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Op-Ed: Cap & Tax Is Not A Prescription for Economic Health


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Cap & Tax Is Not A Prescription for Economic Health

By Representative Dennis Rehberg

While the eyes of the nation are on the healthcare debate in Washington, D.C., Congress is quietly passing legislation that's specifically designed to undermine the already ailing health of our economy. We were promised an economy that worked for everyone, but instead Congress has passed an energy policy written by powerful special interests that are literally choosing winners and creating losers. It's a policy that takes a step backward at a time when we must move forward.

The anatomy of economic recovery isn't complicated; small business is the heart and jobs are the blood. Government works best when it empowers small businesses to create jobs, and that usually means staying out of the way. When the economy is sick, the worst thing government can do is drive up the cost of doing business and eliminate existing jobs.

Yet, that's exactly what the new cap and tax energy policy will do. Its intended purpose is to drive consumer prices up by raising taxes. Eventually, expensive alternatives will look good in comparison and traditional energy producers will go bankrupt.

Montanans support responsible environmental policy. Our land is a crucial component of our economy, which is why Montanans are willing to make sacrifices that actually make a difference. What House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the architect of cap and tax, didn't explain was that even if cap and tax does exactly what it's meant to do, it still would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by less than a thousandth of a percent. What's more, these paltry "gains" could be wiped out by a single volcanic eruption or simply increased emissions from India and China over the next decade.

The cap and tax policy the House passed in late June amounts to amputating an economic limb to cure an environmental hangnail. While the benefit is negligible, the economic cost of this amputation is severe - and it hits Montanans particularly hard.

This legislation means higher energy bills for Montana families and higher operating costs and fewer jobs for our small businesses. Real people will lose real jobs. In fact, the non-partisan Heritage Foundation predicts that cap and tax will cost more than 8,600 jobs in Montana alone. Those are jobs we can't afford to lose.

And while Speaker Pelosi said this bill is about new jobs, the green jobs that may grow to replace the amputated energy sector will be of little comfort to the miners in places like Colstrip who could lose their jobs if this policy isn't reversed. Worse, there is no guarantee that the green jobs will materialize any faster with cap and tax. The federal government can't force scientific advancements any more than it can control the weather.

Agriculture, which is Montana's largest industry sector, will be among the hardest hit industries. By driving up the costs of production, cap and tax narrows already thin profit margins and makes American ag producers less competitive in a global marketplace where they must compete with producers who aren't subjected to similar restrictions.

In fact, far from addressing climate change, cap and tax acts more as an energy redistribution policy from producing states like Montana to energy using states like California and Florida.

Health care providers swear to "above all else, do no harm," and we should expect nothing less from those we've elected to oversee the health of our economy. Montana needs jobs, not social engineering from Washington, D.C. that puts the interests of San Franciscans over the livelihoods of Montanans. We need an all-of-the-above energy solution that drives the economy and that really does work for everyone.

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