Explain It to the Children

COMMENTARY Budget and Spending

Explain It to the Children

Mar 10, 2009 3 min read

Vice President of Heritage Action for America

This week, Congress will likely approve legislation that threatens to terminate the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. The $14 million program allows more than 1,700 children in the nation's worst school district to attend some of best school in Washington, including Sidwell Friends, where President Obama sends his daughters. These families, whose average annual income is less than $23,000 a year, face the real possibility that they will have to send their children back to failing public schools next year.

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) has offered an amendment that will save the program. If that amendment is rejected, the president and members of Congress who opposed it should explain their vote to the children. After all, the legislation approves $15 million in grants for Second Chance Act offender re-entry programs. Too bad those kids may never get a first chance.

The Cap-and-Tax Man Cometh

Ratcheting down carbon emissions, as President Obama campaigned on and outlined in his budget, produces a windfall for the government.

Over eight years (2012-2019), the government will raise $646 billion by auctioning off carbon dioxide emissions permits But that's only the beginning. The administration's own budget blueprint acknowledges that revenues may far surpass those projections. Constraining carbon is, quite simply, shaping up to be a very large tax.

Over the past 12 years, America's elected officials have been quite clear that reducing affordable energy is not in America's best interest. In 1998, the Senate rejected the Kyoto Protocol. In 2003, the Senate rejected "cap-and-trade" legislation sponsored by Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman. In 2008, the Senate rejected another "cap-and-trade" bill sponsored by Lieberman and Sen. John Warner (R-Va.).

A Heritage Foundation analysis of last year's relatively modest Lieberman-Warner legislation revealed devastating economic results. In the first 20 years alone it would have:

  • Resulted in aggregate real GDP losses (adjusted for inflation) of nearly $5 trillion -- equivalent to the economic damage done by more than 600 hurricanes.
  • Destroyed between 400,000 and 800,000 jobs.
  • Caused nearly 3 million job losses in the manufacturing sector by 2029.
  • Caused some manufacturing sectors (e.g., paper, chemical and plastics) to shed over 50% of their jobs.
  • Brought about significantly lower levels of employment, economic growth and lower family consumption.

The facts haven't changed, but the rhetoric is. This week, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) will introduce a so-called "cap-and-dividend" legislation. Conservatives may be attracted to the word "dividend," but they must recognize that the "cap" would harm the economy.

The intellectual architects of the "cap-and-dividend" plan acknowledge "higher energy prices that would result from an emissions cap." However, they believe that harm can be mostly mitigated by returning "much of the cost of a carbon cap to consumers." That calculation leaves businesses to absorb the cost of higher energy prices, which they will do by raising prices, cutting costs or just closing shop.

Last year, Americans saw their rebate checks devoured by soaring energy prices. The same will be true under a "cap-and-dividend" plan. Our country cannot afford more self-inflicted pain.

Bad Spending Habits

In his inaugural address, President Obama said that "those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely, reform bad habits and do our business in the light of day -- because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government." The new administration and Congress has failed to honor that pledge on their $1.1 trillion "stimulus" plan. It took two grand bargains for that bill to become law, and both were brokered behind closed doors with little minority input.

The bloated $410 billion omnibus spending bill is shaping up the same way. The House of Representatives rushed the bill through two weeks ago, but things bogged down in the Senate. Late last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he lacked the votes to cut off debate. The American taxpayer should be wondering what grand bargain was struck over the weekend.

Besides the lack of transparency, tax dollars are certainly not being spent. The bill contains nearly 9,000 earmarks worth $7.7 billion and double-funds dozens of agencies and accounts that received money from the $1.1 trillion "stimulus" plan. Americans are cutting back on basic necessities, and lawmakers need to do likewise. When will Obama hold Congress accountable?

Conservative Cheers

Cheers to Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) for his speech to the Conservative Political Action Committee gathering last week "This Administration and this Congress is barely a month old, and already the problems facing this nation have grown in magnitude -- eclipsing the ones the nation faced when voters cast their ballots in November. How we, as conservatives, respond to these challenges could determine whether America retains her place in the world as a beacon of freedom; or whether we slip into the abyss that has swallowed much of Europe in an avalanche of socialism. While some are prepared to write the obituary on capitalism and our movement ...I believe we are on the brink of a great American awakening." Pence and his fellow conservatives in Congress deserve our cheers for leading the fight against a growing federal government.

Dan Holler is deputy director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation.

First Appeared in Human Events