Evoking False Concern For The Poor, GOP Attacks Obama’s Pollution Cap

Our guest bloggers are Center for American Progress Action Fund interns Kalen Pruss and Carlin Rosengarten.

False Heroes of the PoorTo protect the profitability of pollution, conservative politicians are becoming the false heroes of the poor. After careers spent voting against measures aimed at helping low-income families, Republican legislators have rushed to attack clean energy proposals that would fight global warming, citing the false premise that cutting pollution will disproportionately hurt low-income households by affecting energy prices:

— Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “An increase in electricity and gas prices would disproportionately affect people at the lower end of the economic ladder, and American families cannot afford a tax increase at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet.”

— Senator James Inhofe (R-OK): “When you increase the cost of energy in America . . . it is also regressive because those who have the least income are going to be spending a greater amount of their income on the purchase of energy.”

— Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT): “If you’re poor, that’s when you hurt. That’s when you have to decide whether you’re going to pay for gas or for heating or simply for food. That’s who gets hurt the most.”

— Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN): “In one of my counties, Mr. Speaker, I was told that one of my counties has unemployment now reaching 10 percent. Where are these people going to go, Mr. Speaker, when this body decides to pass a budget that will tax them $4 trillion, that will impose out a doubling on their energy bills?”

These politicians were joined by Steve Austria (R-OH), Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL), David Dreier (R-CA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Glenn Thompson (R-PA), and Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Senators Kit Bond (R-MO), John Ensign (R-NV), John Enzi (R-WY), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Johanns (R-NE), John Thune (R-SD), and David Vitter (R-LA), all claiming President Obama’s cap-and-trade plan would hurt low-income families during the House and Senate budget debate.

In reality, President Obama’s plan for energy reform gives working families a tax cut while spurring job creation, innovation, and efficiency — while reducing the global warming pollution that hurts the poor the most. This is why genuine advocates of the poor — economic justice, labor, and religious organizations like the NAACP, Service Employees International Union, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have joined the Climate Equity Alliance to call for an end to dirty energy.

Yet McConnell and his fellow Republicans have consistently voted against the very people they claim to defend in opposing green economy legislation. These legislators voted no on increasing the minimum wage, voted no on helping struggling families stay in their homes, voted no on tax cuts for poor and middle-class families, and repeatedly voted no on extending health insurance for low-income children. Bachmann even voted against extending unemployment benefits, before falsely protesting skyrocketing unemployment in her own district.

McConnell and his colleagues’ sudden support for poor Americans is a transparent excuse to oppose clean energy legislation, including the global warming pollution standards outlined in the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act. While claiming to defend low-income families, these legislators have lied about the cost of pollution cuts, ignoring proposals to protect struggling families from higher energy costs. In actuality, conservative congressmen and senators are defending a status quo that allows big corporations to destroy our climate and degrade our economy free of cost.

Read more at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.