Effect Measure

The public healthinator?

Our SciBling Matt Nisbet over at Framing Science has called our attention to a WaPo piece about Governor Arnold (The Terminator) Schwarzenegger’s emergence as one of the most pro-environment state-house chiefs in the nation. The fact that he runs the biggest state with enormous economic clout makes it all the more significant. Reading the WaPo article Matt points to makes clear he has also picked up on a significant aspect of The Governator’s strategy which got by the WaPo staff writer but we believe is significant. As Matt sees, Schwarzenegger is framing is arguments in public health terms. I guess if you write a blog called Framing Science you get pretty good at figuring these things out.

Schwarzenegger has not always been an up front environmentalist. In the early 90s he bought the a grotesque gas guzzler, the Hummer, and helped stimulate the SUV craze. But he is also a clever politician and knows when to moderate or change his views, irrespective of the rest of the Republican party, to which he nominally belongs:

This year he signed the nation’s first environmental law of its kind, committing the state to lowering its greenhouse gas production to 1990 levels by 2020 and setting up an international program that provides manufacturers with incentives to lower carbon emissions, which is supposed to begin by 2012. He has vowed to fight any attempt to drill for oil off California’s coast.

And now Schwarzenegger, a Republican, wants to use his star power to turn global warming into an issue in the 2008 presidential election. “There is a whole new movement because of the change of people sent to Washington,” Schwarzenegger said in an interview this week, referring to the Democratic Party’s impending takeover of Congress. “We want to put the spotlight on this issue in America. It has to become a debate in the presidential election. It has to become an issue.”

Schwarzenegger’s relationship with the Bush administration and the conservative wing of the Republican Party has been rocky. He has clashed with Bush over stem cell research (Schwarzenegger favors, Bush opposes), dispatching the National Guard to do border enforcement (Bush ordered, Schwarzenegger opposed) and legalizing the purchase of prescription drugs from Canada (Bush opposes, Schwarzenegger favors).

But no other issue divides the governor and the president as much as global warming. Schwarzenegger’s embrace of the issue is clearly a gambit on the part of a politician with big ambitions. Analysts say he could run for the Senate in 2010. He cannot run for president because he was not born in the United States.

Schwarzenegger made no bones about his exasperation with the Bush administration’s refusal to allow California to become the first state in the nation to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. A request in 2005 for that authority has received no response from the Environmental Protection Agency. The question of whether the EPA — or other agencies — should regulate greenhouse gases is being considered by the Supreme Court. (WaPo)

This might be just another story of a maverick Republican who sees the handwriting on the wall, but the part that WaPo misses and Matt sees is the way Schwarzenegger is framing his environmentalism. It isn’t primarily about the “environment,” but about public health:

“We are going to find a way to do it, no matter what anyone says,” Schwarzenegger said. “. . . We have to make moves that protect the health of the people. That’s our number one priority.

“We don’t want Washington to tell us when we are allowed to be healthy or when we should get cancer,” he continued. “We don’t want people to die because pollution causes certain illnesses and cancers and so on.”

Schwarzenegger argued that in a “Nixon goes to China” way he is uniquely poised to lead on the environmental front. Calling himself a “sane Republican,” he said his pro-business philosophy and fiscal conservatism shield him from accusations of being “the tree hugger, the crazy guy out there who wants to live on the moon and talk about the spirits and all this holistic stuff.” (WaPo)

Historically there was a split between two branches of the “environmental movement,” the public health side represented by many nineteenth century reformers and later by sanitarians; and the conservationist side, more interested in wildlife, greenspaces and the wilderness. Both sides abandoned political action until the 1960s, the public health side because it found itself marginalized and under the thumb of organized medicine, and the conservation movement, where the focus on wilderness — essentially defined as a place where there were no people or their social structures — produced a very narrow political target. Since the 1960s there has been a gradual “two steps forward one step back” effort to bring these separated streams of environmentalism together. Air quality and climate change have become one of the principal loci for that rapprochement. Schwarzenegger’s casting of the issue as one of public health is an example of this slow developing relationship.

The Governor’s use of the term, “sane Republican” is also of interest. One hears more and more in business circles — and make no mistake, Schwarzenegger is no progressive in Republican clothing; he is a fiscal conservative and pro-business Republican — that the right wing ideology which has held the Republican party in thrall for the last four decades is not only now a recipe for defeat but bad for business. Consider national health insurance. The average Japanese car has only about $200 worth of worker health benefits in its cost. The average GM car has about $1500 dollars in worker health benefits. Japanese taxpayers are paying the bill instead of autobuyers and giving cars built in Japan a built-in competitive advantage. Many large companies see this, but they do not wish to abandon their traditional sugar daddies in the Republican party. This doesn’t stop them from wishing more were “sane Republicans” like Arnold.

It will be a step forward if the Republican party joins “the reality-based community,” even in part. It won’t make them into progressives, of course. We’ll still have to elect people who are rooted in reality but also have more than business as their main concern.

Still, two steps forward.

