Wednesday was a bad day for Pittsburgh taxpayers. Not only did a judge order the city to pay $96,000 in attorney fees to G-20 protesters but the city also absorbed the cost of an Obama visit that was more partisan than it was presidential. Indeed, although the city hasn’t named a dollar amount, it’s a safe bet that the police presence alone cost a few thousand dollars that the city doesn’t have.
Short-term costs aside, the energy policy laid out by the President in his speech at Carnegie Mellon University would have long-term negative consequences for the region’s economy and ultimately cost Pennsylvania thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in lost revenue. Specifically, in today’s speech, Obama called for Americans to “fully embrace a clean energy future” and, he said, the only way to accomplish this future is for the federal government to put “a price on carbon pollution.”
While it is impossible to object to diversifying the nation’s energy resources to include a greater use of nuclear, wind and solar power, it is possible to object to such a future if it is brought about through burdensome federal taxation rather than voluntary shifts in the market. Furthermore, a carbon tax is doubly objectionable because of its regressive nature.
Across the country, a carbon tax would raise the cost of consumer goods as taxed businesses passed this new expense onto their customers and this – like most flat taxes on consumption – would have the greatest impact on lower-income households. Additionally, Pennsylvanians can expect to bear more of this burden than most Americans because 54 percent of our energy is provided by coal.
A carbon tax also threatens the jobs of scores of thousands of working Pennsylvanians. In May 2009, three of the four members of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission sent a letter to the state’s congressional delegation warning that a tax would produce “a net loss of as many as 66,000 jobs.”
Not only did Obama take this opportunity to propose a job-killing tax that threatens the livelihoods of Pennsylvania workers, he also used about half of his speech to bash Republicans for their tax cuts and other economic policies that he blamed for the recession.
All in all, it seems somewhat ridiculous that the city spent thousands of dollars and inconvenienced city motorists so that President Obama could deliver a partisan speech to an invitation-only crowd of local supporters.