Tiffany Song and Dance

I hope you are enjoying the summer heat.” Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-WI).

This is the opening line in Tiffany’s August 11 email newsletter. Wisconsin is suffering from unprecedented heat. Almost all of Wisconsin is experiencing drought. Parts or the state – including Tiffany’s northwestern district – are in “extreme” drought with the south shore of Lake Superior having “exceptional” drought (the National Weather Service’s highest category). Where I live in Douglas County is 6-9 inches below normal rainfall. Given these facts, Tiffany’s statement is particularly glib and insensitive.

One assumes Tiffany was downplaying our extremely hot, dry summer as part of his ongoing denial of climate change. Or perhaps he is simply clueless. I get his email newsletter and it is typically full of clueless statements that indicate Rep. Tiffany is short on knowledge and long on partisan talking points.

Tiffany’s e-newsletter (The Tiffany Telegram) is always full of misleading statements, twisted facts, and attacks on Democrats and President Biden. Obviously, it is a propaganda screed intended to sell Tiffany and his extreme right-wing views. No one expects this kind of political communication to be “fair and balanced.” But the Tiffany song and dance is unusually slick and written to manipulate the public’s fears, prejudices, and lack of valid information on many issues. It is unfortunate that Tiffany’s policy positions are not as well thought out as his self-serving propaganda.

Case in point is Tiffany’s attacks on sensible efforts to combat climate change – and simply improve everyone’s life – with initiatives to promote conservation and green energy. In his August 11 rant he calls this “President Biden’s green fantasy policies.” But far from being fantasies, green energy technologies – solar panels, wind farms, heat pumps and electric vehicles – are working very effectively and are growing in popularity.

The Department of Energy says the “solar resource of the United States is enormous…just one hour of noontime summer sun is equal to the annual U.S. electricity demand” (if it were utilized). Most states have “good to excellent solar resource” and even in poor locations solar can be cost effective. Every kilowatt hour of solar electricity can “substantially reduce” CO2 emissions and pollution from sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. Solar also reduces power plant water consumption.

Numerous sources confirm that solar is worth the upfront installation costs for homeowners and utilities. Data for Wisconsin and Minnesota indicate solar panels with a 25-year lifespan, produce about $1400 per year in savings for homeowners with a 10-year payback on installation costs.

Electric cars are much cleaner for the environment and cost less to operate (both for power and maintenance). The Environmental Protection Agency says over the lifetime of the vehicle, total greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing, charging, and driving an EV are lower than gasoline cars. AAA says the purchase price is typically higher but over the life of the vehicle you will pay less to drive an EV. Plus, polling says consumers are very satisfied with EV vehicle performance.

So why is Tiffany opposing green energy solutions? Is he ignorant, misinformed, or blinded by his partisan ideology?

Every Tiffany Telegram has a rant about the evils of government “regulations.” In the August 11 edition, Tiffany extols his support for the “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act” or REINS Act. This bill requires any regulatory rules issued by any federal agency to be approved by both the House and Senate before the rule can take effect. Essentially any action to implement regulatory laws already passed by Congress would have to pass a second political debate over the specific policy or technical details.

Agency rule making is a long established, normal process. It is not agency “overreach” or the usurping of the “authority” of Congress by “unaccountable bureaucrats” as claimed by Republicans. Tiffany says, “Washington bureaucrats do not have the power to create laws for the American people.” This is not true. Legislation passed by Congress establishes overall policy and empowers administrative agencies to create rules to implement the law. These rules are enforceable as law.

This is bad legislation that will create administrative gridlock, hamstring executive branch operations, and destroy any effective public oversight of harmful business practices. Tiffany is either ignorant of the importance of effective regulation, doesn’t care about the impact on people or is blinded by his “free market” ideology.

Tiffany rails against inflation caused by “Democrats’ socialist-style spending spree” (meaning the COVID relief spending that saved us from an economic meltdown). The actual causes of inflation are much more complicated than Tiffany’s simplistic, partisan explanation. Much of it is caused by the power of large, multinational companies to profit from the economic disruption of the pandemic.

Surprisingly Tiffany claims to be concerned about “combating child labor.” This is surprising because Republicans are busy weakening child labor laws in the states they control. But Tiffany is not talking about protecting children in our country. The legislation he is supporting (HR 4443) purports to “crack down on the import of goods produced using child labor and forced labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo while countering Communist China’s control over strategic metals and minerals in our global supply chains…” The minerals involved are lithium and cobalt used in electronics and batteries including solar systems and EV vehicles.

The Congo does have many unregulated, small pit mines that do exploit child labor. The Chinese do own mining companies operating in the Congo. The U.S. should oppose exploitation and unfair business practices wherever they occur (as discussed above). But in reading the proposed legislation I find no significant actions to stop child labor in the Congo or anywhere else. It only prohibits imports from the Congo involving Chinese mining companies.

Perhaps Republican sponsors of this bill are genuinely concerned about child labor. But given the past history of Republican disregard for the wellbeing of people, I suspect this not the primary motivation. This bill is more about increasing conflicts with China, and discouraging green energy, than protecting children in the Congo.

People need to be skeptical of any politician’s self-serving communications. Tiffany’s song and dance is especially misleading. Voters need a good BS detector system to sort out the crap.