Wednesday, May 6, 2009


“The devil made me do it” was comic genius Flip Wilson’s Geraldine’s all-purpose excuse for bad behavior in the 1970s.

The leaders of the Democratic Party, President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are already trying to shift the blame for the sledgehammer blow they have aimed at Americans who work in manufacturing and those who use energy in heating or air conditioning their homes.

Cap-and-trade is the name for a massive tax increase on energy use in America. Utilities will be forced to pay some $700 billion in taxes for the “privilege” of creating and using energy. The goal is to make oil and coal so expensive that middle-income Americans will be forced to drive less, have hotter homes in the summer and colder homes in the winter. This will use less coal and gas, putting thousands of coal miners out of work.

Now Mr. Obama, Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi have to sell this economic damage to an American people who have seen their 401(k)s drop in value, unemployment rise to 8.5 percent, economic growth turn negative and their home values fall.

Why in the world would anyone want the Democrats in the White House and Congress to attach more boat anchors to the American economy?

The old argument was that global warming forced the government to act before we all died of heat stroke. This argument has waned as temperature data sets show 1998 was the high point of warm years and temperatures have remained relatively stable or fallen since.

Phony environmentalists who want government control over American energy use, the size of our cars and who can build what where told us in the 1970s that “global cooling” caused by energy use forced us to give the government more power. Then “global warming” caused by the same things that caused global cooling 10 years earlier required us to bend to the will of Washington bureaucrats. At some point, this is like a bad game of Jeopardy: Same answer regardless of the question.

So why should we go along with Mr. Obama, Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi’s legislation that will kill jobs, raise gasoline prices and make America less competitive with China and Europe? Well, our overlords don’t mean to harm us … they just don’t have any choice.

Mr. Obama, Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi argue that the Environmental Protection Agency is threatening to require a particularly abusive, bureaucratic and destructive form of regulation of energy use in America. Mr. Obama, Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi will stop this by offering to cut off two or three fingers rather than one arm. We are supposed to thank them for substituting a terribly destructive law for one that was even worse.

Oddly, some in the business community buy this self-serving argument. This is called the Stockholm syndrome when kidnapping victims begin to believe that their kidnappers have to do certain things to them. Washington lobbyists are highly paid. No one said they were smart. Besides, they won’t pay the cost of being fooled: Workers and consumers in real America will pay those costs.

A study by the Heritage Foundation found that the EPA’s proposed regulatory scheme will reduce economic output in America by $7 trillion in the next 20 years and will kill an average of about half a million jobs per year, with the manufacturing sector being particularly hard hit.

“The EPA made me do this!” is as childish and dishonest as Geraldine’s lament. The Democratic Congress and the president can pass a law stripping the EPA of any power to regulate carbon emissions. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that present law allowed the EPA this power. It did not require the EPA to do so. And Congress can withdraw that authority unequivocally.

America went through this in the 1970s when Congress gave the Occupational Safety and Health Administration massive and intrusive powers to regulate workplaces in the name of safety. Congressmen shrugged and said someone else was doing this damage to workers and businessmen. Voters in 1978 and 1980 understood who to blame and fired senators and members of the House, most memorably Sen. Gale McGee of Wyoming - target of an anti-OSHA ad with a cowboy pulling an outhouse behind his horse to meet OSHA standards.

No one should be fooled by this misdirection. Mr. Obama, Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi and the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate are trying to tax energy so heavily the economy will fall further. On Election Day, “The EPA made me do it” will not save those representatives and senators who deserve to face the wrath of voters paying more for energy.

Four months into the Obama administration, more than 550,000 Americans demonstrated in more than 500 “tea party” rallies in anger of the overspending by Congress. Imagine how many Americans will go to the polls on Nov. 2, 2010, in response to Mr. Obama, Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi enacting energy taxes of more than $3,000 per family to pay for all that overspending and debt in the stimulus and budget.

Grover G. Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform.

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