Opinion

Beware the bubble

Sarah Lee Contributor

As the nation continues to face record unemployment, it seems the newest public relations effort emanating from the halls of Washington is to paint all new legislation as the answer to rising joblessness. Most recently, the push for a federal energy bill has included the idea that passing cap-and-trade legislation—or some version of a comprehensive energy bill—will create much needed “green jobs,” meant to employ many of those who, because of the recent move to extend unemployment benefits, are depleting their states’ unemployment benefit funds.

Unemployment has risen in 24 states across the nation. It is hardly surprising then that the push for an energy bill—the most recent incarnation being the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman (KGL) bill ironically entitled the “American Power Act”—has the White House reaching out to the Chamber of Commerce in an attempt to curry favor for legislation that the Chamber has unapologetically criticized as a job killer.

The efforts to refashion this legislation into a job creator from what it actually is—a federally created derivatives market that seeks to, according to noted author Christopher Horner, uses government to create a scarcity in an artificial, government-created market as a way to impose the will of the environmental movement on the citizens of the state—is misleading at best. When considering that the scarcity is hidden in a rhetorically less-threatening “cap-and-trade” plan, it becomes borderline subterfuge.

It becomes even more offensive then with the recent push to upgrade the image of any comprehensive energy legislation to one of a panacea for unemployment—something the nation continues to suffer and something sure to win the voters’ hearts.

The truth is that the KGL bill (essentially the Senate version of cap-and-trade) was rejected by Chamber President Tom Donohue—who was so principled on his stance that he lost the support of key Chamber member companies such as Nike and Duke Energy and actually had Apple defect—because carbon trading does nothing but ration energy and meet Obama’s promise of skyrocketing energy bills, felt most uncomfortably by the lowest wage earners.

According to Horner, whose most recent book, “Power Grab: How Obama’s Green Policies Will Steal Your Freedom and Bankrupt America,” devotes an entire chapter to the myth of green jobs, no matter what the final version of cap and trade looks like, it will stifle competition and send jobs overseas. Which necessarily means unemployment will continue to rise.

And the promised green jobs? Ultimately most of those jobs will be make-work jobs, or temporary jobs that ultimately benefit less than they cost. So, the result is a trade-off where real, sustainable employment is substituted for temp work with dubious benefit at best.

But perhaps most egregious—even more than the release of KGL a full-week after Earth Day as a way to distance the bill from the environmental movement it’s supposed to support—something that speaks louder for its integrity (or lack thereof) than anything else—is that the legislation, with its initial rationing, will create a bubble that must be maintained by taxpayer money. So, the result for the average consumer will be higher energy costs and higher taxes. Apparently the sound of the bubble bursting as a result of Fannie, Freddie and the subprime housing lending crisis has made us deaf. We can’t hear the sound of that same bubble filling with air.

Sarah Lee is an Atlanta native and freelance writer living and working in Washington, D.C.