Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens’s last minute opposition to the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, announced just prior to the House of Representatives’ vote, was reminiscent of Senator John Kerry’s infamous statement “I voted for it before I voted against it.”
While Kerry’s embarrassing comment only hurt his presidential prospects, Owens’s promotion of global warming legislation has far-reaching consequences: the potential to cause irreparable harm to his company, customers, employees and our economy.
After years of supporting a national law to limit carbon dioxide emissions through participation in the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) – a lobbying coalition pushing cap-and-trade legislation – Owens realized the final bill would harm his company. According to Energy & Environment News, the day before the House vote, Owens wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), saying, “We cannot endorse this bill in its current form.”
Owens’s flip-flop serves as a case study of the ignorance and arrogance that plagues many CEOs. Too many chief executives exaggerate their political influence only to discover that the “seat at the table” rationale for supporting regulation greatly overstates their ability to steer it.
CEOs such as Owens fail to comprehend the nature and motivations of left-wing politicians and their advocacy group allies. Although Owens may understand how to manage the complexities of a multinational heavy equipment company, when it comes to public policy, he turns into a useful idiot for the liberal agenda.
Owens’s comments at the launch of USCAP in 2007 underscored his inflated hopes for cap-and-trade. At that time, he said, "If we go to the sidelines and leave all of this to partisan politics, the stronger environmental groups will drive legislation which is incompatible with policies we need to support manufacturing in the global marketplace." He also added, “National reduction targets would avert a ‘patchwork’ of potentially costly and conflicting state regulations that could hurt U.S. manufacturers amid growing competition for global sales.”