Empty chamber

Matt Yglesias on the recent handful of defections from the Chamber of Commerce over the issue of carbon emissions:

But I do think it’s worth taking this further. The fundamental problem the Chamber of Commerce is going to have on this is that they’re really really wrong. Not like how they’re morally wrong about, say, labor rights or workplace safety rules. They’re analytically mistaken about the interests of the United States business community. If we take action to avert ecological catastrophe, economic growth will still happen. Capitalism will march on. Big companies will be big, and people will earn lots of money managing them. Yes, the present-day owners of coal companies or manufacturers specifically wedded to unusually energy-intensive processes will be in trouble. But “business” in a broad and general sense will keep on keeping on. People will still want gadgets and furniture, will shop at stores, will buy and sell, and generally keep being customers for business.

This is completely true, of course. On the other hand, it’s not of much political import. Apple and Nike didn’t quit the Chamber because they care about the environment or what the planet will look like 80 years from now, they quit because they market themselves to younger consumers who are often interested in the environment.

In the end, even though the long-term effects of global warming are likely to harm many American companies, big energy companies care more about killing cap-and-trade than the other companies do about fighting global warming. And, as a result, the Chamber will most likely continue to oppose any and all attempts to restrict carbon emissions.

There’s a similar dynamic with health care. There are plenty of companies that would benefit greatly from health care reform, but they don’t want it as much as health care companies, in many cases, want to kill it.

While, in theory, a group like the Chamber represents a broad consensus of business interests, in practice, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. It isn’t just that business interests control our government, it’s that they often do so in a way that doesn’t even benefit business interests as a whole.






31 replies
  1. 1
    GregB says:

    Has anyone thought of creating an alternative to the Chamber of Con-Artists yet? They are basically a shadow GOP attack appendage.

    They suck the joint.

    -G

  2. 2
    EvolutionaryDesign says:

    It’s amazing to me how these corporations will spend so much money fighting nitpicky aspects of any kind of reform that might marginally impact their profits, instead of spending that money figuring out how to capitalize on the many new revenue streams that would come with reform. These people are stupid and lazy, IGMFU.

  3. 3
    gnomedad says:

    Apple and Nike didn’t quit the Chamber because they care about the environment or what the planet will look like 80 years from now, they quit because they market themselves to younger consumers who are often interested in the environment.

    Perhaps, but some just might care about what the planet will look like 20 years from now and are not batshit insane.

  4. 4
    gnomedad says:

    So where did my edit buttons go? I swear I saw some the other day, so I know it’s possible for Firefox.

  5. 5
    Ash Can says:

    Does the CoC even do any good? At all?

  6. 6
    Morbo says:

    I believe our local power company was one of those that has recently pulled out from the Chamber over this very issue. All we ever hear about as a talking point is how any countermeasure against greenhouse gas emissions is going to kill jobs and business as we know it. However, actual businesses realize that this sort of talk and obstruction accomplishes nothing but stifling of innovation. They look overseas and see foreign companies getting the upper hand in greener energy technology and look here to see the people who are supposed to represent their interests standing in the way. It’s no wonder they’re saying sayonara.

  7. 7
    gizmo says:

    Something I learned recently is that local chapters of the Chamber of Commerce are not necessarily under the umbrella of the national Chamber. They have the option to join, but many don’t, including my chapter here in upstate NY. We have a Director who is a really good guy, and he’s embarrassed by the national organization, and has been going out of his way to make our local membership aware that there is no tie-in with the jerks at the national level.

  8. 8
    The Other Steve says:

    The other companies who quit were power companies.

    I think you are missing a point. There is money to be made in this market. But it’s easier to make money if the whole structure shifts that direction. Otherwise you’ve stuck your neck out and can get it whacked off.

    That’s what happened back in the late 1970s the last time we had a big push for solar and wind and such. A bunch of people stuck out their necks in that market, and Reagan chopped them off.

    So there is some risk adversity here.

    The power companies have really become excited about wind, and it was because the states started mandating they build it. Once that happened, there was enough mass behavior to build the wind towers efficiently enough to make it profitable. Now that they’ve crossed over that hump they want to build more and more because it’s cheaper and more efficient and less maintenance intensive as the big coal plants. But you have to cross that hump, and oftentimes a government mandate forces the issue.

    That’s why they’re opposed to the Chamber’s attitude.

