few hundred billion dollars in climate spending, then they could really put the brakes on all of this. Right. Like they could say, you’re screwing this up. We need to give you guys two more weeks to come to a deal on this. And the fact that their members, the actual senators that these staffers worked for don’t see it that way. Makes me think that, you know, Chuck Schumer’s probably right that he’s wasted over a year trying to get Joe Manchin, pin Joe Manchin down on anything that he, you know, can trust him to support. And he’s right to conclude that that means that Joe Manchin was never really there for any any substantial amount of climate mitigation.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. I mean, I think all signs point to Joe Manchin is not that into climate policy [laughter] or I mean, he is into climate policy that favors the fossil fuel industry, which is a choice.


Brian Beutler: Mm hmm.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: You know, like that’s not not a climate policy that is pouring fuel on the fire. He has the option to either do that or not, and he continuously chooses to to do it. So I don’t know. I don’t get him. [laughter]


Brian Beutler: Neither do I. Neither do I. But so the backup plan given Joe Manchin is for is for President Biden to declare climate a national emergency. If you if you take a maximal view of his legitimate powers, what would that unlock? Like what could be policy under national emergency? That isn’t policy now.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah, I think it kind of gets divided into two areas. One would enable him to do more to shut down fossil fuel production. The other would enable him to do more to fund clean energy.


Brian Beutler: Mm hmm.


Amy Westervelt: Right. So and personally, I think just sort of reading the tea leaves that like of these powers that he could unlock by declaring a climate emergency, I don’t get the sense that there’s a lot of appetite for engaging with the ones that shut down fossil fuel production. [laugh] I think it’s going to be all spent. You know, it’s going to be the Defense Production Act, which that’s only $544 million. But agencies can kick in money towards that, so that budget could grow. Like if the EPA says we want to add some of our budget into this. Right. Private sector can partner with the government on DPA stuff. So like if there are tech companies that want to, you know, throw in with the government on spurring more solar, for example, that’s something that could happen. There’s also, you know, the federal procurement budget, which could swing more towards clean energy. I also think I just there was a report from the Center for Biological Diversity that pointed out that he could use the Stafford Act to to basically, like, force FEMA to look at like building resiliency when they’re dealing with kind of post-disaster relief stuff. So right now, the way it’s set up, FEMA has to build things back the way they were.


Brian Beutler: Mm hmm.


Amy Westervelt: Right. Which which in many cases was problematic or is, you know, reliant on fossil fuels itself. So kind of exacerbates the problem in this way. So there’s there’s potential there as well on the ban side, like he could reinstate the crude oil export ban. He could reinstate the ban on on federal leasing for oil and gas drilling. He could ban offshore drilling. Those are all things that could happen. He could also, you know, he could restrict international trade and private investment in fossil fuels. So, you know, the United States invests in fossil fuel development outside of the U.S. as well. That’s something that he could put a stop to. But I think that those are the things that are probably the least likely, not just because U.S. oil companies don’t like them, but because of everything that’s happening with Russia, Ukraine and gas prices right now.


Brian Beutler: Yeah.


Amy Westervelt: It’s just it’s not going to be. I just don’t see the appetite for that.


Brian Beutler: Yeah. Well, so I’m wondering, do we think he should do it, like appetite or not? Like.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah!


Brian Beutler: Setting aside the production stuff that you said, there’s the anti extraction provisions. Like I don’t want to, I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a pill, but we, we just lived through this month long national nationwide media freak out about the price of gas going up a couple bucks a gallon. And it doesn’t leave me with the sense that if Biden instituted those policies under national emergency and then gas prices bounced back up, that it would last or that everything would work out okay beyond, you know, a couple of months before they cried uncle and undid them all.


Amy Westervelt: All right. Right. Yeah. I mean, well, there’s two problems there, right? One is that the media absolutely shit the bed [laughter] on handling gas prices and like being able just like being knowledgeable enough about how gas pricing works—


Amy Westervelt: Mm hmm.


Brian Beutler: —to push back on, you know, the API was right out there day one even like actually before Russia invaded Ukraine, the American Petroleum Institute and their talking heads were making the rounds of of the cable news shows because gas prices were already starting to to go up just with like the general saber-rattling in Russia. So the media absolutely ceded that talking point. And the idea that, like what Biden was, that, you know, somehow Biden’s climate policies were to blame for it, increased gas prices that just kept getting repeated over and over—


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Brian Beutler: —again. Without question, it was not true in any anyway. I was honestly like my feeling at that point was like, I wish it was Biden’s climate policies that were doing this. [laughter] So in some ways I’m like, Well, fuck it. If he’s going to get blamed for climate policy driving up gas prices, fucking institute climate policy that drives like gas prices, man, go for it.


Brian Beutler: It’s like when, it’s like when Texas, you know, having having opted out of being part of, you know, multi-state grid, you know. Had one freak snowstorm and it destroyed, you know—


Amy Westervelt: Yes!


Brian Beutler: —power across. And then they were like, this is the Green New Deal fault, right? [both speaking] Like like they they just have no shame about it. So, you know, they’re going to say whatever and you can at least count on the media to. Pretend to take it seriously as like a partial explanation. So that’s like. Yeah, I, I generally think that being scared of how Republicans at least are going to frame what you do as a policy matter is becoming less and less and less of a of a valid concern because they’re just going to say what they want anyway. What do you think, Mary? She should he should he just do a kitchen sink thing if he declares a national emergency and ban as much extraction is as he can or?


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yes, I know that that might seem really extreme. If you look at what happened with, you know, what you guys were just saying about the gas prices. But if you look at the actual climate math—


Brian Beutler: Mm hmm.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: —doing anything else is immoral. It is insane.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: And I think we’ve passed the point of having a painless transition. The best we can hope for is a just transition. And, you know, just changes with the context, I suppose, because there’s no way to do this with no suffering. There isn’t.


