Not only has the Environmental Protection Agency emerged as a major polluter in recent days (see: Animas River), but now it turns out that that same organization's new anti-carbon rules are chock full of redistribution provisions.
The redistribution provisions, you see, are necessary to counter the enormous harm the new Clean Power Plan regulations will do to the to the poor.
A Wall Street Journal editorial this morning points out that "multiple new antipoverty transfer programs are built into the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan."
Managing the economy–just what you want the EPA to be doing, right?
The editorial board at the Wall Street Journal has read the fine print in the EPA's Clean Power Plan's 1,560-page preamble (reportedly you have to get to page 1,317 for the good stuff):
The EPA authors are careful to reiterate that “its benefits will greatly exceed its costs.” (Sure.) But then they ever so gingerly observe that “it is also important to ensure that to the extent there are increases in electricity costs, that those do not fall disproportionately on those least able to afford them.”
In particular, the EPA is concerned about “low-income communities, communities of color, and indigenous communities.” The agency orders states “to evaluate the effects of their plans on vulnerable communities and to take the steps necessary to ensure that all communities benefit from the implementation of this rule.” These are the themes of “environmental justice,” the political grievance school that argues for income redistribution to offset the allegedly disproportionate damage to the poor and minorities from pollution.
It is more accurate to say that any economic disparities arise from the rule itself. Regulations that artificially raise energy prices are regressive. By definition the poor—er, low-income community members—spend a larger share of their incomes on fuel and utilities than the well-to-do climate activists of Marin County and Hyde Park.
As energy prices rise, they spill into other basic needs like food, via fertilizer and feed, and housing, via building materials like cement. Everyone ends up with less disposable income and a diminished standard of living, but low-income workers really are worst off.
The new EPA plan will hike the poverty rate for black Americans to 32% in 2025 from 26% today, according to a study from the National Black Chamber of Commerce.
To counter poverty-rate-raising regulations, the EPA has set up "financial assistance programs" to combat the added cost to the poor of its requirements. This could take a number of forms, including free installation of windows and furnace retrofits or handing out compact florescent light bulbs and perhaps even new refrigerators. The editorial observes:
Perhaps it is bad manners to suggest that the poor themselves might prefer higher incomes rather than the EPA’s form of carbon justice. U.S. economic growth is already much slower than it should be, and the new EPA climate-change rule will make it worse by subtracting billions of dollars every year from potential GDP by misallocating capital and undermining business confidence. This will result in few opportunities and smaller wage gains, with damage to the poorest Americans in particular.
Twenty-eight states have lodged complaints, but the EPA, which has become even more vastly powerful during the Obama administration, isn't listening.
The EPA needs to clean up its act–starting with the Animas River.
Like the IRS, the EPA needs to be cut down to size.