  9. 9
    trollhattan says:

    CoCs seem to have become cabals of True Believers(tm) as opposed to groups of businesspeople who strive to foster healthy business development. The Calif CoC has an annoying habit of labeling any legislation they don’t like “job killers.” And pretty much anything that’s not a tax cut or a rollback of some environmental law is a job killer.

    They’re a pack of shrill children.

    I was surprised PG&E took their stand, since AGW is a core bidnez issue to any utility, but kudos to them.

    OT: This is good news for Romney!

    http://blog.al.com/live/2009/1.....ox_at.html

  10. 10
    catclub says:

    There was a particularly good comment at MY’s (Anon: #14)
    about capture of K-street
    by the GOP. Essentially, the lobbyist interest in making the GOP happy has come in front of what is actually good for the companies that are represented
    by the CoC.

    General Motors should be thrilled to offload their health expenses to a public system – but they toe the GOP line instead.

  11. 11

    Exactly.

    This is a specialized instance of the tragedy of the commons. If the commons are understood here as capacity for political action, those willing to overwhelm the commons with particularist resources are going to win (aka denude the commons) every time.

    Feh.

  12. 12
    gonzone says:

    I would further posit that the COC often acts contrary to small business in favor of very large corporations. And that is generally against the interests of persons, those things that corporations claims the same rights as.

  13. 13
    Morbo says:

    @Tom Levenson: Ooh, it appears you have a major MM reading assignment for us, bravo, sir. I’ll be sure to read the whole thing once I get home.

  14. 14
    Corey says:

    I don’t even think this is really a marketing thing. As Matt says in that post, there’s almost no business downside in supporting climate regulations for Apple or Nike. People will still want shoes and computers. But there is a huge downside in terms of spiraling global poverty for these firms that make luxury products if the planet warms to a point that makes entire regions uninhabitable.

    The point, of course, is that climate change regulation is a GOOD THING for all businesses because it averts a planetary catastrophe. You don’t need to be marketing to young progressives to believe that.

  15. 15
    Nellcote says:

    Add Johnson & Johnson to the list of CoC quitters. Nike was getting pressure from some of their stockholders to quit. Exelon, the country’s biggest energy company quit. PG&E has a mandate from Cali to grow the amount of renewables in their portfolio and the CoC was obviously counterproductive to this goal.

  16. 16
    Calouste says:

    @EvolutionaryDesign:

    As was the saying two or three decades ago, whenever Congress came up with new regulations for cars, the Germans and the Japanese would hire 1000 engineers to implement them, and the Big Three would hire 1000 lobbyists to fight them. And we know how that worked out.

  17. 17

    Apple and Nike didn’t quit the Chamber because they care about the environment or what the planet will look like 80 years from now, they quit because they market themselves to younger consumers who are often interested in the environment.

    They can quit the Chamber to support U.S. regulation of emissions, because their entire product portfolios are made overseas where U.S. regulations won’t impact them.

    They are free to exploit the environment, take advantage of cheap labor and look like they are good stewards of the environment to American consumers all at the same time. Pretty nice work if you can get it.

  18. 18

    @Calouste:

    As was the saying two or three decades ago, whenever Congress came up with new regulations for cars, the Germans and the Japanese would hire 1000 engineers to implement them, and the Big Three would hire 1000 lobbyists to fight them. And we know how that worked out.

    Hate to break it to you but a buch of the import companies, Toyota included, helped fight the CAFE changes last year. This isn’t a Detroit vs. the world thing. Further, no amount of engineers will make American consumers buy small cars at a price profitable to carmakers, imports included.

  19. 19
    Martin says:

    I’ll point out that many of the companies that have left are CA based. The state has already imposed restrictions well ahead of the feds. Anything the feds do at this point will only make it easier/cheaper for CA based companies to do business. That’s probably the real reason for the opposition – they’re already committed to the feds goals and if their competitors in other states don’t need to make these changes, and if that keeps the cost of reducing emissions higher due to a smaller marketplace, then ultimately they lose.

    I don’t think the marketing angle is driving this, at least in the case of Apple and Edison. I think there is a much more direct impact by the CoC position.

    I should add: if you look at Apple’s environmental report card from last week, they feel they can benefit by including the environmental impact of consumer use of their products. That’s all marketing, but if they can get some traction on it, it will *really* benefit them. But it also means that they’ve volunteered to take responsibility for a larger, mainly domestic source of carbon than they needed to, which I think supports my thought that Apple really wants the other 49 states to be forced to play by the CA rules.

  20. 20
    Woody says:

    Gnomedad said: …Perhaps, but some just might care about what the planet will look like 20 years from now and are not batshit insane.

    Nah. they’re required by law to fuck up the environment, your momma, and anything else that gets in the way of quarterly improvements in their profit positions.

    Corporations need to be brought back into the human race, by limiting their charters, and restricting their “rights.”

  21. 21

    @Bob (Not B.o.B.)

    Apple and Nike didn’t quit the Chamber because they care about the environment or what the planet will look like 80 years from now, they quit because they market themselves to younger consumers who are often interested in the environment.

    They can quit the Chamber to support U.S. regulation of emissions, because their entire product portfolios are made overseas where U.S. regulations won’t impact them.
    They are free to exploit the environment, take advantage of cheap labor and look like they are good stewards of the environment to American consumers all at the same time. Pretty nice work if you can get it.

    Even if this is the case the US Chamber of Commerce is full of shit and in the wrong on the climate change issue. PG&E can’t outsource their powerplants to China, neither can Exelon and they’ve quit the chamber too.

  22. 22
    Corey says:

    They can quit the Chamber to support U.S. regulation of emissions, because their entire product portfolios are made overseas where U.S. regulations won’t impact them.

    They are free to exploit the environment, take advantage of cheap labor and look like they are good stewards of the environment to American consumers all at the same time. Pretty nice work if you can get it.

    They produce overseas to take advantage of cheap labor, not to avoid emissions regulations. Neither making computers nor tennis shoes are particularly polluting industries.

  23. 23
    Zifnab says:

    @Bob (Not B.o.B.):

    They can quit the Chamber to support U.S. regulation of emissions, because their entire product portfolios are made overseas where U.S. regulations won’t impact them.

    I don’t know about that at all. True, Apple and Nike don’t have factories in the US, so they aren’t going to bleed like some mining industry might. But that would leave them apathetic rather than openly hostile.

    On the flip side, if a bunch of your employees live on the coast, and you don’t want to go the way of Atlantis, maybe the white collar joes at Apple and Nike don’t want to go the way of New Orleans just to fatten Exxon’s wallet.

    … they quit because they market themselves to younger consumers who are often interested in the environment.

    I have never met a single soul who has declined purchase at any store because it was a member of the Chamber of Commerce. If one in three people under the age of 30 could even tell you what the Chamber of Commerce is, I’d be impressed. Hell, I’d have to wiki the damn thing myself to even pretend to give an accurate answer.

  24. 24

    @Wile E. Quixote:

    Even if this is the case the US Chamber of Commerce is full of shit and in the wrong on the climate change issue. PG&E can’t outsource their powerplants to China, neither can Exelon and they’ve quit the chamber too.

    Agreed.

  25. 25

    @Corey:

    They produce overseas to take advantage of cheap labor, not to avoid emissions regulations.

    They go overseas for both reasons.

    Neither making computers nor tennis shoes are particularly polluting industries.

    Wanna bet? Those plastics in both products are petroleum based.

  26. 26
    Zifnab says:

    @Corey:

    They produce overseas to take advantage of cheap labor, not to avoid emissions regulations. Neither making computers nor tennis shoes are particularly polluting industries.

    You’re totally wrong there. Computer production requires a large amount of heavy metals. And shoe factors – like any other factors – use a lot of energy if they’re mechanized. Not to mention the plastics and dyes that go into making the shoes.

    The environmental regs in the states are chump change compared to the minimum wage requirements. China just wins on both counts.

  27. 27
    Corey says:

    I’m not saying they don’t use a lot of energy – they do – but their business models are not imperiled by emissions regs the way, say, mining or petroleum companies are.

  28. 28
    Lettuce says:

    It’s simply wrong to say “none” of Apple’s products are “made here”, because “some” of them are. My computer, for one, was made in California.

    And it’s also false to claim that Apple’s reason for doing this is because they sell upper-end products to young people… They don’t.

    Their computers cost the same as others computers, less than some. They aren’t IN the low end market. But, case for case, the computers are priced even to less.

  29. 29

    @Lettuce:

    My computer, for one, was made in California.

    Good to hear. I am shocked as I have not seen an Apple product made in the U.S. in a long time. One more reason to buy one.

  30. 30
    chrome agnomen says:

    the c of c is the right wing acorn.

  31. 31

    @Morbo: happy to add to the verbiage harvest; hope you like it….

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