Amy Westervelt: Right.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: And there’s already so much suffering from climate change. And if this is what we’re feeling today, you know, we’re not suffering today for the emissions that went out last year. That’s still to come. [laugh] So it’s just I don’t understand how you can look at the at the numbers in front of us, at the projections in front of us. And even the reality that we’re living right now, we’re effectively on a different planet than the one I was born with. Born on.


Brian Beutler: Mm hmm.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: So I don’t see where the choice is here. Yes, it’s going to hurt. And I just I want us to you know, I watched Biden’s speech last week and he talked about this is the biggest ever investment in wind energy. This is the biggest ever and this is the biggest ever in that. And while that might be true, the bar is really low when it comes to climate politics—


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: And the stakes are super, super high. They’re higher than anything I think has ever happened in human history. So just because you spent more than any other president is not exactly something to gloat about, is more like something to indict the previous presidents. So. Yes. [laugh]


Amy Westervelt: Yeah. I think, um, I think what’s important for people to get about this is that like there’s, there’s a really key way in which climate is different from every other political issue. And that is that if we fuck it up, we can’t get it back. Like if you fuck up health care, you can fix it in ten years. You can, you know, if you fuck up monetary policy and inflation goes haywire and the economy tanks for a while, like like we already know because we’ve seen it through our history that that can that can bounce back. There’s different, you know, like different policy in the next administration can change it. We don’t have that luxury on climate. It’s just it’s just very, very different from every other political issue. And that’s why it’s so fresh. And we talk about this all the time. Like, it’s so frustrating when people talk about climate the same, like as this political football issue, the same way that they do with so many other issues. It’s like, yeah, but it, it’s not the same thing. Like the, [laugh] well, like our policies don’t actually change how the whole thing happens. Right?


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah.


Amy Westervelt: We don’t actually have that much control like it’s happening and we’re treating it like, you know, somehow we have the ability to, to determine whether a hurricane is intense or not. You know what I mean? And it’s just it’s just not it’s not that. So yeah. So, yeah, I agree with Mary. I think he absolutely should do. And I am even on the political side, it’s like, look, he’s going to get blamed for whatever no matter what anyway, so why not do the right thing?


Mary Annaïse Heglar: I mean, girl, they’re blaming the Green New Deal for what happened in Sri Lanka. [laughter]


Brian Beutler: I missed that. I missed that. I really have to say. Yeah, no. How how is the Green New Deal to blame for what’s happening in Sri Lanka?


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Magic. [laughter]


Brian Beutler: I mean, rather than just climate change.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: But no magic, really.


Brian Beutler: They don’t even bother to try to try to even find a kernel of—


Mary Annaïse Heglar: His argument is that you know people got upset because there were Green New Deal like policies implemented in Sri Lanka and the people revolted. And that’s what will happen if we—


Brian Beutler: Who said this?


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Tucker Carlson.


Brian Beutler: Oh, my God.


Amy Westervelt: Oh, God.


Brian Beutler: Mary. I am stupider for knowing that. I think. [laughter]


Mary Annaïse Heglar: That. Me too. We all are. Yeah. So go back to where Amy was saying earlier. I think that, you know, when we think about all of these other other issues, they’re all based on these manmade systems like economics, even, you know, white supremacy or like our politics. All of those things are manmade concepts, whereas the ecosystems of the planet weren’t not manmade. [laughter] You brake those, there’s no way to fix that, right? Like, every like with climate change, the more you let it run out of control, the more you are ensuring suffering in the future. Not just today. So, like, you do something now that causes suffering today. You can end that suffering tomorrow. With climate change. That’s not quite the case. At the same time, though, I want to be very, very clear for anyone listening that if you are hearing this and you’re thinking like all is lost and there’s no point in doing anything, I have great news for you. That day is never coming in your lifetime. There’s never going to be a day in which there is nothing you can do.


Amy Westervelt: Thats right.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: So don’t don’t even worry about that.


Brian Beutler: I actually want to get into that closer to the end. Like, for a long time, I think the climate issue got portrayed as one where. Past a certain point, you’re just fucked. And so there’s no point—


Amy Westervelt: Mm hmm.


Brian Beutler: —in even trying anymore. And I think that that was almost just like an accident of rhetoric that people didn’t even think through going back 15 or 20 years. Yeah, but, but that, you know, as, A, as like our emissions curve has changed and, B, as we’ve kind of got our heads around what the future is going to look like, every negative increment of greenhouse gas that doesn’t go into the atmosphere is a slightly less hopeless future. And so you just want to try to pile those up, right?


Amy Westervelt: Yeah. Every like percentage of a degree matters, you know, like people like I saw a lot of people kind of being like, oh, one point five is dead, so let’s just try for two. And I’m like, Oh, easy. Pump the brakes, man. There’s like a whole half a degree in there that doesn’t necessarily need to be, you know what I mean? Like, it’s like, actually, like, point one of a degree is, is a very meaningful savings where warming is concerned. So like. So yeah, I think it’s important that people understand that there’s there is that yeah. Like Mary said, in our lifetimes there will always be something that we can do to make it, like, at least slightly less bad.


Brian Beutler: So let’s put a pin in that for a second. I think as I was prepping for this conversation, I talked myself into agreeing with you guys that Biden should just put everything into the climate emergency and and throw it at the wall and see what sticks. But my my initial inclination was based on back when Congress would debate cap and trade and carbon tax policies, the idea was always to pair a reduction in emissions with new money coming into the government. Right? No carbon tax revenue or revenue from the from the sale and and purchase of emissions permits under under a cap in cap and trade system. Right. Bring that money into the government and then spend it in a progressive way on people whose energy costs were going to go up. So that on, you know, on net, most people would be better off financially. When you’re when you’re talking about just basically saying, no, this is going to stay in the ground and prices are going to rise. And that’s the policy. You don’t get the the back half of the equation where you remit some of that money back to back to poor people, basically. And so my my initial thought was, this is just going to make. People who are most affected by climate change also most affected by the financial costs of addressing it.


