Obama’s Secret Slush Fund
President Obama and Budget Director Peter Orszag have thrown transparency out the window and created a black box for taxes and spending on climate change hidden inside the administration’s 2011 budget.
The big news in last year’s budget release was the revelation that the Obama administration planned to use cap-and-trade to raise $646 billion dollars over ten years to finance its big spending programs. At the time I wrote here in the Fox Forum that estimate was a lowball of what actually constituted the biggest tax increase in U.S. history, something White House economist Jason Furman later admitted when he revealed the real revenue would likely be triple the official estimate. So the first thing I checked in this year’s budget was how much revenue was expected from the cap-and-trade energy tax, to which the president reiterated his commitment in his State of the Union address last week. The surprising answer is the budget actually has, literally, a blank line for the cap-and-trade tax. A black box. A slush fund. A secret budget-within-the-budget. Talk about a lack of transparency.
The blank line is labeled: “Allowance for climate policy.” There is no disclosure in the new budget of the revenue expected, but as recently as August 25, 2009 (in Obama’s 2010 Mid-Session Review) the administration counted on $627 billion in “climate revenues” between 2012 and 2019.
The 2011 budget tries to explain away the costs of cap-and-trade a footnote (p. 4) that says all of the revenue will be spent — claiming climate policy is therefore deficit neutral:
“A comprehensive market-based climate change policy will be deficit neutral because proceeds from emissions allowances will be used to compensate vulnerable families, communities, and businesses during the transition to a clean energy economy. Receipts will also be reserved for investments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including support of clean energy technologies, and in adapting to the impacts of climate change, both domestically and in developing countries.”
But deficit neutrality is beside the point. This is a budget; it’s supposed to show us the total amount of revenue planned and what it’s going to be spent on. The blank line with the above footnote is simply a promise to spend every penny of this huge new tax hike. That’s not very comforting to the millions of Americans who will pay the price for this tax, and deserve to see an honest budget that shows how much the tax will raise and precisely how it will be spent.
The rest here.