Is Obama Just Trying to Tank the Economy?

COMMENTARY Environment

Is Obama Just Trying to Tank the Economy?

Jun 5th, 2014 3 min read
Stephen Moore

Distinguished Visiting Fellow

Stephen Moore is the Distinguished Visiting Fellow for Project for Economic Growth at The Heritage Foundation.

Everywhere I go around the country — whether talking to financial advisers, business leaders, tea-party groups, or college students — I am almost always asked the same question: Is Barack Obama intentionally trying to destroy the economy? And for five and a half years, I’ve always flatly rejected that notion. This is a good man with the right intentions; it’s just that he has completely the wrong economic model floating around in his head.

After Monday’s announcement of imbecilic and destructive new carbon-emission standards, I’m not so sure that the White House is well-meaning or that this president really cares about the working men and women of this country. These regulations on energy use and carbon dioxide emissions will be a severe self-imposed wound to an economy already stuck in a slow-growth rut.

How ironic that a president who has talked endlessly about income inequality for the past two years will impose one of the most regressive taxes imaginable — and this is a tax — on the nation’s poor. If the rest of the world is foolish enough to follow our lead (China, which is hyper-obsessed with growth, hints they will, but surely they won’t) with these economically masochistic policies, the primary victims will be the hundreds of millions of the poorest people on the planet for whom cheap electricity is a passport out of poverty. Doesn’t it seem just like yesterday when the Left cared about the poor? Now they are expendable in the course of the Left’s grander and grandiose mission to save the planet from global warming or cooling, or droughts, or floods, or whatever the latest eco-catastrophe is designated to be.

And which Americans will lose jobs from these energy regulations? Hundreds of thousands of coal miners, construction workers, pipefitters, truckers, and manufacturing workers. I have long argued that what is needed for our economy to grow and the middle class to again flourish is a strategic alliance between blue-collar unions and conservatives to defeat our common enemy of the radical green movement that’s dedicated to the deindustrialization of America. That moment has arrived.

Just as another aside: Is there anything more deranged than the movement by some Christian and Catholic groups allying themselves with the radical greens who promote abortion, peddle population-control programs that have led to the genocide of tens of millions of babies in China and other nations, and at their core believe that people are the ultimate pollution and that trees and animals have the same rights as human beings? Today, the radical green movement is a much greater threat to Christian values than Planned Parenthood is.

Back to the issue of whether these regulations are intended to destroy or at least wound the economy: Let us suppose that the long-run strategy were to undermine our free-enterprise system and replace it with something else. Is there a better way to accomplish that mission than by making the “master resource” — energy — more expensive and more scarce? If you want to move America and the world back to “a simpler time” – say, the Middle Ages — force people to use the inefficient forms of energy used in the Middle Ages, like, say, windmills. Indoctrinate the masses with the idea that all forms of cheap and abundant energy — coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear, hydro — are immoral planet destroyers. Tell people that if they care about future generations, we must shrink the economy, not grow it.

The problem for the greens is that people like growth. They like their iPads and iPhones, their big-screen TVs and microwaves and SUVs, and their Harley-Davidsons. And they don’t want to pay $5 a gallon for gasoline or see their utility bills rise each month. When rate payers are asked whether they’d be willing to pay more on their monthly bills for green energy, almost every American says, “Hell no.”

So the White House developed the ingenious spin that these new EPA regulations will mean more jobs and will mean more growth and smaller electric bills, because we’ll conserve more. That’s the word out of the EPA. Like Obamacare: This is going to be good for you. But after the fiasco of green-energy investment programs and the mirage of millions of green jobs dating back to 2009, it’s hard to believe that anyone in the White House really still believes this big green lie.

What is more probable is that Barack Obama really does have a Messiah complex. He really does believe that his legacy will be to save the planet from extinction and that future generations will praise him for his courage and foresight in stopping the planet from melting (or freezing). Perhaps the goal is a second Nobel Peace Prize.

In the meantime, the American worker and family will suffer. These regs will make us poorer by thousands of dollars per family over a decade — and the terrible irony is that those demographic groups that voted in greatest numbers for Obama will suffer the most. An economy that shrank in the first quarter of this year will now take a new $50 billion-a-year hit.

I still strongly doubt this economic destruction is intentional on the president’s part. But does that even matter?

 - Stephen Moore is chief economist at the Heritage Foundation.

Originally appeared in the National Review Online