It’s amazing that what passes for political courage in national politics seems commonsense at the municipal level. New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg told the U.S. Conference of Mayors:
Last spring, as part of our PlaNYC initiative, we proposed a system of congestion pricing based on successful programs in London, Stockholm and Singapore. The plan would charge drivers $8 to enter Manhattan on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., which would help us reduce the congestion that is choking our economy, the pollution that has helped produce asthma rates that are twice the national average, and the carbon dioxide that is fueling global warming.
Now, the question is not whether we want to pay, but how do we want to pay. With an increased asthma rate? With more greenhouse gases? Wasted time? Lost business? Higher prices? Or do we charge a modest fee to encourage more people to take mass transit and use that money to expand mass transit service? When you look at it that way, the idea makes a lot of sense, but for the politics, because no one likes the idea of paying more. But being up front and honest about the costs and benefits, we’ve been able to build a coalition of supporters that includes conservatives and liberals, labor unions and businesses, and community leaders throughout the city.
Bloomberg goes on to suggest that in order to prevent the costs of climate change from spiraling out of control, we should be prepared to pay a smaller carbon tax now. Right on.
Additionally, Bloomberg opens a window into his thinking on international affairs. He hasn’t had too many opportunities to comment on his big-picture vision of U.S. foreign policy, so this paragraph is especially interesting:
It’s time for America to re-establish its leadership on all issues of international importance, including climate change. Because if we are going to remain the world’s moral compass — a role that we played throughout the 20th century, not always perfectly, but pretty darn well — we need to regain our footing on the world stage. That means ending the “go-it-alone” approach to foreign affairs that has never served America well. It didn’t work in the 1920s, when we tried to isolate ourself from the world, and it hasn’t work in recent years, when we’ve tried to stand above it, pretending that vital international treaties can simply be ignored. The fight against global warming is a test of America’s leadership — and not just on the environment.
Connecting the dots between climate change and foreign policy? Check. Working with allies? Check. Restoring moral credibility? Viewing multilateral treaties as a foundation for a stable international environment and prosperous United States? Check and check.
Bloomberg may not have extensive foreign policy experience, but he is demonstrating excellent instincts here. Hopefully — whether or not Bloomberg becomes a candidate for higher office — there will be more where this came from.
— Scott Paul