Disgrace of the day: Baptist-and-bootlegger presser

Christopher Horner Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute
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Today’s press conference teaming Big Business and the left-wing coalition is in fact an embarrassing display of the worst that today’s Washington has to offer. To understand why, consider this excerpt from Chapter 5 of “Power Grab: How Obama’s Green Policies Will Steal Your Freedom and Bankrupt America: Picking Your Pockets for Political Payola” (citations omitted).

A popular aphorism holds that the American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers it can bribe the public with the public’s own money. To one extent this prophecy was slightly too pessimistic, as Congress quite obviously discovered this ability some time ago. Yet the Republic remains, if on increasingly unsteady terms. Our current lawmakers’ revelation is not that they can bribe the public, but how much more cravenly they can do so.

Barack Obama’s inauguration ushered in a new era of such tie-ups between Washington and well-heeled constituencies. Politicians now not only create and then bribe other constituencies with confiscated wealth, but do so brazenly claiming that their actions are urgent, imperative, and just the beginning of much more to come. These bribes extend to individual corporations and ad hoc coalitions, which in turn lend their credibility, prestige, and finances to advancing a shared agenda.

The environmental issue generally, and particularly global warming, have exposed with disturbing clarity how big business and special interests scratch politicians’ backs so that together they can pick your pockets. It is difficult to imagine a more glaringly obvious or expensive push for state control of our freedoms than this campaign to limit the availability of energy in the name of saving the world. Yet our free press has proved worse than negligent in performing their watchdog role here. Blinded by their sympathy for a shared ideology, the establishment media are fully and actively complicit in the burgeoning corruption of our system.

You would think that flagrant collaborations between big business and government made in shady backroom deals, at the expense of the little guy and with the added element of national security implications, would make the media want to investigate. But quite the opposite is true. The media not only cover for this ugly revival of corporatism and policy corruption, but cheerlead the deals, at best deigning to raise the obvious questions just to shoot them down with industry/politico/green-supplied talking points.

Even the most nauseating “green” political payola is news only in a perverse fashion, touted not as scandalous but as a wonder of supposedly strange bedfellows agreeing to work together in ways unimaginable but for the dire emergency against which they valiantly and selflessly set aside their differences to defend.

Emboldened by the lack of media inquiry into the shady relationships, and the absence of headlines like, say, “Climate Fat Cats: Big Business Lobbies to Increase Your Taxes, Energy Costs, and Threaten Your Jobs,” the government’s corporate pals increasingly boast of their efforts. …

Guaranteed, and indeed windfall profits and the transfer of many hundreds of billions of dollars in consumer, ratepayer, and taxpayer wealth easily clouds the thinking of even the most ardent capitalist. Help our natural enemy out now, throw them under the bus later seems an apt description of the philosophy shared by Enron and the green groups with which Enron, BP, and others worked to impose the Kyoto agenda on America. These are trailblazers whose commitment was actually less capitalist than traditional Progressive….

Investment analysts Sanford Bernstein projected that the Chicago-based utility Exelon would reap more than a billion dollars per year in windfall profits under the scheme. Exelon’s CEO Rowe openly noted that “We don’t flinch from the charge that, yes, some of our motivation and enthusiasm comes from the fact that we should make money on it if it happens.” Real, big money is surely a real, big part of that enthusiasm.

In fact, according to Forbes’ interview with Rowe, “Exelon needs that legislation to happen sooner rather than later. Without a carbon price of some sort, Exelon’s fortunes aren’t so bright….Rowe acknowledges [that] ‘There’s nothing that’s going to drive Exelon’s profit in the next couple of years wildly. It just isn’t going to happen.’ Except, of course, carbon legislation. And because of that, the company views spending on lobbying for legislation almost like a capital expense.”

Around the same time as these Exelon revelations, Mike Morris, the CEO of America’s largest coal burning utility, American Electric Power (AEP), told Forbes that the scheme—which, by chance he, too, is promoting—would add billions in additional costs to his company, certainly, but he chuckled at the beauty of it: they get to pass those billions on to the ratepayer, with a little something on top for themselves. Under cost-recovery schemes giving a percentage for their troubles, the more it costs, the better.

These billions, which come from you—at least so long you don’t or can’t leave the energy companies, as Morris notes in his interview—would also in some cases be for no additional capital expenditure or other outlays or obligations on their part, outside of the army of lobbyists—er—”public affairs specialists,” working feverishly to get this burden enacted into law. “Exelon would gain simply because a price on carbon would raise the cost of production for fossil-fuel-powered electricity. Most of that would be passed on to customers, raising the wholesale price of power. Exelon’s revenues would rise, but its costs wouldn’t.”

That explains today’s ugly display of Baptists and Bootleggers sharing a stage with activist politicians. The rest of this chapter in “Power Grab“ details even more of the egregious rent-seeking that this agenda advances. But from this excerpt you see the reality behind Obama’s tout that “some of America’s biggest companies support” his cap-and-trade scheme being introduced in the Senate on Wednesday. Don’t look for the media to ask “Ok…why?” But at least now you know.

Christopher C. Horner is a New York Times bestselling author whose newly released book is “Power Grab: How Obama’s Green Policies Will Steal Your Freedom and Bankrupt America“ (Regnery).