Project 21 New Visions

 

Deneen Borelli

Cap-and-Trade is a Ball-and-Chain for Poor Americans


by Deneen Borelli (bio)

As Congress considered the Waxman-Markey "cap-and-trade" bill, President Obama rallied House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats at the White House.  In making a point, he gestured to Abraham Lincoln's portrait and said, "He had a chance to affect history.  You, too, have a chance to affect history."

How ironic. 

Lincoln is remembered for liberating blacks from slavery.  Cap-and-trade legislation supported by Obama, allied lawmakers and now the NAACP would, conversely, enslave all Americans.  

Billed as a way to combat global warming, cap-and-trade legislation already passed by the House and now under consideration in the Senate is - at its most basic level - a tax that punishes those who rely on fossil fuels.  That unfortunately means virtually every American. 

Higher energy costs, higher unemployment and slower economic growth expected from cap-and-trade would reduce living standards, increase dependency and likely chain Americans to government programs.   

Back in 2007, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that "most of the cost of meeting a cap on [carbon dioxide] emissions would be borne by consumers, who would face persistently higher prices for products such as electricity and gasoline... [and] poorer households would bear a larger burden relative to their income than wealthier households would." 

That makes it particularly troubling when the NAACP, at their recent convention, jumped on the cap-and-trade bandwagon.  Politicians are expected to be opportunistic, but a group founded to advance blacks should not promote energy policies preferentially harming those with the least. 

Harry Alford, head of the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), opposes cap-and-trade.  Alford testified before the Senate about this, and made national news when he objected to California Senator Barbara Boxer's attempt to place a premium on the NAACP's opinion over the facts presented by the NBCC president. 

A NBCC-commissioned study of cap-and-trade by CRA International finds new regulations would: 

  • reduce national GDP roughly $350 billon below the baseline level;
  • cut net employment by 2.5 million jobs per year (even with new "green jobs");
  • reduce earnings for the average U.S. worker by $390 per year. 

Alford's not alone.  His skepticism is shared by a majority of blacks. 

For example, 76 percent of blacks want Congress to make economic recovery - and not climate change - its top priority.  This is a finding of a nationwide poll of blacks conducted for the National Center for Public Policy Research by Wilson Research Strategies.

Among other key findings:

  • 38 percent of blacks believe job losses from climate change legislation such as Waxman-Markey would be felt most strongly in the black community.  Seven percent believe job losses would fall most on Hispanics and just two percent on whites;

  • 56 percent of blacks believe economic and quality of life concerns of the black community are not considered when addressing climate issues;

  • 52 percent of blacks don't want to pay more for gasoline or electricity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  73 percent are unwilling to pay more than 50 cents more for a gallon of gas, and 76 percent are unwilling to pay more than $50 more per year for electricity.

Despite NAACP boosterism, it's clear black America want a stable economy before any risky schemes with questionable environmental results are considered. 

A new, punishing energy tax will be an economic burden for those least able to afford it.  Coincidentally, these are the individuals Obama claims to want to help most.  Additionally, if cap-and-trade passes, it would break Obama's campaign pledge to not raise taxes on households earning less than $250,000 a year. 

As slaves had no representation in early America, black Americans are now finding themselves adrift as the NAACP and President Obama promote cap-and-trade regulation.  Emancipation from such regulation, however, is the change all Americans can believe in and benefit from.

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Deneen Borelli is a fellow for the Project 21 black leadership network.  Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21 or the National Center for Public Policy Research.


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