Energy & Environment

Where Are the Enviros Concerns for the Poor?

The Capitol was ablaze in controversy recently after a front-page story in the New York Times reported that the 2003 tax cut did not provide working poor families with an increase in the child tax credit. Predictably, the story sparked a wave of recriminations and all the usual cries of injustice, indifference, unfairness, cruelty, and general mean-spiritedness–on the part of Republicans, of course.

“Faced with a choice between giving a tax break to an elite few or helping millions of working families, the Republicans once again chose to help their wealthy friends,” according to one Democratic leader. Both parties are now trying to find some sort of compromise on the issue.

Question: what does this fight over tax policy have to do with the environment?

Answer: A lot, considering that those who, in the shrillest of tones, demanded justice for the working poor are simultaneously supporting environmental policies that will INCREASE taxes on the poor.

For example, S. 139, the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003, expected to reach the Senate floor next week, would establish a Kyoto-like cap-and-trade system to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. In a 2001 report on carbon cap-and-trade programs, the Congressional Budget Office couldn’t have been more direct: “The economic impacts of cap-and-trade programs would be similar to those of a carbon tax: both would raise the cost of using carbon-based fossil fuels, lead to higher energy prices, and impose costs on users and some suppliers of energy.” And further: “[A] cap and trade program would be regressive — that is, it would impose a greater relative burden on lower-income households than on higher-income households.”


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