Amy Westervelt: Mm hmm.


Brian Beutler: And I still have that concern. So I’m wondering what you guys think about that aspect of of the sort of declare climate emergency plan.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah. Well, I think, A, it can’t happen in isolation. I don’t think there’s there’s no reason that, you know, in fact, I think even in the announcement that Biden made last week, he included some money for people to offset the cost of electricity. Right. I, I see no reason why that can’t be included. Also, the the Stafford Act spending is like that would actually be very, very targeted to climate vulnerable communities. So very much like climate justice communities that are struggling to deal with disasters. So it would be helping helping to helping people to build the kind of resilience that makes the impact of those extreme weather events less severe. So that’s like, you know, insulating people’s houses better or helping to rebuild in places where they’re not as impacted by extreme weather events, improving access to clean water, improving access to electricity, like a lot of things that would actually help people on on the whole. So yeah, I think there’s a couple of there’s those two things. But I also like, I also feel like, you know. 100% I think in order to work there, it needs to be a just transition and we need to be thinking about, you know, holistically how this impacts people. I think that the government needs to be thinking about that across the board, you know what I mean? It’s like, okay, well, like we have a bunch of of other types of policies that also don’t give a shit about poor people [laugh] or labor or working class families or you know what I mean? And it’s like, all right, yeah, let’s talk about this, but let’s talk about it like across the government, not just as something that comes up whenever you try to do climate policy, you know what I mean, like.


Brian Beutler: I guess, you know, as if the background condition for for this for the dilemma we’re talking about was that Democrats had had charged through the gate after taking over last January and had raised the minimum wage and had made the child tax credit permanent—


Amy Westervelt: Right, right.


Brian Beutler: —and had lowered prescription drugs and all this, you know, basically downward redistribution of money. So so poor and working class people were just doing a lot better than they had been.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Brian Beutler: And then you say, okay, look, like we can’t get mansions, vote for the the better way to do this. So we’re just going to sort of do it in this command and control way and and we’re going to say no more drilling. And, you know, we don’t know what the effect on prices is going to be, but they’re going to. But we you know, overall, your picture is better because of the other things we did, like I that would it would feel more justified to me. But so much of the agenda just fell by the wayside. And then there was this, you know, in addition to the gas price freak out, you had the generalized inflation freak out.


Amy Westervelt: Mm hmm.


Brian Beutler: And, you know, so the thought of Biden just announcing this, it goes into effect.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Brian Beutler: Prices start to go up and there’s no safety net.


Amy Westervelt: Well, it makes me think, though, like, I wonder if, you know, I do wonder if as part of declaring a climate emergency and I don’t know the answer to this, I’m kind of throwing it out to you guys, do you think? But as part of it, could he not also, you know, like create the same kinds of of payments that were created to help families during COVID?


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Hmm.


Amy Westervelt: Like, if it’s an emergency, it’s an emergency. Right. Why couldn’t there be some kind of, you know, relief payments to to to families? Which also actually brings me to another thing that I think has been woefully kind of ignored in all these conversations, which is the ability that the Fed has already to do a whole bunch of things that would help on climate, not not necessarily like handing out money to families, although maybe [laughter] but like, you know, they could, they could like stop giving loans to banks that invest in fossil fuel projects, for example, you know, [laugh] or like there’s I don’t know, I just I feel like there are ways that the that the Fed could help that are both sort of like untouchable by the Supreme Court and that, you know, Congress might squawk about, but they can’t really do anything because they’ve already designated a bunch of powers to the Fed. So anyway, just just something to think about on the monetary policy.


Brian Beutler: Yeah. I mean, I honestly I honestly don’t know what like what the law says about what a what a national emergency allows the president to do or not do.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Brian Beutler: With with money. I mean, like, you know, most of the money that went out in the COVID emergency was was appropriated by Congress—


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Brian Beutler: —and it was trillions of dollars. And so there was no question about about Trump’s and then Biden’s authority to spend that money. You know, as long as there’s some colorable legal authority to pair anti extraction policies with money for people like I would say it should go in there.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Brian Beutler: And this is sort of how I ended up talking myself into the idea that this should be the farthest reaching national emergency. He he has a good faith reason to believe is legal. Right.


Amy Westervelt: Right.


Brian Beutler: Like, I think here’s here’s where I landed. My very strong suspicion is that no matter what Biden does, Republicans are going to go find a federal judge in Texas—


Amy Westervelt: Of course.


Brian Beutler: —to issue and that judge is going to issue a nationwide injunction against the emergency. And then that’s probably going to go to the Supreme Court. And we should expect that in next year or the year after the Supreme Court will, on a five, four, six, three basis, make up some reason to say that the emergency declaration is invalid. Right. And if that’s where we’re headed, inevitably, then I think it just makes sense. What I would like to see is for Biden to do the kitchen sink approach, but that when he and then when he announces it, he should get out ahead of the judges and just say, look, we’re we’re going to try this and we’re going to try that. But we expect Republicans to find a judge who’s going to who’s going to stop us, kind of like. How he, you know, in the lead up to the invasion of Ukraine, he would go on TV and talk about what the Russian military was up to is sort of a way to get ahead of them and, you know, make sure everyone knew all of their pretexts for the war were bullshit. That he could he could do a version of that for the inevitable federal judicial ruling that his climate change emergency can’t be implemented.


Amy Westervelt: Right.


