By: Isaac Orr
Outraged liberals who oppose President Donald Trump’s proposal to eliminate funding to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) often argue the program accounts for only 0.002 percent of discretionary spending, an amount too small to make a difference.
Ironically, the same people making this argument were usually the same people defending the Clean Power Plan (CPP), an onerous regulation intended to decrease the amount of carbon-dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. CPP, if implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), would have only averted .019 degrees C of potential future warming by 2100. This amount is too low to be accurately measured with even the most sophisticated scientific equipment. As such, Trump was correct to issue an executive order rescinding these rules.
Unlike the NEA, which costs $741 million, the CPP would have imposed massive costs on the economy. Even the most generous estimates of the cost of compliance with CPP put the annual cost at $8.4 billion. Other analyses have found CPP would have cost consumers $39 billion per year and resulted in electricity bills increasing 11–14 percent per year.
Skyrocketing electricity bills lead to job losses, because high energy costs put American companies at a disadvantage relative to foreign competitors, especially for energy intensive industries such as manufacturing and steel, two industries Trump has sought to bolster under his administration.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the CPP would have reduced manufacturing shipments by $45.4 billion annually and resulted in 68,000 people losing their jobs in manufacturing each year. The EIA estimated CPP would have destroyed an additional 35,000 jobs every year—all for no measurable environmental gain.
Also, low-income families spend, compared to middle-income households, a much higher proportion of their income to keep the lights on, the house warm, and the car full of gas, which means CPP would have harmed them the most. In fact, a recent study found lower-income households spend approximately 7.2 percent of their yearly income on energy costs, which amounts to $1,700 annually out of an income of $25,000. By contrast, energy costs only amount to 3.5 percent of the annual earnings for middle-income families.
Even Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator under the Obama administration, acknowledged the Clean Power Plan would have had no meaningful impact for reducing potential future increases to global temperature. In a congressional hearing, McCarthy admitted, “The value of the rule is not measured in that way. It is measured in showing strong domestic action which can trigger global action.”
According to McCarthy’s own testimony, CPP would have imposed huge costs without any tangible environmental benefits.
How can liberals arguing NEA funding should be maintained because it makes little difference to the federal budget also argue seriously the Clean Power Plan was necessary despite providing zero measurable benefits for the environment and strangling America’s economy? In typical liberal fashion, they cry that Republicans are killing Big Bird—they aren’t, by the way—while it is they who continue to kill jobs for blue-collar Americans and implement policies that hurt the poor.
Trump made the right decision when he issued an executive order killing the CPP, but Congress must also play a role, by passing legislation permanently eliminating the Endangerment Finding. Otherwise, the economy-crushing CPP is just another Democratic administration away from being reinstated.
Isaac Orr ([email protected]) is a research fellow specializing in hydraulic fracturing at The Heartland Institute.Follow him on Twitter @thefrackingguy.