04/23/2005: "Got Success? Roll it Back!"
Over some years now Steven Hayward has been accumulating environmental indices. His purpose is to enable objective assessments of the effectiveness of environmental policy. It’s hard to dispute that this is a good thing. In every sphere of management, including management of the public interest, it is now an accepted best practice to employ objective performance metrics wherever possible. It’s done as follows. When establishing a new program in business or government, you first identify the measurable events that will be impacted by the program, taking a “baseline” set of measurements before the program is actually implemented. Later measurements provide an objective basis for assessing the program versus the baseline, recognizing that external factors can also impact results. So what has Hayward’s performance indices shown? The bottom line is that they show excellent progress on many fronts. These kinds of results in the world of business would get you a promotion, and if you were a CEO you’d be getting a zillion stock options (but of course you’d be getting those anyway!) The improvements started 1976, and by 2002 Ozone was down 31%, Sulfur Dioxide down 70%, Carbon Monoxide down 75%, and Lead was down 98%. While this would seem to be good news, environmentalists are cool to Hayward’s indices, despite their apparent validity. And they’re clearly wise to be wary. Why? Because Bush and the rest of his right wing operatives see these gains as an opportunity to 1) declare victory and 2) initiate rollbacks. That the right wing behaves this way isn’t a “theory” (as the right wing is fond of describing evolution). This is exactly what happened when the US started running a small fiscal surplus during the Clinton years. Bush declared victory, began big tax rollbacks, and here we are trillions more in the hole. In contrast, my take on Hayward’s numbers is that when you find a strategy that works, you do it more, not less! Here’s an analogy. If working harder gains you a promotion (or a zillion stock options), do you cut back and become a couch potato, or do you go out and try to do even better? You would think that wanting to build on success would show good right wing values!