Brian Beutler: And that that could then be part of like bringing the whole Democratic Party along into a, you know, a more frontal political fight against the court. You know, just in general.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Brian Beutler: And, you know, if if I thought Biden really had the stomach for that kind of frontal politics against the judiciary, then I would think just put every put everything in the in the emergency and see what happens, since I don’t think he is likely to be that pugilistic.


Amy Westervelt: He’s no LBJ. Let’s just put it that way. [laugh]


Brian Beutler: Yeah, right. Yeah. Like, you know. Yeah. He’s not going to threaten to pack the courts over this probably. Then I think that there’s a case for him just putting into the package, you know, as many popular ideas as he can come up with and then, you know, run on enacting the stuff that Manchin killed. If Democrats can keep their majorities in 2023, that’s since since that’s I think the the landscape that we actually inhabit and that we’re kind of talking about what’s very likely a dead letter anyway.


Amy Westervelt: Mm hmm.


Brian Beutler: You know, I think that the harm in putting things in the climate emergency that that might be regressive in impact or the risk at least is diminished because most likely this is just going to end up being a fight with the courts and a fight over the midterms. Right.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, two things. I really hope he does not run again. [laughter] And so I just I really wish that the party that claims to believe in science, what act like they believed in science and that the democratic climate policy was dominated more by the IPCC than the Republican Party. [laughter] It drives me insane that they’re like, we can’t do X because, well, the science says if you don’t do it, you’re gonna die, girl. It will kill all of us. So, yeah, fuck them. Do what needs to be done.




Brian Beutler: A little birdie told me that you guys want to talk about the sort of Biden will he or should he run for reelection in 2024 thing.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: He shouldn’t.


Brian Beutler: Okay. [laughter] So I’m curious what both of your thoughts are on that and what and what the implications of his decision to run or not run would have on the climate fight?


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Okay. So as a Black woman from the South, I was definitely raised to respect my elders. [laughter] So I want to stay very far. Well, no, seriously, I want to stay very far away from ageism. I think that our elders are often pushed out of society when they still have so much to contribute and don’t get the respect that they deserve. So I want to be very clear with what I say about that. However, Joe Biden has not met this moment regardless of his age. He has not lived up to the stakes of this crisis and appears to be governing as though it is the 1980s or the 1990s when we still had time to wait on a lot of these crises from democracy to the climate crisis. And he’s not shown the fight for this.


Brian Beutler: Right.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: He’s not shown the stomach for this. So I and also the deal when we elected him, as I remember saying, you guys can tell me if I’m not remembering this. Right, was that he was the elder statesman. And he had he knew how the Senate worked because he’d been in government for so long. You know, he he knew how to do the job and he knew how to pull the switches that we needed to pull for these dire crises. I also kind of swore remembered it being pretty clear that he was not meant to run again.


Amy Westervelt: Thats right.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: And so if right, so if he told us and I definitely got the message that he was not going to run again, progressives are at this point where it’s like, I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do.


Amy Westervelt: Mm hmm.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: So if he’s he I feel let down on climate action. I feel let down on student debt. I feel let down on so many things. And so if he’s still going to let me down and like go back on his word about whether or not to run is like, I don’t know how well people are going to trust this.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah. What I would love to see happen and you know, I’m probably high right now. I’m not. I’m not, I swear. [laughter] But what I would love to see happen is Biden sort of gracefully stepped down and threw his weight behind someone who is up to the task, like you can’t fight fascism and climate disaster if you are if you think fighting is uncouth. [laughter]


Mary Annaïse Heglar: You know. [overlapping chatter]


Amy Westervelt: Its rude. I’m like, we need someone who is not afraid of being perceived as, you know, rude or bullying or whatever. Like, this is the time to be a fucking asshole. Be an asshole for the for the world. [laughter] And, and and Joe just is not that guy. He’s not that guy.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: He’s decent.


Amy Westervelt: Yes.


Brian Beutler: I recall the one term stuff being sort of like an anonymous trial balloon from out of his campaign.


Amy Westervelt: Oh, really? [laughter]


Brian Beutler: Yeah. He never he never, like, promised like he did promise the student loan thing. And, like, you know, a promise is a promise. And I think if he doesn’t follow through, it’s like he’s whatever political problems he thinks. Forgiving student debt is going to cause him. Like breaking a campaign promise is really bad politics. So that’s actually sort of why I think he’s going to do something on it just because, like, it’s really hard to make a clear promise and then just whiff on and it—


Amy Westervelt: And not do it, yeah.


Brian Beutler: I agree with you guys about, you know, the importance of how confrontational the leader of a party is willing to be with the other party and with corporate interests and the courts and everything else. Right. Back in 2019, I wrote two or three or four pieces when Joe Biden got into the primary about how his theory of governing just couldn’t work in an era where Republicans have become this sort of rule or ruin party.


Amy Westervelt: Right.


Brian Beutler: And that and the Democrats needed to begin and they probably should have begun years ago, but then at at the latest should have begun reorganizing the whole party around sort of like what it means to be a Democrat—


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Brian Beutler: —that essentially like whatever your the partisan lean of your state, the fact that you need to get some Republican voters to win, etc., etc., like we have to become comfortable with the idea of governing in a partisan way because Republicans are not going to be partners in solving problems while we’re in charge. Right?


Amy Westervelt: Right.


