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Down with King Cap-and-Tax

by Scott Johnson at PowerLineBlog.com

Thinking that the American Revolution started in part with resentment over the imposition of taxes by the Parliament, I find it hard to understand the enormities wrought by Congress and the Obama administration with the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill with the Orwellian title the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (known by the acronym ACES). The bill has passed the House and been sent to the Senate.

National Review’s Stephen Spruiell and Kevin Williamson liken the bill to the third panel of Bosch’s famous Garden of Earthly Delights triptych: “a hellscape that disturbs the sleep of anybody who contemplates it carefully.” They illuminate the bill’s dark heart and provide a bill of particulars in “A garden of piggish delights.” They write:

Two main things to understand about Waxman-Markey: First, it will not reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, at least not at any point in the near future. The inclusion of carbon offsets, which can be manufactured out of thin air and political imagination, will eliminate most of the demands that the legislation puts on industry, though in doing so it will manage to drive up the prices consumers pay for every product that requires energy for its manufacture — which is to say, for everything. Second, it represents a worse abuse of the public trust and purse than the stimulus and the bailouts put together. Waxman-Markey creates a permanent new regime in which environmental romanticism and corporate welfare are mixed together to form political poison. From comic bureaucratic power grabs (check out the section of the bill on candelabras) to the creation of new welfare programs for Democratic constituencies to, above all, massive giveaways for every financial, industrial, and political lobby imaginable, this bill would permanently deform American politics and economic life.

If enacted, the bill will create constituences that will assuring its survival in perpetuity. “If you take the time to read the legislation,” Spruiell and Wiliamson write, “you’ll discover four major themes: special-interest giveaways, regulatory mandates unrelated to climate change, fanciful technological programs worthy of The Jetsons, and assorted left-wing wish fulfillment.” In lieu of a comprehensive survey of “every swirl and brushstroke of this masterpiece of misgovernance,” they provide instead “a breakdown of its 50 most outrageous features.”

Under the cap-and-tax regime established by the ACES bill, the EPA and other organs of the federal government wield powers far beyond the dreams of King George. Take, for example, items 24 and 25 of NR’s bill of particulars:

24. The bill requires the EPA to establish environmental standards for residences, meaning a federally dictated one-size-fits-all policy for greening every home in America. When you’re retrofitting your home according to EPA guidelines, it will come as little comfort to know that the government is reimbursing you for your troubles, especially if you’re doing the work around April 15.

25. The bill would affect commercial properties, too. In fact, all buildings would be governed by a “national energy efficiency building code” that would require 50 percent reductions in energy use in all buildings by 2018, followed by 5 percent reductions in energy use every three years after that through 2030. No one disputes that these changes will be costly, but Waxman-Markey supporters argue that they will pay for themselves through lower energy bills. This argument holds up only if we assume that energy prices will stay flat or fall over time. But the aforementioned carbon caps instituted elsewhere in this legislation make that prospect highly unlikely. Businesses and homeowners will pay twice — once to retrofit their roosts and again when the energy bill arrives.

The cap-and-tax bill combines incredibly burdensome and intrusive regulatory mandates and taxes in one gargantuan monstrosity. The bill is an outrage. The July 4 tea parties chronicled by Glenn Reynolds yesterday are a fitting sign of the times. The bill needs to be exposed for what it is– thanks to Spruiell and Williamson for beginning the job — and killed.

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