Comments

  1. #1 bar
    December 26, 2006

    “We’ll still have to elect people who are rooted in reality but also have more than business as their main concern.”

    I apologize for nitpicking, but doesn’t it logically follow that “rooted in reality” would be a subset of “business”.

    I think that Governator is right on the money. Liberal about drugs, Stem cells & abortion, conservative about guns, mexican workers and legislation that allows and encourages business to be more competitive.

    I am very impressed by the way he came to power. I would like it if we, the people of Australia, could also elect to dismiss a government at a time of our own choosing, rather than have to wait for up to three or four years until the term completed.

  2. #2 revere
    December 26, 2006

    Bar: It’s not a nitpick, it’s a difference of opinion. I think he’s pulled the Merino wool over your eyes.

  3. #3 M. Randolph Kruger
    December 27, 2006

    Thats the reason the Aussies did their government constitution like ours rather than the Brits. To make changes you have to be IN power and even then when you are IN power, you have to have a plurality of the votes to get what ever you wanted IN!

    So lets see what happens down there during the next election. My bet is that we are going to swing to the center here as we should have been with a tinge to the right. What we got was a right wing hijacking of the Party and we paid the price. We didnt lose by much in any state, so the Dems had better watch closely what they are doing or they will be outta there again. With Pelosi in power they havent got a chance in hell of getting anything of significance thru. Same down there.

    So bar, did they do away with the keep and bear arms laws yet? Didnt crime increase by like 80% since those nut case do gooders decided you didnt have the right to defend yourself with anything other than harsh language?

  4. #4 bar
    December 27, 2006

    Revere:
    philosophy 101: The sentence I quoted earlier is straightforward. What you said implied that somebody who is rooted in reality has business as their only concern. I don’t think you meant that. Freudian type slip?

    Randolph:
    Unlike the USA we in AU never had an (is it second) amendment that guaranteed our right to bear arms. I have dealt with the issues at length at http://www.barvennon.com/guns.html

    The Brits (believe it or not) do not have a written constitution. In theory, (as I understand it) the Queen of UK could dissolve UK parliament and rule by decree. The army & police swear allegiance to the Queen. The only power that she doesn’t have (by tradition) is the power to levy taxes.

    In theory, our Governor General (appointed by the Queen, on advice from the Prime Minister) has exactly the same power in our parliament as the Queen has in the UK. He can dissolve Parliament and rule by decree.

    To change our constitution, Parliament must propose a change, and then two thirds of the Australian people must vote “YES”. For a look at our constitution, see:
    http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/general/constitution/constit.pdf

    As for crime, well the PM’s tame scientist (Professors Simon Chapman) researched and found that gun deaths fell by about 45% since our PM made it harder to own a gun. What that tame scientist did not mention was that most of those gun deaths (about 95% of the 500 odd) were suicides, and what has happened is that violent crime deaths and suicides have increased, it’s just that crime death now is by a blunt instrument or a knife, and suicide by jumping or poison or whatever. Trying to stop suicides by banning guns is a bit like trying to dam the Nile delta. The water just finds another way. And violent crime has increased presumably because violent criminals do not have to worry so much about armed resistance.

    An interesting anecdote. Queensland is our version of the South & Texas. A few years ago a Queensland pensioner shot and killed a burglar, and was charged with murder. The Jury said justified homicide. Since then, burglary rose in every Australian state except Queensland. In Queensland, the burglary rate fell.

  5. #5 revere
    December 27, 2006

    bar: I’m not sure it’s worth arguing about, but I don’t understand what you are getting at. Here’s what I said:

    It will be a step forward if the Republican party joins “the reality-based community,” even in part. It won’t make them into progressives, of course. We’ll still have to elect people who are rooted in reality but also have more than business as their main concern.

    I don’t know what you mean by “Philosophy 101″ but this clearly says that being reality based is necessary but not sufficient to be a progressive. The term “reality based community” in the US is used by progressives to refer generally to Democrats and more specifically to progressive Democrats or just progressives. It is taken from a line of Bush’s about liberals (don’t have the cite to hand).

  6. #6 Edmund
    December 27, 2006

    bar:
    I apologize for nitpicking, but I think you forgot a question mark somewhere in your first post.

    That sentence in Revere’s post doesn’t imply that being reality-based has anything to do with being concerned with business. It allows for many different combinations: people who are rooted in reality but don’t care about business; or people who are rooted in reality but only care about business; or people who are rooted in reality and care about business but it is not their main concern; etc.

  7. #7 Edmund
    December 27, 2006

    Granted, it would have strange meaning if “reality-based community” hadn’t been used as a reference to political progressives.

  8. #8 M. Randolph Kruger
    December 27, 2006

    Bar-interesting stuff. Read your URL and you are right the demon is coming in Australia once the criminals are able to import/steal weapons. The thought that it takes six hours for the police to arrive in Australia is scarey. Could kill them over and over and in the case of serial rapists, well that could be a very long six hours.