Brian Beutler: They’re going to want this process to get worse and we can’t deal with that. That’s not a good faith partner. Right. And I still think all that’s true. But, you know, I think you also have to hold that up against the ideal worst plausible case, which is Republicans taking back over the government when they’re in this fascist—


Amy Westervelt: Mood. [laugh]


Brian Beutler: Yeah. Fascist mood. Right. So, like, if Biden had some health related issue where he, like, just couldn’t run. You know, then I think that that that is a is a way for him to to step aside without. Sort of clearing the path for Republicans to just waltz in and take power again. But if but if but if if. He essentially says, well, I blew it. I had I had my shot and I failed. And so I’m not even going to bother to run for reelection again. And and, you know, some new generation Democrat should get the nomination instead of me.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Who’s going to question an 80 year old man about why he’s not running for the most stressful job on the planet? Who’s going to ask that question? [laugh]


Brian Beutler: I mean. Well, you know, this is the the same media that blamed him for the gas prices. Right. And obviously, like Republicans aren’t going to be generous and say, oh, he’s just retiring because he’s he’s too old.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: They’re going to say what have or even if he does say, I got a health problem. They’re going to say whatever.


Brian Beutler: But I do think it matters that like the terms under which he would abscond.


Amy Westervelt: Mm hmm.


Brian Beutler: Right. Like if he’s going to if he’s going to if he’s going to absent himself from politics, and he does it in a way that’s essentially admitting that.


Amy Westervelt: That he made a mess doing not going to clean up.


Brian Beutler: Yeah. And he doesn’t know how and like and like this whole generation of Democratic leaders doesn’t know what they’re doing. Like, they don’t know how to govern in a world where Republicans won’t allow them to.


Amy Westervelt: Mm hmm.


Brian Beutler: Like that’s just going to get framed. And not just by Republicans is like, why would you want four more years of leadership that even Democrats now admit has failed?


Amy Westervelt: Right. Right.


Brian Beutler: And like, you know, even if he does do that, you have to put every egg in the basket of the person coming up behind him is going to be much better. And I. I don’t think that’s clear at all. Right? Like, there’s no nominee in waiting who will fundamentally remake the party. And the people who were sort of runners up in the last primary, I don’t think had much better ideas about how to how to succeed in governing under these circumstances. So I think, like where I come down and I only really thought about how I would answer this question because I, I got wind that you guys wanted to talk about it. [laugh] And I think it’s a it’s like an important topic and like Democrats really need to think about it. I absolutely think Democrats can if you know, whether they keep either House or the Senate or not, they can they can get new congressional leadership. Right. Like these are all these are all politicians of the same generation. And I think it’s no coincidence that they all approach politics in this fundamentally similar way. Those like those leaders can be replaced without without it, like overturning the game board in some way. And then, you know, the the rest of it is just sort of like. More and more pressure, even by just talking about the idea that he should resign [laugh] or not run for reelection in the hope that he can be chastened and then stop proceeding as if the answer to rising fascism and extremism in the GOP is to just be as grandfatherly as possible all the time. Right.


Amy Westervelt: Right. [laugh]


Brian Beutler: Like, I know that’s not—


Amy Westervelt: That’s maybe a nice lunch. A nice lunch. [laughter]


Brian Beutler: I know that’s, like, quite as satisfying as, like, throw the bums out and and and like, let’s let’s replace the Democratic leadership with people who really get it like and hope that the, you know, the four years of the actual Biden presidency didn’t make it impossible for them to win. But I think that if you if you do something quite as momentous as like a four year president just chooses not to run again like it. There aren’t that many examples of it in history. And like the one I can think of off the top of my head sitting here is LBJ and you know.


Amy Westervelt: Right.


Brian Beutler: That gave us Nixon and it wasn’t awesome.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Didn’t Carter do the same?


Brian Beutler: Carter lost. Yeah, Carter lost. And George H.W. Bush lost. And in both cases, you know, the other party stood to gain a lot.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: So you think that Biden is the best bet for the Democrats to win the next election cycle?


Brian Beutler: I mean, I think that there are circumstances under which a different nominee could emerge that would not be terrible and like it couldn’t, but it couldn’t be that Biden is like, I’m super unpopular and I don’t really know what to do from here and I’m old. And so I’m going to step aside. I think if if it happens that way—


Mary Annaïse Heglar: But what if he said it was always the plan, you know, because like what politicians say in public and what is like the actual reason they’re stepping down are not always the same thing.


Brian Beutler: I don’t I mean, I don’t know, like I don’t think it was the plan and I don’t think people are going to credit him on that. Like, you know, he he is gearing up to run again, I think. And I you know, I think that. Almost under almost any imaginable circumstance where he makes the announcement that he won’t be the candidate in 2024. It’s going to be under a set of circumstances that makes it pretty clear to everyone that he’s throwing in the towel, and that would be really bad. I mean, like whoever got the nomination after that might be a super inspiring leader, but they would be running in an environment of basically acknowledged failure from their own party. And they would have to be like they would have to make such a such a pristine case for like, look, give us another look, because we’re under new management. And, you know, that’s a huge gamble to take. Like, I’d be scared. I’d be real scared.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. I guess there’s just not I don’t know. I feel like there are so many institutional blocks to to fixing this crisis from a government perspective right now, not just the climate crisis, but I think also, you know, these this like layer cake of crises with, you know, sort of the the crisis of democracy, the inflation, but also like, you know, kind of rising wealth inequality across the board and just all of it. I feel like it’s yeah, the, the kind of being at the the part where the, the long standing judicial strategy starts to really kick in is not great. [laughter] So, so yeah. I just I think in general, no matter what happens with Biden, I feel like Democrats need to really, like, wake up and realize that they’re they’re operating in a very different world. Not because. Because you’re right. It’s not just Biden. I mean, I think Pelosi, Schumer, they all are in a frickin time warp.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah.


Amy Westervelt: You know, so, yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: A lot of young voters would be re-energized by a new candidate who actually spoke their language. I find it very difficult to see Biden pulling young voters again, and that was a huge contingency to help to get him elected or climate voters like.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: I find it hard to see them coming back out again, which is why I find his candidacy in 2024 to be a difficult pill to swallow and like, excuse me, a lot more than a newcomer coming out and being like, actually, we didn’t live up to our promises. So here’s what I’m going to do differently. I think there’s a lot of disaffected people who didn’t vote for Biden in the first place, who probably who are too far to the left to have voted for Biden in the first place. And then there are people who, like, really sucked it up to vote for him and are now just, like, completely disaffected and feeling like, well. Why did I even do this? You know.


Amy Westervelt: Mm hmm.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: So those are the people he needs to get back.


Brian Beutler: It’s clear as can be in the in the polling data that Biden is suffering these sort of historically low favorability numbers, low approval numbers, because the youth turned on him. Right. Like.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Brian Beutler: Everyone in in politics will be like its gas prices, it’s this it’s that, and. But if you look at the numbers like it’s young people, they went from being his strongest constituency to he’s underwater with them.


Amy Westervelt: Like, yeah, because. Because they didn’t turn on him. He failed them. [laughter]


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yes, that’s right.


Brian Beutler: If you just look at the raw numbers, I don’t think that this is actually like the case. You know, it doesn’t capture people’s true hearts. But he’s doing worse with young voters than Trump was at this point in his presidency and you know that. I think that there’s a lot of reasons for that, many of which we’ve already talked about. But but it’s it’s so clear in the data that I do think that it’s possible, even likely, that at some point the people around him are going to be like. Getting your numbers back up is really. Like the quickest way to do it is to go from being like negative 50 with young people to just being like negative 20 or something like that, [laughter] which is not like it’s like aiming super low, but it would bouy his overall approval approval ratings a lot and like the picture for him would look rosier. You know, to do that, he would have to deliver in in a certain way.


Amy Westervelt: Mm hmm.


Brian Beutler: So it would make young people feel better about what they’d done. And you could imagine a sort of sort of positive feedback loop where the sort of policy picture and the governing picture just starts to look better and and thus the like, you know, political outlook doesn’t seem so bleak. I don’t think that that’s outside the realm of possibility.


Amy Westervelt: Mm hmm.


Brian Beutler: And, you know, in a way, I think that it kind of has to happen or, you know, we’re just in in a terrible spot because like the you know, if you think about all this stuff is like a windows closing, but it’s still not quite closed.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Brian Beutler: You know, Democrats have to have to do something on climate either legislatively or or Biden’s got to do the emergency on climate before the midterms and then they’ve got to you know. Do better than we all expect them to do during the midterms and then take another crack at it. And like, I know that doesn’t sound likely. Like, it almost sounds maybe like delusionally unlikely, but it’s not like I don’t think, like, crazy out of the question. And as long as that. Like, you know, sliver of hope still exists. And I think it’s something that Democrats and like, you know, young people feeling fatalistic about the climate should run towards because the alternative is much worse.


Amy Westervelt: Totally. I honestly think Democrats should absolutely hammer on the fact that given the judicial situation, the only short term option is to grow power in the in the federal government. That’s the only thing that is going to work in the short term to actually get any of these things done, unfortunately. Right. Like, that’s the reality that we’re living in right now. And and I think that I really think Democrats should, A, yeah. Do something that shows that they’re going to actually like follow through on all of these things they talk about and, B, hammer home that like. You know, the only fix is right now the only short term fix and we are on a limited timeline is to get more Democrats into office and expand control of the federal government.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: More actual Democrats who actually believe in climate change.


Amy Westervelt: Exactly.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Because there’s no way in the world Joe Manchin believes in climate change and is acting like this.


Amy Westervelt: Nope.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: This is like, no, you don’t know what’s coming or you don’t believe what’s coming.


Amy Westervelt: No. Because how easy would it be for him to just say yes to a fucking spending only bill? Like, that’s insane. That’s that is like, it’s so beyond the realm of even smart politics that it’s like—


Brian Beutler: He lives on a yacht. He’s just like, the water’s going to rise—


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, yachts are on water. [laughter]


Brian Beutler: Yeah. More. More. That’s like more terrain—


Amy Westervelt: More real estate for him. [laughter]


Mary Annaïse Heglar: No, no, seriously.


Amy Westervelt: Im kidding.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: I don’t get it. Like, how does he. There’s no way in the world to understand even the very basics about climate change and behave the way that he’s behaving. Its just not possible—


Amy Westervelt: I  think he must not think that it’s, like, so far out and that there will be some magical technology fix. And that—


Mary Annaïse Heglar: If you think that—


Amy Westervelt: —impacts have been overstated and you know.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: If you think that you are not fit to govern like that is that is absurd at this point. But the other thing I was thinking about what you were saying about Joe Biden potentially getting his his numbers back up is. So one of the things that is perpetually frustrating about him when it comes to climate change is that his words don’t match his actions. We’ve already talked about that. But I would also like to mention that I don’t think even his rhetoric rises to the moment.


Amy Westervelt: Hmm.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: So this is a president who often gets credit for, you know, being very comforting to people when they are in distress. But when it comes to climate change, he’s incredibly dismissive.


Amy Westervelt: Mm hmm.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Whenever asked about his climate bona fides when he was on the campaign trail, he was extremely dismissive about any questions about what he was or was not doing on climate change. And I think, you know, especially young voters fighting for climate action, they are in extreme distress. They’re watching their future light up in flames in front of them. And the whole world saying, sucks to you, you kid like that is terrible.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: So I was I listened to his speech last week and he said what a lot of the are. You know, previous generations of Democrats have said, when I think of climate change, I think of jobs. What I want him to think of is suffering. This is not an economic opportunity and climate change is not a chance to boost capitalism. Capitalism costs climate change. They’re going at the wrong way. And also that is extremely dismissive of all the people who have died from climate disasters, all the people who have had their livelihoods uprooted had to leave their homes. So much suffering that is happening in this world. For you to say that this is about jobs.


