Thus reads the headline of an important piece in today’s Wall Street Journal Europe. Martin Livermore of the Scientific Alliance cautions the US to learn from Europe’s mistakes:
To get a good idea [of how Cap and Trade may turn out], U.S. policy makers need only look across the Atlantic. The European Union, keen to show global leadership, introduced the world’s first Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in January 2005, just before the Kyoto protocol came into force. The principle of this and similar schemes — including the proposed U.S. cap and trade regime — is that certain sectors of industry are allocated permits to emit fixed amounts of carbon dioxide, held to be the primary driver of climate change. If they manage to reduce emissions more than planned, companies can sell their excess permits; if they need more, they have to buy them.
Advocates of the system like it because “the polluter pays.” Setting aside for the moment the question of whether it is justifiable to call carbon dioxide a pollutant, companies of course do not simply absorb these extra costs. Instead, they pass them on to their customers who are also, by and large, taxpayers. Not only does the taxpayer carry the cost of any cap and trade scheme, but their money also provides profit for a whole new industry: the new carbon trading sector, the middlemen who make the system work.
Conservatives have done a pretty good job of getting the message out that this legislation would wreak havoc on businesses’ bottom lines, forcing companies to pass down increased costs to consumers. These cost-of-living hikes would, in turn, hammer family budgets to the tune of $1,600 to $3,900 annually, per household. (Yes, that means all households, not just Obama’s magic top 5 percent).
That financial punch aside, one of the least-discussed problems with a government-imposed cap-and-trade regime is the inevitable avalanche of graft and corruption that would consume the bureaucratic process. When the government is doling out permits and contrived “pollution allowances,” with huge sums of money on the line for all parties involved, it’s nearly inconceivable that estimation mechanisms could avoid turning very political.
The House is scheduled to vote on the Waxman/Markey bill tomorrow. Before America embraces yet another expensive government power-grab, it’s imperative that we examine this administration’s track record so far, as well as the crippling inefficiencies of other current big-government spending programs. To this end, there are a few things that ought to be making more headlines:
(1) Joe Biden, charged with overseeing $789 billion in stimulus spending, recently admitted the process was prone to waste, and that “some people are being scammed already.” Oh, and the “transparency” website ostensibly designed to track stimulus spending won’t be complete for years.
(2) Both the president and vice president, confronted with irrefutable evidence of their stimulus plan’s epic failure on job creation, have begun reciting a talking point that blames “everyone” for incorrectly assessing the severity of the downturn. When will we start hearing that we were “all” also wrong about Government Motors, government healthcare, cap-and-trade, etc?
(4) Current long-term government entitlement programs are hurdling towards insolvency, with another whopper potentially on the way. Supporters of Waxman/Markey would argue this bill would help generate revenue to pay for the various spending programs, but the damage it could do to the economy as a whole could negate any or all of the intended revenue gains–and then some.
(5) Powerful lawmakers have a long history of making sure that they themselves, friends, donors, and allies make out like bandits, regardless of the latest law passed or regulation enacted. (It’s not hard to imagine corporations aligned closely with well-placed politicians managing to escape costly carbon emissions estimates).
(6) “Gangster government” has a nasty penchant for bullying, punishing, and intimidating its critics. (It’s similarly easy to envision companies deemed politically problematic being smacked with oppressive estimates).
But at least our representatives are thoroughly reading the potentially-devastating bill they’re considering, right?
Not so much: