The president will address the nation tonight from the Oval Office to discuss the BP/Deepwater Horizon fiasco. The New York Times reports: “It is Mr. Obama’s goal… to acknowledge the uncertainties and what one called “the new reality,” allay people’s fears and give reason to hope,” drawing parallels to FDR’s fireside chats.
One wonders: will there will be more in store this evening? Candidate Obama made a series of campaign promises about charting a course to a new green economy, reducing our reliance on carbon-based fuels through what amounted to a green industrial policy.
As political scientist John Kingdon reminded us in his classic Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies: “people in and around government sometimes do not solve problems. Instead, they become advocates for solutions and look for current problems to which to attach their pet solutions.”
What kinds of solutions can be attached to this problem? A new carbon tax? Increased CAFE standards? New investments in the “green technologies of the future” that will create “green jobs?” Cap-and-trade?
My best guess is that advocates in the administration, Congress, and the larger interest group universe are actively searching for means of coupling their favored solutions to the problem in the Gulf. A window of opportunity has opened, and as we know, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.
Unfortunately, crises may result in good politics, but they rarely result in good public policies. More often than not, they also result in an expansion of the public sector often with minimal attention to whether the resulting policies will have the intended impact on the problems in question.