Brian Beutler: Yeah. As long as I’ve followed this issue. Right. Democrats have been looking for some sort of like normcore way to talk about climate that won’t offend the sensibilities of, you know, the hypothetical median voter. Right. So it’s jobs or it’s national security. Yeah. And like, honestly, you know, that’s what politicians have to do, right? They have to go sell their policies. But I, I do think that it’s interesting to imagine what Joe Biden’s, how young people would think of Joe Biden if, in addition to directing, you know, whatever rhetorical power he has towards the median voter and their concerns about jobs or national security or whatever else he spent some time talking about. Like just like I understand why young people are in a state of like great distress about what the world they’re going to inherit is going to look like.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Brian Beutler: And, you know, like and made it clear to them that even though he’s nearing the end of his life, he’s not giving short shrift to the world he’s going to leave behind. If if even just it’s like sounding that note would help persuade people that he was doing all he knew how to do or all that was in his power to do well.


Amy Westervelt: And that he’s that he actually genuinely takes it seriously like the the right the jobs and sort of market based solutions rhetoric is honestly, it’s it’s a fossil fuel framing of the problem. [laugh] I think it it literally comes from the fossil fuel industry. So like while I get that the median voter might not understand that, I think it’s also sort of incumbent upon politicians as leaders to educate people—


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Exactly.


Amy Westervelt: —and not just pander to, you know, like to this framework that is it’s not real like. [laugh]


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Exactly. [both speaking]


Amy Westervelt:  Like the reality. Is? Well, actually, I don’t know. They’re kind of doing it on monkeypox right now. Right? [laugh] I mean, the reality is like there is a fucking crisis headed your way. It is already like it’s already impacting people and pretending that that’s not the case, doesn’t, it doesn’t actually change it and it doesn’t. I also just feel like, you know, voters can tell when they’re just being messaged to and, you know. [laugh]


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Like voters are smart, actually, they’re just busy.


Amy Westervelt: I don’t think anyone believes that climate policy is actually about creating fucking solar manufacturing jobs. You know what I mean? Like, just see what it really is.


Brian Beutler: Yeah, well, I mean, I. I imagine that what inspires politicians and their consultants and their aides to come up with immediate term justifications for climate policy, like jobs, for instance, is a suspicion that if you appeal to people about a future that is ten or 20 or 40 or 100 years off, and we need to do this because it’s going to be really bad, then they’re going to they’re going to [both speaking]


Amy Westervelt: I dont think they’re mutually exclusive, though.


Brian Beutler: Well, so that’s what I was going to say. That’s what I was going to say. Is is is that for me, fine, do that. But also like between now and one point five degrees Celsius or one point six or two—


Amy Westervelt: Mhm.


Brian Beutler: —like people will just be healthier. You know. Yeah. Irrespective of famines and other disruptions and and migration and all the other problems that we expect the climate change has already caused is like the people who are alive right now will live longer and healthier lives if we. Have cleaner energy like. There’s something there’s something that that’s a benefit for everyone that will start piling up as soon as you, you know, start taking emissions reduction seriously. And, you know, there you have a sales point that isn’t really about asking people to imagine how bad the future might be and like and like hoping for them to vote in the best interests of their grandchildren.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: I think it’s also climate change is not in the future. Climate change, as is in the present and at this point is in the past. And we do this really interesting thing where we talk about climate change as though, you know, it’s in the future and we talk about COVID as though it’s in the past. [laughter] A, very smart woman tweeted about that who was not me, but we have to get out of that framework. And like Amy was saying, it is the responsibility of these of our leaders, of our elected leaders to signal what is and is not important and to educate and bring their constituents along if it’s a real crisis and they don’t actually understand it. Okay. Well, Democrats have been talking about climate change as a job fair since at least the nineties. And we’ve had decades to actually get people on board with this. [laughter] So like—


Amy Westervelt: True.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: —we have serious issues with the media and our elected officials for not doing their part as public messengers. Like there’s a reason that the public is so in the dark about climate change. Like, that’s not an accident. Amy knows everything there is to know about that.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah. Yeah. I mean at not yeah. To me knowing everything. Of course I do not. [laughter] No, I mean I do. I think that like yeah. Again, I just I would love to see Democrats stop just reacting to industry and or Republican framing on these issues. And actually, I mean, I think this is like what you were talking about before too Brian about like how like they need to start talking about what Democrats actually stand for, like what is what is the Democratic approach to climate policy, irrespective of the Republican concerns about it? You know what I mean? [laugh] I, I, you know, and I don’t I don’t think that means they need to stop talking about jobs. That’s, of course, a part of it. But I just feel like I don’t know, I think even, you know, like I’ll use my mother as an example. She is a very moderate Democrat, very like she loves Joe Biden. She’s like, he’s so he’s such a nice man, you know?


Brian Beutler: Mm hmm.


Amy Westervelt: But she’s even like, man, this some this this weather is weird. Things are getting really weird and it’s scaring me.


Brian Beutler: Yeah.


Amy Westervelt: You know, so, like, tap into that. People are starting to notice and freak out and I think saying, hey, we have, we actually have a solution for that.


Brian Beutler: Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: That rhetoric about climate change being in the future can lose a lot of voters who have just suffered from a climate disaster. So yeah, because that feels real insulting. If you lived through a wildfire and people are like, yeah, your children and grandchildren, we were like, Well, that’s cool because I just lost my grandmother. [laughter]


Brian Beutler: Yeah, sorry. To whoever that person is. [laughter]


Mary Annaïse Heglar: They’re out there.


Brian Beutler: Yeah. The know for sure. You know the I think that if people are getting testy about about how Joe Biden talks about climate change, I think it’s because it’s got to be because of the absence of the other half of the rhetoric that that people who care about the issue want to hear. Right. Like like the Green New Deal is inspired by FDR. It’s it’s not just about getting emissions down. It is about jobs. It is about rebuilding communities. And so it’s not like, you know, the progressives in Congress who take the issue most seriously or are most concerned about it are opposed to trying to sell it in terms of, you know, what it can do for for people’s economic circumstances in addition to every other possible way.


