Maybe John Kerry and President Obama and proponents of a cap and trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions still have time to change message. “I don’t know what ‘cap and trade’ means. I don’t think the average American does,’ Kerry said recently. And he’s right. According to a new poll released from the Pew Research Center, “just 23% of Americans are aware that legislation often referred to as “cap and trade” concerns energy and environmental policy.” The other choices were banking reform, health care and unemployment.
To be fair, those who answered unemployment should have at least received half credit since cap and trade is a jobs-destroying bill but the real issue is that the American public is still unsure of what cap and trade is and what it will mean for the economy – making it all that more important to convey that cap and trade is a significant energy tax that will do nothing to improve the environment.
The Pew response closely follows that of a Rasmussen poll released in May when only 24% of respondents chose energy and environment when asked what cap and trade dealt with given only three options: healthcare, Wall Street, or the environment. More people (29%) said Wall Street and 30% said they did not know.
Senator Kerry should know what cap and trade is since he’s introduced a cap and trade bill with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). But they’re not calling it a cap and trade bill; in the summary of the bill, Kerry and Boxer removed the phrase “cap and trade” and replaced it with “Pollution Reduction and Investment.” How clever. Carbon dioxide is now carbon pollution. And a green job is too nebulous of a term. It’s now a clean jobs bill.
But the reality is it’s neither a pollution reduction bill nor a job-creating bill. The message should be simple: Cap and trade is a massive energy tax that will destroy far more jobs than it creates. Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under Bill Clinton who also served on President Obama’s transition advisory board, told NPR’s Marketplace: “Look, any cut in greenhouse gases is going to be expensive for American consumers, who are in no mood to bear additional costs.”
Despite repeated attempts, most notably by President Obama and Nancy Pelosi, to sell cap and trade as a jobs bill, not one of the major studies of cap and trade (including the three government agencies) projected a net increase in income or employment from cap and trade. The entire debate has been over the magnitude of income, consumption and job losses. The chief of the CBO’s recent testimony on reducing greenhouse gases “contrasted sharply with those of President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders, who have suggested that a cap on carbon emissions would help revive the U.S. economy.”
The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis paints a more realistic picture for this country’s economy with cap and trade in place. When all the tax impacts have been added up, we find that the average per-family-of-four costs rise by almost $3,000 per year. In the year 2035 alone, the tax impact is $4,600. And if you add up the costs per family for the whole energy tax aggregated from 2012 to 2035, the years in which we modeled the bill, it’s about $71,500. The analysis of Waxman-Markey predicts net job losses (after accounting for green job creation) approach 1.9 million in 2012 and could approach 2.5 million by 2035. Manufacturing loses 1.4 million jobs in 2035.
With a cap and trade bill passed in the House and a Senate version introduced, education about this energy tax should be just like the energy drink (or Charlie’s Angles Two): full throttle.