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Paul Krugman: The Meaning of the Mercury Regulation


The Meaning of Mercury: Let me repeat part of that: it will save tens of thousands of lives every year and prevent birth defects, learning disabilities, and respiratory diseases. This is actually a much bigger issue, when it comes to saving American lives, than terrorism. As Roberts explains, we’ve known about these costs of mercury pollution for decades, yet it took until now to get something done. The reason is, of course, obvious: special interests, hiding behind claims of immense economic damage if anything was done, were able to block action.

It’s worth noting that these claims of economic harm from pollution regulation have always been proved wrong when the regulation finally came. Ozone regulation was supposed to cripple the economy; so was acid rain regulation; neither did….

The point that strikes me most, however, is that this shows that it matters who holds the White House. You can complain about Obama’s lack of a strong progressive agenda, which I sometimes do, or wonder what good it is to hold the White House when the other side blocks every attempt to do good through legislation. But mercury regulation would not have happened if John McCain were president.

Elections have consequences, and this is one delayed consequence of 2008 that will make a big difference.