Amy Westervelt: What I don’t really understand is why in the okay fine, let’s talk about about it in an economic sense. Why is there never any emphasis on how fucked we are economically if we don’t deal with this issue? [laughter] You know what I mean, like, okay, you ought to talk about job losses. Like.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: You can work when you’re dead.


Amy Westervelt: Or you want to talk about how expensive food is going to get? Let’s talk about the the rising cost of living, that inaction. Contributes to.


Brian Beutler: Yeah. Okay. So here’s my here’s my new idea that I just came up with right now. It’s it’s like, you know how when Republicans get into power and they’re like, do the only thing they know how to do, which is cut rich people’s taxes, they sort of invent a whole new economics and they’re like, this is going to like actually reduce deficits because it’s going to create so many jobs. And there’s going to be [laugh] and it’s, you know, it’s it’s like funny math. But the idea is just basically like, let’s create a counter-narrative to what, you know, like qualified economists will say about these tax cuts, say it’ll be great for everyone and then just charge ahead.


Amy Westervelt: Right.


Brian Beutler: Democrats could and it would be much more honest do economic forecasting where the they use a baseline of like how much the climate is expected to change given the emissions trajectory that we’re on.


Amy Westervelt: Yes.


Brian Beutler: And then and then and then talk about the economic impacts of their climate proposals, not based on how, like the Congressional Budget Office scores them—


Amy Westervelt: Right.


Brian Beutler: —but on a credible model of how much economic damage will be done by doing nothing and then say.


Amy Westervelt: Correct. Yeah. I mean, that’s like like. Okay, so the way that OMP does it, it’s it’s insane. The economic models that are currently used to figure out how much climate policy costs leave out the impact of fucking climate change. And that is a model that was created, by the way, by economists who were on the payroll of fucking oil companies and the American Petroleum Institute. The models that the government uses are not like good, accurate, realistic models of how the economy will actually work if if nothing is done. And that’s not a that’s not an accurate model. It’s inaccurate.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Told you she knew everything. [laughter]


Brian Beutler: All right. So here’s what I got. So so we we we have here over the last hour or so come up with, like, better ways for Democrats to model the economic and other impacts of their climate plans.


Amy Westervelt: Models that already exist too by the way, you dont have to like—


Brian Beutler: Models that already exist and that are defensible. And they’re not just like they’re not just like propaganda like that, you know, billionaires cooked up to justify their own tax cuts.


Amy Westervelt: Right.


Brian Beutler: We’ve talked about better ways for Joe Biden to just, like, communicate, particularly with younger voters, about climate as something that is already having serious negative impacts on their lives. Using that sort of empathy mode he likes to go into. We’ve we’ve like talked about like how. You know, he could still do some good with declaring a climate emergency now. If somehow Democrats keep the House and like add a Senator, they can maybe pass the climate spending thing. And that’s all before we get to the question of whether he’ll run again. So I feel like there’s like things that like we, you know, in a conversation that was like [laugh] bleak at points, like we think there’s like there’s like stuff to work with.


Amy Westervelt: Yes.


Brian Beutler: Like, real, like, really tangibly improve, you know, the circumstances under which we’re having the conversation. And that’s all before we get to yeah the like will he run again thing and if he, whether he does or doesn’t I feel like we should like reconvene when the decision is made and, and evaluate what sort of happen in the ensuing few months.


Amy Westervelt: In the interim?


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah.


Amy Westervelt: Yes, yes. I love it.


Brian Beutler: How does that sound?


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Sounds great.


Amy Westervelt: I like it.


Brian Beutler: Okay. All right. Well, then I’m going to leave it there. But everyone should listen to Hot Take Crooked Media’s Climate podcast hosted by my guests today, Mary Annaïse Heglar and Amy Westervelt. Thank you, guys, so much for for joining me today.


Amy Westervelt: Thanks for having us.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Thank you. [music break]


Brian Beutler: So as I mentioned at the top, kind of a lot has changed since we recorded this. There’s still obviously many steps between now and a signing ceremony for the Inflation Reduction Act. But assuming it passes, we can probably safely assume that Biden won’t be declaring a national climate emergency and he won’t have to reckon with the trade offs that we discussed in the conversation. And that would be great news for many reasons, including just raw political ones, like showing signs of life out of this Democratic majority right before the midterms, especially when all this talk about Biden maybe not running for a second term is swirling in the air. It happened kind of just in the nick of time. It also validates the ethic I try to bring to the show and live by, which isn’t exactly never say die, but to look at every path between here and things that have to happen and keep pressing ahead so long as any of them are still open. And that includes paths to environmental sustainability. But it’s so many other things, too. If things work out as it looks like they will, it probably means Biden’s climate actions will be insulated from the judiciary. But the judiciary is still a big problem for anyone who wants to live in a country with clean air and water and democratic elections and robust checks on big business. And the only way Dems will be able to push back against an out-of-control court is with more power in the other branches. And that’s true whether the plan is to codify the climate emergency or pass the climate spending or add more seats to the court or anything else. As Mary and Amy and I were talking, I started ruminating about what it is Biden might want voters to know about his climate agenda before the midterms. Beyond sort of sanding down his rhetoric to be more empathetic towards rightly scared young voters. And I think it’s that right. He could tell the people counting on him, not just to celebrate this big step in the right direction, but that he needs their support going forward if his climate agenda is going to survive. A little honesty about the predicament we’re all in might be the best policy. [music break] Positively dreadful is a Crooked Media production. Our executive producer is Michael Martinez and our associate producer is Olivia Martinez. Veronica Simonetti mixes and edits the show each week. Our theme music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos.