Donald Trump wants to turn back the clock to the days when low skilled manufacturing jobs were king. That won't happen. But, Paul Krugman writes, Trump's appointment of Scott Pruitt -- climate denier and fossil fuel friend -- to run the EPA may bring back the heavy smog which used to blanket places like Los Angeles and Huston:
Choking smog was quite common in major cities; in the Los Angeles area, extreme pollution alerts, sometimes accompanied by warnings that even healthy adults should stay indoors and move as little as possible, were fairly common.
It’s far better now — not perfect, but much better. These days, to experience the kind of pollution crisis that used to be all too frequent in Los Angeles or Houston, you have to go to places like Beijing or New Delhi. And the improvement in air quality has had clear, measurable benefits. For example, we’re seeing significant improvements in lung function among children in the Los Angeles area, clearly tied to reduced pollution.
That improvement was accomplished by what the Trumpists and Mr. Pruitt, in particular, are opposed to -- government regulation:
The key point is that better air didn’t happen by accident: It was a direct result of regulation — regulation that was bitterly opposed at every step by special interests that attacked the scientific evidence of harm from pollution, meanwhile insisting that limiting their emissions would kill jobs.These special interests were, as you might guess, wrong about everything. The health benefits of cleaner air are overwhelmingly clear. Meanwhile, experience shows that a growing economy is perfectly consistent with an improving environment. In fact, reducing pollution brings large economic benefits once you take into account health care costs and the effects of lower pollution on productivity.
The historian Barbara Tuchman argued that the cause of national folly was woodenheadedness -- the inability of leaders to adapt to changed circumstances -- and to fashion policies to deal with those circumstances.
With each cabinet appointment, it becomes clear that the incoming president hires people like himself. First and foremost, they must have woodenheads.