If President Obama is seeking to escape his declining domestic popularity in favor of the warm embrace of international bureaucrats at the United Nations global warming summit in Copenhagen, he may find little more than the cold shoulder. His fundamental political problem is where he looks for solutions to the nation's and world's biggest problems.
This week, Obama will have little to offer to environmentalists in the way of leadership since he has been unable to force cap and trade through Congress. That means his calls for global controls, caps, and taxes on CO2 will carry roughly as much weight as the carbon dioxide he exhales during his speech.
The problem for Obama and internationally focused environmentalists is that global climate “solutions” proposed by UN-types are ubiquitously command-and-control. Economy-slowing carbon taxes? Check. Rigged carbon trading schemes that fatten political and financier coffers while doing nothing for the environment? Check and mate.
Back in the states, cap and trade is so unpopular that public rebuke erupted at Town Halls and forced Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk into a modified mea culpa for his yea vote. Now that he’s running for the state’s open Senate seat, he’s voicing opposition to the scheme. The popularity of cap and trade isn’t likely to turn around, as a new Harris Interactive poll shows the number of Americans believing in global warming has hit a 12-year low.
For Obama, his other domestic priorities may be headed for the same fate because they, too, rely on government rather than American ingenuity.
Millions of Americans fear that Democrats' health care "options" will leave less choice for patients. That’s less choice in doctors and no choice of whether we'll have to pay a fortune in taxes, because that is a given. The latest Gallup numbers show that 53 percent of independents saying they would advise their Member of Congress to vote against the current bill.
Then there's the Employee Free Choice Act, which would substitute a government arbitrator for the wisdom of small business owners trying to live the American dream. The bill, like cap and trade and health care, is wildly unpopular at the same time Big Labor receives its lowest public marks since Gallup started tracking the issue in 1936.
If Obama continues in his current focus on government-first policies he will find himself in a no-win position. His big-government solutions have thus far been stymied by an increasingly engaged and enraged populace, which in turn gives him little credibility with international cronies.
Now would be a good time for a paradigm shift. Where Obama sees need for the heavy hand of government, America would be better off turning to its famed ability for innovation by turning to the invisible hand of markets.
Instead of renewable energy mandates -- essentially picking winners and losers in energy sources -- Obama should crib an idea from his defeated foe. Quite possibly the only good idea to come from Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign was to create a national award for innovation of a new battery that would dramatically decrease vehicle emissions. The result: a cleaner environment without the expansion of government and the attendant regulatory costs.
That's just one way to spur, rather than smother, innovation.
When it comes to labor relations, we don't need more government interference. We need to update laws designed in the 1930's for a different economy. Those changes should not just make it easier to unionize; they should increase the overall ability for employees to choose their own level of collective activity or none at all.
When it comes to health care, we need more competition rather than more government interference. The ability to sell insurance across state lines would increase competition, pressure prices downward, spur innovation, and force insurance companies to provide better customer service.
Sadly, there is little hope that on the road to Copenhagen Obama will have a Saul-to-Paul moment. But there is equally little hope for an improvement in our ecological, workplace, and health care environments if Obama and his Democrats don't forget the demands of international bureaucrats and instead start looking for solutions driven by America's creativity.