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Catholic World News News Feature

US Catholic hierarchy shows support for legislation requiring massive tax hike June 26, 2009

The US bishops have given their enthusiastic support to the Waxman-Markey bill, a piece of legislation designed to address climate change, which Republican opponents have characterized as entailing "the largest tax increase in American history."

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 proposes a complicated series of schemes known as "cap and trade," ultimately imposing taxes on the carbon-dioxide emissions that are cited as a major factor in global warming. Even before the 1,200-page legislation was made available to Congress, the members of the House of Representatives received a letter from two leading representatives of the American Church, giving their strong endorsement for the bill.

Bishop Howard Hubbard, who chairs the US bishops' committee on international justice and peace; and Ken Hackett, the president of Catholic Relief Services, welcomed the introduction of the Waxman-Markey bill. They criticized the legislation only because, in their view, it did not include adequate funding to protect the poor-- in the US and abroad-- from the bill's economic impact. Bishop Hubbard and Hackett argued that "the funding resources committed to international adaptation fall fundamentally short of what is needed." Their letter also suggested measures to protect churches and non-profit agencies from the adverse economic effects.

By pointing to the ways in which the legislation could harm the economic interests of the poor and the non-profit sector, Bishop Hubbard and Ken Hackett demonstrated that they were aware of the bill's economic costs. But their letter to Congressmen betrayed no concern at all about how the bill would affect ordinary American families above the poverty level.

The Congressional Budget Office, in its analysis of the legislation, concluded that the Waxman-Markey bill would entail new costs of $770 a year for the average American family. A separate analysis by the Heritage Foundation suggested that this figure was grossly understated, and the actual costs would be closer to $3,000 per year for a typical family of four-- rising steadily up to $4,600 by the year 2035. The Heritage analysis added that the bill would increase gasoline prices by 58%, home heating oil by 56%, and electric rates by 90%. The total drag on the economy would likely result in a loss of over 1 million jobs, Heritage concluded. In spite of this enormous cost, the Foundation argued, the Waxman-Markey bill would produce only a miniscule effect on the process of climate change, producing a drop in world temperatures of "only hundredths of a degree Celsius" in the next 40 years.

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