    I dont advocate the use of a weapon ever unless you are in clear danger. Here in a car jacking its now legal to cap them if they put their hands onto the windows or window sill of your car. Touching the handle is automatic. Now Arnie Scwhartzenheimer is fairly liberal about guns and thinks that you ought to have the right to bear in California. The pendulum swings every few years out there and as illegals continue to invade the US and thats what it is, and invasion we are going to see a push to really do away with all of the local gun laws and make it a state law. The thought that you can sue a gun manufacturer because you just killed yourself or someone else because you are manufacturing a dangerous product is silly. But here you can do it so they win by lawsuit.

    Arnie who I met at a fund raiser is a real pistol by the way (sorry for the pun). He is smart and Maria keeps him to the center and she is his best advisor. He would make a great Senator but I always say that those who go to Congress start off as a granite block. They get chipped away at for years and then you end up with them at the end of their tenure either looking like a sculpture of Lincoln, Jefferson et. al. or a Picasso. It has a lot to do with the softness of the rock you start with.

  9. #9 bar
    December 27, 2006

    Revere & Edmund:
    Looks like there is a cultural discontinuity here. I was not aware that Democrats had been granted a patent on the phrase “reality based”, which to me implys a pragmatic (as opposed to a mystical) view of reality. “Rooted in reality” in the sense Revere used the phrase made me think he was referring to Republicans.

    On the other hand, “Progressives” does not sound to me like Republicans, who to my mind are at the conservative and traditional end of the political spectrum.

    Randolph:
    That six hour delay in the police arrival was in England.

    I agree that “product liability” is a section of our law that should be reformed, perhaps by shifting responsibility for product use to the consumer, and giving consumers access to a database on the product.

    Consider surgical practice and drug manufacture. There is at present no public database over here on the success rate of surgeons. If a person chose a surgeon, he should have a chance to assess that person’s skill. When a person used a drug, the person would know the extent of testing and the efficacy of that drug.

    I suspect that we would need legislation to establish such a database. What shoddy manufacturers (of, e.g. cars or food or surgery or drugs) would want to participate?

  10. #10 M. Randolph Kruger
    December 28, 2006

    Bar… Takes about that long here if they think its not a crisis call. 911 now puts you on hold. I have a friend in Queensland and regardless of the Texas reference, if you need a cop I am told its a LONG wait. He lives out in the boonies away from Townsville. He told me the same story about the guy whacking the burglar.

    Fact is, here in the states except in California, New York, Pennsylvania (I dont mention Boston because thats ranking amateurs against professionals) you shoot someone in your home you only have to say he/she moved towards you in threatening manners. How about coming thru the door or window? I think thats kind of threatening.

    I laugh because my dogs dont bark because of training. They caught three guys on a kick in next door and tore them up so bad that they were in the hospital for a week. Then they tried to sue me while they were under indictment… case dismissed. Common sense instead of well did he have a bad childhood? Did he have healthcare? Was he mistreated at school? Did his mom do crack? Does he do crack? Lets put them on subsidized methadone that you and I have to pay for. Was he caught with only a half a pound or more than a pound? You know its drug trafficking if its more than a pound and we just cant have that. Did he have reloads for the stolen .40 cal? What was his intent? a. Talk to you about world peace b. Seeing your wife about a piece? c. Seeing your wife, dog and 11 year old daughter about a piece?

    Hmm gun control? Priceless.

  11. #11 Ground Zero Homeboy
    December 28, 2006

    Heh- Arnie did not just buy a fleet of Hummers.

    They were strictly a military vehicle and were not for sale commercially. Arnie wanted some, so he dragged AM General and Army folks into one room and got them to make a deal. He is personally responsible for their existence as a commercial vehicle. There are other SUVs that get worse mileage, so don’t whine.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/08/07/national/main567097.shtml

    Republicans in California are so outnumbered that the far-right out-organizes the dispirited moderates. There is a legacy House seat in Orange County reserved for the weirdest right-winger in the state. Arnie had no chance without the chaos caused by the recall.

  12. #12 bar
    December 28, 2006

    MRK:
    The country west of Townsville Queensland is sparsely settled. Might be as much as 50 miles between police stations. And that station is probably only open a few hours a day. I can understand the cops taking their time over non urgent calls.

    As for subsidized methadone, I am in favour of making all illegal drugs (Heroin, Crack etc) totally legal. Let the druggie just go to a family GP who would advise of the dangers, then write a script. Legal Heroin would sell for about $10/gr. You wouldn’t have to subsidize it, all the druggies would either kill themselves by OD or get over it. And in one fell swoop you could stop paying all the DEA salaries, courts would be freed up, and jail population halved. Think of the saving! Lets have the cops just concentrate on property & violent crimes, and the occasional dangerous driving ticket.

  13. #13 nancy
    December 28, 2006

    I just finished watching An Inconvenient Truth. I don’t care who is rooted in what as long as they “get it” and take steps–at whatever level that may be: personal, governmental, business–to control carbon emissions. Spend as much time as you like mincing words and playing semantics, folks. Just make sure you haven’t left a light on in the other room!